Updated: Nov 24, 2021
What's Available, and What To Know
Often when singers think of gigging, they only consider bars and music theater stages. But if you’re interested in performing in public, there are many more choices than that!
At the end of this post there’s an option to download a pdf of gig types and features. It lists 16 different types of gigs, with a description about each one. It also has a cross-reference chart about who will pay you, how they’ll treat you, and whether you’ll have an attentive audience. (con't below...)
Here's the broadcast of this post!
There isn’t a manual for how to gig; every situation is different. You can learn a lot from talking with other musicians and joining facebook groups for performing musicians in your area or in your genre. Going out to watch bands and singers doing the kinds of gigs you’re interested in doing will both inform you and boost your confidence. After an hour of watching a singer perform, you’re very likely to think, “I could do that”!
Being in a band of like-minded musicians is a really great thing. If you’re all ambitious, you can rehearse and gig out often. If you’re all people with kids at home you can rehearse twice a month and gig out once every-other month. You can be in a band with musicians you already know, or you can find people on BandMix.com, Craigslist, or similar sites you can find by searching "singer wanted.". Auditioning can be done via video exchange, which will save you time. (Make sure to ask them for a video link when you send them yours!)
Bands can gig at bars and restaurants, of course. There are also street fairs and festivals, which happen all the time and are always in need of entertainment. Those are typically booked by local governments or chambers of commerce. Outdoor events like street fairs and festivals tend to book really far in advance, so you need to get your foot in the door early.
Bands are also hired by private event planners for weddings, corporate events, and parties. It’s a huge industry. It demands a certain skill set, but it’s not hard and can be worth learning if you want to make decent money to sing.
Another place to get paid is in the travel industry. Bands are also used by resorts and cruise ships. So you can be casual and close to home, or you can use your singing to roam the world.
Small Group or Solo Gigs
Two of my favorites in these categories are dream gigs. The instrumentation is one or two other instruments and the singer is the star. The music can be less than popular or even original. It can even be classical. The gigs are easy to get, they pay, and the audiences are attentive. These gigs almost always happen in the day.
What is this most perfect gigging situation? Two categories: Children and retirees.
Children’s music is a huge category, and as a children’s music artist you can perform original music, or not. You can work self-accompanied, with one accompanist, or a band. You can work in the day, stay close to home if you like, and gig for both private and public events. Also, your audiences are enthusiastic and adore you!
The other category, which is also great, is retirees. Every independent living development, or graduated care community, or civic senior center has a budget for entertainment, and they need the kind of musical presentations that their residents and members will enjoy. The audiences are polite and appreciative, the shows are an hour long, and the gigs usually happen during the day. You won’t get rich from these gigs, but they do pay.
A Couple of Other Categories..
House concerts for artists, typically of original music but sometimes a genre that’s niche and has a small but avid following, like bluegrass or classical. They’re concerts in people’s homes, the homeowner is the host and invites their people. Those people expect to pay between $20 and $100 a head, and that goes directly to the musician or musicians. If you have recordings or other merch you can sell them. There is more information available about the house concert circuit online.
The other category is the school circuit. Every public school, and most private schools, have a budget to bring in performing artists for enrichment purposes. If you like kids, and can use your singing in a presentation that enriches and educates, this is a great gig. A busy school performer will work 3-5 days a week, between 10 and 2, and make a comfortable living as a performing artist. It’s an amazing little niche. The manner in which these bookings occur are different from place to place. Get online, join the facebook group, and do your research!
Gigging Advice: Article 1
If you want to gig a lot, pick popular music. The less known your music is, the harder it is to get a gig. People hire ideas that are easy to promote, such as ethnic music, cover music from certain decades, tribute bands, or different kinds of dance music. You CAN perform songs that are less well known, or that are original, or that come from several different musical categories, but you should know that it’s harder to get gigs with that.
If your goal is to get out there and sing, think about your audience and join a band that is playing popular types of music. If your goal is to be an artist whose creative and original works are through the medium of song, that’s great too. It’s just very different and you should know that going in.
Gigging Advice: Article 2
You may not be concerned about getting paid to perform. You may have other sources of income and are just excited to sing for an audience. That’s understandable, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
The first is that you will find there is a direct ratio between how much you are getting paid and how well you will be treated. It’s counter intuitive, but it’s something you can absolutely count on. If you work for free it's very likely you'll be treated badly. There won’t be anyone to greet you when you get to the gig, you’ll be put in a corner, you’ll have to find someone to ask for anything you need, there won’t have been any promotion so you won’t have an audience. Your gig may be the exception to this, but probably not. Ask any working musician to back me up on this! If YOU don’t place value on your services then your clients won’t either.
The other reason NOT to work for free is that, while you may be in a financial position to work for free or cheap, other musicians are not. So when we train our clients not to expect to pay for our musical services, we hurt other musicians, and we hurt the value of music. If we want our work to be valued, we have to value it, and in our world value shows up most obviously and readily as a price tag. So part of the reason you need to charge, and tell your students to charge, is because it's on us to be the defenders of the value of art.
Get the download, be brave, and have fun!
Get The Free List
Download this terrific reference tool for finding gigs!
This list includes performance venues you've never thought of that are dying for you to play there!
There's also a grid chart that will quickly tell you
how many musicians typically do this kind of gig
your small group of 1-3
a larger group
whether you'll get paid
whether people will listen
what time of day it is
whether/how much you'll have to promote the gig.
This pdf for ideas, planning, and management of your (and your student's) gigging is the only thing like it, and something you'll use for years!
#meredithcolby blog post and video about #gigs that are available to #singers. This post is directed at #voiceteachers and #vocalcoaches to help them find appropriate gigs for both themselves and their #voicestudents. It includes a #freedownload to reference #gigsforsingers. Meredith is a #voicecoach, a #vocalcoach, and a #voiceteacher from #chicago. She helps #voiceteachers and #vocalcoaches teach for #popularstyles and #microphonestyles by teaching privately, supplying helpful content, and offering a #certificationclass in #neurovocalmethod