How to Get Your First Music Gig

Although it takes time and effort, getting some solid skills on your instrument of choice is pretty satisfying. After a few years of constant practice and getting a solid repertoire, or even writing your very own music, you’re finally ready to share your skills with the rest of the world. It’s finally time to get your first music gig!

However, things are far from simple. Just look at how many solid and talented musicians are sitting at home and are having difficulties finding bands and gigs. 

Sure, playing or singing for personal satisfaction is fun, but sharing your talent with the rest of the world will not only bring you more fulfillment but even an opportunity to make a living by doing what you love.

Yeah, it’s not impossible, but it might get tricky. Especially in this day and age, when the competition is pretty rough since so many people have their bands or are performing and recording new material every year.

With all this in mind, we’ll try and look into some of the best ways to get your name out there and get your first music gig, either as an amateur or a professional.

Learn how to Market Yourself

Marketing your first gig

Like it or not, these days everything is about representation, PR, and marketing. Finding the best way to represent yourself and/or your band is of essential importance if you want to do something in the music industry.

However, do it the right way and you’ll be set to make a solid music career. 

The tricky part though is figuring out how you will do that. First of all, you’ll need to know your target audience. The best way is to start from the genre that you’re playing.

For instance, if you have a metal band, you won’t be doing the same things that folk-rock artists are doing.

Following those artists that recently made a breakthrough and their labels on social media would be a good start. There’s not a better way to keep with current trends than this. 

Standing Out From the Crowd

Furthermore, you’ll need to try and find something that sets you apart from everyone else that’s playing your genre.

Whatever it is that you think makes you special, you’ll need to work on it and turn it into means to market yourself out there.

However, this can be a double-edged sword and you can easily fall into the trap of becoming a slave to your selling point.

The problem is some artists have built their whole careers on something that sets them apart from everyone else, and are expected to keep going with this, even decades later.

Furthermore, if you already know some performers or are friends with someone who already has their fan base in your preferred genre, it would be a good idea to ask them to put in a good word for you.

While not related to marketing, networking is of essential importance here. 


YouTube is Your Friend

Youtube's Music World is Competitive.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we live in the 21st century with unlimited technological advantages at our disposal.

User-friendly video platforms like YouTube is a huge breakthrough for pretty much every field out there, especially entertainment and music.

The service has come a long way from its inception in 2005, especially since Google integrated advertising methods and allowed content creators and businesses not only to promote themselves but also earn some money through monetization. 

These days, there are countless musicians on the platform, some of whom have even become famous. Yes, it is hard work, way harder than one might imagine.

Looking at the fact that some have even managed to become actual live performers after creating original content, or just sharing their covers on YouTube, definitely proves that the platform is useful. 

For instance, there are YouTube guitarists that rose to fame through the platform. Guitarists such as Jared Dines, Rob Scallon, and Stevie T.

Jared Dines scored a gig as a guest musician with Trivium, while Stevie T became a touring bassist for power metal champions DragonForce, thanks to one of his humorous videos that went viral.

So what are you waiting for? Make your own YouTube channel, set things up, and record your first video! 

The YouTube Music World Is Competitive

Of course, this does not mean that the same will happen to you, but it clearly shows the potency that YouTube has if you use the platform the right way.

At the same time, you need to bear in mind that anything that you upload, whether it’s a simple cover or a full music video of your original song, the video, and audio needs to be great quality.

If you’re going to use this footage as promo material for managers, venues, labels, or mass audiences, none of them are going to sit through a mediocre low-resolution phone recording.

Like we already said – so many people are trying to become professional musicians and competition might get rough. You need to keep up with trends if you want to get your name out there. 

The downside is that YouTube is the only relevant video platform and they’ve made it a bit difficult for young and new artists to make a breakthrough compared to five years ago.

Even uploading a cover might get tricky as some of the labels or authors are not allowing smaller artists to play their songs. We’re not going to get into reasons why, but researching more on this topic will be more than helpful.


Getting your First Gig with Social Media

Useful Social Media Services for Gig

And we’ve finally reached that unavoidable talk about social media. Whatever it is that you do today, whatever field (even outside of music) that you’re getting into, things are pretty difficult without social media.

