By now, you’ve planned for and played your first solo gig. I hope it went well and that you enjoyed the experience.
If you were very nervous and were unable to make it happen, reschedule it for another time and follow through to accomplish this task. Once you’ve got at least a single show under your belt, it’s time to think about how to get more work.
I majored in communications in college as well as graduating from GIT in Hollywood. However, the one class I never took and wish I had would have been anything business related. Because this, while fun, is actually a business.
I did take an economics class in high school but there was very little I could use later as a “self employed independent contractor.” This is the term most CPA’s and tax preparers use to describe working musicians.
Nevertheless, I managed to learn business and marketing, and I am happy to share with you.
Marketing 101 – the other school of rock.
The first thing I discovered is that in order to be successful as a businessman is that you must treat what you do as a business. This conflicted greatly with the prevailing mindset of the ’60’s; i.e., “free music, free love, etc.”
(learn more about increasing your act’s profile in Jake Kelly’s column on marketing your band.)
While playing for free or for exposure is OK for teenagers, once you grasp the idea of becoming a working musician, your job is to sell what you do to the highest bidder.
If you are comfortable with this concept, then the very next thing you need are marketing/sales materials.
A brief explanation- business people are always interested in increasing sales. However, sales is a dirty word in academia, so business schools, colleges and universities prefer the fancier term marketing. They mean the same thing.
I suggest getting business cards first. I use Vista Print, which is an online supplier, who can get you nice looking cards for less than $20. (I have attached photos of my solo act, duo and trio cards.)
I have business cards for my solo act (above), my duo (below), and my trio (not shown).
This is critical when approaching a club, restaurant, booking agent, etc for future work.
You will also need these when playing gigs so when impressed listeners want to hire you, you can give them a card for getting new gigs. I suggest having your name, phone number and e mail address along with any other information you feel is significant.
When I do my solo gigs, I put them into a small plastic card holder along with my tip jar and set them in front of me in a small plastic box.
During the course of most shows, I will announce my name over the mic and let folks know “I have cards in the blue box with my tip jar.” This is a small but subtle reminder that I am in business to make money and that the client is really cheap. (Just kidding about the employer part.)
This lets people know you are approachable, too.
The next item is a website of some sort. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but most marketing is done over the internet these days and a web page is invaluable.
At the very least, it should contain some information about your act, a phone number and e mail address and some high quality photos. You can use some of the online web hosting companies to create your own site. Or if you prefer, hire a professional web designer to do the work for you.
Speaking of phone numbers, I do recommend placing a working phone number online. If you have a land line for your home phone, use your cell phone or other number on the web site for folks to contact you.
I discovered that potential clients either want to call or e mail you. Make that easy for them to get in contact with you now.
Make sure you return phone calls promptly. I earned an “Early Responder” award for my solo act on Gigmasters this year. I try to call or text potential clients within an hour of them contacting me. Speed is of the essence when booking new gigs.
Now…on to the music:
I don’t think you need to go into an expensive recording studio to make meaningful recordings for your solo act. If you recorded that first gig on audio or video and some or all of it turned out great, then place part or all of that on your website.
You can also upload it to YouTube, Facebook, etc. You do not have to include the entire song!
As someone who also does voiceovers, I learned long ago that shorter recorded segments work better than a longer or full length piece.
I have audio demos on my website that all come in under two minutes. Like free samples at a candy store in the mall, I want to give prospective clients a taste of what I do without performing the entire song or show for free.
There are more ideas to be availed in upcoming columns, but for now, this should give you at least a months’ worth of work to help you book new jobs. Get busy and I’ll see you next time.
– Riley Wilson
Riley Wilson is a long time writer who was a Contributing Editor with Gig magazine in the 1980’s. He also wrote the “Gigmeister column for a dozen years for “Vintage Guitar” magazine. His work has also appeared in “Electronic Musician,” “Guitar School, ” “Guitar World” and “Real To Reel” magazines. He is the author and publisher of “Guitar Made Simpler- An Intelligent Approach” which is available through Amazon.com as well as his website www.guitarmadesimpler.com