Article: Getting Gigs in the UK

How to Get More Gigs and Paid Work for Bands and Entertainers

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This article is intended to provide useful information, hints and tips on how to get more gigs and paid work for your Band or Entertainment Act. The focus is on best practises for gaining contacts, maximising your promotional reach and building and maintaining a solid reputation within the live entertainment industry.

Specifically, the suggestions apply to working as performance artists within the wedding, private party and corporate function market and also in live entertainment venues such as pubs, clubs, hotels, cruise ships, festivals and holiday centres.

Many of the techniques can also be applied to original bands attempting to increase visibility and secure success in the music business by building a dedicated fan base.

Introduction

All musicians and entertainers dedicate years to mastering their instrument and stage craft. Many musicians will spend most of their formative years in a reclusive state learning songs and the rudiments of their chosen style of music. Likewise, entertainers such as magicians, comedians, cabaret acts and children's entertainers spend precious time and money creating and honing a captivating show that is unique to them.

Without doubt, all these talented performers have one ambition in mind when they decide to undertake a life on the stage and that is to reap the rewards and personal gratification of performing to a live audience and get generously paid for doing so. So now you've mastered your craft everyone will be on the phone to book you right?

These days, unless your family owns a large stake in an entertainment company, that is rarely the case. Not long ago every holiday centre had at least one resident band, a visiting cabaret act each night for every venue and pubs and clubs were heaving on a Friday and Saturday night as the band struck into their second encore at midnight.

Unfortunately, those days are long gone and with the increasing competition for entertainment acts in the current climate it has never been more important to stand out from the crowd and possess the promotional skills you would more likely expect to find in an advertising executive than an entertainment artiste. However, if you are prepared to take the time and make the effort there are a number of ways to build an outstanding reputation and client base.

Networking within the Entertainment Industry

Networking within the entertainment industry and with venues is the single most important step you can take to landing work and gaining valuable contacts. There's an old saying 'to be a master of the blues, you gotta live the blues'. This quote can easily be applied to the entertainment business as a whole. To gain respect and be noticed it is essential that you dedicate your time to living within and having knowledge of your chosen area of entertainment.

If you are in a band that wants to gig locally acquaint yourself with all the venues that book bands similar to your own. Support these venues by taking friends and family to the venue when live entertainment is playing and introduce yourself as you spend at the bar. Most venue managers will remember you (and the £20 note you've got in your hand!) and consider trying you out if they know you'll be bringing a crowd with you.

It is also worth noting that due to the different working times and invariably the unorthodox lifestyle choice that goes with that compared to the general population, many musicians and entertainers mix socially and often become good friends through their common interests. The grumpy few aside, most entertainers are friendly and will offer advice or share their knowledge and contacts within the industry. Introduce yourself to other entertainers and support them by attending their gigs and learn from their experience of how they got to where they are. You not only gain invaluable insight by being sociable, you may also forge a rewarding friendship with that person too.

I can't count the amount of gigs I've had from friends in the business who were already booked, couldn't do it themselves and passed the work my way. It is often a case of 'who you know' and 'right place, right time'!

Preparing a High Quality Publicity Press Pack

Promoting your band or entertainment show with high quality publicity material is another important factor to consider on the road to establishing yourself. Promoters, agents and venue managers will rarely consider booking entertainment without seeing it live first or having a recommendation from a trusted source. If you are just starting out this is a major hurdle because unless you get a live gig no one will risk booking you but if you can't get them to try you out you don't have a chance to prove yourself. It becomes a vicious circle that can become very frustrating.

One way to soften the initial doubt is to present a professional and accurate publicity pack containing high quality audio clips, live video footage and photographs to your potential clients. Having all this high quality material in one place and instantly accessible (ultimately on a website) is crucial. Live video footage will be the most important item in your pack since it is essentially the closest your potential client is going to come to seeing you play live and will be the determining factor in their decision to book you. Footage of you playing to a packed house could seal the deal.

Shop around or ask other bands and acts for recommendations regarding professional photographers, recording studios, media design companies and videographers. If you really are serious about getting ahead in entertainment it is essential that your publicity materials are of the highest quality. Promoters and venues won't accept the 'please forgive the sound quality, we recorded it in my mate's garage' disclaimer that accompanies many promotional CDs even today in the age of affordable digital recording software. Look at this as an investment in your future.

It is also worthwhile having publicity packs available at all your gigs. A good show will often attract many enquiries from the audience regarding your availability for future performances or even a request to buy one of your DVD's.

Setting a Promotional Advertising Budget

Music and entertainment is an art form. Traditionalists will tell you that's where the definition should end, period. However, although there is no denying that sentiment, bands and entertainers who strive to live their dream and make a career in the world of entertainment quickly come to realise it is also a competitive business. Your sound, ability to make people laugh, dance, sing or gasp in amazement is a valuable product that you own and as such should receive the promotion it deserves. In the business world if nobody can find your product no one will buy it!

Setting an advertising budget is an effective promotion tool that is widely overlooked by the majority of bands and acts. Hard copy promotional materials are essential but having an online presence is also imperative in this technological age. But online advertising should not stop with creating one website and sitting back to wait for the hits. Over the years internet users have come to trust and regularly visit directory websites when looking for entertainment for their wedding, party, function or venue.

This is due to the fact that directories offer a wider choice of options in one convenient place. Rather than search for and visit 100 different websites it is far less time consuming to visit one website and browse 100 individual profiles. For that reason alone it makes good business sense to set aside a proportion of an advertising budget to facilitate listing your act on relevant and reputable online entertainment directories. These days band classifieds have very reasonable yearly subscriptions which are recouped many times over when you get your first gig from them.

