I came to London a bit over a year ago with no contacts in the music scene, but after a few months I was out doing about one show a week in the great capital. So, how did that come about? Not going to lie, it was a lot of hard work, but here’s ten tips for how I did it.
1) Start with open mics. There’s so many around London you could easily do one every night of the week for a month or two, but that’s a bit excessive. The Spice of Life in Soho does a great one on Mondays but you have to get there really early for sign up. Pluggedin Switchedon (http://www.pluggedinswitchedon.com/) is good and runs lots of different ones across London. You can rock up on the night sometimes, but it’s best to arrange ahead and try be one of the featured acts. If the venue or promoter likes you they might offer you a gig, and you’ll also get to meet other musicians and get some performing experience, so it really is a great first step.
2) Join facebook groups. There’s lots around – London Singer Songwriter Group, London Music Scene… it’s best to go genre specific if you can. People are always posting for last-minute replacements, new venues are looking for acts, you never know what could come up. I’ve gotten gigs at all-you-can-eats and charity events all through random posts on facebook.
3) Here’s another surprising one – gumtree! If you search for “gigs” or something more specific in the music section you can sometimes find some more random gigs there. As a bonus tip, it’s also a good way to find musicians who would be up for jamming if you were looking to start a band.
4) Get in touch with venues you’d like to perform at. If you check out their website most of them have an email address. I could write a whole other blog about how to write a good email, but the best thing is to keep it simple as they’ll probably have hundreds of bands asking for gigs. Have a very brief bio with something about your style, influences and performance set-up, maybe list some of the other venues you’ve played at, and provide some links to your music (don’t use mp3s).
5) Find promoters! Bark's a really good one in London. Here’s a great list of promoters across the UK and Europe, but there are a fare few in London too: https://diypunkdatabase.neocities.org/promoters.html
6) There's lots of websites like Gigride where you can make an artist profile on them and then apply for gigs
7) Get to know musicians and offer to play support for them at gigs. They might be able to suggest other good venues or promoters as well.
8) Do an actual good job of promoting gigs and bringing people once you do get a gig, then they're more likely to book you again.
9) Go to gigs. Unsurprisingly, it's a great way to meet music-types, and you can always cheekily ask the venue how they book artists and whether they'd put you on.
10) Get creative! There’s lots of other random ways to get gigs, and if you’re a musician you’re hopefully quite good at being creative. It takes a while and a lot of perseverance, but once you’ve got a few under your belt and get to know a few contacts it becomes a lot easier. Good luck!