I’m not sure how many jazz musicians can wait for the phone to ring with offers of a gig , confident that the ageing process will not have advanced too much by the time patience is rewarded. I am sure that I’m not in that fortunate group, especially having had the temerity to assemble a mixture of self penned tunes and much loved compositions of others and a bunch of willing collaborators and the hope that someone will at least meet our reasonable expenses and persuade an audience to come and listen. No, the time honoured hustling of gigs is needed – emails, phone calls, texts, sending of CDs (or links to website) – all in the hope and expectation of securing some gigs. My new year’s resolution back in January was to do more hustling and now, around 100 emails, phone calls, texts later, in the middle of the fruits of that labour seems a good time to record a few thoughts.
I’ll start with numbers. What began as a log of who I’d contacted and when has become an intriguing story of what it took to get the gig. Those 100 emails, or phone calls, sending of links or CDs (not many of the latter) and occasional texts were to around 27 different venues, all of which are promoting jazz gigs in a ‘club-like’ setting rather than simply as pub gigs in the background. We’ve secured around 10 or 11 gigs so far. That’s about 10 contacts per gig. On average, its about 3 or 4 per venue. In fact where we were booked it averaged more like 4 to 5 as details were finalised. There were some where it was embarrassingly more than that ( was I a terrible nuiscance?).
Reflecting on all this, there are some pretty obvious lessons. Very many (almost all) of the people booking for venues I contacted didn’t know me. Some knew one or two of the people in the band. Having a good recording of the band is not even first base, its before first base. The website for many people was enough, but some wanted CDs.
Pick up the phone if you can. Its the hardest thing to do – believing that someone will take you seriously and consider giving you a gig – but there’s no substitute. Establishing a connection with someone almost always seemed to help. The music still has to be good enough or what they want, but if your known or strike up a bit of relationship, then it becomes easier. Just occasionally, it becomes more awkward, because the answer will have to be no.
I admire and rather feel for the promoters. If they were getting 4 or 5 contacts from me, then multiplying that by all those gig hunting musicians begins to sound like a constant deluge! No wonder I never got a reply from some. So the lovely man who made a point of ringing me up, having clearly listened to the album, to say sorry don’t think we can book you (even though I liked it) is one of my most appreciated moments. I’d have liked it even better if he’d said come and play of course. There were plenty who have not wanted to say no so directly, but clearly know they aren’t going to book us – ah so human, but energy draining for us all.
I’m not going to get into the economics. We all know how hard it is. The last ‘note to self’ is – you have to keep at it. Some gigs took nearly 10 contacts. There are still some ‘not yet resolved’ contacts on my log, so there’s more hustling to be done.