Your quick start guide to booking more and better gigs for your project
I’ve been working as a booking agent for more than 12 years now, which means a lot of hours spent thinking about how to get more jazz gigs.
I’ve dedicated a large part of the Jazzfuel site to showing you how to do the same, and I want to highlight a few key things that will help you be more successful.
Wherever you’re at in your career, I’m guessing your main focus is on getting more gigs, right?
Reaching the level where you’re able to attract an audience both at home and internationally means you can have some level of freedom – both financially & artistically – to focus on the music and projects you want.
“I have almost no experience in booking gigs myself, and no network!”
I get it: you’ve spent years practicing and studying how to play jazz, not how be a booking agent.
Probably the idea of putting more time and effort into that side of things is, at best, boring and, at worst, terrifying?!
But as an ex-musician (who was thrown in the deep end and forced to learn quickly how to be an agent) I guarantee I can show you some things that will make booking gigs easier.
And it’s not just me. I also share insight and advice from club and festival promoters around the world. If you haven’t already, this survey of international jazz festivals and club promoters is a useful place to start, with 40+ concert organisers telling you how to pitch your project better!
Booking jazz gigs, step-by-step
Without wanting to do myself out of a job, I feel I should point out that booking jazz gigs is not rocket science!
In one of the most-read articles on this site, I’ve laid out a super simple method for doing it and it basically comes down to this:
- Make great music (I’ll assume you’re already doing this!)
- Figure out which clubs & festivals book similar things
- Research and contact the people who book those gigs
- Convince & excite them about your project
I’m not trying to say that booking gigs is quick and easy, but there is a way to massively improve how effective you are with this. So in a relatively small amount of time, you can make impressive progress.
“I need a booking agent to get good gigs”
That survey with the international jazz promoters which showed that almost 60% of gigs they booked were done so directly with the artist. No agent involved.
So before we go any further, let’s agree that “I can’t get more gigs without an agent” is not 100% fact.
It’s true that a booking agent can speed up a career when they’re really fired up about a project. They also take care of a bunch of stuff you might not really want to be doing.
As such, finding a booking agent is a good career target and one that I can share some actionable tips on.
But if the possibility of getting an agent disappeared today, your plans to build a career as an internationally touring jazz musician would not disappear too.
In my experience, it’s very hard to get a good agent until you’re already getting some good gig opportunities.
Frustrating, I know.
But there’s so much great music out there, compared to a relatively small number of agents and so choosing great bands with some proven demand is more attractive than choosing great bands without much proven demand.
So my goal with a lot of the content here – as well as the Jazzfuel newsletter – is to show how you can start making faster progress with your gigs and tours right now, by yourself.
With that in mind, these are some popular articles on gig booking you might want to check out:
- Booking agents vs Music managers
- Inside a Jazz Booking Agency: How & Why These Artists Got Signed
- 3 Gig Booking Timesavers
- Jazz Promoter one-sheets (free download)
- Post-covid gig booking
- How can you break into a new territory without an agent or network?!
- Keeping momentum with your tour booking
- International Jazz Musician Survey (COVID-19 Edition)
- Your guide to the jazzahead! conference
From your local city to international touring
As an agent – and via the Jazzfuel site – I help musicians of all levels grow their career. From freshly graduated music students through to professionals who’ve played internationally for 20+ years.
And at every level, there’s room to be more adventurous and aim higher in terms of what sort of gigs you’re doing.
Of course, you need to build your gigs step by step.
You probably won’t end up with too many international festival offers before can get a decent gig in your home country.
But assuming you’re a serious musician, there’s no need to wait.
The world is a pretty small place thanks to the internet and, whatever level you’re at right now, you can make real progress towards touring at the next level.
For some of you, that might be building your reputation in your home city. For others, growing demand for your project nationally, or even internationally.
Most of the advice I’m sharing is relevant every step of the way and are things that I’ve tried out with both independent and DIY artists right through to those releasing on major labels.
All this to say: don’t get stuck in the trap of feeling that you need to make your music and your promo materials perfect before you start working on this.
Jazz clubs and festivals (Guides & Interviews)
Of course, if you don’t know about a club, venue or festival, it’s pretty hard to ask for a gig there!
So whilst there’s a lot of value in doing your own research for this, and checking out the tour schedules of bands that play in a similar style to you, we’ve been putting together various guides and interviews to help you discover some of the great jazz clubs and festivals around the world.
Hopefully that will provide some inspiration and motivation on your own continuing discovery of great jazz gigs that you could book…
And, on top of that, you can read our interviews with some great gig-related guests from around the jazz world:
- Mike Bindraban & Jurjen Mooiweer (Dutch booking agents)
- Jakob Flarer of Saudades Tourneen
- Frank van Berkel (Bimhuis Jazz Club, Amsterdam)
- Kim Macari (The Vortex, London)
- Christian McBride (bass player and festival director)
- Nick Lewis (Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, London)
- Matthias Wendl (formerly of Berlin-Based Booking Agency artribute)
- Roman Khristyuk (Russian Jazz Promoter)
- Tony Dudley-Evans (ex-Cheltenham Jazz Festival & Birmingham Jazz)
- Alan Benzie (Jazz pianist on self-booking a European tour)
- Florian Arbenz (Swiss drummer on touring with special guest stars)
- Michael Stückl (Unterfahrt Jazz Club, Munich)
- Răzvan Scurtu (Smida Jazz Festival, Romania)
- Tina Heine (Jazz & The City, Austria)
- Merli Antsmaa (Jazzkaar Festival, Estonia)
- James Catchpole (Jazz in Japan)
- Shai Maestro (ECM pianist)
Watford Jazz Junction: Interview with Festival Founder Chris Newstead
Pitching to Booking Agents: 8 Things
Interview with Jazz Promoter and Label Boss: Ahmet Ulug
Interview with Robert Soomer – Artistic Manager of The Metropole Orchestra
Miguel Zenon – Interview with the Puerto Rican Saxophonist
Interview with Øyvind Skjerven Larsen of Oslo Jazz Festival
Interview with Pianist, Composer & Arranger Shai Maestro
Q&A with the booking agent Jakob Flarer of Saudades Tourneen
Interview with Tina Heine of Jazz & The City
Interview with Răzvan Scurtu of Smida Jazz Festival
Interview with Michael Stückl of Munich’s Jazzclub Unterfahrt
International Jazz Musician Survey (COVID-19 Edition)
Interview with Frank van Berkel of Bimhuis Jazz Club
Interview with Kim Macari
3 Gig Booking Timesavers