Are you trying to get jazz gigs for your band or project? In this article I’m going to show you how to get better results, by figuring out exactly which promoters are ready to book you. This method has helped me book more than 1,500 gigs – and it can help you too!
Calling and emailing promoters to get jazz gigs is not the best part of being a musician, right?
Especially when you spend hours putting together that perfect email pitch, fire it out to 50 promoters and then… nothing!
For most jazz musicians though, booking gigs is an inevitable part of the ‘job’ if you want to build your profile and touring possibilities – at least until things reach a stage where an agent or manager is motivated to take you on.
There may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for how to get jazz gigs, but you CAN save time and get more success by focusing on the right things for your project…
Which jazz promoters will really book you?
Even within the jazz genre, there are many different niches. You can see this just by glancing at the programmes of clubs and festivals around the world.
Some promoters are only interested in straight-ahead jazz. Some prefer their jazz gigs with a side of electro or rock. Others are all about the singers. And so on.
As a booking agent, I don’t pitch all of my artists to all of my promoters.
It’s a sure way to lose people’s attention and make them stop reading all of your emails!
Fact is, if a promoter gets the feeling that what you are pitching is nowhere near their ‘thing,’ they are going to lose interest in your email pretty quickly.
Calling and emailing the promoters who don’t programme your style of music is a waste of everyone’s time, not least yours!
The key is to make sure you are pitching to a much more targeted group of jazz festivals and clubs who are likely to appreciate what you’re doing.
The simple 3-step method below is something I do with every new artist I take on. It’s also something you can do yourself, right now, in about 15 minutes!
Finding Your Promoters (15 mins)
1. Make a list of 3 musicians or groups who play in a similar style to you.
Two of them should be a little further up the ladder than you in terms of their live work (but from your city/country) and the other should be much more established internationally.
Chris Potter. Julian Siegel. Mark Lockheart.
2. Google their tours.
One by one, make a Google search for “[band name] + gigs”
3. List their jazz gigs
Go through to the relevant pages and write down all the jazz clubs and festivals the band has played for the last 2-3 years, as well as what they have coming up.
RESULT: your custom-made target list
Once you have done this for all three, you have your main target list for pitching to. These are the promoters your should be focusing most of your efforts on.
By booking the artists on your sample list, the promoters have proven that they are open to the sort of music you are making. Sure, they might not give you a gig right away, but you can approach them with the confidence that they like what you are doing musically.
4 Things To Consider When Refining Your Jazz Gig Target List
So, you have your target list of promoters who are open to the type of music you are making. In order to focus your efforts further, it’s worth considering that not all jazz gigs are equal in terms of their value to your career.
Of course, as a musician, you just want to PLAY.
Sometimes, though, it pays to take a step back and plan a little more strategically….
Gigs that help build your career have…
- As big an audience as possible
- Lots of marketing a publicity
With that in mind, it’s worth considering these four things when planning your pitching time:
A gig in a media city is worth more than a gig in a small town It’s no surprise that artists sometimes play for less money in important media cities.
Publicity is essential in building a career and you cannot get this without playing where the journalists are based.
Even if you don’t manage to get them to come to the gig, your name will pop up in all sorts of listings and industry people in other countries will recognise the city when you namecheck it.
If you are trying to build a reputation, one well-executed show (not just the performance but the whole promo effort leading up to it) can be worth more than 5 little regional jazz gigs.
2. Types of gigs
A festival show is worth a lot more than a normal venue gig
An annual festival spends most of the year in planning, with the marketing campaign usually focused and strong over a 4-month period.
It’s not uncommon for festivals to take out full-page ads in jazz magazines and, if you’re on the bill, you’re in the advert! The marketing usually has a wider reach than a club or venue and, as a one-off event, often has more of an impact on the local community.
Festivals put you in front of a larger audience than you would attract on your own and give you the chance to play to people who already like the genre. As long as you are delivering musically, you can come away with some new fans.
Picking the right period for your gig can make it more successful
Musicians want to tour and gig as much as possible. It’s why you do what you do. However, it can sometimes be beneficial to delay an offer instead of grabbing each one as soon as they come up.
If you have an album release planned for the following spring, pushing any interesting offers into that period can increase the impact of both the tour and the album.
With so much good music around, you need to give yourself the maximum chance of attention by planning periods of concentrated activity.
A follower can miss a Facebook post about your new record or a tweet about a gig, but if you are plugging both together – posting photos, music videos, ticket links, reviews, audio tracks – over a 2-3 month period, it’s a lot harder to miss.
You can also use your restricted time-frame to persuade promoters. Not only do you push them towards a specific period rather than an open-ended question, you also show that careful planning is going into the tour.
4. Support slots (BONUS)
In theory, the idea of getting to play in front of the big audience of a more established artist is a good one.
However, it’s worth being cautious as it’s not the same as a festival where people expect to be introduced to new music.
In some venues, audiences are arriving just in time for the main act or stay chatting at the bar throughout your set. That said, if the headline artist is big enough, you can create a buzz with press, promoters & labels in advance to justify doing it, regardless of how the audience is.
The Final Tips on Booking Jazz Gigs Yourself…
- If you have limited time to be hassling promoters for gigs: narrow down your search.
