Getting the Gig 102: Why You End Up in the Spam Folder

How to Make Your Email to Music Venues Worth Reading

The promise was kept: here is my second article on how to conduct effective conversations with managers of live music venues. As you might remember, I myself was a venue manager for quite a while. Wasn’t too bad, but I got enough of it. When I quit that job, I decided to start sharing useful tips for musicians who keep getting few or no responses from venues. 

Key Takeaways from Last Time 

So, what were the key takeaways from the 101 article

  • Being a good musician has nothing to do with establishing effective music industry relationships. 
  • When you communicate with venue managers, you actually conduct business conversations. 
  • Business people (ex. managers) prefer to be contacted by other business people. If you don’t sound professional enough, your email gets deleted. 
  • If you don’t have an official representative, you need to learn the craft of business communication yourself. 
  • This is why I’m here, and this is why I write these articles.

What was the one and only mindset we’re looking for? 

  • If you can think of something, that thing is possible to achieve. Our brains are constantly attacked with limitations; we don’t need to limit ourselves even more. 

And, finally, let’s remind ourselves how far we got: the first paragraph of the ‘gig email’. Even though this article is mainly about the second paragraph, I will still talk a little bit more about the first one. I won’t repeat myself too much, I promise. But when I do, it means that I really want to emphasize on something. 

As I said last time, your first paragraph is everything – it’s where you either get the deal or not. You describe who you are and what you want. Of course, in our case, you want a date for a gig. Rule number 1: you need to sound professional, however cliched this might seem to you. Professional equals coherent, cohesive, down-to-earth, and straightforward.

So, this is where we left off with our imaginary musician MJPT, who wants to play at a venue in Manchester: 

Dear [venue name] management team: 

I am MJPT – musician, 27 years old, based in Argentina. I play death metal tunes on the accordion. By death metal, I mean a part of the genre ‘Metal’, as described in Nielsen’s genres list. I have played the accordion professionally for more than 10 years and I have received excellent feedback on my performances from listeners in Argentina, USA, and the UK. I found your venue via Facebook and I instantly decided to get in touch with you. I think that my music will appeal to your audience and, therefore, I would like to apply for a gig.

Time to Refine 

Supposing you already know, from the 101 article, why this paragraph should look and sound like this, we can move on to the next step: tailoring the text according to the needs of each particular venue. 

For those of you who don’t know me, I offer my readers free help with gig emails – they send me a draft, and I get back to them with some appropriate feedback. So, if you also want to receive this one-on-one training, send me a draft of what you would normally write to a venue when you want a gig. I’ll answer asap, and we’ll discuss your individual situation as much as necessary. Note that all this help is free of charge! So, if you receive some suspicious transaction offers from my address, that’s not me. Stay safe, please! 

I received numerous messages after the 101 article, and most of them had one thing in common – people copied my template and inserted their own names and genres. To be honest, that’s not a bad idea, but still… Come on! You know that’s not the point of the exercise, right? 

I advised everyone to at least try to be themselves, to try to make my basic template resonate with who they are. So yeah, if you can perfectly 'hear yourself' in the paragraph I proposed, you’re all done. But I doubt that you do. You know what I mean – try a bit harder! 

Okay. Now you have the basic structure. What follows is tweaking this structure to fit each individual venue. Once again, be yourself when you write! I won’t stop saying that. You know why? Because business people immediately know if you have copied something or not. We (venue managers) deal with pretenders all day, every day. Don’t think that you can fool us with a copy-paste email. We can easily spot templates – we receive these all the time.

The Research 

Each particular venue has its own mission, vision, and values. In fact, every business has these, no matter what the industry is. As I said last time, the music industry is about money, numbers, and negotiations. It is the business. On the other hand, music is about emotion and legacy. Don’t mix the two if you want to avoid disappointment. 

So, where do you find these mission, vision, and values? Easy. Visit the venue, visit its website, do some asking around if you need to, read some forums, see some pics, and so on. You don’t need an Excel table or anything like that. You don’t need to do some kind of serious analysis. You should only become aware of what the word ‘valuable’ means to each venue manager. 

In other words, you need to know what a venue looks for. Then you can see whether you have something to offer or not. If you do, offer only what concerns the venue. Don’t list all your skills and abilities. Don’t brag about yourself. Focus on the things that correspond with what the venue looks for. Focus on answering the questions each particular venue manager might ask – the basis of business communication. 

For example, if the venue is a spot for young people, you should write “…young listeners from…” (from MJPT’s paragraph above). You see what I mean? Try to use the keywords that the venue looks for. Each particular venue is different. Nobody said it was easy… If you're gonna make it on your own, you'd better start doing the right things asap.

If I run a live country music club and I see the word ‘hip-hop’ in an email, I’m just not going to keep reading. That’s because I’m not looking for hip-hop. I’m a country club. However, if I see something like ‘Dolly Parton covers’, I might stop and spare five minutes. There might be something there for me. That’s the power of keywords – the correct ones, not the trending ones. 

What’s even more important is that email templates are considered by managers to be spam or trash messages. Here’s a manager: “So, what? You wrote an email and sent it to all venues in the world, hoping that someone will eventually answer? Well, not me…” That’s what managers think of the so-called ‘templates’. And you don’t want to evoke negative emotions in managers. All you need to do is answer their questions before they even have the time to ask them (a lesson from the 101 article). 

