TPM 52 | Book Gigs

 

Are you interested in figuring out a way to have a career in music? In this episode, Jared Judge shares his journey of having a hard time and not wanting to land a corporate job because he would like to pursue his love and passion for music. Coming across a problem with one of his booking schedules made him realize what he lacked: booking and managing gigs. So he developed an application that helped him. Now, he extends his success by helping others book theirs. Jared shares how he helps musicians manage their private gigs while also coaching hundreds of performing groups about making a living off of music. Listen and find out how he overcame the difficulties that came his way.

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The Secret To Booking And Managing 150+ Private Gigs Each Year With Jared Judge

I’m excited to be here with Jared Judge from BookLive. I’m excited because I love talking gigs. We’re going to talk about some things that are going to help you expand your repertoire when it comes to gigs. A lot of times, we feel like we’re boxed in a little bit with gigs. I’m a big fan of finding those alternative venues where you don’t have to bring the audience, all that stuff that is frustrating as a musician when you feel like you have to do all the heavy lifting for your gigs. I’m excited to be getting into this conversation with Jared. Before we start talking about all that juicy stuff, Jared, I’d love for you to give them a little background on you as a musician and how you got into talking specifically about booking gigs.

Thanks for having me, Bree. I appreciate it. I’ve been a musician all my life, ever since I was eight years old and I picked up a violin. I loved it so much that I decided to go to school for it. Much to the dismay of my band director, who was trying to discourage me from going to school for music, saying it would be very hard to make a living doing what you love. He was trying to weed out those who weren’t serious about it.

I pursued and got two degrees in Music. I got a Bachelor’s in Music Education. I taught public school for a couple of years. I was teaching little kids up to high schoolers. I decided to go back and get my Master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting. At that point, I had my heart set on being a professional orchestra conductor either for an opera or a symphony orchestra. I was doing what most musicians want to pursue that heavy goal. What they do is dive all in. You take all your lessons, learn your music theory and history and take whatever advanced courses you want to or have to. I didn’t want to be a librarian but I was taking music library sciences. I was one of the crazy ones who did.

As I was getting close to graduating with my Master’s in Orchestral Conducting, I was flying across the country, taking these auditions, spending thousands of dollars on plane tickets and hotel rooms, sacrificing everything to try to win that one spot. Every single audition, I would like to get to the final round and then I would be cut. It was so frustrating that each one, I felt like my dream was slipping out of my hands. It came to a head when I took an audition for the Air Force Band to be a conductor for the Air Force.

When I took the audition and as someone who studied conducting, you know what it feels like to stand in front of these musicians. You’ve got 100 of them. They’re watching you and judging your musical abilities or at least you feel that way. It feels like being on American Idol except with 100 Simon Cowells but I got through it and I thought we made some great music.

The commander of the band asked me, “Please come to my office and shut the door behind you.” I was getting excited but also nervous. He says, “Jared, that was a good audition. You have a lot of talent and the exams that we had you take before you did well on but we can’t offer you the job at this time. Come back again in a year and try again.” I couldn’t come back in a year because I was graduating from my Master’s program and had to get a job to pay the bills. It was super frustrating.

I’m curious. Do you feel like it had anything to do with you being young?

I’m not so sure. The person who did get the spot was a little younger than me.

I’m asking because I used to work at the opera and I feel like there was some of that stigma of we can’t bring on someone that’s super young because they’re not seasoned but how do you get seasoned?

You need to start treating your music career like a business. Click To Tweet

I’m sure that was the case for some of my other auditions but not this Air Force one because I got to see who got the job. They were younger than me. I’ll get to the gigging part soon. This is important to understand the backstory because I was losing hope in that dream. When I finally flew back to Milwaukee where I was in grad school, I reported back to my teachers like, “Another failure. Help me out here. What do I do? I was graduating in a couple of months. I’m seeing all of my classmates graduate with no music jobs. How do I make money as a musician so that I don’t have to work a corporate job or in food service?”

