By Riley Wilson
This month, let’s discuss specific gigs. In particular- your last gig.
How’d ya do? I realize this is lousy English, but bear with me. Did you sound and play amazing? Did you connect with your audience? Did you get any tips or hand out lots of business cards? These are important questions to ask yourself.
An easy way to gauge how you’re doing is to record the show, either audio or video. Here’s another question: How long has it been since you recorded your show and listened back with critical ears? If you haven’t done this in more than three months, I encourage you to do so at your next booked gig.
I worked with Still Creek Band from 1980-1982 and we averaged over 300 dates a year. We worked hotel lounges all over the South and Midwest, playing four to five hour gigs six nights a week. All the instruments and vocals were miked through the PA system and leader Hubert Deans would record the band directly off our Tascam mixer board onto cassette. We listened back to the night’s show and made course corrections as we went along. Using this approach allowed our quintet to become one of the region’s top bands, selling more alcohol than 6 or 7 piece bands working the same hotel lounges. (And, yes, when you are working bars and lounges and clubs your job is to sell drinks…)
Back then, the lowly cassette player recorder could be purchased easily at your neighborhood big box retailer for less than $50. Today, access to good recording tech is everywhere–often lurking within your smartphone or tablet. and the technology has been replaced by digital recording devices, often lurking within your smartphone or tablet.
Another option is a dedicated portable digital recorder. You can find these at places asnon-obvious as a Walgreen’s drug store for about 2o bucks. If you want good one there are plenty out there, with the most popular ones made Fostex, Tascam, and Zoom. I have a Zoom H-1 and it works incredibly well.
On a recent weekend of four shows, I recorded three gigs playing my Variax solid body, Martin steel string and Alvarez nylon string acoustic electrics. I use Pro Tools tracks made in my home studio run through my sound system for my accompaniment. Recording off my PA system allows me to hear how the tracks interface with my live guitar and vocal parts. I can hear tunes that need remixing, tunes which need more or fewer tracks, places where my live guitar is too loud and dozens of other impressions I need to know about how I really sound.
If you’re serious about honing your act, you need regular video recording, too. Paul Stanley of Kiss points out that manager Bill Aucoin’s access to video cameras and recording equipment helped them create a strong visual presence before they ever landed their first record deal. Even recording short bits of your performance with a smartphone or digital camera will show you things you’ll learn in no other way. A better approach would be a dedicated camera mounted on a tripod with the focus squarely on you. Record as much of the show as the device allows you and then view it at least a day after your performance.
As with audio recording there are a ton of options. We’ve compiled some suggestions HERE.
A note about how to make the best use of your audio and video recordings. I don’t recommend watching or listening immediately following a gig. Give yourself a day or two off and then devote at least 30 minutes to careful listening and viewing with fresh ears. Pharrell Williams takes notes of each contestant’s performance on “The Voice,” so when he comments on their performance, he has specific things he observed. Get a spiral binder so you can takes notes of each recorded show and then begin repairing what needs fixing. Video recording can be used to eliminate awkward movements, gestures, patter and much more. If “seeing is believing,” then watching and hearing yourself perform can be significant for rapid improvement.
David Payton, one of the nation’s top One Man Band performers on Gigmasters, regularly creates videos and posts his performances on YouTube. This is a tremendous opportunity to market yourself and your music, original or cover tunes. If you record yourself at least quarterly, you’ll have the chance to review your efforts, see if the necessary changes work or not and see if the efforts improve your bottom line. You can choose to share or not share your videos online, but I have said before in this column that a good quality video can make your marketing efforts soar!
Brian Tracy, whose input and wisdom I have benefitted from for at least 25 years, taught that after every sales call, ask yourself these two questions:
- What did I do right?
- What could or should I have done differently?
He says this is indispensable for rapid improvement and a corresponding bump in your personal income. If it works for sales people, it will work for serious, motivated musicians, too. Start recording and making important changes in your act, too. You can thank me later.