How to Get More Paid Music Gigs

Relationship building and networking isn’t just for suits.

As part of the Unstarving Musician Project, there’s an entire book and podcast dedicated to the topic of how to get more paid music gigs. Since starting the project, I’ve talked to weekend-warrior musicians, full-time songwriters and performers, recording engineers, and musicians-for-hire. They all have one thing in common. They value relationships, and they realize that networking is huge.

Gold sax player among musicians and friends. Quality relationships can lead to more paid music gigs.

People want to help you, but they also appreciate being helped.

Quality relationships will get you just about anything you want. People love helping others, and believe it or not, most people in your tribe really want to help you. Often overlooked in the music world is the fact that those of us who readily support others will find it easier to gain the  support of others.

When we hustle for gigs or to get our music on indie radio, we’re asking for help, and often from people who don’t know us. Don’t let this be an obstacle, but remember to take a genuine interest in those of whom you ask for support. Think about how you can be of service, how you can help the other party, and offer it up.

In the case of a venue, you can offer to do some co-marketing or recommend another act that might be a good fit. In the case of the radio station, you could do a little research about their listening audience and make a case for how your music would well serve that audience.

If you’re thinking this will all take too much time, and that you’d be better off sending a high volume email campaign to dozens or hundreds of venues and indie stations, you would be wrong. Those type of inquiries resemble spam. Think about it. What do you typically do with unsolicited emails from people who know nothing about you, but who want to sell you something, all while offering little or nothing in return?

Yes you have to be good and you yes have to have a quality product, but by showing a genuine interest in the other party, your chances of getting someone genuinely interested in helping you are exponentially higher.

Musicians and artists are stereotypical introverts.

The stereotypical musician is an introvert, which can be a big problem where building and nurturing relationships is concerned. Blues singer songwriter Lara Price recently told me that her Blues Awards nomination in the Soul Blues Female Artist category was, among other things, a great networking opportunity. You wouldn’t be alone if you thought that a nomination like this is primarily an awesome invitation to an awesome party; but according to Price, events like this are amazing opportunities to make new friends and to build ones network.

Lone acoustic guitarist and possible introvert. One must schmooze a little to get more paid gigs.

Commit to stepping outside of your comfort zone…

“One bite at a time” is one of my favorite sayings. It refers to how one accomplishes the seemingly insurmountable. Building a network of quality friends may feel like a daunting task, but a commitment to regularly step outside of your comfort zone will truly help you to make new friends, one at a time. If it makes you feel any better, you don’t have to look at this as a full-time activity. You need only turn on the outward charm when among friends or when the opportunity arises to meet someone new. Sure it’s not always comfortable, but it’s always worth it.

Attend an award show.

If ever you’re invited to attend an awards event like the Blues Foundation’s annual Blues Awards, accept the invite! If you’re not so lucky, seek out other networking events, or create your own. A couple of years ago, I co-created a musician’s marketing event that was attended by musicians local to my then home of San Jose, California. These were fantastic learning events and a great way to make new friends. I’m in regular contact with several of those event attendees, many of whom I didn’t know prior to hosting the events. Many of these friends are now part of a growing community that follows the Unstarving Musician Project.

Where might you schmooze a little this month? Ask a friend or mentor for suggestions. Heck ask me. DM me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Is Indie Radio Still Relevant?

Vintage Radio Pexels.comLater this month I’ll be interviewing D Grant Smith, podcaster,  author and indie radio show host. The interview will be an episode of my forthcoming Unstarving Musician Podcast. D Grant is an interesting fellow in many regards, but I’m particularly anxious to discuss with him indie radio, his book The DIY Musician’s Radio Handbook, and the Appetizer Radio show.  A number of musicians I know are part of the DIY community, but I know a few who are connected with artist management.  I presume that any preoccupation with radio varies by where you are on the spectrum between DIY artists and those with representation; however, I’m intrigued by something I assume to be true, which is that radio does still matter, particularly indie radio.

Despite my personal beliefs, I still hear people say that radio is dead.  I believe what I’ll find out in the coming days is that while radio has changed dramatically in recent years, it does still matter. Perhaps the degree to which it still matters hasn’t yet fully played out, as the music industry continues to change. We do after all seem to be caught in a perpetual state whereby most music listening people feel that it (music) should all be free.  I disagree.  That said, I’m happy to see an emerging trend whereby artists at all levels are finding that there are many ways to monetize their art, besides just selling music on iTunes. If you’re a songwriter or performing artist, I might have just made you twinge with the word “monetize.” While I’ll admit that the word is a little Silicon Valley, or whatever, I feel strongly that artists should be able to make a living from their art, and if they’re good enough, that they should even make an extremely comfortable living.

Maybe I’m in for a big surprise on the relevance of indie radio. If my first Google search is any indication, it doesn’t appear that much is being written about it lately.  I get it though. There’s so much other new and exciting shit happening in music, granted not all of it good. Hopefully, I can help bring something current to the topic with this and the D Grant Smith interview.  Most of all, I’m hopeful that musicians following the Unstarving Musician project will learn something.

As I get ready for my interview with D Grant, you can check out some of the resources I did find.

