Information for the starting out young solo musician:
It takes a certain mindset to play music every day for a living. I'm in my fifties now and I have a wonderful life playing music full-time. I won't get into all the accomplishments and career paths of my past so let's dive right into how I get gigs! First of all, you need a minimum of thirty to fifty songs. Learn the songs that you love and that you play well. You will have folks request various songs at your gigs. If you don't know the requested song, simply tell them you don't know it but you will learn it! Write it down and challenge yourself to go to A-Z Lyrics when you get home then find the song on Youtube and start learning it. Learning lots of songs is what you do, it is your job now to learn every song you can. I have heard some guys playing the same songs they were playing twenty years ago and they have never learned anything new... that gets old, trust me. There is a saying, "When you are ripe you rot when you are green you grow." Basically, you will keep your career much more exciting when you are always learning new tunes! Always push yourself to get better! Currently, I have over a thousand songs on my iPod. I use the fourscore app to organize everything and it's easy and fast to pull up requests.
Getting gigs is simply a numbers game. You have to talk to at least thirty venues to secure five to six gigs a week. I can drive to any town in America and get gigs if they have some tourist action and have places that play live music. It takes about two or three weeks to fill your calendar for the year providing you are out talking to venues every day. I drive around and find places that currently have music. I park and walk in and find out who is in charge of booking the live music. This is a little scary but gets easier the more you do it. Having confidence is key and the first few times you might be a bit shaky. Do not be discouraged. Keep dropping in on places and make sure you ask for the person who books the music. It does no good if you sell yourself to a waitress who started working there last week. Find the decision maker. Always have something to leave them such as a card. Vista print can make cards super cheap. At a minimum, you should be prepared to leave a card. I have left a CD but that gets expensive and very few managers will even listen to your CD but the mere fact that you have a professional looking CD is impressive.
I have memorized one easy question. #1. Do you have live music here? If so, explain that you are looking for gigs and would love to play at their establishment. Volunteer to even come play for free for a couple of hours to see if you are a fit for their establishment. Never be afraid to play for free for an audition. I have played for several and 99% of the time they will have a check or cash for you at the end of the gig. If they have never had live music, ask if they would consider letting you come play to see if it would fit their establishment. Yes, you have to become a salesperson. The solo act who doesn't learn how to sell themselves spends all their time playing at home in their room. Get tough and learn how to speak up and sell yourself. It's weird and scary at first but you will get better as time goes by. Be honest with the manager. Tell them you are a little nervous in talking to them... they will be kind to you and be on your side. Now ask for the gig. Ask what days they have open. Bring a calendar with you. Expect to get the gig. You may be surprised and walk out with every Tuesday night for the next six months! That is your goal. To fill up every night of the week. AGAIN: It takes talking to about thirty venues before you get the five or six that will say yes! About two or three weeks of going to two or three venues a day. It's not hard. If the manager is not there, always leave a card.
IMPORTANT: Have a website. I use Bandzoogle as it is geared towards musicians and it is simple to use. Have some videos of what you do. Some managers will watch them, most won't because they are busy people. Keep at it and never get discouraged as they need your talent in their establishment. Remember, the more you play in front of people, the better you will get. I have played at farmers markets, even on the street using my Roland battery AC33 amp. (which allows for mic and guitar inputs) I have played everywhere and to anyone that would listen. I have a few videos on my site of different places I have played if you care to watch! Good luck and feel free to drop me some questions!