You must be able to take a serious look at the music you play and what you want in terms of where you'll play.
Local live gigs can be a great source of fun, connecting with fans (old and new), and income. If you are not getting local gigs yet, here are a few suggestions about networking to get them.
First, local gigs can take many forms (concerts, background music for bars and restaurants, weddings, private parties, and more), so you need to choose where you network depending on the venues where you're wanting to gig. For example, if you want to get bar/pub gigs, you will need to network to meet the owner or manager or entertainment director of the establishment. But if you want to get weddings at a local hotel or country club, you will need to connect with the wedding coordinator or hotel manager. Choose wisely.
Second, use the network you already have to find out what venues do pay well and which ones have "reputations". This will help you to prioritize who to network with to get connected to the gigs you want the most.
Third, go visit the venue (if you can). This can be as easy as having a meal at a restaurant or attending the wedding of a friend. In any case, try to visit when there is live music playing so you can see what the gig is like: acoustics of the space, style of music, response of the crowd, and so on.
Fourth, if you encounter fear when networking, deal with that first. It's not unusual to feel afraid of meeting new people especially when you may be thinking that there's potential gigs "on the line". If the fear continues, I recommend the feel the fear and do it any way approach.
So here are four tips that I suggest you use when networking for these live, local gigs:
1. Vet your venues well
You must be able to take a serious look at the music (style, size of band, etc.) you play and what you want in terms of where you'll play. Some venues take cover bands only; others emphasize originals. It's all obvious enough: don't try to get into the local dance club if you don't have any danceable tunes. And as I said above, it's very wise to visit the venues — even if you've been there before — to see them from the vantage point of trying to get a gig. Plus, while you're there, you may realize how well you know someone: a bartender has been known to get a few bands into venues, for example. Bottom line is that you need to match the venues with your music.
2. Start from your strengths
Who do you already know who has (or might have) connections with the venue you're thinking of? or the style of local gig you're looking for? Start with them. Just strike up a conversation about wanting to gig at this place. "...and I was wondering if you know the manager there..." You get the idea.
Also, don't forget to spread the word with your friends. Tell them you're ready to gig and that you've noticed such-and-such a place seems to have the right sort of venue for what you play.
If you're trying to create your own concert format, gang up with another local band or two -- even your competition becomes a strength in this case.
3. Use your social media connections
You've been building these, right? So take advantage of them. Find out the name of the manager, coordinator, owner, director or whoever you're trying to connect with at a venue. Google them to see where they show up on the web and search for them on your social media platforms to see if you have friends who are friends with her/him. Ask for an introduction. Once you have the social media connection, be yourself. Strike up a chat. Tell them who you are. Then, play it by ear: you may need to wait for a second or third interaction before you ask for a gig directly. An indirect approach may give you an "in". The exact approach will vary widely depending on the person, the style of gig and venue. Use your social skills. When the time is right, be sure the digital version of your press kit is ready to send.
4. Accept "no"
If you did all you could do and the entertainment director told you to get lost, don't burn any bridges. Don't storm out or get pissy. Just say "I hope you'll keep my press kit in your files." If you're still dying to play for a particular venue, continue to network. You'll continue to meet people who are connected and they can help you get a second chance.
Go for it. There are places and events looking for live music. It's going to be about who you know.
Copyright 2012 Stan Stewart and licensed to Rain Computers. All rights reserved.