Every performer has struggled with booking gigs at one time or another. But in the Age of COVID-19, with social distancing putting a halt on productions and making live performance difficult, everyone is feeling the pressure.
No one knows that better than the artists themselves. That’s why Special Guest App recently talked to a number of performers to find out how they’ve been navigating the pitfalls of the current entertainment landscape. Here’s the advice they had to share.
“It’s not just enough to create content; you have to promote it, too,” interdisciplinary artist and Heaven is a Photograph author Christine Sloan Stoddard told us. “I strategize, produce, and promote. When it works, people reach out to me. “
Now more than ever, with a constant stream of news update vying for your audience’s attention, artists and entertainers need to get their names out there and remind people that they exist. Achintya Kolipakkam, a content marketer for fashion blog Elegance Tips, recommends performers hiring a promoter if you can afford it, someone whose sole focus is on finding opportunities for you.
For those who can’t afford professional help, social media is an incredibly powerful too just waiting to be harnessed. “Before the gig, after the gig, during the gig. Every second of your life related to your gig should be put forth in the most attractive way on social media,” Kolipakkam said. “The more people get attracted and register your face and name on their mind, the closer you are to become the first choice for a gig.”
In times of change, one sure way to sabotage yourself is to stubbornly attempt to continue operating the same way you always have. Audiences, venues, and promoters all have very different needs and requirements than they did one year ago. Being successful means finding out what those needs are and adapting to them.
“The main factor for continuing to successfully book gigs for me has been keeping an open mind and staying in contact with everyone in the industry,” Jeremy Miller, a Greenville, South Carolina-based DJ, said. “I have been DJing for 10 years now and the idea of what a gig is, what time it’s supposed to be and the type of venue had been pretty solidified in my mind for a while now. For 2020, that all changes.”
Miller explained that, in his local market, COVID-19 mandates allow businesses to operate at no more than 50% capacity and require bars and clubs to close at 11pm. By being willing to accommodate these changes, though, he is able to continue booking regular work.
“I have also taken on many daytime events, live streaming events, even private DJ, and production sessions,” Miller said. “There are still many opportunities out there for artists, we just have to be willing to keep an open mind, think outside of the box, and stay in touch.”
Networking with people in this industry has always been a big part of making headway as an entertainer. In times like these, it’s nothing less than essential.
“One of the most significant things musicians can do who were gigging consistently pre-COVID is keeping a relationship going with the venues they have played at,” country singer-songwriter Erin McAndrew explained.
“For me, that looks like mentioning them on my social media to support them, emailing them asking if there is any way to support them, as well as actually going to the venue to support them as they have supported me in the past. I play a lot of wineries, so I have been visiting some of the wineries for tastings or picking up a few bottles where I can. This helps keep the relationship going and keeping me fresh in their mind for when they start booking again.”
For venues that are already booking gigs, local artists may still face an uphill climb. Many venues are relying heavily on national acts, rather than local ones, in an attempt to coax audiences out of their homes. For up-and-coming rapper Charleito, however, that isn’t always a bad thing.
“All of the venues are still bringing in rappers from across the country,” Charleito said. “The key is to watch for any major artists that are coming to any venues near you and get in contact with their promoter. Doing this usually works as the promoter will have some kind of deal prepared for you to perform as an opening act.”
Sometimes the hardest part of being successful isn’t a matter of overcoming external obstacles, but internal one. In the midst of the global COVID-19, with political turmoil added on top, it can be tricky maintaining a sense of optimism and ambition. But it is exactly in troubled times like these when art and entertainment are most important, as they provide audiences with some much-needed positivity.
Actress Alicia Brayboy told us that quarantines and social distancing may have complicated how the entertainment industry operates, but things aren’t impossible. “All of the auditions have switched online via Zoom or self-tapes. Table reads and rehearsals are over Zoom or phone calls. Film shoots and crews and shortened to minimize exposure,” Brayboy said.
“I recently booked an acting job during the pandemic. Surprisingly, it’s picking back up.”
For performers and content creators, persistence has and always will be key. Instead of getting discouraged, consider all the tools at your disposal and figure out the best ways to make them work for you. Most importantly, keep on keeping on.
“Continuing to write and produce films and videos during quarantine is what books me gigs,” Christine Sloan Stoddard said. “I’m still dancing my fingers from pen to keyboard to camera.”