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Swap a Gig

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Sure, it would be great to sit back and have an agent hard at work booking all of your shows for you, but that's not always in the cards, especially when you're just getting started with your music career. When you're booking shows for yourself, it can be fairly easy to break into the local scene just by virtue of playing live often, but how about playing gigs out of town?

That's when things can get a little bit tricky. Unless you've got some music that is selling or you're getting some press or radio coverage, it can be hard to convince a promoter in another town to give you a chance to take to the stage. They have to work extra hard to promote your show, and that can get expensive and time consuming, especially if you don't have a label to help pick up the slack.

Does that mean that "hometown hero" is as a far as you're going to be able to take it? No way. The good news is that there are tons of musicians in your position in towns all around the world. They can get a crowd out in their town, but they're unknowns where you live. Meanwhile, you've got the local music lovers on lockdown, but you're not exactly a household name out of town. The solution is a "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" kind of arrangement with your fellow musicians in which you introduce them to your fans, and they return the favor.

A few simple tips to make the gig swap work:

  • Do your research before you contact the musicians. Not only will a little bit of web searching help you find good candidates, the other musicians will appreciate that you've taken the time to get to know their back story and their music a little bit.

  • Speaking of the music, make sure you approach musicians with a similar sound or who are likely to have fans that might be into your music.

  • Normally, each group takes care of the booking and promotion responsibilities for their own town, but you'll need to make sure you can get all of the materials you need from the other group to get the job done (and that you have promo stuff you can send them).

  • Splitting any money the show generates 50/50 is an easy way to do things (after any promotional costs are paid back, of course). However, if you're each driving long distances for the shows, sometimes the band who traveled gets to keep most of the cash to help cover their gas costs. It's not required, but it's nice.

  • Also nice is providing a friendly floor to sleep on to the musicians when they come to your town.

Need some more advice about booking and promoting shows? These articles will help:

  1. About.com
  2. Careers
  3. Music Careers
  4. Industry Basics
  5. Music Industry Quick Tips
  6. Music Industry Quick Tip: Show Swap - Swap a Gig

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