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Pt. 1, Ashley’s Graduation Party

B.D. Lenz By

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Who is B.D. Lenz and why does he get a column in All About Jazz?

The answer to the first question is that I'm a jazz guitarist/bandleader based out of the northern New Jersey area. The answer to the second question is because I asked.

I've been leading my own band since I graduated from college in 1995 and, during that time, have released ten CDs (six independently) of my original music, have had my songs featured on hundreds of TV shows internationally (such as Breaking Bad, Catfish and No Reservations), and book over 100 gigs per year for my band, including tours of the northeastern US, the UK and Europe. I've accomplished alll this without ever having a booking agent, manager, producer, publisher, or publicist (although I do hire a publicist, on occasion, for specific projects).

In future columns, I hope to inspire other independent artists to do the same with some practical advice I've learned over the years. Like the music business as a whole, the jazz industry is getting smaller, so labels, agents, and other music business types are keeping smaller rosters. But, that's ok: power to the people! The internet has brought many resources to our fingertips, and in future columns I'll be talking about how to harness these resources, as well as strategies for PR, booking, radio, licensing and more.

Let's start with how to get gigs...good gigs. Isn't that why we work so hard and practice so much: to show off our talent to huge, adoring crowds? Of course, there are many different types of gigs, amongst them festivals, clubs, private and corporate, and each requires a different approach.

I want to start out discussing corporate and private gigs. Ok, so playing Ashley's graduation party isn't as prestigious as a five-night run at the Blue Note. But private gigs can be very lucrative, good for networking, and often a lot of fun (and you'll get your fill of cocktail weenies).

How does one find such gigs? I've found the best source to be online booking sites. There are several of them out there but the biggest are Gigmasters.com, GIGSalad.com, and Thumbtack.com. Some have different levels of membership and costs, which you'll have to factor in. But, I've booked literally hundreds of gigs through these sites. In fact, my total booking dollars on Gigmasters alone is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you search for "jazz groups" in New York on any of these sites, you'll see I rank very highly in the search rankings.

Because I've been with them for so long and have many great reviews, it's easier for me to get new bookings. But if you're just starting out with them I recommend you take a couple gigs for less than you'd like, just to get your foot in the door. Once you get a couple bookings under your belt and get some dazzling reviews, you'll be able to demand more and the ball will start rolling.

Here are some words of advice to help you get the most out of using those sites. Whenever you get a gig request, respond quickly. You're bidding against other bands and prospective clients will usually spend the most time reviewing only the first couple bids. Second, offer different pricing options, including different-sized bands and varied instrumentation. Being flexible will allow you to work within different budgets and satisfy more requests.

If you can also offer a range of stylistic options, that will increase your chances for a successful booking. For instance, my band has a large repertoire of straight-ahead jazz (i.e. standards) for quiet cocktail events, but we're also well-versed in contemporary, groove-oriented jazz for livelier shindigs. We even have a singer(s) when that is requested. Last thing is to put together a top-notch press kit. Include professional pictures and as much video as you can.

So, while Ashley's graduation party may not have been glamorous, you've gotten a paid gig and maybe, just maybe, her dad books the Blue Note!
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