ALTo's Guide to Gigging

(Photo by William Iven)

(Photo by William Iven)

Like so many things in life, becoming the rock star you know you are does not come without hard work. You may have the talent and the drive but if nobody hears it, what’s the point? Banking on becoming the next viral sensation via the internet is a bit of a lost cause.

With fleeting attention spans and the instability of social media applications (R.I.P Vine), it is best to invest in yourself now and use your e orts wisely. Now here comes the fun part: booking your first gig! OK, “fun” may be a tad bit of an overstatement, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was anyone’s career. The idea of booking a gig can be daunting, but fear not — here is your step-by-step guide to get you from singing in the shower to rocking the main stage. 

Build the bill: 

Don’t be the only band on the bill. Find other bands or solo artists to join you for the gig so that you can attract a bigger crowd, divide event costs and build your network. In this industry, networking is key. It’s about who you know and what reputation you have. Find musicians who have a similar style and will appeal to your audience. Mixing genres can be a fun experiment, but they should still make sense together (Motley Crue wouldn’t team up with Britney Spears). 

Build the band: 

If you’re a solo artist, it may be a good idea to build up a band of your own, especially if you’re a vocalist. Playing with recorded accompaniment is never a good idea (this isn’t karaoke), so and a friend who can play guitar or piano. 

ALTo tip: Use sites like DownToJam to link up with musicians. The site allows users to and musicians in their area by genre or instrument. 

Budget and Funding: 

Establish how much money you have and what you’re willing to invest in the event. Consider the costs of merchandise, travel, promotion, venue, and insurance. Research funding options available and apply to as many as possible. You can never over- apply. 

ALTo tip: FACTOR (Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings) supplies funds to Canadian musicians to help them record and promote their music, while the Ontario Arts Council o ers a number of grant opportunities for individual artists and bands. 

Find the venue:  

Research your local music scene and find a venue that fits your audience and budget. Remember that the cheapest venue isn’t always the best choice.

“Usually if a band has never played there and it’s like a new indie band they can email the booker and he would give them a slot on a Monday or Tuesday night. From their either myself or one of the bookers from the venue would watch them and if they do well then we give them a bigger night. Then you just kind of snowball from there,” says Tanya Tonon, booker at The Horseshoe Tavern.

Look online for performance listings and community events. Play shows as often as possible to build up your fan base. No event is too small. You never know if that one show will be the show to help you break into your market. Find the right show for you but don’t be too picky.

ALTo tip: Ask yourself these questions when looking for a venue: Does the venue supply lighting? What does it cost to play there? Do they help promote the show? Do they supply security? Is the venue insured in case of an emergency? Is it the right size (too big/small)? Does the venue have age restrictions? Is it accessible? 

Book the date: 

Once you’ve found the venue, research what else will be happening in the city on the day you want to book. Is there another concert on the same day? Is it by a popular artist of the same genre?

“Advanced ticket sales can give you an idea of who will show up on the day of the show, which is nice on the road to know people will show up,” says former booking agent and Exclaim! writer Connor Atkinson. “But I have seen a show that sold only ve advanced tickets and wound up with over 100 people, so it’s not a concrete measurement.” 

ALTo tip: Think of your audience. If the only open slot is after 11 p.m., will your audience be willing to stay out that late? Will transportation still be available? 

Promote the show:  

Get the word out there -- any way possible. Tweet about the show and include a link to the ticket purchasing page. Instagram a poster of the event and share the event on Facebook and have friends and family share it as well. Hang up posters in local hot spots. Get creative with it. Have a Tinder? Invite all your matches and see what happens.

“We do show listings in NOW magazine and Facebook events,” says Tonon. At venues like The Horseshoe Tavern, they list the bands outside on posters and a marquee. It’s beneficial for both the band and the venue to bring in large crowds, so work together to make it happen. 

ALTo tip: “Hire a promoter to get your name out there,” says concert promoter Melissa Bray. Another method is to speak with people waiting outside in the queue for another concert. Personal interactions with fans can develop a loyal fan base. (This is a trick I learned from my fangirl days). 

OK, now here comes the actual fun part. Go forth and rock on.