Live music has always been an addiction of mine. I love congregating with like-minded people, losing myself on the dance floor, entranced by lyrics that touch the soul and rhythms that hypnotize. There was a time when I went to four or five shows a week, sometimes hitting up a few different venues in one night.
However, the fun started to add up. Not going to clubs and shows wasn’t an option for me, but how was I going to manage to afford it?
Then, an opportunity presented itself. I pounced on it, one thing led to another and I found myself becoming heavily involved in various aspects of the music industry. If your passion for live music is bigger than your budget, you can do the same.
Read on for four ways to gain VIP access in the music scene without spending a dime.
1. Become a Member of the Street Team
Once upon a time, I fell in love with a band. Everything they played resonated with me and I couldn’t stop singing their praises. Plus, they made me dance like crazy. Every time they came to town, I was there. I signed up for their listserv and newsletter so I could stay in the know.
I saw an announcement looking for fans to join their street team, a group of people willing to help spread the word. Without thinking twice, I emailed them and offered my services.
In the following weeks, I was guestlisted to attend various shows around the city that I probably would have paid to see anyway. In return, I passed out fliers for my favorite band’s next show as music lovers exited the venues. It’s really easy to promote something that you genuinely love, especially when you’re in your element.
Finally, my favorite band came to town, and I received a complimentary ticket to the show where they asked to meet me and thanked me for my help. I continued working their street team for several years, which gave me many fun opportunities like visiting the musicians backstage, seeing them play big festivals and dancing on stage during the shows.
Want to be involved in your favorite band’s street team? Sign up for their newsletter, join their message board and follow them on social media to keep an eye out for opportunities. It never hurts to reach out to their manager or publicist to inquire for ways to get involved in promotions. Keep in mind, this strategy works best with artists who are underground or just starting out — Kanye doesn’t need a street team.
2. Work at a Venue
A great way to make some extra cash and get to know all the right people is by working a few shifts at your favorite venue. I worked coat check gigs at my favorite clubs in New York City for a few years and met tons of party promoters, DJs, agents and managers.
In addition to coat check, you could work any of the following positions: door staff, security, cashier, cocktail waitress, bartender, busser and promoter. Not only will you get to see shows at your workplace without paying a cover charge, but you’ll make the connections to get guestlisted at other hotspots, too.
It’s hard work, but highly rewarding. There’s also the potential to make quite a bit of money in tips, and you never know who you’ll meet. One slow Monday night, I found myself chatting with Kraftwerk! They were super nice and invited me to see them perform later that week. It was pretty neat to be on Ralf Hütter’s guest list, and the show was phenomenal.
These jobs are highly coveted and sometimes hard to come by, so it helps to be outgoing and tactfully persistent. Many clubs post openings on Twitter, which is how I got one of my gigs. In addition, it always helps to know someone who works there.
3. Write for a Music Publication
Bands and musicians are always looking for extra press. If you love to write about music, it’s easy and fun to reach out to club owners, DJs, publicists and promoters to request to cover an event and conduct interviews. You’ll gain free access to the show or party. And, you may get a few drink tickets out of it, too.
If you’ve never been published, consider starting your own music blog. It’s a great place to begin and build up your portfolio. Then, when you’re ready to pitch story ideas to big press outlets, you’ll have writing samples to show them.
I’ve interviewed famous artists (A-Trak, Dennis Ferrer, Claude VonStroke, Rusko) and covered music festivals like Electric Zoo and Sensation for publications like URB and High Times Magazine, which got me free tickets, drinks, snacks and VIP access. Sometimes, I could even negotiate an extra ticket so that I could bring along a friend to keep me company.
4. Intern for a Record Label, Artist Management and Booking Agency or Music Public Relations Firm
One of the fastest ways to get on the inside is to intern for music industry companies like record labels, public relations firms, and artist management and booking agencies. Sure, you may be fetching coffee and making copies at first, but eventually, you’ll graduate to more meaningful tasks. Don’t forget you’ll be reaping the benefits of certain perks right off the bat like guest list and backstage passes.
Not to mention, behind the scenes can be very exciting. You’ll have opportunities to meet some of your biggest influences. There’s nothing quite like standing face to face with an artist who’s had a major impact on your life in such a magical way.
Be sure to do the research and reach out to companies who represent the type of music you are into and the artists you adore. That’s important. When you’re doing some of the more menial tasks, you’ll need to have good incentives to keep your head in the game.
Also, you may discover you like the music business. Interning will open up other doors down the road, leading to even more exciting times behind the velvet rope.
Your Turn: Have you managed to get VIP music experiences for free? Share your tips in the comments!
Blythe Pack is a professional writer with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the College of William & Mary, and a Master of Social Work from Fordham University.