A big part of succeeding as a hip-hop artist is getting shows so you can showcase your skills. But understanding the business side of being a rapper is a whole different game from understanding how to make music. You can’t depend on someone else to take care of the business side for you, or you’ll find yourself stuck in the same place years down the road. That’s why this article digs into the details of how artists can book more shows and gives you a look at what it takes to move your career forward as an indie rapper.
Join Facebook groups for local musicians
It always pays to leverage the power of a group, and joining a Facebook group for musicians in your own city is an easy way to gain that leverage. Wherever you live, you’ll find that most cities have a group like this. By talking to other musicians, you can get advice on what methods of securing gigs worked best for them. And the group is likely to have individuals who are at various levels of success, including those who are less experienced, more experienced, and at the same level as you. Sticking with a local group ensures that you can get specific advice and information for venues you are likely to play.
Another benefit of joining a local musicians group on Facebook is that you gain a definite edge on making new contacts in your local music scene. Other musicians are likely to know promoters, agents, and venue owners. In fact, artists who already have relationships with venues will often post to the group when an opening is available. Openings pop up for various reasons, including when another artist drops out. For instance, if an artist has a residency at the venue and plays there regularly, they may need someone to cover the show if they get a better paying gig for a night. This can be a lucrative way to pick up more shows if you make a good impression on members of the group.
If you think Facebook groups are not worth the time, you should know that some artists actually get the majority of their paid shows through their Facebook musician groups.
Build relationships with promoters
A promoter’s primary job is to sell more tickets to shows. And you want more people to come to your shows, so building relationships with promoters is a no-brainer. Promoters make their living by booking shows regularly, and they often have established relationships with several venues. That means that if you get in good with a promoter, your chances of getting more shows can increase dramatically.
What can you do to get noticed by promoters? It’s actually not that difficult.
The key is to find ways to sell more tickets. Yes, ensuring ticket sales is the promoter’s job, but if you make their job easier by ensuring a certain number of sales, you will definitely make a friend in the industry. And showing that you can sell tickets helps you to secure more shows. Try these suggestions.
- Build your social media network (more on how to do that in the next section). Once you have an established following, you can offer tickets in your posts or even offer giveaways to build up demand (you will have to cover the cost of those tickets yourself). And don’t forget to ask followers to share details about available tickets. That increases the circle of people who may be interested in coming to the performance.
- Recruit friends to help. Many indie artists think they can do it all on their own. But you don’t have to, and you will get better results by utilizing your existing network (friends and family). Choose a few people who you know like your music, and ask them to mention to their other friends that you have tickets available.
- If you have already paid your dues and established a reputation locally, you may be able to open for a big act that is coming to your town. Your friends and fans may be more likely to purchase tickets for a particular show when they know that they will also be seeing a favorite headliner. This can make it easier for you to guarantee a certain number of ticket sales when negotiating with a promoter. Going along with that, if you get on as an opener, be sure to share their posts about the show and use their hashtag in your efforts to leverage your own social media.
Leverage a social media following
Let me make clear that leveraging a social media following is not the same as simply having a social media following. Successfully leveraging your social media presence is about engagement. It’s nice to see your number of followers growing, but if nothing you post is resonating with them, a large following doesn’t do much for your career. You need the kind of followers that share and comment regularly on your posts, which helps you to gain exposure.
Engagement is especially important on Facebook because the platform’s algorithm works by showing users what they are most likely to want to see. If a particular user is not interacting with your posts, they will not see future items on your Facebook artist page.
The first step is not to spread yourself too thin all at once. Start with just one platform, and build your following there first. You have enough to do every day without managing three or four different platforms. You can always add another social media account once you’ve got the first one running smoothly.
The best ways to encourage engagement from your followers is to be authentic and interact with them. For instance, when someone comments on a post you make on your artist page, like or reply to their comment. Show your fans that you care about more than just pushing your music. When you have a social media following with high engagement, you can use this to show to promoters and talent buyers that you have a following.
Build relationships with agents
This one’s a little trickier. Major agencies don’t accept solicitations from artists they don’t already work with, and lesser known agents won’t have as much push to really move your music career forward. Trying to contact an agency via email or phone will likely only get you ignored, and at worst it could form a bad impression.
A better way to get to know agents is to network with as many people as you can at the shows you perform at. It’s unlikely that you’ll catch an agent at the show. But growing your network makes it more likely that you will get your name in front of one. Build relationships with the people you are opening up for, and as mentioned above, build relationships with the promoters at shows. Promoters and other artists are likely to have relationships with agents in the rap industry. And if you make a good impression on the artist you’re opening up for, they may just introduce you to their agent.
Another option is to work with middle agencies. They’re not as selective as big agencies, and they work as brokers with talent buyers and promoters who can help you to get more shows. Middle agencies are also more open to talking to artists. Basically, they help talent buyers and promoters to find acts. So if the middle agency is interested in you, they can pitch you to one of their clients, eliminating the need for you to seek out promoters or talent buyers yourself (though you will still want to continue networking when you can). Working through a middle agency can sometimes lead to a lucrative package with one of their clients, meaning more shows and more exposure for you.
If you do get an agent’s contact information, email is usually the best route for reaching out. Agents are busy with their current clients and keeping their own business running, so it’s not a good idea to take up their time with a phone call. An email allows them to absorb what you have to say on their own time. Although most agents are likely to delete unsolicited emails, you may find some that are actively looking for new clients and would be happy to hear you out.
Getting shows is always hardest at the beginning. But the more you get to know other rappers and locals in the industry, the more shows you’ll get booked for. The most important thing is that you put in the effort and don’t burn bridges with people who are connected in your city.
Billy Bones is the marketing director at Booking Agent Info, a celebrity contact info database that provides the official contact info for the agents, managers, and publicists of artists and celebrities. He also writes articles about music and event marketing. You can follow him on Twitter @billybonestx.