A few weeks back, my band played the Stagecoach Music Festival. For those that don’t know about the Stagecoach fest, it is the country music equivalent of the Coachella Music Festival. In fact, it is on the same grounds and uses the same stages (and the same production from Rat Sound) as Coachella: So, yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.
Live2PlayNetwork.com sent me a note saying they’re running an issue on playing festivals and they thought the story of how my band, the Podunk Poets, got booked would make a good blog and perhaps could help others that are looking to break into the festival market.
The story of how we got booked is not a likely path others would be able to follow (something akin to two people trying to take the same path through the Amazon to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific).
The actual story is one of either:
A. You create your own luck.
B. Sometimes all the cosmic pieces fall together.
Or maybe both.
To create your own luck you have to have your eyes open and recognize an opportunity when it presents itself. Sometimes, though, only a hint of the opportunity can be seen.
A band operating at the level we had been operating at doesn’t get a phone call being asked to play at Stagecoach. We were asked (actually it was suggested and we acted on it) to play at a charity event. It was also suggested to us that there was someone connected with Stagecoach that was affiliated with the charity.
Now just about every band has been asked to play for nothing more than the performance being a “great opportunity for exposure.” Usually, its nothing more than a great opportunity for someone to get free entertainment (and perhaps exposure to others that would like to take advantage of hiring your band for more great exposure of the same ilk).
But occasionally it actually is an opportunity for your band to play in front of powerful people who matter.
Our band had a singer who was able to see that this situation was genuine and who was able to nurture this mere seed into a tree bearing delicious fruit. (And if you care for the tree properly, it will continue to produce fruit.)
Having all the cosmic pieces fall into place is another deal. In the above scenario, I didn’t mention that the band was ready.
The harsh reality is 99% (my guess) of bands that believe they are ready to move up to the next level are not ready. I say 99% because I worked in that realm for years and the level of musicianship and professionalism is off the charts. And since my tenure in that realm I have been re-immersed in the club level local scene, and I am underwhelmed.
So what is it to be ready?
Obviously, the band needs to be well rehearsed.
The band needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice (this is where being well-rehearsed pays off: sometimes you don’t get a chance to throw another rehearsal in). Everyone need to be on hand for the show to go on. We got asked to play an additional show at Stagecoach during the last few hours of the event Sunday evening, luckily (or not really luck, as we’re talking about) we had the pieces in place to do it.
Your gear needs to be in working order. Personally, I would like to fire the next guitarist who needs to borrow a cable. The gig that matters is not the time to wish you had really taken care of that issue (bad cable, faulty switch, feedback issues, etc.) that raised it’s ugly head the last two gigs you played.
You need to be flexible. While you’re performing a show: it’s actually the promoters show. Sometimes the promoter wants to change start times or even venues. And, sometime this works for you, which is fine…and sometimes it works against you (in which case you professionally try to steer what you want to happen in your favor), but sometimes you must roll with it.
You need to be professional. This is so multifaceted that it would be impossible to cover all aspects of it here, but here’s a few points: Honor the contract. Play your full set time. Be considerate of other acts. Be friendly and work with the sound professionals. Don’t play (noodle) after you get dialed in at sound check. Don’t let issues (personal, audio) affect your performance, or at least, don’t let the audience know you have issues (change the things you can, accepts the ones you can’t, have the wisdom to know the difference).
We had worked hard to get all of these elements in order as well as creating a show that is entertaining and engaging with a look and sound that is identifiable and unique.
When a great opportunity presented itself, we were able to recognize it for what it was, and we were able to pull off a no-excuses professional performance that impressed those who mattered.
And that’s how we crossed the Amazon.