Musicians how to book your very own gig! In a city like Toronto where no one knows you!
Need tips on how to email bookers? What won’t work? What does work?
Network, and allow your personality to do the work, and believe in you. An artist is capable of getting a gig and here is how.
FIRST: Open mic, connections.
I googled “open mic in Toronto.” Awesomely, TO has its very own Open Mic Scene website.
Musicians why go to an Open Mic?
My reasons are to make friends, to network and to build professional relationships. You start to find out which venues have good sound.
You meet artists who have played in various places in the city, and you can start asking artists for their contact info so you can begin to book them for shows.
- It’s best to have a line up prepared and not sell yourself to a venue.
I would recommend finding an open mic you like, and go a few times; Before you start getting artists contacts. People should take you seriously and hear your music.
- Not everyone will like your music; You will have to find out who will.
You have to be mindful and see which artists are committed to the craft. So, don’t go around acting like a big shot. Just be yourself, make friends, talk to people, listen to their music, and within a few weeks -you will make connections.
I like a lot of music – I was very oppressed in many ways – I have had time to learn, to be open, and to appreciate what people create.
Not everyone will be open to your creative process. I like good music with various styles, and I appreciate uniqueness.
SECOND: Musicians search for venues online.
This step is a little tasking, but the best thing to do is to ask the venue hosts for a list of venue names in the city. Then go online and get the venues booking email address.
- Some venues have a booking agent, and they will have their very own email.
An excellent way to book a quick gig is to ask an Open Mic venue if they book concerts and it is easier when you build familiarity and show up regularly.
THIRD: Emails, the Do’s and Don‘t’s, and what to Expect.
When I first emailed the venues, I listed just myself.
“I’m looking to play a gig. Do you know of any bands that need an opener? Also, I’m willing to put a show together, do you have any dates available?”
This email had a lot of no replies, or no we cant fit you at this time. So for the second attempt; I decided I need to be more professional.
Three email must-haves for musicians:
- ARTIST LINE UP: I quickly asked other artists if they would be interested in playing so I could create a rough line up (Always ask the artist if you could use their name to book shows with you.)
- TITLE: I emailed with a title for the show (Lovely Caro featuring INDIE NIGHT, 4 MUSICAL LADIES, etc.). You can always change your line up. However, in the email to the booker; I would stress to say it’s a tentative list.
- ADD LINKS: The artists you list make them real to the booker, add a link to the musician’s music page so that the venue could hear the genre. If you have live YouTube videos; add that link too. The more links, the more you offer, the better.
TIP: Some venues want you to promise them at least 20 viewers and make sure your line up is willing to invite a potential audience.
FOURTH: 7 Hints about Peers, Musicians, and Creativity.
Artists you need to know that just because you book a show, this doesn’t mean people are just randomly going to show up.
- INVITES: Those friends could become fans, maybe not fans of your music, but fans of the other musicians. Let’s face it; we have different taste in music, our friend’s know us; It’s harder for our friends to be our legitimate fans.
- IF YOU’RE A NON-LOCAL: I would choose to play with local musicians; in the city, you are planning to book your shows. If you are a new artist, you will need their credibility to help you out.Remember, you’re doing all the work – This helps local artists respect you and want to play with you
- MONEY: Some venues ask for a door fee-take it-this is for you the aspiring artist! Ask for five bucks, a donation, any amount is right, just take it. We came out with 15 to 20 dollars each, per artist. Paying the artists, you invited will encourage them to play more concerts with you. Even just a few bucks can help people to keep going and play more shows with you.
- GET CREATIVE: Find ways to market your show, use social media, and create a great poster. I use PIC Monkey (a free online site) to edit and make my signs.
- ALWAYS HAVE A BACK UP: I had Katey Morley as one of my artists in my email line up, she books a lot of gigs. She was willing to join any gig that fit her schedule. I was able to use her name in each email request and said she would inform me if the dates worked for her.
If one of the musicians needs to cancel, then I would email the venue and give the booker an update of the new line up.
Its OK to change your line up: If you’re the main feature and you mentioned to the venue the line up could change.
TIP: Feature yourself, because you are the one booking the dates, and you know you can make it.
BE FLEXIBLE BUT FIRM: Some artists can become a little hard to handle after a while, they get nervous, they want to start taking over, and they want to make their own choices.
If you booked the venue, your the person in charge, but be respectful and flexible. Ask your artists what set time suits them, and be firm with the set time, if changes should happen.
TIP: It’s a first come first serve basis. I would send a general message (on messenger) to the interested artists, and this made the process to choose a whole lot easier- my philosophy is all artists are fantastic.
CHANGE IT UP: I had found if I changed up the set this made the show more interesting.
I don’t know why artists stick to collecting a genre. Maybe, it’s not a bad idea to gather a group of fans, if that’s what you are going for- a gang like a mentality- then go for it. But I would suggest mixing it up and being bold. Add a HIP HOP artist, and you won’t displease your genre fans, you’ll intrigue them.
I always loved musical diversity because my musical taste is ever changing. But this is just me; there is no right or wrong here.
FIFTH: Contacts and “DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.”
Not all venues will reply to every musician, and some will and say this famous quote. “You’re not what our venue is currently looking for.” This quote was sent to me twice from The Burdock, in Toronto, Ontario.
And I had to learn not to bother asking for more info, as it’s so vague. The email response was, “Its just not what we are looking for.”
I would suggest to keep asking new venues and change up your ideas. Don’t over email the places, maybe email them once every two weeks, and then follow up with sites who never got back to you.
Here are some of the contacts that I have had the opportunity to collect.
TIP: You can always search to find the booking name on their website, that’s what I did.
I will make sure they are not spam-able, so please add your own @. These contacts may have changed, and they are for the Toronto, Ontario area.
- booking(at)rivoli.ca ( Darryl For Lou Dawgs a bar and for Rivoli the restaurant)
- booking(at)burdockto.com ( The Burdock: great sound, stage.)
- info(at)thecentralbar.ca (The Central)
- adam(at)cestwhat.com (C’est What)
- brucepariscan(at)yahoo.com (Coffee Guitar)
- info(at)thepaintedlady.ca (The Painted Lady: AMAZING VENUE!!!)
- greatmusicliveshere(at)gmail.com — Mary Stewart (The Relish)
- freetimescafe(at)rogers.com — Free Times Cafe (You have to make your sound)
- cosmo.ferraro(at)hotmail.com — Cameron House (Big space, for more prominent bands)
- The Supermarket and The Piston, go to the Open Mic meet the hosts, sign up on Facebook at “Freefall Sundays Prelist.”
WELL, THAT’S JUST A FEW I encourage you now to play live, see shows, ask for a gig and meet the booker; Or ask for an email address from the bar.
Best of luck to you aspiring artists. Break a leg; Shake a lamb’s tail.
A special thank you to the musicians whom are mentioned in the photos and Amanda Scheibner for editing.