The crazy part was they told me they had no advice for me. They said, “Keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe you’ll get lucky. You can teach to support your income until you finally get that job.” It’s like, “I’ll teach but that’s not why I started being a musician in the first place.” I was not happy with their advice. They did give me one piece of advice that was the most important advice. They said, “We can’t help you here but our college has a business school. You can go ask their advice.”

I did take their advice and walked across campus to the business school. I said, “I’m this nerdy little musician. I don’t want to be a business major. I want to figure out how to have a career in music. The music school is not helping. Can you help?” Thankfully, they were very kind to me. They said, “Yes, we got your back.” They gave me essentially free private lessons in how to start a business. They had this student startup challenge where they helped all of their mostly undergrads but a couple of grad students too, to start a business. They told me, “You need to start treating your music career as a business.”

You were a business major. The business school love post-it notes. Every wall was covered with post-it notes of ideas and things. It felt like such a creative space, which I was surprised by because I had always thought in business schools, you got to wear your suits and ties. Nobody is creative. It’s all about numbers and making money. The creative energy coming from this place was incredible. They were helping me build a career out of music.

Honestly, the entrepreneurial side has gotten into schools. I went to school in the mid-’90s. It was just starting. I did take an entrepreneurship class and I still feel like it was very book-oriented. It wasn’t like what you’re talking about but I felt like they were trying. They finally got to the point where it’s like, “We need to teach these people to be entrepreneurs.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the music building. That was in the business building. When I went through that incubator program, they taught me how to treat my music career as a business. Specifically, in my case, because I am a violinist, they taught me how to launch a wedding string quartet. It’s not just weddings but there are markets of people that will pay a high price to have live music at their event. They said, “Let’s focus on weddings because the violin is a good match for that.”

I bet nonprofits are a good match for that too. We’ve had so many fancy events at the opera where we had things like that.

Corporate events had too. They said, “Let’s start with one. When you master one, you can add on more.” I was like, “I trust you.” They taught me the very basics about marketing myself like how to get the word out in front of the people who have access to my ideal customer, which at the time was brides and grooms. It still is. I still play lots of weddings.

They taught me the marketing part. They said, “Once you have all these people who are interested in you, you can’t just respond to emails like you’re better than them or give them one-word answers. You have to take them through what they call a sales process.” I was like, “I don’t know what this is. I’m a musician. They don’t teach that in music theory class.” They were like, “Here is a script that people have used to sell wedding services in the past. Read, study and adapt it to what you do. We’ll practice a couple of times and you’ll sell me live music.” I was like, “This is weird but I trust you. Let’s do it.”

TPM 52 | Book Gigs

Book Gigs: As musicians, we want to play as much music as possible and delight as many audience members as possible.

 

I did it and practiced with the business teachers. That gave me the confidence that when I had my first bride and groom come to me saying, “We need a string quartet for our wedding down in Illinois. What do you do?” I got my script out. I was so uncomfortable doing this. I had to start reading the script. I couldn’t wing it. I read it to them. I could tell that their eyes lit up and they were excited that I could provide what they wanted at their wedding. They asked, “How do we book you?” That’s when I fumbled because at that time, I didn’t have a contract. I was like, “You can Venmo this account?”

You didn’t have a way for them to pay?

I used my personal Venmo. After talking to that couple, I went back to the business people and said, “I booked my gig. They put some money in my Venmo.” They were like, “That’s great but you got to use a contract.” That’s when I learned contracts. Years prior, I had played a professional gig, which was a wedding for a friend of a friend without a contract and I had gotten stiffed. They were like, “You’re going to get stiffed again if you don’t.”

