In the first of our posts on How to get gigs at live music venues, we looked at how you prepare your marketing pack and start researching which venues you might wish to perform. Once you have these areas covered you can then start approaching your chosen venues and securing the gig.

Approaching the venue

Once you have ear-marked your preferred venues, you can contact in a variety of ways:

1. Contacting the venue direct

Usually a simple phone call asking for the contact details of who does the programming at the venue can go a long way. You can then follow up with an introductory email to the right person.

Keep the email short and include:

  • A brief description of your band and why your show would be appropriate for that particular venue with links to your website, social media and/or online music streaming platforms.
  • A particular date or a window of time during which your band is hoping to schedule.

2. Contacting via social media

Most venues will have their own social media channels, and some will even use these platforms to scout out new talent or more established bands and musicians who they might wish to book.

Having an active and up-to-date social media presence is important especially on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Your online presence will help the venue see how you look and sound as well as see how many followers have i.e. what their potential audience numbers could be if they book you.

If you begin following them you will not only see what type of programme they put on, but they will hopefully follow you back and you can then begin interacting with them through likes, comments or even direct messages. It is important not to be too pushy on social media, a simple introduction of who you are with a link to your website can be enough.

3. Inviting them to another gig

If you are keen to play at a certain venue, sometimes the best way can be to invite the venue programmers to your performances at another venue or festival. This can be a great opportunity for the programmer to see how you perform live and how you interact with the audience.

Make sure to invite the right person (i.e. the person who manages the bookings) – and with plenty of notice so they can put it in their diary!

Securing the gig

Once you have got the attention of the programmer and they wish to consider booking you for a paid gig, the next step will be booking the performance dates and agreeing on payment terms.

Payment terms

Outlining your fees from the beginning is important because all venues need to know if they can make money; if the venue needs to chase you up for this information it may reduce your chances of securing the gig.

Moreover, negotiating on the payment terms per venue is not unheard of so be prepared to consider several options to help them and you share the risk such as:

  • a set fee that is paid in advance, on the night or within an agreed timescale
  • a guaranteed fee (just to cover your costs usually) plus a percentage on tickets sales on the door
  • the entire takings on the door
  • or a split in the gig profits on the door or the bar takings

Be aware of any hidden costs such as hiring of PA systems or lighting etc.

If you are unsure of how to set your fee, here are some guidance notes to national gig rates and casual stage rates from the Musicians Union.

Contracts

Once you have agreed on the date(s), times and venue(s) you will perform and the payment terms, the final step is to sign an agreement or contract with the venue. The venue will usually provide this, however you can see some examples of contracts from the Musicians Union for Hiring a Band or Hiring a Solo Musician.

If you don’t get a contract, it is always a good idea to have at least an agreement in writing with the venue confirming the performance dates, times, and payment terms. An example of a Specimen Letter to use via Musicians Union can be seen here.

Illustration by Bridie Cheeseman