Getting Gigs: A Powerful Technique

  • Getting Gigs: A Powerful Technique


    Dave Ruch

    Dave RuchFollowDave Ruch

    Musician, Educator, NY Public Scholar, Canal Street String Band founder, Artist Consultant & Writer

    Here’s a tried-and-true tactic I’ve been using for years to build my stable of good paying gigs. You can start on this today, or anytime you have 45 minutes or so to sit in front of the computer.

    While the results aren’t immediate, they are powerful over time.

    Following The Money

    Every year, in almost every region of your state/province/country, there are grants awarded to “presenting organizations” to book a series of performances.

    (A presenting organization is an entity that hosts live performances for the community – theaters and arts centers are presenting organizations, as can be libraries, town governments, and anyone else who schedules events.)

    These organizations have at least two things going for them as far as we artists are concerned:

    1) they’re dedicated to booking a series of quality performances for their communities

    2) they know how to secure funding to pay for those performances

    Wouldn’t it make great sense for us to know exactly which organizations in our area are receiving grant money to book programs?

    And further, shouldn’t we be making sure that each one of them knows who we are, what we do, and how happy our audiences have been with us?

    It’s a simple case of following the money, and it works.

    Get Good Paying Gigs: Here’s the Technique

    Step #1 – Google

    Unfortunately, there’s no definitive website I can point you to for discovering the organizations that have been awarded arts presenting monies over the last few years in your area.

    However, a couple of internet searches like the following should get you off to a good start:

    “arts grants announced Buffalo”(substitute your town/city/region for mine)

    “arts grants awarded Buffalo”

    You’re looking for press releases and arts council websites describing who got these grants in the last fiscal cycle, and what the funds will be used for.

    Keep your eyes peeled for terms like “presenting,” “performances,” “programming,” etc – organizations securing money for these objectives are the ones you want to target.

    Over time, you’ll come to know the exact websites you can go to quickly for this information. For now, spend some time doing searches.

    PRO TIP - Once you’ve found a good source of information, try going back through 2-3 years of announcements, as the grantees can change from year to year, and all are potentially relevant.

    Step #2 – Assess

    For each organization that has been awarded grant funding for programming, take a look at their website to discover what they do and who they’ve booked.

    What types of performances do they seem to prefer? Is there a fit with what you do?

    After all, there’s no sense reaching out to a classical music organization with your “juggling around the world” show. (Or, is there?)

    Step #3 – Contact

    Reach out to each presenting organization that seems like a potential fit for you – find out who does the booking, and ask how they’d prefer to receive your materials.

    Add them to your list, and keep in touch with them.

    It may take several contacts over time before they decide they’d like to talk to you about a booking, but these are solid potential clients that you want to develop a long-term relationship with.

    PRO TIP - Much of the grant money will have been spent or committed by the time you get in touch. In fact, these organizations often know who they want to hire before they even apply for the grant. What you’re doing is getting (and staying) on their radar so that the next time there’s a grant in the works, you’re one of the performers they want to hire. It works! (And, you may even catch them as they’re working on the next grant application…)

    Step #4 – Expand

    How far are you willing to travel for a gig? Could you widen your internet search now to include other regions or states or provinces or even countries?

    Obviously, this will expand your opportunities.

    Step #5 – Repeat

    Searching for grant recipients is just one of those ongoing tasks of the independent performing artist.

    Bookmark the websites you’ve found, and revisit them occasionally for the latest in who’s been awarded what.

    That’s It!

    Using this technique, I’ve identified dozens of good paying venues I might otherwise have missed over the years, and many have gone on to hire me for performances.

    Pretty simple, really. And, of course, once you've worked for them, you become a known entity and someone they want to have back.

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    Have you tried this? Had any luck? The “Comments” section is just below.

    About The Author

    Since leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schoolshistorical societies and museumsfolk music and concert venueslibraries, and online via distance learning programs.

    Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

    The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.