Fast forward a little bit, after they taught me those business skills, the last step that they said is, “Once you have this process down, all you have to do is repeat this process until you have enough high paying gigs to meet your income goals so that you don’t have to get a job to meet that income goal elsewhere.” I did. Within a year of me starting that live music business, which still exists, I’m still playing about 150 weddings, even in the middle of COVID, that is when we booked our first six figures in bookings within a year, which was crazy. I didn’t think that I could book that on my own. I always thought I would have to settle for gigs that paid $50 here and there. I didn’t think it could provide me an income unless I won an audition.

You’ve got people on the payroll. There are other people in the quartet. It’s just not you but you’re doing all the admin stuff. Did you feel like at that point you were making the income for yourself that you wanted yet?

When I first hit the six figures, no. A quartet is four people. If you divide $100,000, that’s $25,000 per person.

Assuming you were taking some for doing all the admin work unless your other people were also doing the selling.

I started not taking any, which was a mistake. The business school told me, “You got to start taking some money because you’re doing all this work that your other musicians are not.” That’s when I started putting in a profit margin and then paying myself some more for doing that work. That’s when I realized that I had to book even more than six figures a year to make my personal goals work.

How long ago was that?

Learn the basics of marketing and discover how to get your ideal customers. You have to take them to a sales process. Click To Tweet

I started on this path in 2016.

Fast forward, where are you? You’re still doing that side but it sounds like you’ve also added some other things.

All of my classmates were graduating and not getting a music job. That was painful to watch because we were all pursuing the same goals. If anyone’s been in music school, there’s this comradery with your classmates. You don’t want anything bad to happen to them. When they were graduating without these music jobs, they started asking me, “How do we start booking these private events for ourselves and make some money so we don’t have to work corporate jobs?” I started teaching them. I was doing it for free to start to make sure it worked for them, not just for myself and it did, which was awesome to see. I’ve been taking on some students and putting together some courses to teach other musicians how to treat their live music careers as live music businesses.

That’s another way that I help out musicians. I do make money off of that too but that’s not the reason why I’m doing it. Another crazy thing was that doing all of this takes a lot of work. A lot of that work is not playing music. As musicians, we want to play as much music and delight as many audience members as possible. Nowhere in that is like, “I want to do as much administrative work as possible.” This was becoming a problem for me starting in grad school but even right afterward. When you’re a student, that should be the only thing that you do because you’re trying to dive deep into something and your professors have these expectations. I was booking all these gigs and doing all this administrative work so it was taking away from my studies.

Fast forward to the fall of the following year, I had gotten married. My wife and I wanted to go out on a date to pick some apples because that’s what you do in the fall in Wisconsin. Up until that point, I had been using spreadsheets, email threads, text messages and some in Facebook Messenger to keep track of my gigs. It’s very messy. In music school, nobody teaches that at all. In the business school, they’re like, “Use a spreadsheet. You’ll be fine.” For a while, I was up until I wasn’t. That was when I was an hour outside of my city, picking Honeycrisp apples with Emily. I remember the variety.

As I’m picking them, I get a phone call from a wedding planner and it’s a Saturday afternoon. Usually, that’s when weddings are but I had checked my spreadsheet. I was like, “I’m good.” When I saw the wedding planner’s name on my phone, my heart started pounding a little faster. I had this thought in the back of my mind like, “What did I do?” I answered it. My worst fears were true. She was yelling on the other end. She said, “Jared, the bride walks down the aisle in ten minutes. Where are the strings?” I didn’t know what to do. I froze. I apologized to her. I said, “Let me figure this out. I will call you right back.” I tried calling every string player in Milwaukee that I had their phone number. Nobody could get to this wedding in ten minutes.

I called the DJ and said, “I screwed up bad. Can you please cover the ceremony? I will clean up this mess after the wedding.” Luckily, the DJ said, “I got you.” Afterward, I called the wedding planner, the bride and the groom and their parents. I had to go on this apology tour and it was so embarrassing. I felt terrible because I ruined somebody’s wedding. I thought that at that point, my gigging career was over. I’d worked so hard working with the business school, figuring this out. I ruined it all in one slip of the mind or slip of the spreadsheet. I refunded their money for the string quartet. I also paid for their DJ because I felt so bad. I went on a little bit of a drinking tour too.

