By Anitra Jay | Editor of TheCraftyMusician.com
It’s hard to find gigs. Whether you’re just starting out as an independent artist or you’re a seasoned vet, you might find yourself with significant holes in your schedule that need to be filled. It’s important to have a steady gigging calendar for a number of reasons. A calendar full of shows sends a message to prospective fans and venue bookers that you’re a working musician. It also helps with maintaining muscle memory for playing instruments and maintaining strong vocals. Most importantly, it facilitates a regular in-person interaction with your fans.
If you’re having trouble finding legitimate gigs to keep your gigging calendar full, or need to fill in some empty slots on your tour route, these options can work for you. Here are 5 ways you can add shows to your schedule without actually having gigs.
As an independent artist, the internet is your best friend. It has opened a wide range of possibilities to promote your music, connect and interact with fans, sell your music, and stream live shows. Online streaming is a viable option for musicians looking to get exposure and connect with their fans in more meaningful ways. According to MerchDope, the amount of online viewing on YouTube alone has skyrocketed in the past few years by as much as 60%. Millions of people are online daily watching videos and TV Programming. It’s a safe bet to say that your fans are among that figure and would probably watch you too if given the opportunity. Not only that, you could potentially reach a lot more new fans in the process. There are many platforms in addition to YouTube that allow you to stream live such as Facebook, Periscope, StageIt, YouNow, and Concert Window to name a few. You could possibly do one live stream show per month. Get creative by attaching a theme to it and make it into a series.
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Busking is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of guts to find a corner and set up your gear and play for random strangers passing by. But the rewards can be exponential if you find a good spot. Busking means to play music or otherwise perform for voluntary donations in the street or in subways. Busking can be done anywhere and the best places to busk are where you’ll get a lot of foot traffic. Parks, areas that attract tourists, city attractions such as zoos and aquariums are all great locations to busk. You can also busk in more strategic places like near farmers markets, festivals, parades, and community events. With busking you must make sure you have permission. For example, some cities require you to have a busking permit in order to busk. Also some areas may even have noise ordinances where your volume must stay under a certain level. Check with your local authorities to make sure your busking selections meet city requirements. It may also be a good idea to check with fellow musicians too. Maybe they can help you identify the best areas to busk. Scope out the area and do a sample set first before adding it to your calendar as a gig. You might not like the location or you may find some other reason why that particular location is not a good idea. Once you settle on a location, add it to your calendar and let your fans know you’ll be there. You can hype it up by hosting a live giveaway at the show or some other cool incentive that would encourage your fans to come out. Having people gather around you while busking creates a buzz and entices other passers-by to come over and see what all the hype is about. This will give you more opportunity to make tips and monetize your show.
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Open Mics and Jam Sessions
If you’re in an area where there are a lot of open mics, then you’re in luck. Plan on going to an open mic and add it to your calendar. Be upfront about the fact that it is an open mic, though. The last thing you want is for a fan to come thinking they are going to see you do a gig, but they end up at an open mic instead. Be absolutely clear that it is an open mic. There are some pros and cons to this tactic. One drawback is that open mics can be unpredictable and you may not even get to play at all. It’s important to test out the open mics before inviting your fans to join you. Some open mics may not be suitable to your style, needs, or fans. On the flip side, open-mics can be great for testing out new material in a public space which includes your fans. They can help provide support. Also, look into jam sessions. Jam sessions can be a lot of fun. It also could be a neat event to invite your fans to.
Schools and After-School Programs
If you can keep them engaged, kids can make a great audience. Reach out to local schools, after-school programs, teachers, and libraries to see if they have any upcoming programs where you can be a speaker. You can also design an entire program of your own and shop it around to different schools to see if you can add a show that way. Libraries, Teachers and After-School programs are always on the lookout for exciting new ways to expose their students to the arts. You can provide that. It’s a win-win.
Workshops & Live Chats
If you’re comfortable sharing some of your top tips with your fans, host a workshop. You can do a quick lesson on your instrument, vocal tips, performance or public speaking tips, costume and wardrobe tips, and anything else you can think of. You can even facilitate a talk about artwork for your next album, current events, host a chat with your fans, conduct a focus group, or chat about upcoming news. The possibilities are endless.
In addition, there’s potential to monetize some of these options by promoting a digital tip jar, having your music on display for sale, and getting local sponsors to fund workshops and other community geared events. There’s no shortage of ways to earn money. Use your skills and creativity to make it work for you.
If you’re an independent artist, there’s no excuse not to have events on your calendar. These ideas can help you create a steady gigging calendar and really serve to diversify your offerings.