How To Get Gigs As A Rapper

By November 22, 2019Booking Gigs

You’ve got the rhymes, and now it’s time to make your move.

You know that playing live is the key to building your popularity and maybe even launching the next radio hit.

But now that you’re ready to hit the streets and meet your audience face-to-face, the next challenge is booking gigs that actually make you money.

How can you do it?

Read on and find out!

1.   Get Your Act Together

Both literally and figuratively.

You can’t get your show on the road if you don’t even have one yet.

You’re doing rap and hip-hop–that’s great, but be aware that the market is pretty full.

Lots of other artists just like you are out there reaching for the same fame and fortune.

What is going to make you the one who gets there first?

Now is not the time to act like a millionaire rockstar that everyone wants to book.

In fact, it may never be that time, because even if you’re rich and famous enough to pull off acting like a jerk, it won’t earn you any friends when the chips are down.

And since you’re just starting out, the chips are definitely a bit low.

So here’s what you do: you become an asset. You’re the polite, professional artist who always shows up on time and doesn’t cause a problem.

If you’re a pleasure to work with, you’ll also be a pleasure to invite back.

Don’t get caught up in ‘street cred’ worries and try to act ‘bad’ or show up ‘fashionably’ late.

You might be a rapper, but now you’re also in business. There is no ‘fashionable’ aspect to being late–late is late, and it doesn’t help your success.

Shake hands, be polite, say please and thank you, and don’t have an entitled attitude.

Remember that nobody is going to do the work for you.

You have to have the skills, the audience, and the promotional savvy to work your way up, or risk falling flat.

While venues do promote the events they host, they’re not going to create a custom advertising campaign that showcases your talents as an artist.

That’s your job. Or rather, that’s just one of your many jobs as an independent hip-hop artist.

2.   Find a Venue

While we’re on the topic of venues, let’s make one thing very clear: unless you are already a household name and the radio stations play your latest hit on a daily basis, no venue is going to come to you.

They don’t know who you are, and they honestly don’t care.

It falls on you to change that.

How do you make a venue manager remember your name?

Be the answer to their never-ending question: how do I fill the seats and make money?

If you can draw a crowd, you’ll be invited back, and have credibility when you offer your services to the next venue you approach.

But how do you prove that you can draw a crowd when you’ve never played a large gig before?

Well, I’m glad you asked. It may not be the answer you wanted to hear, but you’ll most likely have to start small.

Maybe even very small. If the only place you can get is a weeknight slot at a small bar or club, don’t turn up your nose.

Play it to your limit, and get the experience under your belt.

Even if you were paid little to nothing, it’s still a live performance to put on your resume.

Offer yourself on a trial basis, for a couple of beers, or, as a very, very last resort, offer to pay the owner/manager in order to get a shot.

You really shouldn’t be laying out cash unless you’re getting to open for a larger act, because that’s an exposure opportunity that can definitely be worth paying for.

Just remember that in the beginning, building your audience comes before the huge paycheck.

In fact, it literally does, because without the consistent ability to draw ticket sales, payday isn’t going to visit you in the long run, even if you have a great gig or two.

Now let’s return to how exactly you find a venue whose manager may want to put you in their lineup.

Start by searching for bands and artists that perform in a style similar to yours, and see where they play.

Go to some of the events you find and get a feel for the crowd. Is the audience likely to enjoy your music, as well?

Ask around, introduce yourself, and mention that you’re a rapper, too.

Have business cards handy if anyone seems interested, but don’t be too pushy.

Your main goal here is to find out who to contact about arranging a performance–not to get signed up on the spot.

When communicating with the venue manager, make it clear that you don’t have an inflated sense of your own worth.

You’re an up-and-comer, and you’re well aware that you may have to take slots that aren’t exactly prime time.

Demonstrate your commitment to making your bones with hard work, and managers and booking agents alike are more likely to take you seriously.

Don’t forget to mention that you’re more than willing to open for a larger act.

This is not only a great way to get in front of a large, interested audience, but the venue owner isn’t taking much of a risk, because the tickets for the larger act are already in the bank.

3.   How To Get the Gig

Once you’ve got the name, number, and email address of the venue manager, your task has only just begun.

Now you have to convince him or her that you’re worth putting into one of their performance slots.

Here’s where your press kit and social media presence comes in.

