Booking yourself isn’t hard. But the work is definitely not cut out for everyone. It is a relentless grind that is full of rejections, and a constant wondering about whether it was ever worth the time spent. But if you keep at it… it totally is! In the following article, Nashville-based artist Canaan Cox shares his hard-won advice with you:
At first, all I knew is that I wanted to play anywhere for anyone who would listen. Legitimately found a hot restaurant in my hometown of Hendersonville, NC, saw they had an electrical outlet on their patio, and asked if I could come play there one evening. They said yes and all I asked in return was a plate of food. I took that same mentality with me to Nashville when I was done with the Broadway scene. Here’s what I did.
1) Make a One Sheet. Doesn’t matter how elegant it is. Just make one. If you don’t know what it is, Google it.
2) In your notes or word doc, write a generic email stating who you are, what kind of music you play, and attach your socials / music links.
3) Google “Live music in Wherever, State.” Go to their website, MOST of them will have a booking email. The ones that don’t, go to their socials.
4) Either on their emails or socials, copy and paste your email, attach one sheet. Rinse and repeat.
I used to (still do) sit in coffee shops from opening to close looking up every bar, grill, cider house, you name it, to see if they’d want live music. In the beginning it was actually easier as you could convince most spots to let you play for $100-$200 plus a meal in the corner to play some music. And that’s how I booked my first acoustic tour in 2017 touring the Midwest and everywhere along the East Coast from New York City to Charleston, SC with over 250 shows a year.
It was a grind. It was me, my guitar, 1 small Alto Professional speaker and mic stand in the back of a Ford Ranger. I remember one gig in Illinois — they set me up right beside the men’s toilet at the back of the bar so everyone's back was facing away from me. You pay your dues for sure but as some shows were like that, I was building a fan base in others. Now, some of those $150, 3 hour cover gigs turn into a couple grand, original, 90 minute sets!
I’m well over playing cover gigs now, but the hustle remains the same to book the original shows. The only thing that’s changed is my one sheet, the info in the email, and the check at the end of the night.
- Create an email that’s like [email protected] and pretend to be someone else who
- Look at the venue's calendar ahead of time and request to play dates that are open. They’re
more likely to get back to you if they know what they’re looking for.
- For timing sake, have everything in a folder on computer that way when you’re copy and
pasting to emails, socials, etc it’s all right there for attaching. By Canaan Cox
About Canaan Cox: North Carolina-native, Nashville-based artist Canaan Cox is the definition of a triple threat: singer/songwriter, actor, and dancer. His music is a fusion of contemporary country, pop, with a touch of rhythm and blues — which comes as no surprise as he grew up in a musically eclectic household. Canaan has not only co-written his songs, but has also created, directed and produced all of his music videos. Since moving to Nashville in 2016, Canaan has been diligently honing his craft while building a loyal fan base. Website: https://www.canaancox.com/
Photo by: Annelise Loughead