That’s just the way the world is today – if you’re not out there, there’s hardly any chance people will get to know you. Making it impossible to inform your potential new audiences about your work. 

Social media go hand in hand with your YouTube channel. You’ll be able to share your new videos with the following that you’re building on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat.

Eventually, wider audiences will get the chance to see what you have to offer and you’ll be getting a solid base of all the material and posts that will serve as a good promo for scoring your first gig. 

Another important and useful thing about social media is that you’ll be able to follow all the musicians you’re interested in and keep up with all the current trends in your preferred genre.

Seeing how these other young bands and artists are doing will be a good way to get inspiration for new ideas. Not only about the music but the ways they’re all promoting their material and live shows. 

Although it feels that it’s kind of “outdated” at this point, Facebook is still the biggest social media out there. While people are not that engaged in discussions as they used to be (now shifted to Twitter), they’re still getting informed about new releases and live shows.

Using Instagram to Gain Followers

Instagram and Snapchat – that’s where the younger audiences usually are, and sharing fresh new pics and stories will keep you afloat and relevant on the scene.

Using Instagram TV is another great way to promote new material as you can share videos longer than 60 seconds on there. 

However, when it comes to Instagram, you’ll need some basic photo and video editing skills to make the best out of the material you made.

For instance, the best video aspect ratio for regular Instagram posts is 5:4 as it will achieve the maximum possible size on the Insta feed.

As for the stories and IGTV, the best video resolution is 9:16, or 16:9 for widescreen flipped phone option. 

Overall, you can look at social media as the best possible tool for getting your voice out there and getting the chance to get your first gig.

See how other people are doing it, make it all look good, and it will be a solid starting point for your self-promotion. Just make sure to know your potential audience and target group. 


Getting a Gig by Busking

Street Performers - The Original First Gig

There are two things you need to have before you score your first gig. First off, expectations are high these days and you need to step up your game and have some experience with it.

But here’s where things get tricky: you need to have some experience before you get your first gig, yet you also need a gig to get some experience in the first place.

It’s the classic catch-22. However, there is a solution to this problem – busking.

Throwing yourself into the fire and playing in front of strangers is the best way to get some experience.

Sure, there might be some lukewarm, even negative reactions, but that’s something you simply need to get used to if you want to be a professional or a semi-professional musician.

Getting your confidence is one of the highest priorities here.

Networking

The second thing, you need is to know a lot of people that potentially might help you get a gig. While busking, you never know who just happens to be passing by and listening to you play. You just never know who you’ll end up meeting out there.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing you can lose by going out there at the big square in your town – or even neighboring cities – and just playing your heart out. There’ll always be somebody who’ll leave you a tip. 

Never be afraid to try this. After all, it’s no wonder that some of the most famous musicians of all time have started as buskers, including Ed Sheeran, Rod Stewart, and B.B. King.

So what are you waiting for? Go out there, take your instrument with you, and start performing. 


Business cards

Having your own specially designed business card is a definite plus. Just imagine how serious you’ll look in front of club owners and venue representatives if you have this kind of approach.

Sure, in this day and age, most people are fixated on social media and your overall representation there, but there’s still a part of the population who’ll see this as a good thing. A bit of an old-fashioned approach but it definitely won’t hurt your cause. 

On the other hand, you must be careful and should have someone with a sense of aesthetics come up with your business card design. As much as it can help you, business cards can also be a deal-breaker if they’re cheesy or horrible-looking.

But since we’re living in the age of the internet, you can easily find different designs, templates, and appropriate fonts for your new business cards. 


Get to Know Local Venues

One of the first things you need to do is to get out of your house. There’s hardly any chance that magic will happen between your four walls. You and your band – or just you if you’re a solo artist – should always be ready to go out there and mingle with people.

You’ll meet musicians, you’ll maybe meet pub and club owners, you’ll get in touch with people and there’s a high chance that you’ll get things going in the right direction. 

After all, that’s how Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield started. They began going out at these local clubs when they were kids and that’s how they finally got in touch with the future members of the band.

The story goes they met bassist Cliff Burton in the early 1980s when he was playing with his band Trauma in the now-famous club Whisky a Go-Go. And together, they recorded some of the best metal albums of all time. 

