Finding Profitable Shows on Craigslist (Insider Tip)

I’m not primarily a booking agent, but this tip was too good to pass up sharing. It’s helped me book a few shows over the past few weeks and I figure plenty of indie musicians can benefit from hearing about how to make some extra money playing shows they find on Craigslist.

I know Craigslist isn’t the most glamorous platform to book shows through, but there are often plenty of members of the local community that need live music for an event and don’t know who else or where else to turn. Finding these shows locally isn’t going to make you rich, but if you’re trying to make ends meet as a musician, having contacts for both original-music gigs and cover-shows can help you pay bills and get your name out there a little more.

Cover-Show Stigma

There’s often a stigma to playing cover gigs. They’re not necessarily going to launch you into super stardom, but they’re definitely the best paying shows for newer acts and they give you 2-3 hours of stage experience that a Wednesday-afternoon coffee shop show won’t give you. You’ll learn how to interact with noisy crowds, play songs with enough “gusto” that people pay attention, and you’ll learn plenty about what it feels like to just be on stage.

Ignoring the stigma of playing cover-shows will open up doors in your local community to help meet local business owners and community leaders who may have other opportunities to offer you in the future.

Craigslist Show Types

Just in the past 2 weeks, in my local metropolitan area, I’ve seen 6 paying gigs in Craigslist’s “Talent” section (found under the “Community” tab). There’s a good bit of spam and people looking for a drummer to “rock their world,” but to give an example, here’s what I’ve seen on Craigslist in the past 2 weeks that has really caught my eye that are wide open to apply to.

  • Greek Restaurant: Looking for acoustic act for a 2 hour show every Wednesday night: $50 + Dinner + Drinks
  • Small Wedding: Need someone to play acoustic for 45 minutes during the reception: $150
  • Company Party: Acoustic act needed to play for 3 hours with popular covers: $250
  • BBQ Restaurant: 1.5 hours of acoustic covers to
  • Brewery: Needs 45 minute sets of original, local music on a regular basis: $75
  • Bar/Nightclub: Wants a variety of bands/acts to play weekly show during happy hour specials: Negotiable Pay

Preparing Songs

Yes, these are primarily cover gigs with a few original-music sets thrown in. While I know most artists would prefer to only play original music, unless you’re booking your own shows at the legitimate venues in town, cover gigs are usually the best gateway into earning money playing music when you’re just starting out. To start playing cover shows, I recommend having between 50 and 60 popular songs ready. They don’t have to be epics like “Freebird.”

Learn the hits.

I’m talking about Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, and some Beatles songs. These are the songs you’ll be expected to play regularly at these events and once you know them, you’re available to play all sorts of shows.

Automatically Getting Notified About New Show Opportunities

This is really what I wanted to get to with this tip. Scouring Craigslist sucks and it’s a full-time job if you’re not using the right tools to find out about gigs as they’re announced.

Craigshunter is a Google Chrome plugin (Maybe it’s on Firefox as well?) that allows you to automatically save Craigslist searches into the plugin and be notified when a matching search term is found. What does that mean?

Well, you can make Craigshunter search the “Talent” section of Craigslist for the search term “music” every 5, 10, 0r 30 minutes. Then, when a new post containing the word “music” pops up on Craigslist, Craigshunter gives you a tiny notification so you can check it out. Yes, there are sometimes false alarms for people just looking for drummers in the Talent section, but for the most part it’s people looking for either “music” or “musicians” for their next event.

To take this one step farther, I was able to create a custom search in each of the surrounding metropolitan cities within 100 miles of my hometown. 100 miles seems like a reasonable distance to drive to get to a paying gig, so I’ve set up Craigshunter to automatically notify me of gigs near my hometown.

Have Listening Links + Videos Ready

When you reach out to venues about their paid gigs on Craigslist, you need to have some videos and music links ready to go. If a venue booker opens up your email and has no idea what you sound like, what chance do you have of them replying?

Take the time you need to properly record some songs and live videos of yourself performing so the only thing the booker has to do is say “yes.”

Final Thoughts

Like I said, Craigslist isn’t a super glamorous way to make money playing cover gigs, but with so many restaurants and bars looking to have some live music on the weekends, it’s a great way to get your feet wet and get out into the community to earn some money. If you don’t fit into the archetype of a “performing acoustic musician,” learn how you can adapt your style into something the booker wants or needs. You’d be surprised how willing they are to work with you to fit you into the schedule.

Let me know how it goes!

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