Top 3 Prerequisites to Getting Indie Radio Airplay

The Indie Musician Strategy for Getting Your Music on the Radio

DIY Musician’s Radio Handbook by D Grant Smith

How to Get Your Music Played on Internet Radio


Music Lesson Websites

Thanks to a broken link alert, I was reminded of this post, which I wrote way back in September of ’08.  In the revision below, I visit the topic of music lesson websites.

How things have changed

At that time, I’d spent the afternoon scouring the web for drum lesson websites, and noted that it wasn’t all that easy to find ten good drum lesson sites.  Back then, it was my impression that curating top-10 lists was great for blogging.  Not really sure it was all it was cracked up to be, but I still thought that online drum and music education would be worth exploring again, almost 10 years later.  Oh by the way, remember MySpace?  I actually included it in my original search in 2008.  Again, how things have changed.

My criteria for music lesson websites

My original criteria for drum lesson websites was that they…

  • Offered good quality videos
  • Easy to navigate
  • Included some free content

Seems like a good set of criteria still.  However, today I would add some measure of quality for user experience and customer service for online music lessons sites.

In looking back at my original list, I’m amazed at what made the cut.  Many of the originals on my list are no more.  Some are in the throws of eventual death.  Fortunately, there’s so much to choose from now, with tons of free content and higher quality subscription based content.

I’m personally a student subscriber.  Mike Johnston and company have put together what I consider to be a music family, and I’ve been a subscriber for three or more years (I’ve lost track).  Even his site and content has come a long way.  Besides being an super passionate educator, I really appreciate Mikes entrepreneurial spirit.  Needless to say, he belongs somewhere at the top of my revised list.

Next on my list is Drumeo, also connected to  These guys feature a slew of quality drummer instructors, many or most of whom are celebrity.  On the outside, it looks like they offer a truly high quality experience, and I’m happy to see this, having watched some of their instructors back in 2008.  The hard work has paid off, and we the consumers are the beneficiaries.

YouTube far and away most popular among musicians

Acoustic guitarI polled a number of musician friends and peers on what their favorite learning sites are, and YouTube was far and away the most popular response.  One of the more interesting replies I got, from a drummer of course.  He tells me that he’ll search a groove like “shuffle” within YouTube.  I’d never even thought of this, but can imagine the shuffle rabbit hole that opens up by doing so.

Here are some other resources people shared with me. – Justin Sandercoe started posting content on YouTube back in 2006 and has since amassed a library hundreds of lessons deep.  He’s got some nice testimonials, and the best part is, it’s free.  Justin does however ask for donations–totally fair. – Founder Charlie Wallace has created a respectable body of both free and reasonably priced paid content.  You’ll also find great testimonials here, and the whole online experience looks pretty good.  He event touts a support team.

David Barrett’s – This site features quality learning content and a very reasonable monthly subscription plan.  Barrett has leveraged multiple instructors and pros to put together what I hear is a great learning resource for harmonica players. – When a friend mentioned Coursera, I thought of course (no pun intended). Courses are offered by top instructors from top universities and educational institutions.  Prices vary by the course, but what a fantastic resource for musicians.

A couple of searches helped me find what appear to be great sites for lessons in voice, bass and piano; and I’m sure there’s much more.  I’m also confident that I could write for days on this topic, and may do just that.  Perhaps this is an area worth delving into on my forthcoming podcast.  Stay tuned.



Official Book Launch for The Unstarving Musician’s Guide

Rocket launch, book launch, Unstarving Musician's Guide to Getting Paid GigsThe Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs was published in late October 2016, but the official launch is only just now about to happen.  After clicking the publish button, I wrote to close friends that I thought writing the book would be the hard part.  I quickly learned that the work was only beginning as I had to next go about the business of promoting the darn thing.  Working on a book launch plan has only brought this reality into greater focus, and I have to admit; it’s overwhelming, scary, and exciting, all at the same time.

Projects like this are the exact moments when the voices in my head crank it up a notch.  Here’s the kind of shit they say.

You’re a poser.
No one’s going to listen to what you have to say.
You have no clue as to what you’re doing.

Continue reading

Unstarving Drummer Seeks Gigs in Panama

My trio Robonzo's Bolero at performing at Cinnabar Winery in Saratoga, CaliforniaI’ve jokingly said to my wife that my next edition of The Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs may include a chapter on how to NOT render yourself without transportation necessary to show up for a gig.  In case you’re reading my blog for the first time, we moved from San Jose, California to a rural town in Panama, Central America.  Upon arrival we purchased a vehicle which turned out to the lemon of all lemons, so you can appreciate my humor about this new chapter for my book. Continue reading

How Writing a Book Will Get Me Gigs

Want more gigs? Write a book.

I’ve been on gig hiatus in Panama since August, about three months now. My wife and I recently visited Arlington, Texas for the holidays, where I decided to organize a happy hour / book signing event, since I very recently published a book.

The Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs: How to Get Booked and Paid What You’re Worth, Over and Over Again!

Me and a bunch of fine musicians at Chris Flynn's Tasty Holiday Jam, Dec 2016 at Bronco's Sports Bar, Bedford TXThis was a private event was for a few friends and acquaintances only, my personal DFW VIP list. It was also an excuse to get together with friends I haven’t seen in a while, and of course to drink a few craft beers. I did also manage to sign and sell a few books. Continue reading