- Figure out the clubs and festivals that book the specific sort of music you are making.
- Narrow the PERIOD (“Spring” or “Autumn” is specific enough), LOCATION (where do you NEED to be?) and TYPES (focus more on festivals).
- Make a written list – 25 or so to begin with – and contact them all by email and phone until you have answers.
That’s it; the whole step-by-step method! I hope this article has given you some extra motivation and ideas for making more progress with your work on getting gigs and, if you’d like to dive into it in more detail, along with some 1-to-1 support from me, you can check out the How To Get More Jazz Gigs online course I host.
27 thoughts on “Booking Your Own Jazz Gigs? Here’s How To Get Better Results”
Thank you for your information Matt!
I’m feel more motivated to present my music !
Thanks.. seems very concrete and useful recommendations..
Thank you so much, I feel like I’m not alone !!!
There is so much useful info in this site and I’m learning a lot every time I’m here.
Thanks Nim, good to hear!
It is such a great article. I think it cannot be said enough how important it is to engage as directly as possible with promoters.
Thanks Gautier – glad you agree!!
Matt- thanks for sharing your knowledge, these are great ideas.
You talked about “media cities.” How do you know which are the important cities from the media perspective?
You’re welcome – thanks for reading!
By ‘media city’ I mean the places where most of the press is generated. For example, in the UK, most (although of course not all) national journalists are based in the London area. So doing a show there is the easiest place for them to get to, but you can then reach an audience all across the country with what they publish. In the smaller countries, it’s mainly the capital city, but others – like Germany – might have a few (Berlin, Munich, Hamburg) spread across it. I’m not so familiar with the US from this perspective, but of course New York is similar in that a lot of national jazz journalists are based in that region or at least follow that scene more closely…
Ok, thanks for clarifying that Matt! I had one more question. Since video links seem to be a central element of the pitch these days and attention spans are so very short, do you think that it’s best to submit a video segment from one song, or a more flashy, edited video montage such as these:
Depends on the individual example but the one you posted here looks cool and I would use that. If you put another one together, I’d maybe just suggest there is more focus/footage of you personally, unless it’s very much a ‘band’ and always with the same guys.
I think the key is that the video starts with something engaging and doesn’t take 20 seconds to get into the music because you are right, attention is short.
If you share a whole track-video, I’d suggest using the feature on Youtube that let’s you share a URL that starts at a specific minute/second of the video, so you get straight into the good stuff…
Lovely article and great advice Matt. Thanks a lot!
Raquel Cepeda, Houston Jazz Singer
Thanks Raquel !
Thanks for an inspiring post!
I’m totally new to this, so I was wondering. What do you write in an email to the bookers?
Do you state an offer: “hi, we can play for this amount. Please contact me”,
Do you ask: “Hi are you interested in our band?” and then the negotiation starts?
I’d suggest introducing the project to a [relevant] promoter first and getting them interested in it.
It’s better to wait until you know they are keen before talking money, as each gig offer should probably be considered on it’s own merits; how big the venue is, how much they want the band, club or festival, is it in an important media city, what period is it (and do you have new music at that point) etc etc etc…
That’s a good point! Thanks! 🙂
There are a lot of bands and agents contacting promoters every day, so if they don’t know you, I’d suggest it’s very much a case of introducing them to your music and making them interested in checking it out. I don’t think many promoters will be interested in talking money and dates until they are excited about the prospect of the band performing for their venue/festival.
All good common sense stuff!
The real test comes when you need to string some dates together.
Always go for the big venues first.
That way the smaller venues will be more ready to listen.
Keep emails short and with working links to audio and video if possible.
Top load with the important information high on the agenda.
Find out the NAME of the person you need to speak to.
No ‘dear sir/madam stuff’.
Take rejection gracefully.
You may need to knock on the same door again in the future and if you have been rude in the past that door will NEVER open for you.
Remember you are talking to people who are invariably very nice and will appreciate niceties from you!
Oh, and make sure you can play your ass off too…
Thanks for commenting Nigel – you pretty much summed it all up in one paragraph!
Note for other musicians: you can read an interview with Nigel in The Telegraph here: bit.ly/JazzfuelNigelPrice
Particularly relevant quote/question from the interviewer – “There is probably no jazz musician in the UK who works harder than you to get tours together. You called your last album Hit the Road. This forty-date tour might even be some kind of record. I guess you must enjoy touring?”
I used to be so lazy…
Thank you. Awesome information.
Thanks for checking it out Derek!
Very nice and inspiring article!
What “smaller” gigs are concerned, I made quite good experiences in booking small gigs in decent clubs when trying to enter new territories.
If I manage to get some promoters to listen to the live-gig, I sometimes end up with a “bigger” gig in my hands after….
Good point Florian.
If you can put a bunch of ‘smaller’ gigs together into a short tour-period, it grabs the attention of promoters and journalists more than a one-off show in a secondary city. And, as you say, the best way to convince a promoter is to get them to one of your shows!
Yes great point and I would think that if an artist went live on FB, Instagram and Youtube and announced it in advance to Promoters and Press then maybe some of them might tune in if they’re interested but unable to attend.