5 Overlooked Ways Musicians Can Attract Better Gigs 1

Plus, gain a more engaged tribe of fans.

If you’re like most musicians, you hope that your music stands out so much that someone asks you to play a high profile gig. That feeling we get when someone approaches after a set and says they want to book you for their event is a great feeling. It’s one of the many reasons we perform – to be recognized.

However, if we aren’t prepared to take advantage of those moments, we can be missing opportunities we weren’t even aware of.

Today, I want to talk about different ways we can be ready to turn that moment of flattery into a lucrative opportunity.

Better Gigs

These following tips will leverage your visibility and turn your current gigs into future opportunities.


1. Be Visible

There’s a saying, “You need a gig to get a gig.” In my case this is especially true. Once upon a time, I was in a rock band that had some regional success. At that time, I was also connected to the jazz scene in Dallas. Years later my old bass player from the rock band I was in contacted me about providing music for the bar he was managing.

My current band, Rip & the Taylors, exists because of that relationship plus gigging in the jazz circuit.

Fast forward to today. On several occasions, I’ve been asked for contact info by a patron looking to book a band for some event they have coming up. Aside from this weekly gig, I now am getting calls for corporate gigs which usually pay a great deal more.

The biggest reason I get these calls is because I am already visible in a public setting. People tend to trust what they’ve seen and experienced first, followed by recommendations from others.

So, you need to be out there playing. Sitting at home won’t get you the gig. And, putting up videos of yourself only does so much. Real world interactions tend to impact more than virtual connections.

2. You MUST have a business card!

I honestly believe this is one of the most important things you can do for your music career. If no one has a way to contact you, they won’t.

Yes, smart phones make it easier than ever to get someone’s information and recall it. However, something about a physical reminder stands out in someone’s mind.

Between songs, a guy comes up and says,

“Ya’ll sound great! Got a card?” 

Boom! “Here you go.”

A few days later I’m getting a call to perform at a cocktail hour for a corporate conference.  (To read more about that experience and my approach to pricing click here.)

There’s been a few times I didn’t have a card and had to write my info on a napkin or piece of paper. That does NOT scream “professionalism” in many people’s minds.

Having a quality business card gives the perception of – You Got Your Sh*t Together! Considering the public perception of most musicians, that will set you apart when it’s time to negotiate.

I got my business cards off of moo.com. They are a little thicker than regular cards and have a ton of designs. Plus, you can add up to 50 separate images per pack, giving you some variety as you hand them out. Here’s a sample:


3. Be Remarkable and Connect

This tip actually is the most important thing you can do for your music. Everything else is there to elevate your art and make it more accessible. But, if your art still doesn’t sell. Make better art.

Sometimes, this doesn’t mean playing your instrument more precisely. Instead, it’s about connection and engagement. People want to see us performers having fun with music. They want to see the passion we are putting into our art.

When I first started playing at Henry’s Majestic, we didn’t have a singer. There was very little interaction between us and the audience. It felt as if we were just background music and invisible.

After a few weeks, I invited a singer to join us and there was a noticeable change in the engagement. However, there wasn’t a lot of speaking to the crowd in between songs. We received more applause but there was still an invisible wall between us and them.

I started pushing my singers to talk about the songs and introduce members of the band. I eventually, added a mic so I could speak as well. Now, we are having conversations on stage between songs. Saying things like,

“Thanks for coming out tonight.”

“Be sure to tip your bartenders and wait-staff.”

“The more you drink the better we sound.”

“That last tune was made famous by…”

You don’t have to use those phrases, but you do want to interact with your audience in an appropriate way. Bring them into the experience of music with you. Introduce the guitarist during his solo. Mention the original artist of a song you cover.

Including your audience is one way to build rapport and indirectly raise your tips and potential income opportunities. Go the extra mile and talk to some of the patrons between sets. Many opportunities have come up from taking this extra step.

4. Have a Unified Look

We usually don’t think of musicians wearing a uniform but in reality our visual appearance does play an important role in how we are perceived. Your look will also suggest your level of professionalism.

It may not seem fair to be judged by your appearance. And, as artists, we generally adopt an attitude of openness to all and let the music speak for itself. But, we are visual creatures and we subconsciously make decisions and judgments all the time based on what we see.

In the early days of jazz and the big band era, musicians wore matching suits. The band KISS are famous for their comic book style costumes. And, several bands of all styles strive to have some form of unified look about them.

I prefer my bandmates to wear something “casually hip”. This usually means jeans and a button down shirt. Most of the time everyone looks  comfortable and put together instead of that “just woke up” look.

It doesn’t matter what you wear as long as everyone looks like they’re part of the same band. Having one guy in khakis and a tucked in plaid shirt while the other members are in their favorite rock t-shirts sends a confusing message to the audience.

5.  Collect Emails Subscribers

In the online marketing world growing your email list is one of the most important tasks to increasing traffic and sales growth. Musicians can reap massive benefits by adopting and growing their list. With an email list you can directly communicate with your fans about upcoming shows, events, albums, merch and more. This keeps your band in front of your fans’ minds.

In an upcoming post I’ll share more specifics about how to set up and build your list.  For now, the important thing is to capture emails from your fans.

Years ago, Kimra Luna was booking bands in her hometown. As people came in the doors she would ask for their phone numbers so she could text them about upcoming shows. She didn’t know it at first, but she was learning the skills of gathering leads and building her list. She didn’t know anything about all the new technologies out there today. Kimra used what she had to grow her list and consistently engaged with them.

You can go as low or high-tech as you’re comfortable with. The point is to capture the contact information of your fans so you can market to them and build a community.

Try these techniques for grabbing emails:

  • Have a QR code that links to an email landing page. Put it on a banner or your business card. Tell people to snap a picture of it during the show. You can offer what’s called a “lead-magnet” as an incentive for signing up. This can be free tickets, merch, an EP, anything you want.
  • Mention a Twitter handle or hashtag to direct people to connect with you online. You can have a unique welcome page for twitter followers who sign up for your list.
  • Use text messaging services like Call Loop or EZ Texting to have your fans “text-to-join” your list. You can also send mass texts for show times or special promotions.

Building your email list not only allows you to stay connected with your fan base, but can also generate income opportunities too. You can even barter with your list to get help on things you may not be good at.

In his book, “You’re a Musician. Now What?” Janek Gwizdola mentions running a poster creating contest in exchange for tickets to an upcoming show in Budapest. He’s not only creating a more engaged tribe, but also leveraging the skills of others to bring more value to his brand.

Using these ideas may not get you a gig directly, but implementing them will raise your professionalism and brand awareness. This means more fans who will come to shows and buy your music. Occasionally, these may get you called to do a special event or capture the attention of someone established in the industry.

You never know when opportunity will strike, so you should prepare yourself to be ready whenever it may show up. So many opportunities are missed because people are not prepared to seize them. Don’t let that happen to you.

Which one of these ideas will you work on? Is there something I missed that you think other musicians should start doing, today?

Share your comments on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn. Or, email this to a friend.

  • Rip Phelan


If you’re like most musicians, you hope that your music stands out so much that someone asks you to play a high profile gig. That feeling we get when someone approaches after a set and says they want to book you for their event is a great feeling. It’s one of the many reasons we perform – to be recognized.