Get Out and Play! A Guide to Gigging in the DC Music Scene

Booking Music Gigs In The DC AreaThe DC music scene offers many great opportunities for gigging. Whether you’re a folk artist, a singer-songwriter, a jazz musician, a rocker, or a rapper, you’ll find the nation’s capital is full of awesome venues that book musical acts. So when you’re ready to get your gig on, there are plenty of opportunities, from the vibrant new Southwest area of town to the cobblestone streets of Georgetown. A major plus for new performers: many DC venues are all-ages, so even if you haven’t hit 21 yet, you can still perform on DC stages.

When booking some of the venues you can explore in the DC music scene, here’s what you should focus on:

1. First of all, you should hone in on your genre. Are you folk, jazz, rock,  or something else? Are you part of a band or a solo act? The type of music you play will definitely affect the types of venues you should approach.

2. Second, make sure that you have samples of your work to provide to a venue. Whether it’s a link to an online sample or a CD, you can’t just tell a venue how good you are, you need to prove it! It’s relatively easy to find computer programs or apps that can record you playing, but if you’re serious about a music career, you may want to invest in some recording studio time to create a demo. In the DC area and surrounding suburbs, you can find many smaller studios that will record a two- or three-song demo for you at a reasonable price. Once you have a professionally recorded demo in hand, you can upload it online or burn CDs to hand out when performing. These days, online links are often the preferred way of hearing a musician’s work.

3. Third, create a website or a free Facebook fan page that includes samples of your music, photos of you and/or your band, and a bio. If you haven’t played in any venues previously, note your musical training and background. You can also set up a BandCamp, YouTube, or SoundCloud account to upload your music, and any videos of you performing, even if it’s just you playing in your backyard.

4. Fourth, look in local newspapers and online to find area clubs that feature live music. Armed with that list, you can find the right contact person and take the next step.

Getting Booked

The best way to get booked is through a venue’s website, which will often list exactly how you can get yourself, or your band, on their stage. Make sure you have all your materials prepped, because you’ll most likely need to submit some information to the venue – typically a bio and a sample of your musical work.  Some venues will ask you to supply a link to your website or fan page to hear your sound, others will ask that you submit a CD.

While online contact is most often the way to go, sometimes you may need to pick up the phone and call. So never be afraid to start dialing!

Finally, if a club or coffeehouse has an open mic night, you might want to start by signing up to perform there, and then inquiring who books regular sets for the venue. You may wow the booking manager and get your foot in the door! Plus, it’s great practice for future performances.

So reach out, grab your instrument of choice, prep your band, and get ready, get set, and get going — right into the DC music scene. There are so many exciting venues to explore!


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Photo by Elvert Barnes

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