The Show Must Go On – Getting The First Gig

Welcome back.It’s no good making music if no one hears it, and one of the first ways people will hear it is by performing live at gigs. And they can be a lot of fun to do.

Once you get further along the road, you will most likely use an agent to get gigs. Until you are pretty well established (they’ll be checking how many FB likes, Twitter follows and YouTube views you have) agents will almost certainly not be interested. They are businesses and need bands who will make them money.

Where do we go from here?

Where should you approach? What kind of venues could you play at? Schools, colleges and youth clubs may be options if you are still young.  Music teachers or social secretaries will likely be pretty supportive to new bands.

Pubs, clubs, art centers, universities and social clubs may also put on gigs.  Visiting the venue is good so you can check out things like stage size.

Most venues (possibly not education or arts council venues) are for profit businesses. While the quality of your demo is a factor, how many people you can bring along and how much they will drink is a bigger one in such places, though some do hold new band nights.

Some venues only book covers bands. If you play originals you are wasting their time and yours approaching – check. Some venues specialize  – I once took an electronic duo to a hard rock venue (obviously they didn’t bother to listen to our demo) – the landlord was not pleased.

Some venues will let you use their hall (possibly for free or possibly for a fee) and put on your own gig. This means that there will be little promotion by the venue as it is not a regular band night and people won’t know it’s on. If you know friends in other bands, let them play before you as you get to perform to the people they bring and grow your audience (sadly sometimes people don’t wait around after their friends have performed so you may want to go on before them)

The Approach

If the venue is local, it is sometimes a good idea to drop in and ask to speak to the manager. Often, however, they are busy or out so try to get a name and a phone number or an email address. If you do get to speak to them, be professional. Have a CD (with your phone number on it) available in case they want to listen on the spot. You can do it on your phone but I’ve yet to hear any phone with speakers which will do your demo justice so take headphones too.

Keep the CD to 2 or 3 tracks maximum and try to include at least on live recording so they know that you can actually cut it live.

If you telephone (or visit), don’t do it on a Friday or Saturday night or a Saturday or Sunday lunchtime if they serve food. They will be much too busy. Respect their time. If you don’t manage to speak to them when you ring, leave a message but don’t expect venues to phone you back (rare). Chase them until you speak to them.

Be friendly, be polite, be honest. If you have fans who will come, tell them how many. Tell them about all the promotion you will be doing (leaflets, Facebook and Twitter, local paper and radio (it’s unlikely you’ll get them but you can say that you will approach them and you never know (I’ll cover press releases later)). You can definitely submit to any calendar listings in your local paper. You could even try offering free tickets as a competition prize.

You will most likely get a midweek night as venues don’t expect to make a lot of money then and are more likely to risk new bands. If you do get paid it is likely to be a percentage of the door take or based on the people who specifically came to see you. If you are putting on your own night (see above), you could club together with the other bands to take out an advert.

Getting Professional

Ideally you will have a version of your press pack (I’ll be writing about these soon) to take or send out to the venue. This will include photos, press clippings and a bio (biography) as well as links to your music or a CD.

What Should We Take?

Check what is provided. Some venues will provide drum kits, but often without cymbals. Some will provide guitar and bass amps (check how many if you need more than one). Some may provide a vocal PA and microphones. Take spare sticks, leads and strings.

Sometimes you may get a chance  to sound check (arriving early can help), that is, run through some music to check volume levels, etc, but sometimes not.

Just stay cool and work with the staff, not against them. Communicate clearly and politely.

And most importantly, enjoy it! And make sure the audience do too. Happy gigging.


2 comments on “The Show Must Go On – Getting The First Gig

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