I remember back in my college days, playing a gig on an empty stomach. If I was playing Anna's Restaurant in Pearisburg, VA, I would get to eat from the buffet halfway through my performance. Many things have changed since then. Enter: family, regular job, home maintenance, and a list of music students. Exit: time to practice, time to market myself, time to relax.
About six years ago, I loaded up my Plymouth and moved to the Louisville area. This was my opportunity to grow and expand in ways that the limited population and industries of West Virginia did not offer. This town has a very active music scene with very busy musicians. The Bottom Line: you are either makin' money or playing for free around here.
In part one of this series, I am outlining how I have squeezed myself into the scene in the past couple of weeks. This is far from professional advice, just some simple do-it-yourself ideas.
The easiest thing to do right (or wrong) is to create a profile on the internet. Free sites such as MySpace, Facebook, or ShoutLife (a Christian site) are great places to start. Take a tour of other musician's pages. When you see/hear something you like, send them a message and ask how they did it. I have learned a ton of things by asking.
You can use search engines such as Yahoo, Google, and Lycos (my favorite) to search for venues in your area. Type "music," "restaurant," "coffeehouse," "coffee shop," "booking," etc. The first thing I look for is an email address for the manager. I often find a music booking contact. Sometimes I will find the manager's name and use a search engine (Lycos, Yahoo, Google) to find their email or phone number.
I have scheduled several shows on very short notice using this technique. I used to call, stop by, and come back with my instrument for an audition. Now my web profiles have my resume, pictures, and music videos, as well as testimonies from my former customers.
Don't be afraid to call. Just tell whoever answers the phone that you would like to speak to the person that is in charge of booking musicians. Sometimes I begin by asking if the place even has musicians perform there.
I spoke to someone last night that told me they've kept the same musicians for the past 15 years. They keep the same core customers that come to listen to the same people every time. I need to find myself a gig like that. Another manager told me that I need to drop off a hard copy resume. They do not want to look at a website. They want a CD of my music and to meet me in person.
Every place is different.
I know of several areas of Louisville that are especially known for their artsy traditions. Frankfort Avenue has it's own website. The site lists virtually every business on the street. Also, check out Bardstown Rd.
You can get out of your car with a notepad and write the names and addresses of all of the places you are interested in. Tonight, I am going to have some 4.25X5.5 cards printed that advertise my band, CD, website, and booking information. I plan to walk into some of these places and drop off a card for the management. The busy managers don't have enough time to talk. The busy places are also the places you want to perform.
If I remember correctly, Budget Print (Jeffersonville, IN) said they will print 10 of the above sheets (40 cards) for 3 bucks. That's black on white card stock and no art charge. If you are not good at creating an attractive layout, their art charge is at least 7 bucks. These will be handy tools to pass out at gigs. They list the websites that our CD can be purchased from.
My experience at a printing company and some great freeware from the Internet has given me the opportunity to design my own CD graphics and have it printed for less. I used Kingdom.com to print my CDs. I saved money by not ordering the cases -- just the cover card, tray card, and color-printed CDs. The size costs more than the weight to ship; in this case they are less expensive at Wal-Mart. I burned my own CDs. I used a freeware program called Audacity to maximize the volume and export the songs at 320kbps instead of 128 (the default). Now my music is as loud as the CD I bought at the mall.
I can't tell you exactly how to sell those CDs yet, but stay tuned, my follow-up articles will discuss how I will interact with people in the venues and attempt to create a following.