Instead of office jobs, waiting on tables or working at Starbucks did you ever consider going after high-paying wedding or corporate gigs? On an hourly basis they can pay much better than day jobs. Like any other job, however, the lucrative wedding and corporate gig circuit demands professionalism and planning. Here are essential tips to get you prepared to pitch wedding and event planners and to follow through with a smooth performance.
Remember you’re a craftsperson, not an artist. Getting wedding or corporate gigs is about finding the place where your musical passions intersect mainstream taste and the demands of the marketplace. If you want to get serious about pursuing these opportunities, check the rockstar attitude or tortured artist persona at the door. You’re going to be playing a supporting role in someone else’s big night. Unlike your club gigs, the audience is not there primarily to see and listen to you. Deal with it.
Pick your music wisely. Although you’ll be playing covers instead of originals, this can be surprisingly rewarding. Whether it’s Beatles, Motown or disco, pick the music that inspired and influenced your music and performing style. You’ll need to love it, because you’ll need to get semi-obsessed with it. This is not a matter of just learning some chords or reading off of charts, you will need to live and breathe it. Once you’ve picked a basic genre and era, think about what might best fill the dance floor, work as background music in various scenarios, or keep the party going. Do some digging in your local market: Who’s already out there? What are they playing? What gigs are they getting? What could you do better?
Get the right name (and look). Think carefully about what you’d like to call yourself, in this alter-ego event-oriented configuration. Don’t go too edgy, but try to be memorable.
Give them all the info they need—and no more. As with any other musical endeavor, you need to have the right materials to get a shot at a good event gig. But keep things simple, so that people know exactly what they are booking.
Have good photos. They shouldn’t be arty or quirky, but show the entire band that events planners or hosts will be hiring.
Have good video. Instead of a multi-camera shoot, consider getting a tripod for your iPhone—its embedded mics can yield surprisingly good results. A medley of tunes will give potential clients a fast overview of your set list. Try different mic placements and see if a simple, subtle filter app can make the video more visually appealing. Put your contact info in a lower corner of the screen and in the info field.
Have a straightforward website dedicated to your event-oriented band. A landing page can be enough, so long as potential clients can hear and see what you’re about. Bandzoogle offers an easy all-in-one platform for musicians to build their own websites. A single destination other than a website that houses all the above is ideal. For instance, GigSalad.com. GigSalad.com not only provides space to upload photos and video, but brings gig leads right to your phone. Once you’ve negotiated the deal, you can book the gig online through their platform.
Ask about the number and lengths of sets. Events work differently from club dates, so get the facts early in your talks with clients. For example, are there particular songs or tunes the client needs on the set list?
Ask about the nature and capacity of the venue. What is the lighting like? Can the site’s electrical capacity deal with a PA and light system? Are there people on hand to help load in the gear? Are there any union considerations?
Ask about payment arrangements. These can vary, so it’s best to check with the client. When can you expect the deposit? Will the host pay you at the beginning or end of the event? Should you expect cash or check?
Show you care. Work with the host in advance to see what dedications or special announcements need to be made over the course of the event. Small but important professional gestures like going to look around a venue in advance demonstrates that you are dedicated to making the event a success.
Bring the right gear. Many venues where you will likely play for an event do not have adequate PA systems. Hotels and function rooms often have a very small PA that can handle background music, but it won't handle a performance.
Bring the right attitude. You are not a guest; you are part of the team creating an experience for others. Resist the temptation to hit on the bride’s younger sister. Steer clear of the open bar. If you are offered a meal, be gracious and be cool and eat behind the scenes.
Add value (and ambiance). Look at your band’s collective abilities and find other potential areas where you can add value, beyond the sets you’re hired to play. If you’re a rock, pop, or jazz band, perhaps you have a keyboardist who’s a great improvisor and who can play a solo set during dinner. Or maybe you have a guitarist who’s a classical guitar whiz. These extras can really mean a lot to your hosts, and can work strongly in your favor if you’re in a competitive booking situation.
Follow up post-gig. Make sure to get recommendations and reviews (if you’re using GigSalad) from your hosts. The more positive feedback you can gather, the better you’ll be able to convince other clients that you’re worth booking.
MARK STEINER is a music tech entrepreneur and Co-founder and CEO of GigSalad.com, the leading platform for booking entertainment and services for events. His career spans more than 30 years in the entertainment business, including a decades-long stint booking headliners for fairs and festivals, performing arts centers, corporate events, venues and more. gigsalad.com.