I moved to Los Angeles in March 1983 to attend the Guitar Institute of Technology, or GIT. It was a wonderful experience and I enthusiastically recommend it to musicians who are serious about their craft. Pay To Play had become order of the day for many hot clubs in town, and the idea was simple—you pay the club in order to perform on their stage. This discouraged many would be performers by making it necessary to pony up cash to get a gig. In some ways, this is what the current national Pay To Play national booking agents appear to be. However, it’s much more than that.

Gigmasters and Gig Salad charge performers to be listed on their sites, usually a monthly or yearly fee. In return, they send you gigs and deduct a small commission, usually a minimum $20 commission on jobs grossing less than $500. Bigger prices require a slightly higher commission. Both companies have sophisticated websites that allow performers to post audio, video, pictures, songlists and more about their acts for potential buyers. If you don’t have a website for your act, they can have your information “online” for folks to see and hear you. I have a friend doing a solo act here in Texas whose only online presence is an online PTP site. He plays mostly restaurants and gigs every weekend.

The way these sites work for clients is simple. They enter a date they want entertainment, decide what type act(s) they want to book and the PTP sites bring up a host of potential suitors. They then announce the date and begin accepting bids from interested entertainers, jugglers, mimes, etc. They chose the professionals they like, who they will often pay a deposit online through their SSL secure sites. The date happens, the entertainer does his or her thing and is paid the balance afterwards.

Both sites look good on a smart phone, tablet or computer so clients usually book entertainers after seeing their online reviews, watching videos or listening to audio samples, checking out songlists, etc. This is where having great reviews, video and audio files, songlists and photos really do the work for you. In fact, I have booked many jobs without ever talking to the client beforehand.

Why would a solo gigger want to get mixed up with a national Pay To Play site anyway? Simple- get more paying gigs!  If you are good at what you do, there may be a bigger audience for what you are doing that what you’re been booking. Having excellent promo materials will help snag the best paying clients- more about this in an upcoming blog. Membership rates vary and you can select how far you are willing to travel to play shows. Many of the best performers on Gigmasters and Gig Salad are willing to travel 2,000 miles or more to perform, assuming a client has budget to do so. From my home in D/FW, these site have helped me book shows in Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as shows all over the great state of Texas. If a client has the budget to fly me and my gear,  I am willing to travel much farther than that.

Both sites listen to their clients as well as talent. Each site has demographic listings to tell you where your potential clients are clicking from, how many people click through to your site, etc. Gigmasters can tell me how often each of my audio and video samples were clicked on and even what time of day it happened!  I enjoy their profiles of other artists and like clicking on other solo artists sites, to see what tunes they perform, how often and where they work, their audio and video samples, etc. Gig Salad has a feature where they list how many shows you’ve done in the current year as well as how many shows you’ve booked in the past with them.

This also helps when fine tuning your act. If you find out listing as a solo guitarist who sings is better than a One Man band listing, make the change and monitor how much more work you get. I regularly change my photos and reference letters and keep up to the minute gig calendars online. I also have links to both sites on my webpage, since some clients prefer the security of booking through an online agency. I am able to attract far more potential buyers by appearing nationwide than simply a  local agency. I am a better performer now because I am competing with other One Man Band acts- not just in Texas, but nationwide. I can see how many booking dollars I have earned on Gigmasters, compared with other identical acts across the country.

Since I have video on YouTube as well as Gig Salad and Gigmasters, I have an unexpected side effect- people that hire me already love my work before I meet them! This makes booking my shows very straightforward- either they like my act or they don’t. I recall a conversation I had with Steve Fister while we worked at JB Player guitars in 1985. Steve is a great player who had the requisite rocker look of the day- long hair, rock wardrobe, etc. He had just finished a tour with Savoy Brown and we talked about how he landed these high profile gigs. “The playing part is hardly ever in question. I can play. Any gig I didn’t get was usually because my look wasn’t right for the artist.” People buy with their eyes and having a good looking online presence certainly increase bookings.

PTP has become a way of life for people in the Voiceovers business and judging from the different types of entertainers Gigmasters and Gig Salad book, it’s becoming that way for musicians, too. The best part of booking online jobs is the people that book you are excited to have you at their event. This often means repeat business, better tips, repeat business, more tips, etc.