Jul 24




For the second consecutive year now, I’m I Austria for the summer. Doing the rounds of the hotels marketing myself, I realise that of all the skills that a working musician needs to survive,this is the thing I least enjoy. Very often I find cold calling marketing soul destroying and depressing. However I suspect that I’m reasonably good at marketing. Not because I have a natural talent for marketing myself,but rather because over the years I have made so many big mistakes, and in many ways shooting myself in the foot. Hopefully I have learnt from these mistakes.


AGENTS. I’ve had some nightmare experiences with agents. In a perfect world, we the musician would be able to spend our efforts concentrating on being a good musician and artist. Agents would then (in this perfect world) spend their efforts in marketing us the musician. Matching us with the ideal venue, client and audience. In the end everyone is happy. Musician,client, audience and agent. However in my experience, so many agents are hard, cold business people. I have had everything from not being paid. Agents holding wages for 2 months to earn bank interest. Placing me in a completely inappropriate venue, just so the agent can earn the fee. And last but not least the agent earning the fee and paying me the percentage. I have developed a total mistrust of agents. I must however say that my time on the Isle of Wight with the Sylvia Thorley agency was wonderful. If this then is how many agents are, we as the working musician need to…….

  • ADAPT OR DIE. – We need to do, and be good at doing our own marketing.
  •  We need a THICK SKIN to cope with rejections and disappointment.
  •  We need a perseverance and determination to carry on,even if we have had no success for days.


  • Most importantly we need a good product that we have worked on, polished and refined.
  • A business card.
  • A short promo video.
  • A website.

BUSINESS CARD. Take the effort and money to get a professional graphic artist to design your card.. Print your card professionally. Your opening line is: Hello. My name is…and at the same moment you pass over your card. If it doesn’t look good, you have lost already. Always make sure you have plenty cards in your wallet. We never know who we meet,and it is so embracing and negative, not to have a cards with you.

VIDEO. Over the years I have had several versions of videos, and I suspect most were very in effective. I have learnt much about video marketing from a good friend of mine Bob Long. Bob is a multi award winning documentary producer. (Including BAFTA) These are some of the tips I’ve learnt from him.

Pay a professional to produce a professional product. – Keep it short. Our clients are busy people. 2 minutes is maximum. – The first few seconds are the most important. – Our clients are usually not musicians,so are more impressed by the reaction of our audiences on the video than our incredible musical skills. The client doesn’t have the time to take a DVD from us, find a computer or DVD player, put our DVD on and then find their machine doesn’t read our format. In cold calling marketing have your video ready to play on your iPad or tablet.Ready to play with the touch of a button. Thanks to YouTube when we send an email we can have a simple one click link to open a video.

WEBSITE. Again,get a professional to do your website. Have an easy to navigate and simple website. Our clients don’t have the time to wade through a mountain of information. They want the most important points at their fingertips in a couple of seconds.


It is important to arrive at an appropriate time. In hotels this is usually after the hotels have served breakfast and before lunch. Restaurants would probably be an hour or so before lunch,and an hour or so before the evening meal. Pubs,usually before they get busy in the afternoon. I usually introduce myself and what I do,short and to the point. While doing this I hand over my card. At this point, the hotel receptionist usually gives you a blank and disinterested stare. There is seldom any point in leaving your card with the receptionist. Ask to speak to the manager or person responsible for entertainment. If they are not available ask for their name and card. When you next come you can ask to speak to the manager straight away. When speaking to the manager be short and to the point.  Tell them who you are and what you do. At this point I try to get them to see the video on my tablet.  It’s those first 5 seconds that count. You can tell by their body language if you have interested them. They probably have plenty musicians offering their services at their hotel. Why should they hire you? This is the point where you need land the catch. I usually offer them the first gig free. In most cases if I have managed to keep their interest, the free gig is the catcher.


Phone calls and follow up emails with video link. There is a very fine line between keeping you in peoples minds and pestering them. A conscientious follow up after the first contact, and then every few months helps.


How many times over the years have I picked up a gig by going in to sell myself, and the night before the musician has let them down and got the sack. Keep on keeping on.

LEARN FROM MISTAKES. Probably the biggest mistake I have made over the years is selling too much. This is often a problem with versatile entertainers and multi instrumentalists. People like to be able to PUT THINGS IN A BOX. It is easier for them to sell you to their guests/customers. I had a lot of fun over the years doing a musical magical show. However many people perceived me as a children’s entertainer, and wouldn’t take me seriously as a musician. I have now dropped the magic and concentrate on my first love….the music. It doesn’t matter how good we are as musicians, if we cannot sell ourselves, we will not survive as working musicians.


