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 booking more 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 book 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 clubs and festivals 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.
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 book you 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….
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.
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.
Want more on booking jazz gigs? You can find all Jazzfuel articles about gigs right here.