How to Cancel a Gig

It happens to all of us. You get booked for something and then plans change. Maybe you get something amazing like television. Maybe you got another gig you just can’t turn down. Maybe your routing changed or you had a family emergency or you’re feeling sick. Whatever the reason, sometimes you need to cancel.

Here’s a few tips on how to do it professionally so that it doesn’t cost you the relationship with the booker you’re canceling on.

1) Don’t tell them you’re canceling. Instead ask them if it’s okay. Them booking you was a two-way conversation – shouldn’t canceling be the same? “Is it alright if I cancel?” is a much friendlier and more respectful way to reach out than saying you can’t make it. Then when the booker says yes, they feel good about helping you.

2) Don’t offer to replace yourself unless the booker expresses some frustration at filling it. Bookers typically have a long list of acts that they want to book. So don’t make them have to fill the spot AND reject someone else. And NEVER offer the gig to someone without express permission from the booker – it’s not yours to offer.

3) Give as much notice as possible. The second you know, the booker should know also. Don’t “get around” to telling them. Tell them immediately.

4) Give a reason and be honest. If you don’t, the booker will think you’re hiding something. You should only cancel for a good reason, so there’s nothing to be ashamed about. Even if you’re canceling for a similar spot with more money, explain that. “I’m not in a position to turn down a high-paying gig. Is it okay if I take this one and we reschedule?” Unless they’re a crazy person, they will respect you for it.

5) Please and thank you. Be as respectful and gracious as possible. That goes a long way.

6) What if a booker says no when you ask them? Then you need to weigh your options – obviously they’re unreasonable if they act like that, so they’re not great to work for anyway. Know that cancellation might mean cancellation forever, and decide if it’s worth it to you.

So here’s a sample email that follows those principles.

“Hi! I hate to do this, but is it okay if we reschedule my May 17th set? I just got offered a college I can’t turn down, and they wouldn’t give me any other date. I’m sorry about that, I would still love to work with you in the future. Thank you so much for understanding!”

Professional and personal. If they don’t respect that, it’d be a matter of time before you stopped working for them anyway.