A couple of days after that, I was at a bar and wanted to come home. I wasn’t going to drink and drive. I called an Uber. I don’t know how I thought of this in my less than sober state. There’s an app that’s managing a gig for the driver. It’s telling the driver where to go like the date and the time. It’s telling them the venue to pick me up at and then pay the driver afterward. I bet there’s no staff at Uber pushing these buttons to make it happen. It just all happens. I was like, “I need something like that for my gigs. If I had that then I wouldn’t have missed this one gig.”

I started to look. Is there anything out there that does this? Nothing did it the way that I needed it to help me run a busy private event group. I decided that I would pull out the old coding book that I had started to learn in middle school. I pull several all-nighters and figure out how to create this very basic first version of what’s now BookLive.com. I put in “Our next wedding.” I said, “It’s November 12th at this venue. I need two violins, a Viola and a cello to fill out the string quartet. I want Paul here, Mia on the second violin, Catherine on Viola and Jackie on cello.” I told the app that. I pressed one button and then it spat out emails to all four of them, including myself.

TPM 52 | Book Gigs

Book Gigs: With live musicians, we’re reading the room, seeing the action that’s going on, and adjusting our playing to match the event.

 

It also sent them all text messages and gave them an option. It told them, “Here’s the date, time, venue and how much it pays. Click this button if you’re available. Click no, if you’re not.” I prayed that it worked. The crazy part was within 30 seconds, I got vibration on my phone that said, “Paul said yes.” Thirty seconds later, it said, “Catherine’s not available but Dana is available. Would you like me to put her instead?” All of a sudden, I had this light bulb moment. I freed myself from the administrative hell that I was in before.

That app started there but it’s expanded into something, not just staff these gigs and make sure that I’m not going to miss one but also help me write and send these contracts so that all my gigs are secure and I’m not going to get stiffed like I once did. It also saves my time working with all of the brides and grooms because it lets them log in and pick their wedding playlist. It’s super helpful for me.

My students asked me, “We wanted to use that for our gigs too. Will you let us?” I thought about it and I was like, “That could be cool. Here’s a special login for you.” Since then, we have had about 2,000 musicians who are using the BookLive software to get themselves out of the administrative hell that they might’ve created for themselves by booking all of these high-paying gigs.

Has it been more regional or do you have people using it worldwide?

It’s mostly the US. We do have one Canadian user. We’re trying to keep it US because we know the US gigging landscape more so than international, plus the legalities of selling things internationally. We’re not quite sure about it yet so we’re not trying to sell outside of the US.

I seriously didn’t know about this app. This is helpful. A lot of our readers are going to check it out. While we’re talking about it, how can they check it out? They’ll be excited to try to use it.

If they go to BookLive.com, there’s a page that will give them a two-week free trial to give it a shot. Once they go into it, we have some training courses inside of it like how to use automation for music. It sounds intimidating automating things but we make it super easy and musician-friendly because we’re all musicians ourselves.

Let’s talk about the gig landscape over the past years. It’s been crazy. It sounds like you still had gigs throughout this COVID period. How did you manage that? How has it looked?

When COVID hit March of 2020, there was a little bit of like, “Wait and see what’s going to happen.” I remember when I first heard about it, I was doing trivia at a bar and I heard the word Coronavirus for the first time. I was like, “I don’t need to worry about that. That’s not going to come to the US.” It did come to the US and for a while, nothing happened except all of the leads that we usually get like the people saying, “We need you for our wedding,” started to dry up a little bit. I was like, “I’m going to wait and see here.”

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We had people we’d already booked saying, “Unfortunately, we have to postpone our wedding. Will you help us postpone it? We still want your strings when it does happen.” We had to figure out the whole, “How do we postpone a lot of weddings?” Things shut down for a little bit, which meant our income source was drying up as musicians. You don’t get paid unless you play, which meant we had to pivot and figure out other ways to earn a living. I did a lot of virtual gigs.

