This episode about how to consistently book wedding gigs was previously published on the Profitable Musician Show.
I love talking about gigs and in this episode, I talk to Jared Judge from BookLive.
Jared has been a musician since he was 8 years old when he picked up a violin. He loved it so much and decided to study for it. He finished two degrees, one being Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education. He taught kids up to high schoolers in public school then eventually got his Master’s Degree in Orchestral Conducting. He wanted to be a professional orchestra conductor. He dived all in — took his lessons, learn music theory and history and take advanced courses.
When he was close to graduating with his Master’s in Orchestral Conducting, he was flying across the county for auditions. He would always get to the final round but would be cut. Then he auditioned for the Air Force Band. He had 100 musicians watching and judging him and he got through it. However, he was told to come back in a year but was unable to because he was graduating and he had to get a job to pay bills. He was frustrated.
He asked his teachers about what he should do since he really wanted to pursue being a musician and needed to make money. They advised him to teach first and keep doing what he is doing. Then they referred him to business school for further advice.
The business school helped him. They essentially gave him free private lessons on how to start a business. They told him that he needed to treat his music career as a business. In his case, since he is a violinist, they taught him how to launch a wedding string quartet. People will pay a high price to have live music at their event.
The business school taught him how to get the word out to his ideal customer, who were brides and grooms at that time. They also taught him the marketing part which involved the sales process. They gave him a script to sell wedding services to adapt to what he does. He felt weird with some of their advice but trusted them and practiced using the script.
He got an inquiry from a bride and groom and he was able to get that booking using the script he was taught. The couple paid him through Venmo. Then the business school teachers taught him about contracts to avoid getting stiffed. They also advised him that once he got the process down, he needs to repeat the process until he gets high-paying gigs and he no longer needs to get a job to meet his income needs. Within a year of him starting that live music business, he plays at about 150 weddings, even in the middle of COVID. That is when they booked their first six figures in bookings within one year.
Originally, he divided the income equally among the quartet. Since he was the one doing all the work looking for bookings, the business school told him to start taking money for his extra work. That’s when he started taking a profit margin and paying himself. That’s when he realized he needs to book more than six figures a year to make his personal goals work.
Fast forward, all of his classmates were graduating and not getting music jobs. He taught them what they need to do and it worked. It was awesome. He’s been taking on some students and putting together some courses to teach other musicians how to treat their live music careers as live music business.
At that time, he was using spreadsheets to track down everything as he was taught in business school. One time, he was picking apples with his wife, Emily, when he got a call from a wedding coordinator who was yelling at him since the wedding was in ten minutes and there was no string quartet. He tried calling every string player he has the phone number of and nobody can get to the wedding in ten minutes. Luckily he found a DJ who covered it for him. He had to apologize to everyone, including the wedding planner, the bride and groom, and their parents. He thought his career was over.
A couple of days after that, he was at a bar and needed to call an Uber. He realized he needed an app like that for his gigs.
He didn’t find an app for it so he studied his old coding book from middle school and figured out how to create his very basic first version of what’s now BookLive.com. He tells the app his new gig schedule and who is involved with it and their roles then the app sends them emails and text messages and gave them an option. Within 30s seconds, he freed himself from the administrative tasks he usually did.
The app started that way but it has expanded. The app also lets the brides and groom log in and pick their wedding playlist. It saves time and is super helpful for Jared. His students asked if they could use the app and since then, they’ve had about 2000 musicians who are using the BookLive software. They know the US gigging landscape more so that is where most of their users are from.
If you go to BookLive.com, there’s a page that will give you a two-week free trial to give it a shot. They also have some training courses inside of it like how to use automation for music. It sounds intimidating automating things but they make it super easy and musician-friendly because they’re all musicians themselves.
When COVID hit, a lot of weddings were postponed. They still wanted them to play when it happens, but at that time, they had to figure out other ways to earn a living. Jared did a lot of virtual gigs. Private events came back faster than public events. They were playing weddings earlier than many public concerts were happening.
Micro weddings also started. A cool venue in Milwaukee, Bottle House 42 started selling micro wedding packages for 10 to 20 people which included venue rental, catering, and beverages. Plus as part of the package, they included a solo violin or cello from Jared’s company. It was a cool partnership. He also upsells such bookings if they’d be interested to get his quartet.
Jared shared the sales process the business school taught him, which involved him painting a picture of how walking down the aisle with a DJ playing music is different from walking down the aisle with live music playing. The light bulb goes off in their minds and they are sold.
Aside from weddings, they also do corporate events and nonprofit galas. For corporate events, they want to give people an immersive experience.
Jared also made some mistakes when he was breaking into the industry. The first one he did was undercharging because it’s hard to spell out the process that happens in an actual performance that musicians give. One of the tools he uses is called Offer Stack, which breaks his performance. It’s a table in a spreadsheet that shows each thing he brings into a performance such as an hour of time, songs in the library, music sheet, learnings you had to invest, the years of education you put in, and such. Once you start charging your worth then everything changes. You can afford a comfortable lifestyle and no longer chase gigs that aren’t worth your time.
He also had to forego his ego and accept that he’s a part of a larger event planning community. When he’s playing at a wedding, it’s not about him at all. If anyone else at the event needs help, he helps them out. Even as simple as picking something a florist dropped helps. You should avoid the thought that once you play your music, get paid and leave. Being a great team member and partner will also get you referrals.
At weddings, musicians do not get direct praises as compared to public events where people buy your merch and applaud you. However, seeing the transformation that his music causes allow Jared to see the impact he has on the bride and the audience. He still gets the satisfaction that he has changed people’s lives with his music. They mostly play at private events but they do play at festivals and some other public events.
Live music is a relationship-based business. It’s not hard to find out who the partners are that you need to get on your side. Jared teaches exactly how to do it. He shows musicians how to identify all the venues in your city. He gives out email templates that you can send to schedule a tour with the person at the venue, what to do at the tour, and how to follow up with them.
Jared doesn’t really recommend online marketplaces since you have to pay to be listed. Ideally, if you want to join them, if you have as much time and money, you would list yourself everywhere and do everything. Online marketplaces tend to attract people who are going for the lowest price. Jared’s strategy to differentiate himself from all the other musicians in an online marketplace is to have the conversation outside the platform so the client feels that you are not just one of those other musicians who are offering them a cheaper price. He’s able to filter the bottom feeders just through his first message. If they resist booking a meeting with him, he knows they want the cheapest one and they’re not worth his time.
He also released a book called Gigging Secrets and it lists all his strategies inside it too. It’s available at GiggingSecrets.com