May 22, 2024

A Musicians biggest challenge

Mind if I vent a little? Booking gigs as a musician can often feel like navigating a maze blindfolded. Despite our passion for performing, the path to the stage is riddled with frustrations, let-downs and pitfalls that can test even the most dedicated artists. It’s something that is necessary to our craft, yet the rejection and discouragement factor can be daunting to overcome. I discovered this early in my career as a gigging musician and had my first taste of the reality of habitually unreturned phone calls, emails and unproductive drop-by visits. A professional, touring, recording and gigging musician friend of mine at one point calculated a ratio of SEVERAL HUNDRED such phone calls, contacts and emails that resulted maybe 2 or 3 “hits” that led to a significant gig. And this guy is GOOD. Really good. With rare exception, I have found this experience to be pretty consistent across the board from venues small and large as well as booking agencies.

It seems to me that many venue owners take the position that hiring quality live music is a complete hassle to them (and I know it is because I personally book music on behalf of few venues). But even given the nature of their own business issues of line cooks that doesn’t show up, recalcitrant servers, food and beverage deliveries that are late, squabbles with staff, management issues, they rarely, if ever, realize that WE are customers too!

Look, I get it. I’ve had a front row seat to the whole scene. Running a quality venue or restaurant and keeping it alive is very demanding work where the profit margins are thin, and the focus is, if you really care, on keeping the customer satisfied and providing a top product. But what many (most?) venue owners don’t seem to grasp is that we (musicians) are potential customers and influencers too! — that not only may a musician have folks who follow him or her (a “following”), he or she represents the potential to influence quite a number of people in the marketplace in their circle and that they can actually be an asset.

I can’t think of any business model where the absence of the professional courtesy of a returned call, text or email, is an acceptable business practice. Hey even just saying “thanks for reaching out to us,” or a nice “hey, sorry we are booked out, but hope you’ll come by, say hi and try our (menu item)” would be amazing. I have actually had that experience with a small handful of venues I had targeted for a potential gig. In some cases I didn’t get the gig, but you know what? I have supported and visited them, talked to my friends about them and have even sent people there. Hey, now there’s a concept!
Despite these challenges, the thrill of performing live and connecting with an audience keeps musicians pushing through the frustrations. But make no mistake—booking gigs is not for the faint of heart. It requires resilience, determination, and a love for the craft that transcends the myriad obstacles along the way. Just keep going!

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