After endless hours of practicing, your calloused hands shake with anticipation. You haul your heavy equipment and load it into the van. Your wallet is empty, but your spirit is high. It is time to take the next step. But how do you find gigs?
How to Promote Your Band
First and foremost, your audience needs to know what you sound like. Having a good demo is a must. But in this case it’s better to have quality over quantity. Just a few short tracks are all the public and local promoters need in order to know what you sound like. If it’s long and intricate, but a crummy product, don’t bother. It can be done rather cheaply with consumer programs such as GarageBand and the help of instructional videos on YouTube. Once your demo is up and running, be sure to notify people where to find it; post it on the web and give out CDs to venue booking agents.
A musician must hold somewhat of a business outlook, keeping in mind that credibility is important. Having a website, Facebook, or Bandcamp page can give you a leg up in a competitive world, especially giving your music a visual appeal. But beyond that, you need to be a reliable person with effective communication skills, because after all, the music industry is full of people. Show up early to your gig or performance and take the stage on time. It’s smart to know the location and contact names off the top of your head. And don’t forget, eye contact and a firm handshake is still a genuine act.
Be prepared. Pack extra necessities such as strings, picks, tuners, speaker cables, etc. Know the setup and what the site offers for sound. And if you get to the point where it seems a bit overwhelming, don’t feel ashamed of making yourself checklists, because we all have a lot on our minds.
Keep an Open Mind
As an independent musician and artist it’s not uncommon to play in a range of different environments. Most exposure is good exposure, and sometimes you simply take what you can get. You might have the chance to play in a community center, bar, café, or even someone’s basement. Just remember: you can learn something from every gig you play. Be flexible and willing to play in all kinds of venues and to adapt the way you act on stage and off stage. For example, the way you act at a bar should be vastly different from your presence at a public school. At every gig there’s the possibility to meet people interested in your music and to create new connections. It’s wise to hang around for the duration of the show to chat with people, which is also why it’s a good idea to stay sober. Don’t ever think you’re too good for a gig; you never know what you may get out of it.
Why You Should Join Up With Other Bands
Playing a show with an already established local band is a good opportunity to expand your audience and get exposure. If you are serious about promoting your music and playing out, then try to think about the long term. Playing with other established musicians may lead to additional gigs. But most importantly, know your audience and your genre. If an offer arises, don’t say “yes” just to get on stage. Make sure it fits your band and its goals. If you’re a bluegrass band opening for a heavy metal act you may not hit it off too well.
How to Get Paid for a Gig
Promoters may barter and offer an amount, so it doesn’t hurt to shoot high. On the other hand, contacts are important. Don’t necessarily refuse to play free performances; they can often lead to paid gigs. And, don’t be afraid to ask if you can put out a tip jar. You might make more money than you would expect. If you have merchandise for sale it’s fine to mention it a couple times during the show, but don’t shove it down the audience’s throat, it might insult their intelligence.
Not only should you know your venue, but also be flexible and learn to adapt quickly to what the promoter and audience expect. As you depart from the gig, be sure to thank the owner and promoter and ask them their personal opinion on how the show turned out. If everyone was satisfied, be polite and offer to play there again. Always try to leave on good terms.
Now you have the basic instructions for kicking out the jams, so go turn some heads!
This article is from our September-October 2013 issue. Click here to order.