Sending a template, instead of a specifically addressed message, is considered rude and inappropriate in the business world. Not researching a venue is considered carelessness. Here’s the manager again: “You want money from me but you don’t even bother to sit down and write a few original sentences? Sorry, my friend…” That’s how business people see things. And we don’t want to get in that awkward situation. All we want is to get the gig. That’s what my articles are about. 

So, keep this in mind. Always do your research and always use the appropriate keywords! Also, remember the old saying: “People always look for reasons NOT to do business with you. So don’t give them more of these reasons.” 

When you speak of irrelevant things, or make grammatical errors, or write endless paragraphs, or use templates, or sound unprofessional, or sound too informal, or you show laziness, you only decrease you chances of being hired. Pay attention and don’t rush it. We’ve got a quality-over-quantity situation here. Better late than too early. Every little detail matters a great deal. That’s the most important aspect of business communication for you as a musician. 

The Second and Third Paragraphs 

As you might remember, the second paragraph is nothing more than support for the first one. What was your so-called ‘thesis’? “I am…blah-blah…and I want a gig.” That’s what you want, right? That’s what I talked about in the 101 article. Keep it simple, professional, and straightforward. No implications – only clear statements. 

Now that you have refined the first paragraph with some appropriate keywords, it’s time to write the second one – the support for the ‘thesis’. It’s simpler than you might imagine, believe me. The manager has already decided whether you get the gig or not. Let’s suppose for now that you are getting it. 

What you need here is reasons. Simply think of reasons why you are a good fit for that particular venue. State the reasons. Then, write something like “Because of my experience…(or whatever your reasons are)… I believe that I am a good fit for your club.” But remember something. Is it a club? Do they like being called ‘a club’? Do your research and find out. You see how little things can make a big difference? 

Once again, no implications – be clear. I’ve told you this before. Don’t imply things, state them. Don’t say stuff like, “I have lived in Boston for 20 years.” So what? What are trying to say with that? You have fans from Boston or you know what people like to listen to in Boston? Don’t let the manager guess. “I have experience…That’s why I can...I have even more experience…Therefore…” That’s the structure for all ‘support paragraphs’ (could be more than one). 

You know, this time I will not give you a template. I want to see some original and honest emails. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s why I’m here – to help. With me, you can practice as much as you want, for free. Business communication also needs practicing, just like music.

How Can We Get in Touch? 

Via the contact form on my website. That’s the simplest and most convenient way.

What about the Third Paragraph? 

The third paragraph is the conclusion. It should not inform the manager of anything new or different. In fact, it’s more accurate to call it the ‘final paragraph’ because your support can get longer than a single paragraph sometimes, although I do not recommend this. The shorter, the better, but if you have a lot of relevant stuff to say, I wouldn’t stop you. 

Even though there’s no template this time, I’ll give you some guiding tips for the final paragraph: 

  • Start with “Thank you for reading my email/application/(or whatever you call this thing).” That’s the best beginning for a final paragraph – it’s highly professional and appropriate for any situation. I slipped. I couldn’t help but give you a complete sentence for granted. Hope you appreciate that. However, always try to be yourself! 
  • Prompt the manager, don’t be cautious. I mean, don’t write stuff like “Feel free to contact me should you decide that you accept my offer.” No! That’s terrible! The manager just won’t answer. Prompt him/her. Say, for example, “I am looking forward to hearing from you soon and discussing further details. You may expect my phone call on Thursday, [date & time]…” That’s how it’s done. You just need to be assertive and straightforward. Push! Behave as if you’re already accepted. Confidence always wins in the music industry. Even a negative response is better that no response, at all.

But We Never Mentioned Money? I want venues to pay me! 

I talk about money in the 103 article. You already have the structure and guidelines for the email, but 103 discusses the financial aspect of live music gigs – when to talk about money, how much to charge, how to make a profit, how to negotiate, how to make sure you get the money, and so on. It’s gonna be fun, don’t worry. 

I Don’t Agree with You 

I’ve said this before. I’m happy when someone disagrees with me. I like people who are not afraid to publicly state an opinion. Comment below if you want to start a discussion on this whole thing. I would be glad to participate! Incredible ideas often come from big discussions.

In a Nutshell

The key takeaway from this article is to tweak your email according to the needs of each particular venue. Don't use templates. Also, being confident and assertive works better than being shy. Always do your research and prioritize quality over quantity. Remember that you're building your own authority in the music world. So, don't mess up the first impressions you give. Once you learn some basic business communication skills, you'll have nothing to worry about or be ashamed of. Offer your musical product to venues and you'll soon witness progress in your career.

Practice with Me for Free 

I just want to remind you that you can always send me a message via the contact form if you want to practice the ‘gig email’ and receive personal feedback from me. That’s free of charge. No catch here. 

Keep on making great music and learning the business communication tips I have given you. Things will work out eventually. Just don’t lose your motivation. 

If you want to do something, you will always find a way. If you don’t want to do it, you’ll always find an excuse. Right? See you!

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