I’ve followed your show before. A lot of your guests have mentioned, “We’ve done virtual gigs.” I was in that boat too. The crazy thing about private events though is that the private events come back faster than the public events. If it’s a private business, there are fewer restrictions on how many people can be in there. I don’t get political about anything so save that for whatever. We were playing weddings earlier than many of the public concerts were happening.

They’re usually smaller. They could decide, “I don’t want to postpone my wedding anymore. I’m going to bring it down from 100 people to 50 people.

It wasn’t coined but that’s when the term micro wedding came into popularity during COVID. These are the 10 to 20 people weddings. We played lots of micro weddings and partnered with a cool venue here in Milwaukee, Bottle House 42. They have started selling micro wedding packages at their venue, which is all included for 10 to 20 people, the venue rental, catering and beverages. Plus, as part of their package, a strategy that I taught was they included a solo violin or cello from my company. This was a cool partnership. By default, they are selling my gig to the people who want to book their venue.

When you connect with them, do you say, “We also have a quartet available.”

I do upsell them.

The whole micro wedding thing has become a thing. It’s helpful to young people to know that that’s an option because weddings can be so expensive and to feel like it’s okay to have a micro wedding.

It gives them a bit more freedom about it. The wedding industry is interesting. I love being a member of it but I would never pay $50,000 for a wedding. When I got married, it was less than half of that but some people go all out and pay $100,000 or more on a wedding. As a musician, that gives me a lot of hope because people are willing to spend a lot of money on an experience. If you can position your group as a way for them to get that experience then you can charge a high price. Ultimately, that’s the whole idea behind making a living through private events.

If you can paint that picture of what it would look like without music, I can imagine it in my head. It’s an amazing venue. Everything looks awesome but dead. If there’s no sound in the background, it does not sound appealing.

I’ll tell you a little bit about my sales process that the business school taught me how to do a sales process. When I am talking to brides and grooms, I do give them a presentation about my group, specifically about their perfect wedding with my group. One of the stories I tell is, “If you have a DJ playing your walk down the aisle when you get to the aisle and you’re ready to start the wedding, the DJ is not a live musician. The DJ is a live person and you can call them a musician too but at the end of the day, they’re playing a track where they have two options of how to end that track. Either they turn the volume down, which if they do that and the singer’s in the middle of a word, you’re going to miss half the word or they could press the stop button and it’ll completely stop all the music and feel awkward.

TPM 52 | Book Gigs

Book Gigs: As musicians, it’s hard to value our services monetarily if we don’t spell them out in a process.

 

I tell all of my weddings that because that paints a clear picture. I say, “With live musicians, we’re reading the room, seeing the action that’s going on and adjust our playing to match it so that when you arrive at the end of the aisle, that’s when we find a natural spot in our music to fade out gracefully.” I play them a video of us doing that at a wedding. That’s when the light bulb goes off in their minds and they’re sold.

Weddings are one kind of private event. What other private events do you do and teach?

Corporate events are a big one. During COVID, that’s been a less realistic thing to do because corporations have not had their larger events but they are coming back. If you can imagine a corporate event where they’re throwing a cocktail hour or a big conference where they want some music for their reception, those are nice because corporations have big wallets and they can afford that. They want to give their clients that experience. Nonprofit galas as well.

I’m curious about the corporate ones. How do you position it? I can imagine they’re thinking, “If we’re having a cocktail hour in a hotel, we can pipe music through the speakers.” How do you position that to why they need live music?

For corporations, a big thing in corporate event planning is they want to give people an immersive experience. While they could pipe music in, it gives a much more in the moment experience to have a live musician that when your guests walk into that ballroom, they see there’s a band on stage and there’s an interaction between the band and the guests, that is a much more immersive experience that creates a lasting impression for those clients.

