Do Gig-Finder Web Sites Really Work? Local Musicians Sound Off

Photo by Mike Buck/Courtesy of Scissor Dicks
Scissor Dicks
He says the band uses "Facebook, mainly. It'd be a better experience if we tried harder, but we are some of the laziest people you'll ever meet, and kind of forget about anything other than just playing music most of the time.

"It's way better when you can get a number to talk to someone in person, but it's not impossible to use social networking at all."

Stacey Steele has a 21-year career in the music industry, witnessing the business change from label-driven to Emersonian self-reliance. He says he's played nearly 4,000 shows as a solo artist, with past bands like Toy Subs and Arrival and with his current group, Nervous Rex.

Steele's music is straightforward country and western. In the past, he's performed or recorded with Blue October, King's X, Pantera, Motley Crue and others. If you don't think a longtime musician with industry contacts finds these sites useful, think again.

"I do subscribe to Sonicbids and ReverbNation," he says. "The results have been fairly good, especially to get my music heard, more so than just getting gigs."

He also uses Facebook's band page and figures the combination of sites have helped him book about 250 shows. Not bad, but a drop in the bucket if the total number is 4,000.

The jury is out among these artists on paying to submit for gig opportunities through these sites. Many offer bands chances to play festivals or at music conferences. The submission fee can be as little as $5 and many are free, excluding the price of an electronic press kit. In recent years, Free Press Summer Fest has used Sonicbids to get submissions at $25 a pop.

Photo courtesy of
Stacey Steele
"I personally don't "pay to play", or pay to submit my band to play festivals," says Steele. "I can't say it's a scam, but I just don't do it. I seem to play very consistently without having to do that. I'd say that around 85 percent of my work is either through word of mouth, being asked back to play, reputation or from someone seeing me live and asking me to play their venue, festival or event."

"I wouldn't mind paying a little money to get honest exposure, but I think there's a lot of free exposure to be had," Roberts agrees. "I'm not entirely sure what happens to the money if your band doesn't get booked -- does it go towards booking bigger-name acts? If so, the little guys aren't helping themselves out to pay for the opportunity and the bigger acts aren't necessarily better acts.

"I think there's a lot to learn about the way our new techno-centered social media-fueled music industry operates," she adds.

Whatever their thoughts on these sites are, all agreed on one point.

"In my opinion, there is no substitute for getting out and doing as many shows as you can to make yourself known to agents, promoters and the public," says Steele.

"There's no substitute for playing live," agrees Durbin. "Getting that instant gratification or criticism. Both have to be welcomed or you will never grow as an artist."

"I still think nothing beats face-to-face, personal contact. For some acts, they have to be seen to be believed," agrees Roberts. "Word-of-mouth advertising works both firsthand and secondhand this way. It's still a lot more productive than cold-calling and unsolicited press kits. At least it has been in my own experience so far."


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