What an awesome question! Playing live shows is an incredible experience, and a quintessential aspect of being a musician. The first thing to know is that there are lots of places to play at. Depending on your age, different venues will be better than others. Regardless of your ages, the very same principles apply for getting gigs.
1. Get a Recording of Your Band
The thing that will help you the most is a decent recording of your band. Some venues want videos, but most just want to be sure your music is an appropriate match. Before you panic and say you don’t know anyone that can help, take a breath. You’re probably wrong – and that’s a good thing! Have each band member put up a status on Facebook and Twitter asking for help. Maybe your cousin’s best friend’s uncle knows a thing or two and is happy to help you out. If you’re in school – middle school, high school or college, ask your music department head if they have any suggestions. I promise someone in your school knows how to record a little bit. It doesn’t have to be perfect – and it may not even cost you anything except buying them lunch. You can also contact local studios or music schools for help as well. The Real School of Music has a recording department with two very accomplished Berklee guys running it. Some recording can be expensive, but it isn’t always.
2. Promote Yourself to Vendors
Once you have that recording, send it to a few venues with a polite note about the band. Do you have a website? A Facebook page? Link to it so they can see your band. In your email, talk about how your band will help the venue. What do you bring to the table? Many venues care mainly about draw. They will ask you how many tickets you can sell. Don’t lie. The shadier spots will ask you to sell tickets before the show, then if you can’t sell them all you will be forced to pay for them yourself. Make sure you protect yourself by having all the details from the promoter.
3. Piggyback on Another Band's Success
Another great way to get onto the scene is by piggybacking on another band. Everyone has done it and it’s a great opportunity to network. You hear that term, “networking,” and that’s exactly what you should try doing. Go see some local bands play, introduce yourself, get their information and send them your recordings. You may have a tough time getting bigger bands to be interested, or maybe you won’t. You’ll never know if you don’t try!
4. Be Courteous at Every Stage
So now you’ve gotten the gig – what’s next? No matter what venue you’re playing at, whether it’s a high-end club or a local cafe, treat the staff like they’re your best friends. Some of the best ways to show respect to the staff:
- Show up on time: If soundcheck is at 6:00, try to show up early, and never show up late.
- Leave on time: Don’t make the staff stay longer than they normally would because you want to linger. Finish it up and get out of there on time.
- Start on time: Even if there is nobody in the crowd, start playing on time like the room is packed. Also, don’t be really disappointed if no one is there. It has happened to all of us!
- Tip staff: Especially if it’s a slow night, be sure to tip the staff. The gesture will not go unnoticed.
- Thank staff: Every chance you get, thank the staff and especially while on stage, which is always appreciated.
- Be extra nice to the sound tech: They can be your hero or your worst enemy that night, depending if you treat them with respect or not. Make them your best friend. It will make all the difference.
The gist of those is to just be courteous. The next step? Play your heart out! Even if no one shows up for the gig, play your absolute best. You want the venue to know that you’re a good band. Most importantly, don’t let anyone take advantage of you. If you feel like you’re getting the short end of the deal, don’t take the gig. Pay-to-play gigs are sometimes unavoidable, but there are still lots of places that actually care about the music, and not just numbers.
Do you have any great gigging stories? We want to hear them!