Steps to Reach your First Paid Gig – From Zero to Hero

Becoming a full-time performer takes courage, patience and hard work. It also takes a lot of networking and a journey of collecting valuable experience.

The cruel truth is that people pay money for an artist that will fill their venues or will entertain their guests. To reach this, there are important boxes to check off so that you can reach this milestone and build your credibility as a professional artist.

Today we will take a look at these goals for you to reach for you to build this credibility and be booked regularly.

Getting your Band Together

Most people start their bands with already having at least one or two members in mind. This phase is crucial to path your way to success and lay a proper base going forward.

You will discover your style as a unit and learn from each other. Start by learning a few easy cover songs and perhaps one or 2 originals from the new members.

Discuss where and when your practices will take place and integrate this as a routine in your programs so that it will become a habit.

If you were wondering where you might find dedicated and committed members to join your project, then don’t miss the post I wrote about it right here. It will give you the proper direction that you are searching for.

Sharing Your Music with a Friend

After a couple of gatherings of practice time, you might feel ready to invite a few friends or family members to come and listen to what you were practising.

Make a nice opportunity to create a sort of concert-like vibe to the occasion. Act as a dress rehearsal for future shows. This adds valuable experience for you as a beginner musician.

Afterwards, sit together and reflect. Take the feedback onboard. It will make your band bond well and build confidence for the next step.

It is also a good time to consider a band name and build excitement for the next step. If you would like some inspiration for your journey in finding a good name, don’t miss the post I wrote about “How to choose a good band name” right here.

Playing at a Small Gathering

Now it’s time to perform at a birthday party or social gathering.

Beforehand, go ahead and send out invitations to build hype and curiosity about the performance.

The biggest stumbling stone here will be dealing with the sound like the speakers, mics, cables, feedback etc. I would recommend taking your time to go over the sound check beforehand. Even playing through your whole set during the day would help, just to cut out any surprises that may occur.

Doing a proper sound check and getting the levels right is the secret spice to building your following. I would recommend that you read my insightful article about how proper sound checks should take place. It’s an easy-to-understand guide with valuable tips. I have collected the experience for you to learn from.

Again, reflect afterwards. You will receive plenty of compliments and admiration for your new project. These are nice to get, but will not improve you for the next performance.

Ask your friendly guests to also suggest an improvement or one thing that could be better. Take the opinion-related suggestions with a pinch of salt, and take the creative and open-minded ideas as constructive feedback.

Open Mic Nights

It’s time to build a name. At your home gig, your friends or family might have asked when your next performance is. It is time to search for some opportunities around town.

Most pubs or bars offer the chance to new musicians looking for a chance to showcase their skills.

What’s in it for them? Mainly to make extra cash off the bar.

If you have between 5-10 artists per night with each bringing in a small crowd of 10-20 people, that’s at least 200 people that pay the door fees, and buy drinks and food.

Keep your eyes open for such opportunities. I would suggest playing for anything between 20-40 minutes, depending on the open-mic agreement.

That would allow you a set of about 4-8 songs. Keep it simple, exciting and unpredictable. Don’t change too much from your previous gig. Perhaps just add in a simple cover to entertain the random pub crew.

See this as a chance to make more fans. If you have another gig booked already, make sure to announce it on stage.

This is the perfect time for you to work on your band image so that people can recognise you and follow you for who you are and what you stand for.

If you are keen to shape your image as an artist, don’t miss the article I wrote about it right here. It will guide you to run the image of who you are and who you would feel comfortable with, but unique.

Open mic nights can be an intimidating experience at first. Just be confident and believe in yourself.

Open for another Artist (Small Scale)

Since you have collected some valuable experience thus far, it is time to reach out to other smaller bands and ask if they would like for you to warm the stage.

All bands like having another performer opening the stage for them for various reasons:

  • The crowd gets warmed up.
  • The sound gets checked with a filled venue.
  • The crowd gets more value for money.
  • It adds more time to the duration of the evening regarding the bar.
  • You have a chance to network.
  • Both performers get a chance to share with fans and advertise.
  • Potential for collaboration on future projects
  • Etc.

For a more in-depth discussion about Why Concerts Have Opening Gigs, don’t miss the post I wrote about it.

It will become a bit more serious now, because you set a standard of performance, and the level of stage you will be performing is a bit bigger and better than what you are used to.

The important part here is to stick to the basics and keep doing what has worked in the past. Try not to be too risky since you would like to build on the relationships you are working on.

Take Part in Artist Competitions

Don’t we all love a good old Battle of the Bands?

These types of competitions are the bread and butter of upcoming artists.

By now you should have:

  • About 8 songs
  • A name and an interesting image
  • An out-of-the-ordinary biography

Do your research well and enter a couple of them at once.

Never feel the need to win, or feel too criticized by the feedback, but rather use it to improve for the next performance.

Take the feedback from whom it comes. In some music competitions, the judges already have a narrative of what type of musical performance they like.

Some of these competitions are won by votes, which is also not fair and square, but also about fundraising.

Use the music competitions for building your music repertoire, win more fans, receive constructive feedback, network, and enjoy the bigger stage and sound.

This post was written and posted by De Wet from on 11.03.2023. The content was stolen from me if this blog post is seen anywhere else.

