How To Get Paid Gigs As A Rapper

By January 1, 2020Booking Gigs

You’ve got the beats and rhymes, and the drive to succeed.

But how do you get yourself out there in front of an audience, and better yet, get paid for it?

Cold-calling venues is a frustrating process, and you’ll probably be rejected more often than not.

It’s not like the venues are out to get you–they have a business to run, and they don’t like taking risks.

They want to book someone they know will draw a crowd, because crowds = $$.

So how do you work your way into the biz and get venues to give you a shot?

Read on to find out!

Do Your Research

Sure, endlessly running Internet searches can become a drag, but you need to know who’s who and what’s what.

Meaning, what venues book your kind of gig? Who do you contact to set it up?

You also want to find out about similar artists in your area. Where do they play?

Follow local rappers on social media and take note of where they perform.

If you can’t get a solo gig right away, consider a team-up.

Either you can open for a better-established rapper, or you can go 50/50 with another up-and-comer.

Venues only care about getting people in the door. If you and another artist combined can fill the room, you stand a much better chance of getting the gig.

Start at the Bottom

Nobody likes a line-jumper. If you want to make it to the top, you have to put in the work.

Don’t set your sights on large venues and huge gigs until you’ve established a name for yourself.

If you’re just starting out, get some live performance practice at open mic night in small bars and clubs.

Are you keeping audiences engaged? If you do a good enough job, perhaps you can ask the bar or club to have you back on a weeknight.

Start slow, and don’t ask for a big payout until you prove that you draw in customers and keep them drinking longer.

More drinks = more profit, and a happy venue manager.

If you bring a personal fanbase with you–and do it reliably–that’s a great selling point.

Be polite and professional, leave a business card with your contact info, and you’ll start to build momentum.

How to Pitch to Venues

Pitching is an important skill to have as an independent artist.

It’s time-consuming and often disappointing, but that’s why it’s so important to do it well.

The better your pitches–and the better you pick who you pitch to–the better your overall results.

Things TO DO when you pitch:

  • Remain professional
  • Use proper grammar and spelling
  • Include a (brief) artist bio
  • Include all of your contact info and social media handles
  • Mention places you’ve played before, briefly and clearly, and any prior experience
  • Include links to news coverage or press releases, if any
  • Realistically estimate how many fans you can bring, based on past events (if any)


Things NOT TO DO when you pitch:

  • Talk about how talented you are
  • Tell the venue they’re missing out if they refuse you
  • Give a sob story
  • Threaten, beg, or offer bribes
  • Send an angry reply if you are turned down or don’t get an answer
  • Recount your entire life’s story
  • Detail every event you’ve ever played or every song you’ve performed
  • Leave out your contact info
  • Use extreme slang or bad spelling to look ‘hip’


You may have a badass rapper persona for your fans, but when you contact a venue, act like a business professional.

You are a business negotiating a business arrangement. Venues are not a support network for hopeful artists.

Out here, what matters isn’t just talent, but also business savvy.

You’ve got to make it on your own before a booking agent will take you on–and you won’t need one until you gain access to larger events.

Basic Pitch Format:

Short and sweet. Your primary goal is getting a response.

When you get a response that means the conversation has started.

You’re no longer strangers. You can grow your relationship and start asking bigger questions.

Keep it 2-3 sentences at most.

Send a follow-up email about one week after your first intro email, as a ‘reply’ to the first email.

Just remember to change the recipient of the reply from yourself to the email address of the venue manager.

The idea here is that when you send the follow-up, your original email shows up as part of the conversation.

Even if the venue manager deleted it, this puts it back in front of them for a second look.

But you also didn’t send the original all over again, which would just make you look like a nag.

Have your electronic press kit (EPK) updated and ready to send when they request it.

Stay Professional at the Event

The best way to get booked again is to be great to work with at every event.

If you make things as smooth and easy as possible, you’ll become known as the person everyone loves to work with.

Show up early, bring everything you need, get set up promptly, and don’t get drunk on the job.

Don’t let friends/fans/family members start drama at your events.

Don’t let yourself start any drama.

If you want to make money at this, treat it like a business or your job.

Would you argue with your SO in front of your boss at work? No? Then don’t bring drama to your events.

If it comes down to choosing you or some other rapper, the venue will probably pick the one that causes the least amount of trouble.

Make sure that rapper is you.

After the Event

Leave the venue manager your business card and thank them for letting you perform.

Let them know that if they need a last-minute substitute, you’ll be happy to show up if you’re not already booked.

Let them know that you’re willing to be an opening act or collaborate with other artists in order to fill out their show roster.

Within one week of your performance, send a follow-up email (again, it’s a good idea to keep things grouped in a single thread for easy reference) and thank the venue manager for hosting you.

Event Promotion is (Mostly) Your Responsibility

Keep in mind that while venues do promote their own events, they expect you, the artist, to do most of the work

And since they’re all about drawing crowds, if you fail to promote yourself properly, your performance may fall flat, even if you did a great job.

You have to maintain and grow your fanbase in order to draw crowds.

The bigger the crowds you draw, the more easily you can move to larger venues.

Establish a history of drawing good crowds, and venues will be more willing to take a chance on you.

Have someone take good quality video of your performances and get footage of the crowd size and enthusiasm.

If a venue seems doubtful about your ability to fill the room, you can show them evidence of your past successes.

So, how do you promote yourself without spending a ton of money on advertising?

Use Social Media

Tweet it, Snap it, IG post it, and get a Facebook page set up.

Social media can be a great way to get the word out, with or without resorting to paid ads. But you gotta know how to use it.

Each type of social media requires a slightly different approach:

  • Short and sweet works best on Twitter. Humor seems to perform the best overall, but a good Twitter strategy will cover more than one area. It can help you reach fans that like your music by providing updates, event news, linking to new releases, and keep them engaged in your progress as an artist. Just don’t get carried away, and watch out for those 2 am tweets that tend to baffle everyone who reads them!
  • Instagram is all about beautiful photos, and using the proper hashtags. Get fans engaged by encouraging user-generated content, which has a higher success rate than other content types. Make sure you use the Stories feature on Instagram often, to keep followers engaged and checking in often. Since your Stories automatically disappear in 24 hours, it won’t clutter your timeline, and it won’t spam followers with notifications.
  • Facebook is best for sharing and promoting videos. This is a great place to upload clips of your latest events or previews of your newest releases. If you have a funny, meaningful, or gripping video that has the potential to go viral, make sure to get your artist name and website in the end credits before you upload it. It only works as advertising if it leads people back to you!

Get that Gig Faster!

Pitching is hard. It takes time and effort, but it doesn’t have to consume your life.

That’s why GigFaster helps you land that next gig by maintaining a database of venues in your area that accept rap and hip-hop performers.

We’ll help you draft your pitch with templates and suggestions.

Then, send it off and keep track of when you sent each pitch right from your account dashboard.

Managing replies and scheduling is also easy with GigFaster.

Sign up for our free one-week trial and see how much easier booking gigs can be!

Craig Kelley

About Craig Kelley

Craig helps indie artists book more gigs, promote their music and submit to record labels @ GigFaster and GigFaster University . His latest release is 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. He is also the host of The 5 Minute Podcast For Musicians.

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