The art of cold emailing (for musicians)

Cold email [noun]: an email to someone with whom you have no previous relationship, with the goal of getting them interested in booking you for a gig.

We can all agree that sending cold (and often unanswered) emails is not top of the ‘fun’ list.

When it hits the mark, though, and results in a gig offer… now that *is* fun.

Getting a 100% success rate on this type of outreach is not possible.

Even 10% can be a stretch if you are doing a lot of this.

But there are, however, some ways of maximising the number of responses you get from these.

It comes down (in my experience) to hitting these 4 key areas…

1) Make it Personal 

People get too much email. If a mail is not specifically for them, it’s much easier to delete. 

Think about your own email and promotions from random brands.

That means we need to keep things personal when cold emailing.

So on a first level, mass mails (ie newsletters) are OUT. You just need one look at the formatting to know it’s a newsletter and it can be deleted, guilt free.

Then it means using the person’s name.

Unless country/language rules dictate otherwise, that would be their first name.

But more than that, you need to demonstrate in what you write that it’s specifically for them.

“How are things in [Munich]”?

“I saw you had [Joe Lovano] last year!”

Not only does all this prove you’re writing personally, it also makes it much more likely, from the recipient’s perspective, that what you are offering is relevant to them.

Which brings us to…

2) Make it Relevant

OK, so you are making great music, presenting it well and writing to the promoter personally. 

It still doesn’t mean you’re offering something which is relevant to them, and that’s the next thing you need to overcome. 

This breaks down into two parts: 

  1. Stylistic relevance

Firstly, make sure your project *is* stylistically relevant for them. Then use your knowledge about what they book to demonstrate it.

“I saw you booked [Little North] recently. We are another piano trio who shared the same bill as them at [Copenhagen Jazz Festival] last year”

  1. Profile relevance

It doesn’t matter how great you are, if you are on a much smaller – or bigger – level than what their venue or festival works with, it’s going to be tough.

Once again, make sure you *are* on the right sort of level for what they do, then demonstrate that too.

“We had a review in the latest edition of [Jazz Magazine] and sold out two nights at the [Duc Des Lombards] last time we were in Paris.”

3) Keep it Concise 

We’ve all been there: you open up an email and it’s so long your knee-jerk reaction is “I’ll deal with this later..”

And we all know what that turns into…


Assuming you’re pitching to the right person in the right way, make sure you’re doing it as concisely as possible. 

No life story, no long-winded news, simply the bare minimum to:

  1. get their attention
  2. show why it should matter to them
  3. Get them to your best video as soon as possible

Everything else can (hopefully) be found on your website and social media.

Nailed these three points?

It’s still going to be tricky to get a positive response if your email doesn’t arrive at the right moment, which brings us onto…

4) Make sure it’s timely 

You might be a perfect fit for a club or festival, but if they aren’t currently booking, there’s nothing they can offer you.

At best, it’ll be a “we’ll be back in touch in [4] months.”

The more you can time your pitch, the better. 

Once again, that means doing your research about individual promoters, asking questions and storing information. 

Whilst the average time between confirmation and gig-day at my agency was 4.3 months pre-COVID, that varies from country to country and promoter-to-promoter. 

You can’t magically get all this information immediately, but you can do another thing which will 3x your chances of pitching at the right time….

Following up.

That means not taking one ignored mail as a ‘no’ but checking back in 3-4 weeks later, then repeating. 

There’s often a lot of hesitancy in follow ups, but you’ll find that – assuming you’re pitching to the right promoters and hitting all the other points in this article – they’ll even thank you for it sometimes. 

No means no, but “no response” could mean a variety of things, and only one of those is “we don’t like your music”…

Thanks for reading!

I know that putting all these things into practice takes a lot more brain-space and time than newsletters, but you should see dramatically better results if you stick with it!

Looking for more gig booking tips? Check out our jazz gigs homepage here.

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