Any chance to perform is a chance that should be taken

Record your Demo and Prepare your EPK

It is finally time to get into the studio and get your music recorded. If you have the needed skills to do so yourself, feel free to go ahead. Just remember that we would like to sound as professional as possible for this.

I had an exciting story about how my first demo was recorded, which I am happy to share! Don’t miss my post about Vital Reasons to Record Your Demo Now.

You will also find some valuable tips on how to market your music and get your Electronic Press Kit done.


Marketing, at this stage, is all in your hands and will play a big role in how quickly your band progress.

Promoting your band in the modern music and entertainment industry is much different than 10 years ago, and it will continue to change and develop.

Modern Methods to Market your music:

  • Regular TikTok posts about your music
  • Social media advertisements on your gigs

There are also plenty of old methods that are still very helpful today. Some of them are:

  • Hang up posters with your venue and performance dates.
  • Hand out flyers around campus.
  • Have printed business cards with a QR code to your demo left at music shops.

Band Night Gigs

You have collected quite some experience during the last 6-12 months and now you can also set together your own band night.

This is fantastic for networking and sharing fan bases.

Here are the steps to follow to organise your own bands night:

  1. Finding the venue. All these questions will guide you in finding an appropriate host for your show:
    • Are you comfortable at a certain venue?
    • Have you played on a stage with decent sound?
    • Where is your main fan base located?
  2. Contact the venue. There are a few things to sort out:
    • Agree on a date
    • How much will the sound and engineer cost for the night?
    • Do you need to appoint a doorman or does the venue provide a staff member?
  3. Getting the Bands together. Take your open mic nights, music competitions, Battle of the Bands and openings that you have performed, and recognise 3 or 4 other artists with similar interests, genres and experience levels to play one or a series of gigs together.
    • I would even throw in a solo acoustic performer that is looking for the experience themselves.
  4. Contact the bands and artists. Have a few artists on standby or on a B-list to cover for potential dropouts or illnesses.
    • Agree on a fee. (Remember, it’s about building experience and sharing fans. Not to make money yet)
    • The time per set.
    • Set a lineup from the smallest fan base to the biggest following.
    • Is any equipment needed in the case of a bass amp to borrow or share, or a skeleton drumkit to make the transitions smoother?
    • Talk about marketing for the show and set a goal for people to attend.
    • Times for sound check.
  5. Market the show.
    • Design a concert poster for all artists to distribute on their social media platforms.
    • Hang your posters up at the venue and surroundings.
    • Have early ticket specials: Buy 3 get 1 Free.
    • Keep building hype by also promoting your buddy bands’ hit songs on your platforms
  6. Regular check-ins.
    • Stay in contact with your buddy bands.
    • Make sure you have confirmation emails and proof of bookings.
Sharing fans with other bands is a great way of growing together in the industry.

Open for a Successful Artist

This is such an exciting time! Don’t miss the blog post I wrote about Opening for a successful artist right here! You will see that all the networking skills you have collected until now come in very handy.

Book your Own Paid Gigs

You have now reached a point where you can actually charge a fee for your performances. At first, it won’t be much, but with experience and a growing fan base, it will become more and more.

You should now be ready with:

  • A well-rehearsed set to play for 90 minutes.
  • Be able to constantly play on “click”.
  • Have a well-established image, name and EPK.
  • Ready to record an album since that will be your next step.
  • A fan base to fill a venue and be profitable.
  • Have merchandise printed for fans to only buy at your gigs.
  • A hit song with a music video.

Steps to book your own shows:

  1. Update your press kit with your newest content (performance clips, interviews, songs etc.).
  2. Create an email list of venues that is accessible to you to drive to. Aim for about 50 venues where you feel like you stand a chance.
  3. Send an email promoting your availability and that you are filling up your bookings for this year.
  4. Negotiate fees with your band members.
    • If you can play the full set and fill the venues, you could ask for up to 150$ per 45-minute set. That means 300$ for 2 x 45-minute sets.
    • As part of your negotiation also have an opening artist on offer.
  5. Wait for feedback and be patient.

What happens when I don’t get bookings?

It’s really important to work on promotional things at this stage:

  • Send your music to radio stations
  • Offer your time to come in for interviews
  • Work on songwriting and recording more content
  • Shoot music videos
  • Keep building your email list for potential venues
  • Be open to performing at birthday parties, and seasonal- and private functions at discounted prices
  • Return to your roots and reward your fan base for standing by you by playing at a local venue at a reduced price.
  • Make a guest appearance at open mic nights to promote yourself.

These are just a few ideas. I am sure there are many more. If you have any other special spice, please share it with us in the comments below.

We are all in this together 🙂

Rock ‘n Roll Boys and Girls

De Wet

The dream started during a school tour at the age of 15 years old. One that might take a long time to reach. De Wet was 16 years old when he got his first bass guitar as a gift from his dad. The guitar was found, hidden under boxes. As if it was waiting for its owner to come by and pick him up. He practiced every day to improve and to teach his fingers to dance to the music. After finishing high school, he played in various bands where he collected valuable experience, before being signed by a record label as an upcoming band. He reached success at age 22 when he released two albums with his band, which also included televised music videos for publicity. By age 24, he co-started management, artist promotion, and booking agency for successful and upcoming musical acts.

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