How to book gigs for yourself as an independent solo artist or band


Are You Having No Luck in Booking the Right Gigs? Here’s A Checklist to Help You Out!

In 2019, there were very few songs that were streamed as much as “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. The song, made popular by TikTok videos soon became viral and brought international fame to the rap artist from Georgia. 

But even with the talent to back them up, very few musicians get the privilege to showcase themselves in such global level. For some musicians, it takes years even to start generating a steady source of income from the music industry.

But even without a breakthrough song or an album, you can get a footing in the music industry.

How, you ask? Through smaller gigs after all!

Most musicians start out their career with small gigs. Whether it is at a bar or a school program, these smaller gigs help musicians to pay their bills and feed themselves. 

Hurdles and barriers

Even though it sounds easy on paper, booking shows can be quite hard. For one, there aren’t enough shows to support the number of musicians struggling to make ends meet. Secondly, many do not have the proper resources to know about prospective gigs.

However, with a proper plan in place, it can become considerably easier for you to find your footing into booking gigs that can eventually help you to set up a career in the music industry.

Let us first answer the question of – what do you need to do to book your first gig.

Well, if you have your musical instrument, it is enough! Just go out there and play!

But there are ways which can help you to book your gigs faster. And the following list can assist you to do so.

A checklist of things to do to book your first gig

If you are a first-timer, you will have to consider several factors to strategize your game. Following is a checklist that can help to make your job easier. Also, if you are already booking gigs, compare the points below with your own “things to do” list to know what else you can do to make booking jobs easier.

So without ado, as Tony Bennett would say – Let’s begin!

  1. Have a set list you are proud of

Bet it covers or originals, make sure whatever you are playing makes you feel good.

Think of the songs your audience will prefer. Some venues will hand you a list of their preferences, and then you can alter your setlist accordingly. 

But whatever you are playing should make you proud!

Forget that you are playing for a small crowd, play each song like you are performing at the Carnegie Hall or Walt Disney Concert Hall.

And, if you are happy and proud of the music you put out, your audience is sure to feel your vibe.

  1. Make social media your best friend

If you don’t know it already, social media has the power to make or break someone’s career.

This is evident from the popularity of social media-famous celebrities like the Kardashian-Jenner clan. Even those living under a rock cannot escape “keeping up” with them. 

That is why, no matter where you are playing, the venue is going to tag you in their social media posts to update audiences about the gig.

This automatically means that you will have to keep your social media pages up to date!

Begin with the top three sites – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and even try to get on to others like Snapchat and Tumblr.

But remember not to overdo it. As Posh Spice says – too much of something is bad enough!

As long as you keep your social media pages up to date and interesting, posting once or twice each month is sufficient.

  1. Get in a good promotional picture – but do avoid clichés!

A picture can say a thousand words, and in this case it can attract people into giving you more gigs.

Try to get a few good promo pictures of yourself/your band- preferably while you are playing live. If you are starting out, a single good shot will work just fine.

Make sure the picture depicts your personality and your music. Whether you are playing heavy metal or Ed Sheeran songs, people should be able to make out what you play just by taking a good look at the picture.

But do avoid clichés, you most certainly do not want to end up looking like a member of a boy band 3T or 5ive from the good old 90s. 

Remember them? Yep, no one else does either.

  1. Try to put up some live videos of your previous performances

You can easily ask someone to get live footage of you or your band’s previous performances and put them up on YouTube. It does not necessarily even have to be a public video. Just put them on private and send them to the gig organizers and promoters.

You can get a professional videographer to record your performance. Or, if you are short on cash, an iPhone recording can also work just fine!

A good recording snippet can get you a long way if you are trying to get better shows.

  1. Have a bio to impress

A bio should be concise and yet informative.

You should be able to get your message across to your organizers and yet not come across as someone who is trying too hard to impress.

Also, if you are starting in your music career, you will probably not have too much to say either.

..and your EPK is complete!

Do you know what an EPK is?

Well, get familiar because it is one of the most important things you will need as a musician.

If you go through all the points above, you will find that all of them are material to compose your curriculum vitae as a musician, aka your EPK.

When you send a booking request to an organizer or promoter, you need to put a link down at the end of your email, which takes them to a private part of your website containing your EPK.

Your EPK is a gesture of professionalism and helps to make a good first impression on your organizer, thus aiding you in the process of getting the job.

Now that the promo part of the job is over, let us move on to how to reach out to more organizers and secure more gigs.

  1. Talk to your friends and fellow artists 

When The Beatles sang – “Oh I get by, with a little help from my friends”, they made several points.

Get together with your other musician friends and ask them if they would like to play in a show with you. Once you get a line-up of two or three other musicians, contact a local venue for a gig.

You will find the venue taking you up on your offer in a jiffy – because they don’t have to work hard to organize the rest of the night anymore!

  1. Check out the venue you are playing at

When you are playing your first few gigs, you cannot afford to be choosy. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot have your requirements regarding the venue.

A good venue is paramount to ensure that the show continues without a glitch.

Following are some things to watch out for –

  • Look for a smaller venue. It is much easier to have a successful show at a venue with a capacity of 100-150 people. 
  • The venue should have a good sound system. If your audience can’t hear you, chances are you won’t be making new fans with your appearance alone.
  • Since you are at the beginning of your career, get a venue with affordable charges. Make sure you don’t end up paying more than you earn.
  • Look for a venue with a good reputation. Check the type of music they usually offer and whether it will contribute to upholding your reputation.
  1. Don’t limit yourself to playing the same gigs 

Branch out and look for different types of gigs. Limiting yourself to a single venue can sometimes subdue your capabilities as an artist. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Just because you have started playing out in a bar does not mean you will have to continue for the same audience time and again. Check out local festivals, restaurants and any other place where you can play your music.

But remember to get good slots for your music. If you don’t get a good slot, there is a chance of the audience leaving before you get the stage. Also, a good slot to play your music helps you to build a fan base organically. 

In denouement…

The music industry is a tough place to break into. However, with the right steps, you can slowly but surely find a footing in it.

So start with playing gigs. Do not be disheartened if it takes time to find the right place. Go through the list and make sure you have crossed out each “thing to do”. You will surely get closer to your goals!

Good luck!


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