Live Music in Dallas: Tips for Finding and Booking Gigs

Booking Live Music Gigs In DallasDallas is rich with music history, and the bustling city offers numerous venues to showcase your talents. Grab your guitar, drums, jazz sax, or microphone, and get ready to book a gig playing live music in Dallas:

Find Your Sound

Before you can knock the music industry’s proverbial socks off, you’ll need to prepare yourself for booking gigs. Luckily, the first step is also the fun part – start making music! Prior to landing a dream gig, you’ll need to practice as much as possible to figure out your strengths and weaknesses so that you can continue to improve. Don’t obsess over perfection, though – booking gigs should be fun! Just keep in mind that approaching venues before you’re ready might hurt your chances of getting booked there later, so give proper time and attention to your craft beforehand to ensure that you’re ready.

“Demo”-nstrate Your Talents

Even the most instinctive booking agent won’t know you without receiving your demo, and this important tool is usually necessary for securing gigs. Don’t stress about having a demo that sounds perfectly smooth; these are meant to showcase your sound and musical stylings, not serve as a final cut. Many computer-savvy artists today record demos using their own personal computers. If you don’t feel confident in your recording skills, consider booking a studio and seek guidance from those who know their way around one. Demos usually consist of three to four of your most catchy songs, so you’ll want to edit your musical collection to best showcase your range and individual style.

Promote Yourself

Imagine that you’re the booking agent for a great venue in Dallas’ Deep Ellum. Would you want the musical talents you’re booking to arrive with a solid fan base, or all alone? Crowds make venues happy, of course! Get the word out about your band, whether through word of mouth, social media, newspaper articles, fliers, a website… or all of the above. Creating an electronic press kit (EPK) is a great way to combine your article collection, band biography, and demo into a concise presentation for booking agents.

If you write your own material, The Door may just be the place to go knocking. This venue, located at 2513 Main Street, first opened its doors in Deep Ellum in May 1998. According to its website, The Door promotes and facilitates artists with original material – so while it allows some covers, you’re better off coming with original songs. All of its bookings are done through email, and you’ll need to include your band name, contact information, and an online music link, along with basic information on your music style, audience age, and former shows played. Don’t fret if you’ve never played a show before – you’re still a contender!

Draw Some Applause

Dallas has lots of opportunities to get heard, and a great way to do that – especially as a newbie – is to try your hand at open mic nights. Not only does this build invaluable experience, but it gives you the confidence you need to approach venues about scheduled performances. You’ll grow your fan base here, as well, and you can document your open mic shows on your website or blog. Take full advantage of any open mic opportunities.  With each performance, you’ll get more and more comfortable with playing in front of a variety of crowds… plus, you never know who in the audience might be scouting talent!

  • Opening Bell Coffee, located at 1409 South Lamar Street, has made a name for itself on reality television shows such as E!’s “The Opening Act” and the series “Troubadour Texas”. Described as “Dallas’ best acoustic live music venue and coffee bar,” the coffeehouse frequently offers live music. To book a gig, you’ll need to complete an online interest form and submit a link to your music.
  • Mokah Coffee Bar is also located in the arts hub of Deep Ellum at 2803 Taylor Street. The venue is described as “passionate about two things: good coffee and people sharing what they love through music, art, and conversation.” Thursday nights and weekends typically provide opportunities for local music to be heard, and those interested in booking a gig here can contact the establishment through Mokah’s website or by telephone.
  • Labyrinth Walk Coffeehouse, located at 3839 West Kiest Boulevard, describes itself as “a live music venue featuring a variety of musicians and events.” Labyrinth features a monthly JazzJam held on the second Sunday, as well as indoor and outdoor concerts. Its Jazz Under the Stars and OakCliff JazzFest are offered in the spring and fall, respectively. With a non-smoking, non-alcoholic environment, this coffeehouse is ideal for teenagers looking for an age-appropriate venue. Be advised that the coffeehouse does not book based on CD alone, and instead encourages those playing their live music in Dallas to let LWCH know beforehand so representatives can watch. By putting yourself out there, you’re bound to get some recognition!
  • For our last option, prepare to be star-struck! Trees opened in May 1990 at 2709 Elm Street, and this acclaimed spot is known for its history of live music in Dallas and the Fort Worth area. With past shows by Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Deftones, Dave Matthews Band, Tool, and Erykah Badu, it’s no wonder that bands are drawn to this noted venue. Bands can inquire about booking gigs via email.

Festival Exposure

Another excellent way to gain exposure and experience is through participation in local music festivals. The annual Wildflower! Arts and Music Festival is held in May in Richardson, Texas, which is less than 20 minutes outside of Dallas.  Several local scouts attend this widely promoted event in search of the next big music acts. Whether you’re a singer, songwriter, or part of a band, the festival offers numerous opportunities to get your music heard. Simply send your EPK and application to the festival coordinators. Festivals like this provide wonderful ways for new talent to showcase live music in Dallas and neighboring areas.

Located at 9555 North Central Expy, Uncle Calvin’s Coffeehouse states that it “actively seeks artists out at concerts, conferences, festivals, and their song circles and competitions.” The coffeehouse does not accept unsolicited recordings or submissions, and instead recruits new talent by attending these showcases around town.  This venue also scouts new talent from the Wildflower! Arts and Music Festival, which is one more reason to perform there.

Dallas has a solid history of music at its core and a bright future ahead for emerging performers. Good luck!


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Photo by John Peterson

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