7 Ways to Say No, and Get More Gigs


As I’ve tried to recruit musicians for various projects in the new year, I’ve realized just how rare it is to find musicians that know how to say no to a prospective employer in a way that might entice them to call back in the future with other opportunities. Here’s 7 ways you to say no the right way: 

1. Communicate

Make sure that you let the person that contacted you know what’s going on. If you got a call, call them back immediately and explain that you’re interested (even if you’re not), and you’d like to know more. If you can’t make a decision right away, communicate to your potential employer that you need a specific amount of time to think about it (shoot for less than 48 hours). Make sure to keep up a dialogue between you and them. There’s nothing worse for a bandleader to simply not hear anything from you, and can often make you lose the gig. 

2. Take Notes

Whenever possible, make notes of exactly what the gig details are. How many rehearsals? Write it down. How much pay? Write it down, too. Date your notes, and if there’s a disagreement down the road as to what you initially agreed upon, you’ll be able to tell them exactly what they said, and when they said it. 

3. Include Contact Info

Make sure you include your contact info as many times as possible. You’d be amazed at how many times people will lose your information, having multiple copies of your contact information on their voicemail and email inbox will help make that less likely to occur. 

4. Never Say No

Never say no to a show before you’ve found out more information. You never know which gig is going to be great, or not so great, for your career. Saying a flat no guarantees that nothing’s going to come from that opportunity. 

5. Listen

Find out exactly what the band leader wants, even if you know you’re not interested. The more you can find out, the more you might be able to help. Which leads to #6. . . 

6. Refer a Friend

If you don’t want the gig, don’t ever simply turn it down. Make a list of the best musicians that you’d trust to do shows (including some that are either just getting started or are less expensive than you), and refer a few of them to the potential employer. 

This has two huge benefits: next time the employer needs someone to play a show, they’ll hopefully think of you because you helped them find what they were looking for. Also, your colleagues will owe you a favor, and might just give you a call when they’re booked. 

7. Follow Up

Check up with the potential employer a few weeks later to see if they’ve found someone. If they used a friend of yours, ask how they did. If they didn’t find someone, refer someone else. Be the person that you’d love to have helping you find someone to fill your position.

One footnote to this blog: if you’ve got someone that is overly demanding, manipulative, or dishonest, just do steps 1 and 2. Don’t waste your time helping people that are only planning on screwing you and everyone else around them.