A good rule of thumb when setting a yearly advertising budget is to make it equivalent to one standard gig fee.

Joining the Roster of Entertainment Agencies

Once your band or entertainment act is established locally and you have a proven track record of successful gigs behind you, working with reputable entertainment agencies can be the next step to expanding your market and branching out nationally or even internationally. In fact, contracts to perform in the hotel and cruise industry, the holiday park circuit, high profile festivals, major events and even some sports and social clubs can only be gained by representation through agents.

Although some agencies welcome new talent, getting in with good agents can take time and demands a certain amount of persistence. Agencies are bombarded with publicity from new bands and entertainers. I'd hazard a guess that most of this finds it's way into the bin within minutes of arrival through the post especially if the publicity is unprofessional. Agents only roster a variety of quality acts with a good reputation that will maintain the good standing of their business with their valued clients.

Although it doesn't hurt to introduce yourself or submit your details, most agents rely mainly on recommendations from trusted sources such as other agents, opinions from artists they already represent and client feedback. Try to get referrals from these trusted sources and attend showcases and auditions to introduce your talent. It's well worth the time and effort because getting representation has the reward of freeing up the time you spend now searching for gig opportunites and leaves you to concentrate on the creative demands of your entertainment act.

Once you are listed with an Agent try not to become complacent. There will be many bands and acts snapping at your heels waiting for the chance to take your place. Go the extra mile. If you receive a call at 6pm to cover a cancellation 50 miles away, change your plans and get there to do it. You'll be first on the list for the next well paid gig. Never undercut or bypass your agent at any of their venues. You'll be dropped quicker than a hot brick and you might get blacklisted with other agents as well!

Putting Together a Good Performance Everytime

We've all seen them...the dour looking band playing in the corner giving off the impression that they'd rather be somewhere else! When performing, the most important thing for bands and entertainers to remember is that the venue has booked your act to attract custom and ultimately make money. They are paying you to give their customers a great night out and one that ensures these people will return.

If you have drawn a crowd that have specifically turned up to watch your performance chances are they know what to expect and will show their support regardless. However, if your band or act has been booked for a private function or venue populated by guests and the general public the success of your performance will hinge on your ability to please an audience with varied tastes, ages and expectations.

Pleasing everyone in the audience is a difficult task particularly in musical entertainment. Compromise is something that doesn't come naturally to most musicians. You've put in the hours and you want to perform the music you know you play best but in general all the crowd wants to hear is songs they are familiar with, can sing and dance to or those tunes that have a special personal meaning to them.

Unfortunately compromise is a part of this game but you can also try the following:

Only Accept Appropriate Gigs

Nobody likes turning down paying gigs but it can severely damage your reputation to give a performance that is inappropriate or doesn't meet the expectations of your client and their guests. They'll tell their friends and before you know it all the effort you put into promoting your act will be worthless. Only accept the gigs you'll excel at.

Avoid Being Self-Indulgent

It goes without saying that playing two hours of death metal at a Valentine's Night dinner dance at your local golf club will not meet with awards or an invitiation back but self-indulgence includes many subtle considerations too.

No matter whether you're playing to a dozen customers in a pub or 50,000 screaming punters in a football stadium the same principles of crowd psychology are at work. The audience want to be part of the atmosphere, hear familiar music and want it presented in a warm, friendly and charming way. Arrogance, shyness and ignorance will quickly alienate the crowd and once they start to complain to the venue manager you might as well strike down and walk out the door and forget about going back.

Unless you are a specific tribute band or speciality act, in which case people know what to expect, try to have a repertoire that spans decades and many musical styles. Hand out copies of your repertoire and take requests, always be on time and adhere to volume and other instructions set by the venue. Be professional in your performance and don't hide behind a music stand - you should know the songs by now! If you move about, smile and show you are enjoying it the audience will too. Always accept any criticism with confident style and grace.

Performing for Free and the Negative Effects

Getting exposure, making valuable contacts and 'Living the Life' can initially be achieved, within reason, by performing for free. Local open mic sessions, jam nights and offering your services to charity events are all excellent ways to get a leg up. These events provide a great opportunity to meet new people, gain experience in front of a live audience and often lead to enquiries from event organisers regarding your availability for future paid work. However, playing for free at well-known venues and/or undercutting your fellow bands has a detrimental effect on the live entertainment industry as a whole.

Essentially, by performing for free you are undermining the talent and value of live entertainers and this will not sit well with other artists in your area. Musicianship and stage craft is an art mastered through years of dedication and sacrifice and should be rewarded like any other skill in the world. By demanding a reasonable fee for your talent and efforts live entertainment will continue to be viewed as a valuable resource that must not be exploited and will hopefully remain so for future generations of bands and entertainers to come.

And Lastly...Enjoy the Ride!

As in life, there are bound to be many hiccups and unwanted experiences along the road to becoming a successful entertainer. They will all toughen you up and make you better for it. Embrace every experience and never let go of the passion you had when you first started out. The day you stop enjoying it should be the day you stop doing it!

I hope the hints and tips listed will be useful to anyone starting out in entertainment. Any musician or entertainer will tell you it can be the most fulfilling career around if you dedicate enough time and effort to it.

Check out some of the bands and entertainers who have signed up and listed their act at Get More Gigs while you are here. Many are professional acts and have video, audio and pictures on their listings. These profiles will give you an insight into the best practises for promoting your talent on entertainment directories such as this one.

If you feel your act is lacking the exposure and attention it deserves, why not consider signing up to Get More Gigs today. Our visitors are always looking for new talent.

Best of Luck!!

Share Your Knowledge and Experience

This article was written with the intention of highlighting the main techniques for securing more gigs for a band or entertainment act. If you have any other tips or experiences feel free to share them on the comment form below.