How to Find Places to Play Your Instrument
If you are studying music performance, you know how important it is to play your instrument for an audience, especially on your own. It can be intimidating to find these opportunities when you don’t have a lot of experience, but it is not impossible. Here are some surefire ways to find that solo gig you’ve been searching for.
Set Yourself Up for Success
To find performance opportunities, you need to make sure you are doing everything you can to be findable and easy to get in touch with. If you haven’t already, now is the time to build up your presence online. At the minimum you should have a Facebook page, but a Twitter account isn’t a bad idea as long as you keep on top of it. Connect with other local musicians or venues where you’d like to play.
On these social accounts, be sure to advertise the fact that you are seeking performance opportunities. Mention that you could play for local businesses, weddings and other events.
Set up a website where you can share your music on a platform like SoundCloud or Bandcamp. You can do this for free or, if you have a little money to put into it, buy your own domain name and tie it in with your account. You can use this website like a portfolio of your work.
Next, make yourself some business cards. You can get them printed someplace like VistaPrint or buy a kit to print them yourself. Be sure to give them out at any opportunity. The more people who know you are looking for gigs, the more people are keeping an ear open for opportunities.
Play for Your Community
Many small or even mid-sized businesses that serve the public would jump at a chance to have a musician playing at little or no cost. Check with local coffee shops or other small, casual restaurants to see if they ever feature live music or would consider it for an evening.
Remember that it doesn’t hurt to start small. Get creative and volunteer at a nursing home or rehab center like 12 Keys Rehab. Your act of goodwill could end up in the local newspaper, showing that you’re caring and not just out there to make money. At the very least, playing well and being reliable improves your track record, and will lead to wider exposure and bigger opportunities.
You’ll be surprised at how good you feel playing for people who normally wouldn’t get to hear music. I’ll never forget the time I was playing at a nursing home, and a deaf woman put her hands on the marimba to feel the vibrations. When she started to smile, a huge wave of emotion hit me as I knew I brightened her day. To this day, it’s one of the highlights of my career.
Other good places to start looking for opportunities could include your local library, church or community center. Look for advertisements asking for musicians for different events. If you’re really enterprising you can even contact them regarding upcoming events and ask if they need some live music. Look for festivals and street fairs in your area, find out if there will be live music playing, and learn how you can get involved.
Go into this to better yourself as a musician, not to try and make money. Sure it’s nice to get a little extra cash on the side, but you’ll have a much more enjoyable time if that’s not your main goal. The more you play in front of people, the easier it becomes, and you’ll find out you’re not nearly as nervous when it’s time for your huge recital or other serious event.
Most importantly, have fun. Don’t go so overboard on searching for the perfect gig where it becomes a chore. Be creative, and you can find some great places to play, giving you new fans and followers.
Scott Huntington is a writer, reporter, blogger, and percussionist, specializing in marimba. He currently lives in PA and with his wife and son. Follow Scott at @SMHuntington