I’m painting that picture for them. Some of them, especially if they’re not musicians, are not thinking that way. A lot of what you’re talking about in the sales process is telling them a story in a way that they’re getting the value of what you have because, as musicians, we see it but a lot of times it’s not immediately clear to them until you paint that picture.

This is slightly unrelated. The story I always heard about Vince Lombardi, the Green Bay Packers football coach is that when he brought all of the players in for training before the football season, he would tell something on all of these professional NFL players. He would hold up the football and say, “This is a football.” Then he would talk about it in the most basic terms like, “These are the laces.” While it may be obvious to us, it’s not obvious to everybody. It’s especially not obvious to non-musicians. If we could spell out the things that seem obvious to us that we no longer even think about, that’s what gives our live music value before we have a chance to perform for them.

Sometimes we’re not thinking like that because we’re so far beyond that. I experienced this as a course creator too. Certain things to me are completely ingrained. I realized I didn’t spell these out to people that are new to certain things. It’s hard to remind yourself of that sometimes when you’re in it. Let’s talk about how people can break into this industry. You talked about some of the mistakes that people make when they’re breaking into the industry. I’m sure you probably made some of them. That’s how we all learned our mistakes.

The first mistake would be undercharging because as musicians, it’s hard to value our services monetarily if we don’t spell them out in a process like listing out what goes into an actual performance that we give. One of the tools that I use is an offer stack, which breaks my performance. It’s a table in a spreadsheet. Don’t be intimidated by spreadsheets. It’s cool.

Music can provide you with an income, believe it or not. Click To Tweet

Each line in the spreadsheet is something that I bring to each performance. I bring one hour of my time. In the next column of that, I put how much that hour is worth, which I start at $250. The next item would be the instruments that I bring. I list out, “Here’s the dollar value of my violin.” That’s in the tens of thousands of dollars range. You keep going the list. How many songs are in your library? What did it cost you to either buy the sheet music for that? How much time did you invest in learning in that? Put your dollar amount. All of a sudden, you’ve got this massive number at the bottom. That is a truthful number because it is what you’re bringing to every single gig.

Not to mention all the years of education, learning the violin and all that.

How much did your Music degrees cost? How much did you spend on private lessons over the years? That is one of the biggest tools. Not just being able to come up with a good price but to internalize like, “I am worth this amount.” I feel like if musicians did that for themselves, it would be game-changing because then we would stop playing $50 gigs at bars and instead start charging what we’re worth.

Sometimes the value stack is even more valuable for us than it is for the people that we’re talking to because we have to believe that we’re worth that. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves, “This is why I am charging this much.” Look that over before you start getting into that booking conversation and then you’ll feel like, “I am worth this. I’m approaching this as a very confident person that I should be charging this much.“

If you do start charging what you’re worth then everything changes because you’re able to afford a more comfortable lifestyle. You’re not just chasing all these gigs that aren’t worth your time. You don’t have to take on as many private students to fill the gaps in your income. I was thinking about another mistake that a lot of musicians or at least I will be honest, that I made. When I first started, I did not realize that I am a member of this larger event planning community. When I’m playing at a wedding, it’s not about me at all. You have to learn to forego your ego. That’s when you start to realize that there are so many parts to this puzzle.

There are event planners who are making sure all of these things are happening. Florists are trying to make the event look as good as it can. When you first start, you’re thinking, “I’m the musician. I’m going to play my music, get paid and leave.” What happens when a florist is struggling because the piece that they’re putting up behind the altar is like falling? I’ve made it a point to when I’m all ready, set up and warmed up, I’ll check if anybody needs help. Not that I’m saying, “Here’s free labor,” but being a responsible and willing member of this event planning team and making sure. If the florist dropped something, go pick it up and help them out.

I love that because it is a team that’s putting it together. You’re an independent contractor but you’re a member of the team for that one event. That’s where you’re going to get a ton of referrals. You might get referrals from the bride but you also might get referrals from the florist and the event planner. The event planner does their next event. They decide they want a string quartet and they don’t have one that they know about. She’s going to call you.

