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How to find gigs in Rome (and get paid for them)

Having problems finding a venue that hosts live music in Rome? Or are you one of those musicians who has written thousands of emails but never got an answer back? Tired of walking from venue to venue with a CD in your hand, and always getting the same response: “We’ll get back to you”, or “come back tomorrow, our event manager isn’t here today” or, the classic of all classics: “How many people do you bring?”.

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Now, before we review a few strategies to get that gig, you should first define why you really want it. Is your primary scope to promote your original music, build a following, and eventually sell your CD? Do you just want to gather some experience playing in front of a live audience? Or do you simply enjoy a night out with friends and want to have a nice evening together? Are you trying to make a living off live music? First, we need to start by managing expectations.

  • Finding a gig in Rome is possible.
  • Finding a gig where you play for free is easy.
  • Finding a gig where you get paid is not that easy, but not too hard, either.
  • Finding a venue that pays a reasonable amount of money is hard.
  • Finding a venue that pays a reasonable amount of money and takes care of all legal and official paperwork (SIAE, ENPALS) – don’t hold your breath.

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We could spend hours discussing the reasons why it is bad to play for free or at a cheap price (i.e. destroying the market, lowering the expected minimum price in Rome, etc.) vs. why it could actually be a good choice (lowering risk for venue if you’re confident you can make enough money by selling your merchandise and/or with tips). But let’s assume that you are not working on increasing your following, but on making money. You can’t guarantee a crowd, but you’re confident that your music is so good that it will not only keep the people in the venue from leaving the place, but attract passers-by to come in and enjoy an entire evening of your music.

So, what’s the best strategy in Rome? Here are a few tips that we found helpful in recent years, and they always guaranteed gigs. Here we go:

  1. Observe the venue. If possible visit the venue before you contact it, to see if it actually fits your set. See what kind of people are visiting the place. Is the venue empty on a Saturday night? Does it have a sound system? Are many people walking by in the area and could they hear the music from outside? Do you like the vibe of the venue? Could you get along with the staff?
  2. Be polite and professional. Especially if they say no. You’d be surprised how often somebody remembers you because you were acting polite, instead of discussing for half an hour why they should’ve really considered you.
  3. Show them that you really are interested in the venue’s good reputation. Their success is your success. Explain why an evening with you is good for their business. If you know you can entertain people, point out why your act is suited to the venue. If you can engage the audience and you’re confident that they will stay all night, point it out.
  4. In Rome, personal contact is better. Most businesses in Italy start over a coffee or lunch. Get to know the person you’ll be dealing with. Talk with the manager. The music director. Get to know them. Try to engage in a personal conversation, instead of jumping right into business. In Rome, as opposed to other countries, very often a personal connection will help your cause a lot.
  5. Be prepared. Bring CDs, promotional material – but make it look professional and stand out. Don’t hand out handwritten contact information – try to make your DEMO look like a top-notch product. You don’t have to spend a lot of money: there are many services online now that will take care of professional CD labels at a low cost. Consider that people working in a music venue often are busy listening to lots of groups, often while they also have other responsibilities within the venue. Make sure you put all your information together in one place, from your contact info to any selling points that you might like to point out.
  6. Ask for the right price. Weekends are busier, so it’s reasonable that your price is higher on a weekend than on, let’s say, a Monday evening. You may decide for yourself how much your performance is worth. If you think that a big part of your intake is going to be through CD sales or other merchandise, you can take this into account and reduce your fee with the venue. But make sure to clarify this beforehand with the manager, as some venues might not like it if you sell stuff or ask for tips, which they could see as competition for their own tips or merchandise they might sell.
  7. A great way to get to know other musicians is through Open Mics. Knowing other musicians can help you to get a recommendation for a music venue, which will increase your chances of actually getting a gig there.
  8. One last thing- don’t forget that you can also busk in Rome. Depending on the location you choose and the style of your performance, there is a good chance you’ll make good money. All you need to go is get your busker’s licence here, and you’re set!

These are just a few tips and we will continue this series with different ways of presenting yourself to a music venue, as well as alternative ways to monetize your performance.

Did we forget something? Do you think we got something wrong? Or would you like to read more tips like these? Then send us a message to openmicrome@gmail.com – we’ll be glad to have your feedback!

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