Before you even start looking for gigs, you should have most, if not all, of the following:

  • A well-done Facebook page
  • Established Twitter and Instagram accounts
  • Usernames that are standardized across platforms and easy to search and remember–preferably your artist name
  • Quality song samples that can be accessed via a private link
  • A hard-copy demo CD
  • Press clippings–both printed out, and links to news coverage that can be sent in an email
  • A short and sweet artist bio
  • A professional-looking website with a domain name that reflects your social media handles
  • Business cards with your website and social media handles and contact info
  • A flyer template for advertising your appearances

With these items prepped and ready to go, you can start approaching venue managers.

A combination of physical meetings and phone calls may come into the mix, but you’ll likely be doing most of the arrangements over email.

Be polite, professional, and to the point.

Introduce yourself with a very short background summary, list any (notable) events you’ve already performed, add a link to samples of your music, and include your social media profile links with the rest of your contact info such as email address and phone number.

If you get a direct rejection, don’t be discouraged.

Mark them off your active list and put them aside to revisit later.

Once you’ve got more experience behind you, maybe they’ll change their mind.

At any rate, don’t argue, threaten, cajole, or beg for another chance.

If you get no answer at all, wait about a week and send a quick follow-up email.

Something along the lines of “I just wanted to reach out to you regarding my previous email and make sure it didn’t fall through the cracks.

Since [other rapper] plays at your [venue], I thought my music would be a great fit, as well.

It would be great if we could do business together, so let me know if you think that could work.

Thanks for your time, [signed, your name, followed by all contact info].”

4.   How to Get Invited Back — And Other Places, Too

Once someone gives you a shot, DON’T BLOW IT.

Show up early, do your setup properly, have the right equipment, don’t make a bunch of special requests, and just generally know what you’re doing.

You’re there to do a job–and the better you do it, the faster your career will grow.

For at least two weeks leading up to the show, you need to promote it heavily with every means you have.

Post links to the event details through all of your social media channels, design, print, and post flyers everywhere, and spread the word to every friend you have who could possibly be interested or may know someone who likes rap.

People love having a connection to a performer, no matter how small–so if someone can say “hey, that’s my friend’s cousin” or anything of the sort, they’ll feel like part of the inner circle.

Next, perform a great show.

Don’t take advantage of free drinks and let yourself spiral out of focus; you can drink after the show, and not at all if you can’t behave yourself.

After all, your image after the show is just as important to being invited back, so keep your best foot forward at all times while you’re at the venue.

On the stage or in back of it, remain polite and professional to every employee or fan you come across.

Remember to thank the venue manager, host, and/or owner for the opportunity to perform, and send a follow-up email within a week thanking them again.

As one of the few people taking time to show appreciation for a successful business venture, you’re sure to stand out from the rest who just took their success and ran off to the next event.

Never assume that you won’t be playing that venue in the future, because the first booking is the hardest, and repeat performances are a great way to keep your momentum going.

5.   Update Your Performance History

After every successful event, keep track of news coverage, get press clippings and article links, and have someone at the show to take photos even if no one else does.

Most smartphones have excellent cameras and can do great work with a bit of focus and effort.

Add the event to your list of achievements the next time you contact a venue, and don’t forget to post pictures on all of your social media accounts!

Above all, keep doing a great job, keep your efforts consistent, and keep making contacts.

Reply promptly to all communications, do someone a favor now and then, and be the sort of person everyone wants to book for their next show.

As you continue to gain experience and prove that you can fill the room, you can set your sights on ever-bigger venues.

Eventually, you can go from traveling the state to touring the country–all because you laid a firm foundation from the beginning.

And Most Importantly — GigFaster, Gig Better

Here at GigFaster, we know that lining up venues can be exhausting, and that’s why we’re here for you.

We not only help you keep song samples organized and easy to send, we maintain a list of venues and managers who host your musical genre.

We help you compose and keep track of your pitches so that you can schedule your events where and when it works best for you.

From local bars and cafes to music halls and event centers, we help you down the road to success.

But we’re not just for gigs.

If you want to get your music signed to a record label, as well as perform live, we’re here for that, too.

We’ve got the resources you need to get your pitches, samples, and demos in front of labels and venues alike.

We’re here to back your success as a music artist–every step of the way. Sign up today for a free trial and see what we can do for you!

Craig Kelley

About Craig Kelley

Craig helps indie artists book more gigs, promote their music and submit to record labels @ GigFaster. He recently released his 7th album, Not So Blue. His band has supported Grammy artists including Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Rick Derringer, Gary Hoey, Joan Jett, Fuel and many more. http://craigkelley.com He is also the host of The 5 Minute Podcast For Musicians.

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