How To Get Gigs: What Every Performer Needs to Know

There’s an art to becoming a successful performer playing regular gigs and making a sustainable living from playing music. We called upon AIM graduates Emily Hanks (Bachelor of Music, Contemporary) and Josephine Ison (Graduate Certificate in Arts Management), both in-demand performers and booking agents, to share some of the “secret sauce” that has established them as musicians gigging regularly on the circuit. Several of Emily and Josephine’s top tips are below.

Listen to the full 45 minute conversation on AIM’s Music Industry Insights podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify Podcasts.

How to get gigs: Set yourself up as a business

Josephine: You need to be prepared. Recognise that you are running a business first and foremost, and you need to be bookable, particularly in the events scene – weddings, corporate and private events. You need to be able to send an invoice so you get paid, you need an ABN. Have at least one high resolution image of yourself that looks like what you look like now. You also need to have your portfolio represented in a promo video, so potential buyers can see what you look like, how you sound and what vibe you bring.

How to get gigs: Create exceptional content

Emily: Go to a great videographer. Find someone who can record you well and shoot something fantastic. It doesn’t need to be long, it can be 90 seconds worth of content. That’s your business card.

Be specific with what you want to do. I think that’s the thing that no one ever really said to me when I was coming up. Do you want to do a party gig? Or do you want to do an R&B gig where you get to play some crazy stuff? Be really specific about what you want to get, and you will be able to get it. Put that effort into that promo.

Create a Google Drive folder. Start getting together all the content that you have, so that if you get approached for a gig and someone’s like, “I’ve got this party gig on Hamilton Island,” you can send your sub-folder that caters to that kind of gig. My EPK is a Google Drive folder that has like this kind of vibe, that kind of vibe folders. In each folder, there’s like a video, recording or photos that fit in with that brief.

How to get gigs: Value your network

Emily: Value your network above everything else; everyone you meet is going to be working in the same field as you (hopefully) for a long time. That’s the best thing about AIM. Everyone you meet when you’re going through AIM, you’re probably going to make music with forever, so those first impressions last. 

On the way up, someone’s going to call you who’s going to be like, “Hey, that girl could sing some backing vocals. Let’s get her in” from five years ago. [Success is] all through meeting people, all through collaborating. Be nice to everyone.

How to get gigs: Believe in yourself & focus

Emily: Focus on yourself. Don’t focus on what everyone else is doing. Run your own race. It doesn’t matter if someone else got a gig and you didn’t get it. It doesn’t matter if someone got chosen for a thing or headhunted for a show or whatever. Don’t get distracted by all of that, because it’s really distracting. 

Josephine: My best advice is to believe in yourself. Everyone gets knockbacks, it’s just part of the job. At so many points in time, I let that eat me up a little bit. And I didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there again, and try again. Just working on that should have been something that I did all the time; working on that self confidence. And that’s an inherent part of being an artist – believing and having faith in your craft, and yourself as a person as well.

How to get gigs: Read your contract & get advice

Josephine: If you’re getting a contract from a client, and you don’t understand what is on there, you need to figure out what that contract means. Because that’s your career. That’s your work. They’re your rights that are on that paper. And if [the client] is giving you those contracts, you should be able to ask them, “Hey, what does this mean? I don’t quite understand it.” They should be able to offer you an explanation. [During the AIM Arts Management course I studied] the contract law unit was really important to my understanding, as a performer and a booking agent. 

Emily: APRA-AMCOS are so good with that kind of situation. They literally have a legal team that you can call up at any time. You can ask them a legal question about a contract, which is super cool to have as a resource. It’s so important, as Josie said, to really understand if you’re ever putting pen to paper, what you’re committing to.

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