MARKETING. Cold calling marketing,agents,Sylvia Thorley agency,Isle of Wight,perseverance,determination,business card,promo video,website,Bob Long,BAFTA,Hotels,pubs,restaurants,musicians,audiences,Austria


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  1. junglegymjam

    Good tips, especially about perseverance. In my experience it often takes weeks of follow-up calls and e-mails to get the yes-or-no answer. Always remain courteous and professional and don’t act annoyed; remember these venues don’t owe you a gig. If you’re great, they owe themselves a chance to thrive on your talents.

  2. Dieter Uken

    Good one Patrick! I have found the best form of marketing has been WOM marketing – inexpensive, no video, no website, no cards, no cold calling, no agents, etc Do the gig as best you can, every time, in time and on time and WOM does the rest! Oh yes, WOM = WORD OF MOUTH

    1. gauchoPiper

      Hi Dieter,
      I agree
      I disagree

      WOM IS fundamental,
      must never EVER underestimate it.

      But your 5 (and “etc”) NOs are a recipe for disaster.

      You must not only BE professional,
      but must LOOK professional.
      (a take on the “Caesar’s Wife”)

      WOM as the only medium is perfect for people like myself that do not make a living from my music just use gigs as a means to “supporting” my hobby.


      1. gauchoPiper

        is also

        With Out Money

  3. Martin

    I’m with Leslie (‘sup Leslie? :)

    Word-of-mouth is of course THE best way to get more gigs, but it’s not as simple as ‘show up, play well’.

    Things like being a crack musician, being on time, putting on a fun show, looking the part – all those fall under the header ‘reason to talk about you’. In other words, it’s the stuff that makes you remarkable (take that word literally – you want people to remark about you to others).


    After that, you would do well to also facilitate the spreading of the word. I mean, if you don’t have business cards, for example, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Or axing yourself in the foot, if you’re a guitar slinger.

    What do you do if someone comes up to you during a gig: “Guy, I love your music. I need to leave now, but give me your card because I’m sure my brother will want to hire you”.

    So you stand there, inbetween songs, digging around for a pen and paper… If you don’t have a card to hand over then and there, that guy is gone and so is his brother.

    Yes, trust in word-of-mouth, and work hard to be good enough to earn it. But always make sure you make it easy for the news to spread. Facebook, twitter, youtube, business cards or demo-cd’s – whatever you have at your disposal and works within your way of marketing yourself.

    People who get by are usually extremely good, or extremely lucky, or more frequently both.

    The real kicker? Word-of-mouth typically takes YEARS to start working by itself.

  4. Martin

    Oh, and because I’m on a roll: Any of you musicians out there, you probably don’t like cold calling or asking for the business or any of the other marketing stuff that puts strings on your guitar and bacon on your bread.

    I can relate: Hearing ‘no’ sucks hairy monkey balls. You try that for a few hours and most people will want to hang their guitar on the willows. Or themselves.

    But here’s a great takeaway for you: Those rejections are GOOD for you. Really, very good. Ever see a shao-lin monk put his fist through a block of concrete? You know they get to be so strong?

    They have slabs of concrete say ‘no’ to their fists for years, until finally, their fists are harder than the concrete (true fact: punching for years causes micro-fractures in the bone and once these heal, the bones become ridiculously strong).

    If you want to become good at getting gigs, you’ll have to practice lots at asking for them. Each time you get ‘no’ for an answer, know that while it might feel bad, you’ve just become that much stronger.

  5. gauchoPiper

    Hi Martin,
    I’d like to stress on one line of your’s

    “…probably don’t like cold calling or ASKING for the business…”

    This is probably the greatest pitfall of many many salesmen (generic, not being sexist) they make the most incredible and fantastic sales presentation and when it some to “close” (read “buy ME”) we (sadly…I include myself) fall flat on our faces.

    So Martin’s “slabs of concrete” is a very good advice.


  6. Martin

    Thank you sir. You said it: As a gigging musician, you’re also a salesperson. And the best bit of advice? ASK for the sale.

    When you’ve played your demo, when you’ve quoted your rates, when your potential client is considering booking you, that’s when you simply ask to get hired: “So what do you think, shall we do one gig, see what your customers think?”

    You’ll be amazed how much easier it gets to land gigs once you get used to asking…

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