It is about partnerships. Think about it when a bride and groom have a good experience with you and they’re thinking about, “Can they refer you to anybody?” They might only know 1 or 2 more engaged couples who are eligible to have you perform at their wedding but that florist might see hundreds of them in a given year. That’s how you build the partnerships by being a member of that team.

There is something that I struggled with when I did events like this. I was also doing public events so I play a different role. In a public event, you’re receiving all of that praise. People are coming up and talking to you afterward, “Your music was so awesome.” They’re buying your CDs, merch and all that stuff. You don’t get any of that when you’re working a private event like maybe afterward when the bride loves it and tells you about it or maybe there are a few people during the event that say that they love what you did but mostly you’re in the background. You are one of the cogs in the wheel that make the event work. Did you ever struggle with something like, “Sidney, over here. I’m not a background music.”

TPM 52 | Book Gigs

Book Gigs: If you start charging what you’re worth, then everything changes because you can afford a more comfortable lifestyle.

 

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I missed being showered with praise. I’m an introvert. I’ve learned to cope with that and fake being an extrovert well enough to make it work. I enjoy that role. Back when I was in a fourth-grade orchestra, my orchestra director told me, “You are a good second violinist.” At that time, I was insulted but then I realized that there is so much importance to being a supportive role in somebody in service of the greater good.

At the same time, even though I don’t get that direct feedback from everybody like at a wedding, I do still see the transformation that my music causes. I see the impact it has on the bride as she walks down the aisle and the tears coming down from people in the audience. There are even kids that will come up and dance to our violin music as we’re playing. It might not be like applause and people might not be buying my merch left and right. I still get to have that satisfaction of like, “I’ve changed these people’s lives with my music.”

I experienced that too. It’s a mindset shift when you’ve done a lot of public events. You singers out there, if you feel weird when you do a wedding or something like that because you’re used to getting a lot of kudos and stuff, it’s a different role and a transition in your mind. It’s good to do both personally.

We do both as well. We do mostly private events but we do play at festivals and some other public things. I’m trying to get this strings and beer brewery concert series going. I’ve had this idea since grad school. I want to pair different beers with different pieces of either classical or contemporary music for my string quartet. As we’re playing our music, I want to encourage our guests to drink those beers like, “Here’s a German piece. Drink this German lager with it.”

That’s fun. It’s breaking a little what I feel would be the norm. You feel like wine goes with strings. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my opera training but we always had wine. We didn’t have a beer at the opera.

Maybe my view is shifted because Milwaukee is a beer city.

You’re from Milwaukee and you probably liked beer better. You’re thinking about it that way. It’s fun. It’s a little outside the box. I love that idea. Is there anything that we haven’t covered yet that you want to make sure to tell people around private gigs?

There’s a lot to it. It’s not as hard to get into them as you think. It is a relationship-based business. It’s not that hard to find out who the partners are that I need to get on my side. I do teach exactly how to do this. I’ll preview a part of what I teach. I do what’s called the venue tour funnel where I teach musicians like, “Here’s how to identify all the venues in your city or within 50 miles that have access to the type of private events that would give you a chance to play your music and earn a living doing it. Here are the exact email templates that you need to send to schedule a tour with the person at that venue, what do you do at the tour, which involves bringing your instrument, which is a lot of fun and then following up with them.”

It’s a pretty simple strategy but I don’t see a lot of musicians doing it. It has crazy results. I went on a venue tour myself of this super awesome private events venue in Milwaukee. They’ve got a gallery wall with all original Milwaukee art from the 1920s. I brought my violin and played some holiday tunes. The venue owner was very impressed because one, not many musicians bring their instrument to a venue and two, she was like, “This would be such a great fit for the people who have their events here. Can I record you playing and post it to my LinkedIn?” Why not? Sounds great to me.” I played a little rendition of O Christmas Tree. She posted it on LinkedIn. It gets likes, comments and shares. That’s free marketing for me because I decided to reach out and say, “I want to play my instrument in your venue.”

