How to Get a Gig Part II: Finding the Right Venue hero

How to Get a Gig Part II: Finding the Right Venue

Posted Saturday, November 4th 2023 by Abby Payne
In part two of my series on How to Get a Gig, let’s explore the process of finding a perfect venue for you to perform at.

In part two of my series on How to Get a Gig, let’s explore the process of finding a perfect venue for you to perform at.

So now you have a demo, a video of you performing, photos and all the other necessities mentioned in part one of this series. All you need is a place to share your magic with an audience! Here are a few steps to help you find it:

Consider Your Musical Style

Are you a musical theatre singer planning to perform standards with just you and a pianist? A singer/songwriter pouring your heart out with an acoustic guitar and perhaps a small band to back you up? Or perhaps you’ve been rehearsing with your rock band for months and are ready for a big stage and a room that can handle some decibels. While many venues cross over genres to some extent, most still lean towards a specific sound.

For example, in New York City, 54 Below and Green Room 42 are well known Broadway/Cabaret venues, where a loud rock band would be pretty out of place.

On the other side of the coin, Arlene’s Grocery or Mercury Lounge are known as great rock venues where patrons would be shocked to take out their ear plugs and listen to a quiet, soulful set of jazz or Broadway numbers.

Size of ensemble is something else to consider when finding a venue that’s right for you. A smaller group often implies a smaller venue. If you plan to have a full band complete with horns and back-up vocalists, a tiny stage like Pete’s Candy Store (in Brooklyn) probably wouldn’t be able to accommodate you.

Do Some Research

Once you are very clear about your genre and style, you will need to do some research on venues in your area that seem like a good fit. For example, if I lived near Baltimore and was a singer/songwriter looking for a place to debut my solo project, I would Google something like: “Intimate Singer/Songwriter Venues in Baltimore.”

Asking around is an even better way to find the best places to play. That one co-worker who’s always talking about the cool shows they saw over the weekend could be a great resource for you.

Asking the question on social media could also yield many results, and will have the added benefit of starting to build buzz about the fact that you will be performing soon!

Go To Shows

Now you’ve got a list of venues you’re interested in. The next step is seeing a show there! This is a very important step. It’s hard to know if a place is right for you and your work without seeing for yourself. It’s also helpful to experience a show from an audience perspective.

Check out the venue calendar, find a performance that looks interesting to you, and do the most fun research you’ll ever have to do! While you’re in the audience, imagine yourself on that stage. It will be pretty clear to you whether or not this place is the right fit.

Think Outside the Box

Music can happen pretty much anywhere, so there is no need to limit yourself to strictly music venues. Many coffee shops and restaurants have live music nights and are great places to start out, or to book regular gigs that yield income. Is your best friend the manager of a local restaurant that has a stage and a beautiful piano? Or perhaps you spend several minutes chatting with the friendly barista at the coffee shop you visit every morning, and you noticed they have an open mic night. It never hurts to let them know you’re looking for your own show!

Most people prefer to book artists that they know or have at least met face to face. Which brings me to my final point:

Nurture Relationships With Bookers and Other Artists

I often play several gigs per week myself, and I would say that about 90% of them originated from relationships with either venue owners, bookers, or other musicians. Visit your target venues often, and if possible, get to know the people who have the power to book you. They will appreciate that you support the venue, and will be glad to have a real, live face to put to the demo when you send it! And while you’re there, find bands or artists that you admire and can imagine yourself performing on the same bill with. Venues will sometimes allow artists that they already book to choose an opener or even the bill for the whole night. Other artists can often be the key to playing your dream gig.

In conclusion, get to know venues, get to know artists, and go get that gig!

Abby Payne

Voice Teacher Associate

Abby Payne has been teaching and performing in New York City and beyond for nearly 20 years. She holds a bachelor of music from SUNY Purchase (Jazz Studies) and has completed the NYVC Voice Teacher Training and Certification program. Abby specializes in teaching all levels in contemporary styles of voice, piano, and songwriting.

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