How to Get Gigs Through Friends (Without Making It Awkward)

When you think about how to get gigs, a few options are pretty obvious:

You can research venues and send cold emails pitching yourself or your project.

You can follow the more traditional path and audition for orchestras or ensembles.

You can even rely on word of mouth and referrals through friends.

We’ve been thinking a lot about that last option ever since a reader asked us, “How do you write ‘warm’ emails pitching yourself to friends or people you know?”

Most musicians find it tricky to pitch themselves to friends.

In fact, the closer you are with someone, the more difficult it can be!

But if you have a friend who runs a chamber music series or festivals, and who hires other classical musicians, it’s natural (and smart!) to let them know that you’re interested in being hired.

So let’s talk about how you can do exactly that in a way that leaves both you and your best bud feeling good about it.

two friends talking about how to get gigs

Want to know how to get gigs through friends? First, let go of seeing the “pitch” as a performance

Often, when you imagine yourself asking a friend to hire you for a gig or other opportunity, it’s easy to overthink it.

It can feel weighty and significant, almost like “The Ask” becomes its own performance.

Suddenly there’s pressure not to make a mistake, and you want to avoid creating any tension that might taint the friendship.

You worry that your friend will feel obligated to hire you or uncomfortable that you’d use your friendship to find work opportunities.

Basically, you’re afraid things could get weird.

Our personal recommendation for you: How to Network During the Holidays: 5 Tips for Musicians

Here’s the thing:

As natural as it is to worry about these things, going into a conversation fearfully will only derail you—and will likely create more awkward tension, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid.

The first step to asking your friend for a gig is this: Don’t think of it as a formal pitch.

The first step to asking your friend for a gig is this: Don’t think of it as a formal pitch. Click To Tweet

Instead, do this…

Think of yourself as an investigator

Yes, you want your friend to hire you. And that’s okay!

But instead of focusing on “how to get gigs,” focus instead on fact-finding and investigating your options.

Do this by asking questions (we’ll tell you exactly what questions to ask in a moment) and expressing curiosity about your friend’s situation.

Ask about their process, their challenges, and their goals. Most importantly, be open to the possibilities that your inquiry reveals.

And if you still feel anxious, there’s one more thing that will help…

Visualize success

Your teachers have likely encouraged you to picture yourself succeeding in an audition or performance—and that’s helpful to do that here, too.

Visualize a positive conversation with your friend.

Remember that intention should not be, “And then I get the gig!”

Instead visualize having a deep conversation, getting to know your friend better, and listening well.

It’s really that simple!

Now that you’re ready to make “The Ask,” here’s how to get gigs by having genuine conversation.

Ask the right questions

To ensure your conversation is as productive as possible, it’s necessary to ask the right questions.

What exactly should you say?

Hopefully by now this has sunk in:

When talking to friends about potential collaborations and gig opportunities, you don’t have to pitch yourself at all!

Instead, you can gather information through open-ended questions like these:

How do you go about selecting artists?
What are you looking for in an artist?
What do you think helps make your series successful?
I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to start a chamber series and whether it’s something I want to consider. How did you do it?

Trust your ear

When you ask your friend open-ended questions and create a genuine connection, you might get a very clear signal that they’d be open to working with you—or you might get a very clear signal that they’re not!

You must be intuitive and respond in the moment. It’s all about listening.

The good news is, you’re trained to do this!

You’ve probably experienced playing chamber music or performing with another person. The real beauty comes from listening to each other and being in sync with each other, picking up on each other’s cues.

This conversation is exactly like that.

If you’re so caught up in yourself and wondering, “Am I saying the right thing? Is this awkward?” it’s going to be harder to observe and listen to the other person.

So tune into their words, body language, and overall vibe.

If, after hearing your friend’s answers, you think you’d be a good fit, you can ask something like this:

Would it be ok for me to throw my hat in the ring?
Do you think that what I do would be a good fit for what you’re looking for?
Could we ever collaborate on something? Would that make sense given what you’re trying to do?
Here’s an idea I have of a way we could collaborate, what do you think?

On the other hand, if they brush you off or you don’t fit the description of what they want, that’s okay!

Not every ask you make is going to result in a yes. At least now you can move on and not wonder.

You’re brave for putting yourself out there and going for an opportunity.

Our personal recommendation for you: Are You Driven by Passion or Fear?

Have you ever gotten gigs through friends?

Leave a comment below and tell us how you feel about working with friends.

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