Reader's Digest version: If you want to get gigs, make it easy for people to hire you.
Most professions have what are known as “networking events”: Elaborate parties where people go in half-hearted hopes of getting free drinks and rubbing elbows with that guy who did the thing with Whatshisname a few years back. I've been to some of these, and occasionally they're even tolerable.
While I'm not a big fan of these often-overblown hoopla sessions, I do believe that there's a certain something you get from face-to-face interaction that can't be reproduced by “friending” or “tweeting” or whatever. With that in mind, I went gum-shoeing it around the streets of my city today, dropping by various bars, night clubs, and venues that I haven't worked in a while.
My goal with this was simple: Reconnect with the people who have called me in the past, meet the ones who haven't, and in the process let both groups know that I'm around and able to help if needed. If another sound guy calls in sick, I'd rather the bar manager remember meeting me in person instead of wondering if that guy who sent that email is worth his salt.
At the same time—as with cold calls or emails—you don't want to be remembered as a pest. With that in mind, here are a few simple rules for visiting smaller clubs:
1. Know everything you can about the club. Know the manager's name. If you can't find out on your own, ask one of the bartenders before asking to speak with the manager. Take a look at the venue's schedule and see what types of bands/artists are being booked. Know what time the particular club gets busy, and show up before the rush. If the manager is not in or not available, politely ask when you should come back.
2. Take up 90 seconds at most. Most people, especially at smaller venues, will give you a moment of their time. (After all, it's so hard to find good help these days.) Don't waste it. I introduce myself, say that I'm looking to get on the audio fill-in roster, leave a card, and thank the manager for his or her time. I don't bother going through the list of venues I've worked for, or the school I went to, because on my business card is a link and QR code to my Linkedin resume. If they want to know, it's easy enough for them to find.
3. Ask to shadow the sound guy for a show. Every sound system has its quirks, but most managers don't have a clue as to what those quirks are. So ask if you can observe the venue's audio guy for a night to get a feel for where the power switches are, where the mics are stored, and which channel of the board needs a good whack before it kicks in. Most managers will appreciate the initiative, and will feel more comfortable calling you knowing that you've got a working knowledge of their (often cobbled-together) systems. This also gives you an “in” with the audio guy himself, who is often the one to recommend a replacement when he or she is unavailable.
4. Make a list, and check it twice (per year . . . tops). I keep a spreadsheet of venue names, addresses, contact names, and a few notes about the sound system. I also note the last date I worked that venue. If I haven't heard from a venue, I'll check in every six to 12 months . . . sometimes managers change, sound guys get fired, or somebody just lost your number.
Basically, most managers are not going to spend hours debating the pros and cons of possible sound guy fill-ins. Make yourself easy to hire, and you'll get the call.