You build the partnerships by being a member of that team. Click To Tweet

You’re also making them look good. People are seeing that on LinkedIn and are like, “I love that. That’s so cool. It goes so well with the art and all that stuff.” That’s a great strategy to start getting in with some of the venues. People don’t get into this market because it is so referral-based. Once you get in, you’ve got this circle of people that constantly refer you, especially if you make relationships with event planners, florists and people in the industry that are meeting people all the time. The first thing that people tend to go to is, “Is there some online marketplace where I can put myself up for this kind of thing?” Do you even recommend that? Do you feel like that’s going to maybe find you a few people here and there but not the best way to spend your time?

I do recommend those online marketplaces but it is risky because most of those online marketplaces you have to pay to be listed in. The ideal strategy, if you have as much time and money as possible, would be to list yourself everywhere and do everything. I would start with a few of the online marketplaces. If you can’t afford them, some would let you do a lower tier if you don’t pay anything. You’ll get a few inquiries here and there. Once you start to book some of those paying shows, you can invest a little more in the higher paid categories too.

Do you find that the online marketplaces tend to attract people that are going for the lowest price? That’s what I’ve found too. I’ve heard that from a lot of my students.

That’s the nature of marketplaces. When somebody goes to a marketplace, they see a lot of musicians in this same category in their mind and they all look the same. There are 50 different acoustic guitar players in my city and they all play the same songs. How do you differentiate between them? For somebody who’s coming and looking to hire, the only differentiating thing is price, which means it’s a race to the bottom. That’s no bueno.

That’s why you have to learn how to stop being a commodity and differentiate yourself. I list myself on those directories but my big strategy is like, “I don’t want the conversation to happen on that directory.” They give you messaging platforms inside them. If you stay within that, all of a sudden, you’re competing against all the other messages from everybody else who’s priced cheaper than you.

That’s why I try to bring them into my sales process and use that to differentiate myself, demonstrate the value of what I do. It works. I’m no longer just attracting bottom feeders. It’s funny. You can tell who is a price shopper when they send you your first message. When I send them my message, which gets them to book a meeting with me, if they resist booking a meeting with me, that’s how I know that they wanted the cheapest one anyway. Not worth my time.

This has been so awesome. I have enjoyed this because I don’t think I’ve had anyone on here talking about specifically these kinds of private events. I talk a lot about things like house concerts, which are a hybrid. They’re like a private, public event, which is a little interesting. I love them but this is a whole other market if people have tried to get into.

As a singer, I dabbled in this and I liked it when I got these kinds of gigs but I never went all in. Especially being in Southern California, I could have probably filled my calendar for months if I had focused on this strategy. I appreciate you sharing a lot of things that you teach on the show. I’m excited about your app. I would love for people to go check that out.

I also released a book. It’s called Gigging Secrets and it has all these strategies inside it too.

TPM 52 | Book Gigs

I’m assuming it’s on Amazon.

It’s only available at GiggingSecrets.com. We might make it available on Amazon.

How can they connect with you on social media?

My Instagram is @JaredJudge. I’m also on Facebook. BookLive is @BookLiveApp on Instagram and Facebook.

Connect with him and take advantage of all these awesome resources. Jared, I appreciate you sharing all this wisdom with us.

Bree, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

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About Jared Judge

Jared Judge has had a diverse career in Music and Technology. Having two degrees in music, he served as an elementary and high school band director and ran a non-profit opera house. As a self-proclaimed tech geek, he has built many websites and apps. When he launched his wedding string quartet, Dream City Strings, it immediately became the top-gigging string quartet in Milwaukee. As the administrative work piled high, he launched BookLive as a tool to automate much of that work and to help other musicians run profitable live music businesses. He now coaches hundreds of performing groups on making a living off of music.