In the last few weeks, I’ve spoken to some frustrated musicians.

Each one is a singer/songwriter who is very talented. They’ve released CDs, played at prestigious festivals, received awards – and yet? They’re still having trouble getting gigs. What gives?!

I mean, at some point it’s supposed to get easier, right?

Well, yes. And no.

Yes, with more experience performing, and more credentials in your press kit, and especially with repeat bookings, it does get easier.

But the truth is that no matter who you are, how talented you are, and even what level you are in your career, at some point you’ll be turned down, passed over, told “no,” and won’t get the gig. That part is to be expected.

It’s what you do AFTER you don’t get the gig that’s really important.

So, with that in mind, here are some suggestions of what to do:

1. Ask for Feedback

There are any number of reasons why the venue or promoter could have turned you down.

  • Maybe they didn’t feel that your music was a good fit (i.e. not the right style or genre for the venue).
  • Maybe they didn’t think that you had enough of a draw.
  • Or, perhaps it was just a conflict with scheduling.
    (That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re booked on the date you wanted. It could mean that they’ve already booked too many bands who play your style of music for that month and they need to mix it up a bit.)

The point is, you can’t take it personally and it’s not necessarily a comment on your talent.

So, ask.

They won’t always tell you what their reasoning was. But ask anyway. You may be surprised what they tell you. And it may help you with future bookings.

2. UP Your Materials

If you’re having good introductory conversations with venues until they receive your package and then getting turned down consistently, then perhaps your promotional materials need an overhaul.

  • When was the last time you updated your bio? Did you write it yourself?
  • What does your press kit or EPK look like? Does it say “successful professional” or “struggling amateur?”
  • Are you including recordings of your best live performances?
  • Do you have any video that shows you live?

Remember that the booker is probably seeing your picture and reading your bio BEFORE they hear your music. So, you want your first impression to be a good GREAT one!

Put some extra effort into every item you send them, whether it’s a bio, an EPK, or even your email.

3. Try Again

Just because a venue said no doesn’t mean you can never, ever call them again.

Maybe the promoter was just having a bad day and hated everyone they listened to that afternoon! Or maybe the guy who was doing the booking last April and didn’t like your band, left in June.

Unless you did something completely unprofessional and burned a bridge, you can always approach the same venue another time.

Depending on the type of venue, wait 6 to 12 months and contact them again with a new tour, a new pitch, and a new press package. Stress the changes and developments that you’ve made since you last approached them. Show them that you’re serious about your career and that you’re not giving up that easily.

4. Get in Front of the Booker LIVE!

If you are as good as you say you are on stage, then there’s nothing better than playing for someone LIVE. Even video doesn’t always accurately project the energy that’s in the room.

So, if you’re having trouble getting someone’s attention with your CD & press kit, yet everyone is telling you that this is the right venue for you, then maybe you need to go old school and audition in front of them.

  • Do they hold live auditions?
  • Are they working at the venue when there’s an open mic?
  • Can you open for a local band?
  • Can you set up a showcase in the venue?

Do whatever it takes to get yourself in front of the right person at the venue, invite your friends, family, & fans to fill the venue, and then make sure you put on your best show ever!

5. Send a Thank You Note

Now, I can hear some of you already… “What?! I didn’t get the gig. Why would I send a thank you note for THAT?!”

And the answer is because thank you notes make a HUGE impression, and NO ONE does them. So, if you want to stand out, I’m telling you: send a thank you note!

And let me be very clear here: I’m talking about hand-written, placed-in-an-envelope, hand-addressed-and-stamped, sent-by-snail-mail thank you notes.

An email thank you will NOT have the same impact.

This isn’t just theory. It works. And sometimes it works big.

One friend of mine sent a thank you note when he didn’t get a festival booking he wanted and the day that his thank you note arrived they’d had a cancellation. Guess who they hired as the replacement?

But don’t send a thank you note because you think someone’s going to cancel and you’re suddenly going to get the gig. Send it because you are forging new relationships — solid, mutually beneficial relationships, to be exact. And your relationship with this venue and/or promoter means more to you than just this one gig that you didn’t get.

6. Move On! – Book a Different Venue

When you get right down to it, sometimes the best thing to do is to simply move on. Look for another venue in the same area. And book yourself there instead.

Some promoters and bookers don’t like to take risks. So, if they haven’t heard of you before, they don’t want to be the FIRST venue to book you.

Yes, yes, you’ve got a list of venues a mile long that book you in other towns and cities. But they want to know that you can draw in their town.

So, book another venue and invite them to the gig. Put them on your guest list (with a +1 of course).

Even if they don’t show up (and they probably won’t), you’ve let them know that you’re performing in their area. And that could be enough to get a gig next time.

So, now it’s YOUR turn…

What do YOU do when you don’t get the gig? Do you go all fetal and wallow in self doubt? Or do you take action?

Do you have a success story of something that worked for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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