You never know who you’ll meet there and how these new circles of people will help you propel your career. You just always need to be out there and getting to know everyone that you can. 

Don’t Pay to Get a Gig

While looking for ways to get your first gig, you might have stumbled upon advice about paying at some venues to get your first gig. Essentially, this is bribery, which is not the best idea to get yourself out there.

Even if you have enough money to pay for more established clubs or venues, word will get out quick, and everyone will know that they can ask you to pay to schedule a gig at their place.

Besides, this will completely ruin your reputation among other bands and artists on the scene, completely hindering your ability for normal networking, something that’s clearly of great importance to a young artist like yourself. 


Churches, community halls, and restaurants

Good 'ol fashion church music.

There are even some alternatives when it comes to the first potential venues that you might play. Being an inexperienced musician, it’s going to be hard to get your first gig in a regular music venue, like a standard rock club.

Since they’re expecting at least some revenue from their performers by selling tickets and drinks, unknown bands or artists who are only going to have a small circle of friends does not sound like a profitable night for them. 

In that case, you might want to look into some alternatives. For instance, local churches might be a good start for some performers (in case they’re not playing black metal).

Many towns out there have their community halls or community spaces that can be used for a live show. This way, you’ll get the chance to have your first public performance, ultimately getting more experience.

Local Restaurant Gigs

An even better option is to look for local restaurants or pubs. Having someone play live is way better than having a jukebox on.

So feel free to ask around – use the aforementioned YouTube videos we talked about as promo material, in combination with your business cards.

Local Restaurant Gigs

It will be a solid basis for you to search for your first gig at a local restaurant or a community hall.

This, of course, means that you’ll need to be good with people and know your way around in your local community. 

You can also look at it as a stepping stone between busking and getting a regular gig in a music-oriented venue.

Who knows who’ll happen to be walking past the local community hall or a restaurant and hearing you play there.

If they like what you’re doing, you’ll easily get your name out there and move on to more serious venues and start earning money from it. 


What else do I Need to Get My First Gig?

In the end, you need to understand, things don’t happen overnight. Being persistent and patient is crucial in this whole process of getting your first gig. Work on your YouTube videos, social media profiles, and – above all – make sure to meet new people.

There’s nothing more powerful than solid networking these days as bands and performers of one genre tend to help each other.

It is not unusual to find, let’s say, a local punk scene that’s closely knit together and helping new smaller bands get their first gigs. 

Investing money into yourself

Investing money in yourself for Music

Another important thing you need to bear in mind is that you have to be ready to invest money in your music career, even if you’re an amateur.

Aside from the good instrument, microphone, PA system, or an elaborate pedal-board, you can invest in sponsored social media posts.

Back in the day, musicians relied on labels and promoters, whereas today, you’re able to do it on your own, thanks to the power of social media.

In case you don’t have enough funds at the moment, try saving up and busking. Any resources that you acquire during your beginner phase should always be directed towards promotion.

After all, it’s all an investment that you can turn into profit if you play your cards right. 

Making Promotional Videos

To record high-quality promotional videos also is crucial and there are two ways on how you can do this. One way is to get a decent camera, an audio interface, a solid computer, and work on your video/audio editing skills.

It takes time, but it’s not exactly impossible, especially today with the abundance of free tutorial videos on YouTube. 

Another way is to hire someone else to help you record audio and video and make it all look and sound well.

This might be a costly thing, depending on who you hire, but know that the better the video and audio quality, the better it is for you and your group in the end.

Yeah, it might be hard to get the funds for all this, but another alternative here is to get in touch with some local audio and video production students.

They have all the equipment at their disposal and you might even make it a collaborative effort where they’ll use this video for their university project assignment. 

However, before you get into all this, know that the most important thing is to keep practicing. 


Conclusion

Play your instrument every day, practice with your band as much as you can, make sure it all sounds tight and confident.

Work on every single musical skill that you can and it will be a solid basis for everything else.

There is no amount of good social media posts or any other promotions that can make up for your lack of skills.

As we already said, competition might get rough but it’s essential to work on your musicianship, including technical, theoretical, and creative aspects. 

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