You get out what you put in. Or in the case of an artist, you only get into the scene by putting yourself out there.
The creative pursuit is a juxtaposition of experiences. The serene but lonely roads that rouse creativity(introvert life), then the unparalleled energy that community and crowds bring to live music. It’s easy to get too comfortable in both places, especially when the latter involves putting yourself out there and stepping into the spotlight for the first time, though it is the most crucial rite of passage(no pressure).
While it doesn’t feel like it, especially as we see so many artists out there killing it and locking down gigs, they all started somewhere and felt everything you are now. Whether you’re a first-time artist, heading out after a recording stint, or just getting back into performing again, there’s a full network of support ready to receive you if you know where to look.
Starting with this 10-step guide to getting yourself out there and into the scene.
Team Muso, you got this!
I’ve been there too.
After taking some time away from music because LIFE, the choice to put it on the backburner became the music hiatus extended edition after COVID hit and live music shut down. Each passing year made stepping back into the scene seem more daunting, especially as it continued to evolve while I felt like I’d stopped.
After moving back to the city(Brisbane), getting out there, connecting, and playing a weekly roster of gigs felt like a mountain of a task, even though I used to love it. Once I chilled on the “maybe I’m not cut out for this anymore?!” emotions, I remembered how anxious I felt when I first started. This time I knew I could do it again because I’d already been there! I got my act together, followed the steps, and got back on track in less than six months.
The moral of the story: the buildup in my head was worse than the time it took to secure my first gig back. (*facepalm)
1. Get fired up!
If you’re not wearing confidence like the new season drip, you may need a crash course to get you in the zone. Just like you need to do your confidence dance or pre-show ritual to amp you up, this same method can be applied to help propel you forward into the throes of networking stardom.
I’m not saying you should do a character study for the movie Fame (unless you’re feeling the journey), but sometimes all it takes is one emotionally charged TED/mum talk to change your outlook.
Watch some of your favourite fight movies, assemble the hype team, listen to inspiring podcasts, read biographies from your heroes, meditate, lean into the process that many have gone through before you, and remember that you’re in mighty fine company.
When the energy is flowing, it’s time to strike!
2. Unpack the process
My nighttime ritual includes listening to audiobooks before bed. In my case, it’s less of a noble effort than an attempt to hack the information retention system with the hopes of programming my subconscious mind while I sleep. Yes, like quitting smoking and sleep hypnosis.
The book ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene quickly turned into my daytime listening because I had to keep extending my sleep timer. This one got me because he talks about the process to mastery, but starts from the self-discovery journey as the catalyst to finding your purpose and venturing into the world. ‘Mastery’ highlights how brilliant minds like Picasso and Mozart put themselves out there on seemingly regular paths, which turned extraordinary along the way because of their relentless pursuit. They failed, fought, faced rejection, found their tribes, and undertook mentorships, even solo apprenticeships when they couldn’t access a community.
It can be reassuring to unpack the unpredictable steps of a creative path. When you understand the logic behind your actions and the normalcy of struggle, your dreams seem more tangible.
3. Do some research
New opportunities are born daily. The next one could be tailormade for you but would make no difference if you didn’t know it was out there. From eclectic new hospitality venues to epic parties and even new online platforms for getting booked(**cough cough Muso), your community is out there and much closer than you think.
Track down your next industry connection by sussing the gap where your brand of music awesomeness fits or where you can create one! Get honest about who you’d like to connect with, hone in on the smaller grassroots venues and collectives that are into inclusiveness, and operate with an ‘open arms’ policy.
Small parties and promoters will applaud you for putting in the effort to find and support their music and will have a genuine passion for your mission. If they see your dedication to quality and community and you are a genuinely top human, they’ll give you a go.
4. Start with your online social accounts
However you make connections, they will lead back to your social media account anyway, so use this as the testing board for putting yourself out there by delighting new potential internet friends.
