One of the issues we encounter a lot in the music business is bands being expected to work for free. As musicians we have come to assume that will have to do free work in order to build our fan base and gain more exposure bt there comes a time when you have to make the decision not to do any more gigs where no entry fee is charged on the door and to start doing ticketed events only.
After all, even musicians need to pay for food, rent, equipment costs, travel costs, rehearsal costs, etc. We should never end up out of pocket for performing at a gig if we’re serious about it becoming our full-time career.
We strongly recommend that you honour all no-fee gig dates that you have in your diary but create a cutoff point from which you’ll no longer be taking on and more of this kind of work.
The trick then is to start planning gigs that you can sell tickets to. If you’ve built up a strong following you’ll probably have attracted the attention of festival promoters and booking agents who can get you into a higher level of venue alongside their more established artists and who wll work on your behalf to help get a healthy number of ticket sales.
But for those of you that haven’t attracted any agents, there are ways that you can create your own ticketed gigs, you just need to be a little more creative. You may have a hard time selling tickets on your own but if you turn the evening into an event and there are more of you selling tickets, you have more chance of success.
For starters, you could try teaming up with similar bands that have a strong following in their own areas and that like you, are looking to expand their own fan bases by extending their reach through gigs. Put on joint events with three bands on the bill, taking it in turns to headline, and work together to sell tickets. You could also seek out other bands local to your own area whose music compliments yours and put on a joint event that you can take to a number of venues around nearby cities. You could also team up with a DJ that plays your genre of music and put on a live performance later in the evening so that the DJ is playing either side of your set.
Many Indie record labels operate in this way, putting on a series of events with a specific theme and some of the most well-received ones have actually started iconic movements. Start thinking about how you can tap into that interest and put on events that everyone will want to attend.
One artist that has been running his own tours very successfully for a number of years now is Steve Knightley. Using a method he created called ‘Grow Your Own Gigs’, he started to target lesser-frequented venues such as village halls in rural areas and suggested that if the local committee arranged the event and sold tickets, he would turn up to perform. Not only did the venues do most of the planning, he’s made a good living from his creative approach.
No fee-gigs are a great entry point into the world of performing but once you’ve honed your craft and you’re ready to go pro, you need to stop devaluing your band by performing for free and to work out the best way for moving on to the next stage of your career.