Five People to Contact about Getting More Gigs
— repost from Brass Chicks on January 26th —
Happy Friday! This post is a shortened and slightly altered version of a Facebook Live chat I did back in December about how I got started freelancing in New York City. It originally had over 200 views so I decided to upload it to Youtube so it lives there now.
Do you find yourself wishing you were performing more? Perhaps you just graduated and you are looking to get your start in a new city. Or maybe you recently quit your teaching job to focus more on performing. These points should be possible for you regardless of your instrument, point in your career, or location.
<< This pictures is a fun #fbf to one of my first gigs in NYC several years ago – playing with Pitch Blak Brass Band. Some of the people in that group I still play with on gigs today and I was originally put in contact with the group through one of the other trumpet players.So, here are five people / organizations to contact that could get you more work. Hope this helps!
1. Colleagues that play the same instrument as you
This one seems obvious but I’m putting it first because it is the most important. Much of the freelance work I’ve gotten is from subbing for friends and other connections. This is great because these people you probably already know: people you recently performed with, colleagues from school, other freelancers in your area. Contact them and meet for lunch or coffee, or a drink. Maybe put together a reading session and play some duets or brass quintets. This is especially great because you are in close contact with these people, playing and hanging out. So they hear how you play and how you are to interact with – and thus may feel comfortable recommending you to sub for them or for a gig that they can’t do. Similarly, you can ask them how they got their start or if they have any recommendations for other playing opportunities.
2. Other colleagues that don’t play your instrument
This one seems a little less obvious but bear with me. You might think or wonder if or why a bassoon player would ever recommend you to play trombone with an orchestra but the simple answer is you never know. This person could be the contractor or happened to be in the same room as the contractor when they asked if they knew any trombone players and your name came up. Maybe this non brass player is putting together a chamber music concert and might want your group to play. The more people that know you as a person and as a musician is in your best interest to be working as much as possible.
3. Teachers or other freelancers who you admire
Take a lesson or treat someone to drinks or a meal. Pick their brain about freelancing: explain what you want to be doing or the problems you are facing and inquire as to how to do better. Playing for someone who you respect can be a great way to get better (obviously!) but also to learn what may be needed to change your freelance situation. Maybe you aren’t ready to do the kinds of gigs that you want to be doing… and finding that out in a lesson is a lot better than finding out on the gig. I’ve gotten a couple gigs from teachers and they can be amazing opportunities so you never know! This category of people is great because most likely, they have been in your position wanting to work more, understand how you feel, and may be willing to help you.
4. Local groups and Organizations like Churches and/or Community Theaters etc
Want to play more orchestra gigs? Have you reached out and introduced yourself to all of the community groups in your area or local colleges that may hire ringers? What about going to a concert and meeting with people involved before or after? There are many ways to go in this direction but I think the best way in my opinion is personally – as in – in person with your physical presence rather than sending many cold emails. Of course cold emails are great and necessary and everyone does them – but if you can, sometimes showing up to meet someone in person or support a group’s performance can be even more valuable and memorable for the group potentially hiring you and for you – to see if it is even a group you want to be involved with anyways. For things where an email or showing up might not be appropriate, consider asking a friend involved in one of these organizations to mention you in an introduction email or ask if you could drop their name to start the conversation. Sometimes groups or organizations will respond more favorably to a colleague of a musician they work with rather than a random musician they haven’t heard of who seemingly has no connections to the group.
I talk about this a lot in my Facebook live video because I think this point is super important and often overlooked. We have all heard the starving artist metaphor of a musician sitting by the phone waiting to hear from a gig offer. Of course there is a lot of work involved as a musician (practicing, emailing, networking, etc) so it is never simply just waiting blindly for a gig to appear but sometimes it can feel like that. Consider setting up your own opportunities or putting something together with friends! This can be super rewarding because you are in charge, picking the music, the venue, and running all of the details so you aren’t waiting for someone else to call you or put something together. This is obviously easier said then done but there are many opportunities out there where music can fit in- that might not have been previously considered. Think about places like cafes, a library, a gallery, or a nursing home etc. How can you add value to your community (i.e. Providing a service people need) while filling your own desire to perform? Another benefit of putting together your own opportunities is that by hiring other freelancers for gigs, they will be more likely to hire you in the future as an appreciation and thanks for you hiring them first. Remember we are all part of a network of musicians helping each other out so take advantage of this when you can.Hopefully theses five points will help you on your search for more performing opportunities. There are many blogs and books out there about how to get more playing opportunities as well. Here are a couple of my favorites: Musician’s Guide to Hustling Make it – A Guide for Recent Graduates Angela Beeching’s blog