Ask yourself what some of your heroes would want to see, then go from there. For me, that would be Cher or Dolly Parton, and I reckon they’d want to see a quippy and cultured young lady who is confident about her love of music, values a good hair day, and herself! – #workinprogress
Act like you’re a working musician who’s meant to be here. Your socials are the showcase for your personality as well as your electronic press kit of sorts. With some ace content and the net-casting ability of hashtags, your community may discover you first! Don’t have a string of gigs under your belt? No problem, share home recordings or a DJ mix series. Want to see what it all looks like before you go public? Use a grid preview app and analytics to see what your audience resonates with.
Check out more on the Muso blog >>> how to promote yourself as a musician on Instagram
5. Build and dial into your directory
Your network will be responsible for your success, so get to know your neighbours and reintroduce yourself to the mates you haven’t vibed with in a hot minute.
A gig booker may have a new spot opening up, or your muso mates may invite you to the gigs they are affiliated with, a.k.a offer you the prime opportunity to meet more artists and extend connections. If you reach out and opportunities aren’t coming up right now, ask for suggestions on venues, new events, or blogs to share your music with instead.
On top of this, build your list of online communities, music blogs, and local music listings to keep track of the growing scene. Add artists, labels, and promoters you’d like to work with now and those you dream of working with in the future. Figure out their proximity and start to tick them off the list as your exposure grows.
Sometimes a contact is best saved for a future stage in your journey, and you may end up helping another artist through your search. Building good karma is important too, and someone may think of you next time an even better gig comes up!
6. Reach out to different industry groups
Expand your search field and your approach. Agencies, event-hire spaces, venues, recording studios, or venues that you reckon could host live music with a bit of guidance from yours truly. Check out community bulletin boards, council and government commissions, and record stores in your city.
Marketing agencies and record labels could put you in the direction of video work or accompaniment pieces for commercial music usage. Local arthouses are always looking for new musicians to accompany artist showcases, and festivals may be locking in their next round of talent for approaching events.
7. Join online communities
Friends and personal contacts aren’t your only way into the live music scene either. Jump online and join a Reddit thread or music-community chat groups in your area and start asking questions.
Bartender and hospitality groups may respond with available residencies, or the online record fair may bring you inspiration. No matter where it is, from your favourite music mag forum to neighbourhood newsgroups, just get involved and become part of the conversation with the audiences who will inevitably be listening to or working around your music.
8. Follow emerging underground artists and labels that inspire you
I follow underground artists I admire all the time, and surprisingly, many follow me back, leading me to discover that maybe people are just as interested in you as you are in them. It makes sense, especially if they live overseas and want a fresh glimpse into the music scene around the world that they hope to experience one day, and you could be their contact.
Leave comments on label and musician posts, share their work and tag them, respond to their stories, ask questions and offer insight or positive feedback. Responding to a question is also a casual way of sliding into their DMs and introducing yourself. Less fangirl, more working pros sharing pro stuff, bro.
9. Ask for feedback
Just like you do with researching gigs, reach out for feedback on projects or demos that you’re working on while hunting for gigs. Asking for feedback is a great way to strengthen connections and opens the gate for other artists and producers to reciprocate. You might even end up collaborating on something together, or if gig opportunities come up and they need a particular sound or instrument, they might ask you to join.
10. Don’t get discouraged
Timing is everything, and a lot of the time ‘no’ has nothing to do with you or your talent and everything to do with the fact that there is a shortage of live music venues right now, making it more difficult to lockdown a gig slot. Don’t let this deter your efforts; hang in there long enough and something will open up, and it’ll probably be a better fit because of the connections you’ve built.
11. Create your own opportunities
Join all these ideas together and create opportunities for putting yourself out there. From the advice given above, you should have a solid handful of musicians, access to venues, a promoter to collab/impart some advice on throwing a gig, and your online communities to help you find a place to host.
With your new industry crew plus your research of what’s out there, you’re in the perfect position to put a show together and give something new to your community. Then use your newfound status as a social media baller to promote your gig and bring your wider audience together for the party of the year.
What was so scary again?