How to Get Your First Gig in New York City

New York City is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world for music lovers. With countless venues, diverse genres, and music fans looking for entertainment on a nightly basis, there are plenty of opportunities for established acts to find work. But if you’re new to the scene, you may be stressing about how to get your first gig in New York City.

As one of THE entertainment hubs in the world, NYC is a very competitive city for musicians, audio engineers, and other music industry professionals. It can be a challenge for those with little to no experience to get their foot in the door, either on stage or behind the glass. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.

The key to success in the City’s music scene is to network like crazy, perfect your skills, and keep a positive attitude. Attend open mic nights, meet other musicians and industry professionals, and showcase your talents. With the right approach, hard work, and a bit of luck, you’ll be able to land your first gig in no time and start making a name for yourself in this thrilling epicenter of music.

Also, think beyond the stage–there are plenty of jobs for work in the studio as well. As a supporting act, backing vocals or instruments, or developing syncing opportunities, your first gig doesn’t have to be in front of a live audience. Getting paid is getting paid.

Breaking into the NYC music scene takes time and dedication. Keep honing your craft, building relationships, and seizing opportunities to showcase your talent. Recording Connection can help on all three fronts. Our audio engineering, music production, live DJ, and other programs will put you in the middle of the industry from day one.

We put you in a professional recording studio where you’ll learn the tricks of the trade, work with state-of-the-art equipment, and work with other artists alongside your mentor. As an experienced industry insider, you’ll see how music is made in today’s world. Our accelerated programs last from six to nine months, so you’ll be able to hit the ground running in a short amount of time.

How to Get Your First Gig in New York City

Sure, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere–but you still need that first gig to get started on that journey. Here are a few things you’ll need to do to give yourself the best chance at getting your first gig.

  • Build Your Skills
  • Develop a Portfolio
  • Network
  • Promote Yourself
  • Research
  • Prepare Your Pitch
  • Reach Out to Venues
  • Collaborate
  • Professionalism, Persistence, and Patience

Build Your Skills

Skills as a musician, DJ, audio engineer, and other industry professionals demand dedication and consistent practice to be perfected. The phrase “practice makes perfect” holds true in this field. Regularly practicing and striving for excellence in your craft is essential to stay ahead in the industry.

You need to continuously hone your skills to stay on top of the latest trends and techniques. It takes time but the results are more than worth it. Refining your craft not only improves the quality of your work but also reflects your passion for music and audio engineering.

Develop a Portfolio

If you find yourself talking to a booking agent, studio owner, or even other artists–and they seem receptive–you need to be able to show them what you can do. Developing your portfolio and making it easily accessible is key. A great portfolio should showcase your best work and demonstrate your skills and abilities.

For musicians, try to create a diverse portfolio that not only includes your original compositions but also any covers or remixes that you’ve performed. For audio engineers, focus on compiling your best mixes, recordings, and production work. Remember, your portfolio is your first impression, so include only your best work.


In the music world, who you know can be just as important as what you know. Attending local music events, open mics, jam sessions, and industry meet-ups can not only be a great way to showcase your talents, but also connect with other musicians and industry professionals.

Networking is key to making meaningful connections in the New York City music scene, and providing opportunities to showcase your portfolio. Meeting other musicians, promoters, and venue owners can lead to gigs, collaborations, and other exciting opportunities. So, put yourself out there and make the effort to attend events and connect with others in the industry.

Promote Yourself

You’re not always going to be walking around with CDs, thumb drives, and other ways of presenting your portfolio, so make it easy to share your music with an online presence. Use social media, a website, streaming services, and other online platforms to promote your music or audio services.

Regularly update your content to keep your audience engaged and show potential employers your range and growth. As you build your brand, it’s important to be consistent with your naming conventions. Having a different name for each online platform can be confusing for fans, clients, employers, and others.

Research Venues

Stay in your lane so to speak. As a musician, you probably have a primary genre (rock, pop, hip hop, and the like), so look for venues that work with your kind of music. Go to a couple of shows to see if your sound jibes with the venues and how you can polish your act to fit the groove of the place.

Look for smaller, more intimate venues to start with, as they might be more open to featuring emerging talents. Check out the venue’s event schedule and get a sense of the types of acts they typically host. Many venues in NYC host open mic nights for emerging artists–participate in these events to showcase your talent and gain exposure.

Prepare Your Pitch

Aspiring musicians know that landing a gig is more than just playing great music. When it comes to promoters, booking agents, managers, or live music venue owners, you need to sell yourself and your sound. A well-crafted pitch allows you to showcase your skills, experience, and originality. It’s a chance to highlight what makes you stand out from the others.

Emphasize the uniqueness of your sound and how it will captivate the audience. When talking about your set, be sure to mention the songs you’ve written or what inspires your music. With a killer pitch, you’ll be able to make a lasting impression and secure your spot in the spotlight.

Reach Out to Venues

Landing your first gig can feel like a full-time job. Once you have your list of potential venues to play, reach out to them via email or phone, and introduce yourself. Explain briefly your background and express your interest in performing at their venue or providing audio services.

Don’t forget to attach or provide links to your portfolio so that they can listen to your work. Remember to read the room and don’t be too pushy, and if they aren’t responsive, give it a few weeks. Maybe you caught them on a bad day or they were in a rush to get somewhere. Developing a thick skin is a special kind of skill.

Collaborate With Other Musicians

Collaborating with other musicians or bands can open up a world of opportunities for you. You’ll have the chance to learn from others, share your skills and ideas, and create amazing music together. Even if you prefer to work solo, collaborating with other musicians on projects can bring fresh perspectives and inspiration. You may also be able to tap into their audience.

Don’t forget to reach out to fellow musicians and offer your audio engineering services, too. They may need your expertise to bring their music to life. Open mic nights are the perfect place to connect with other musicians and potentially find a future collaborator. This is also a great way to network and keep yourself in the mix.

Persistence, Patience, and Professionalism

As an aspiring artist or performer, landing your first gig can be pretty stressful–not to mention actually playing your first gig! This is especially true in major cities with hyper-competitive markets, such as New York City. However, the key to success is to remain persistent and to continually refine your skills along the way. Don’t be afraid to reach out to venues and industry contacts as often as you can, as every connection could potentially lead to your big break.

Keep your eye on the prize and stay motivated. And when you do get your first gig, make sure to show up on time, be well-prepared, and maintain a professional attitude. This will leave a positive impression on venue owners, fellow musicians, and the audience. You have plenty of time to be flaky when you’re filling 12,000-seat venues.

(Just kidding… don’t ever be flaky.)

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