JAZZ GIGS

(quick start guide)

I’ve been working as a booking agent for more than 10 years now, which means a lot of hours spent thinking about how to get more jazz gigs.

I’ve dedicated a large part of this 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

(this last step involves having great video content, photos, press quotes and promo texts… all of which are covered in more detail in the section on self promotion as a jazz musician)

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.

Sound good?

“Almost 60% of festival & club gigs were booked direct with the artist – no agent involved”

source: International Jazz Promoter Survey

“I need a booking agent to get good gigs”

I did a survey a while back with almost 50 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.

[You might also be interested in checking this list I put together: Booking agents vs Music managers]

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.

Check out the articles related to booking jazz gigs…

Interview with Kim Macari

Interview with Kim Macari

From Kurt Rosenwinkel talking about his early days phoning Spanish jazz clubs to pianist Alan Benzie running through how he booked a 16-date European tour, some of the most-read Jazzfuel interviews and guest articles have involved musicians who've done the industry...

3 Gig Booking Timesavers

3 Gig Booking Timesavers

One of the biggest challenges musicians face in booking gigs is the amount of time it takes.  You already have to practice your instrument, rehearse, teach, compose, do social media, send invoices… But if your goal is to tour more, both at home and internationally,...

Interview with Christian McBride

Interview with Christian McBride

Over the last 3 decades, Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride has become one of the most requested, most recorded and most respected figures in the music world. On top of a busy touring & bandleader schedule, he also works as a radio host, producer, educator,...

Focusyear, ECM & Jazz Greats 10 Questions with Wolfgang Muthspiel

Focusyear, ECM & Jazz Greats 10 Questions with Wolfgang Muthspiel

©Laura Pleifer Over the last 3 decades, award-winning and critically acclaimed guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel has toured and recorded with many of the worlds jazz greats; the most recent of which features Brad Mehldau, Ambrose Akinmusire, Larry Grenadier & Eric...

Chatting to Nick Lewis of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club

Chatting to Nick Lewis of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club

Nick Lewis is one of a 5-strong programming team at London's legendary Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club and shares some insight from his 12+ years  at the venue, including his work to champion emerging artists and the changing notions of what 21st century programming looks...

Keeping momentum with your tour booking

Keeping momentum with your tour booking

More than 300 musicians on the Jazzfuel mailing list recently took part in a survey to answer questions about their careers: where’re they’re at, what they've got planned, the successes they’ve had so far and the challenges they face with tour bookings, releasing...

Booking Agent vs Music Manager (the jazz musician guide)

Booking Agent vs Music Manager (the jazz musician guide)

In an ideal world, you'd probably have an excellent booking agent and a highly effective music manager overseeing every step of your career as a gigging and album-releasing jazz artist, right? To get to that stage, you'll almost certainly need to do both...

Self-booking an international tour with jazz pianist Alan Benzie

Self-booking an international tour with jazz pianist Alan Benzie

For all the focus on finding an agent to help build your career as a jazz musician, there are some great examples out there of musicians who have taken on this role themselves and seen good results. One such example that I came across recently from the...

The "How To Get More Jazz Gigs" online course

Next edition: January 2021

This online video course, with 1-to-1 support from a European jazz booking agent, takes you through everything you need to know when trying to book gigs for your project. Check out testimonials from current participants as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the course.