Pat’s Guide to Better Gigging – Part 1 – 10 Ways to Get Yourself Playing Bigger and Better Shows.
1. Play at bars and clubs that actually have a clientele. A built in crowd, I know it sounds strange, but they do actually exist. There are still places where people actually WANT to go hang out and hear a band. It’s this easy: If a bar/club is completely dead on a Friday or Saturday night and there isn’t a damn good reason for it (like a holiday or something of the sort), then it’s time to move on to the next place. If they have no clientele, there is usually a really good reason why and you don’t want to stick around long enough to find out what it is.
2. Recon the clubs you’re going to be playing at before you play them. Find out what they have, what don’t they have, what is the staff like? How’s the sound system and stage setup? If you know it has a dinky sound system and no sound guy, you will have to bring your own system. Your sound is your product, if it’s a crap system with no sound guy to help you out, you can be the best band in the world and still sound terrible. A little prior research goes a long way for a better show.
3. If there is a sound guy, be polite and never be a dick! I’ve seen a lot of bands that act like smug rock stars toward the sound crew, this is a terrible mistake. They control your overall sound and also have control of what I like to call the ‘suck’ knob. If you’re a jerk, the suck knob will be used and you will be made to sound like Bozo the Clown all night and you won’t be invited back. Tipping is also a great way to keep you and your band on the ups with sound people. It’s amazing how much a simple $10 tip can do for you. Most people don’t care about the amount; it’s the thought that counts. Now what happens if it’s a terrible sound guy? Or they really blow it for you? Well, just don’t freak out or start throwing out insults while you commence uncontrollable limb flailing. Sometimes things just go wrong or happen that we have no control over. Freaking out will only make you look like an egotistical man child, just be professional about it. You can work it out and if they freak out over it, then you hold the upper ground and walk away still being a professional. Some people are just unreasonable.
4. Punctuality! This is very important. Make sure to give you and your band adequate time to set up, time for a sound check, a bathroom break, a smoke, etc. etc. and then START ON TIME! People really hate it when they take the time to show up to watch you play, then end up sitting there watching TV while waiting for you to get going for an hour. They can watch TV and drink cheap beer at home, for free. They will eventually get bored, bail on you and probably never show up to another one of your shows again.
5. Mind the room you are playing, is it brick? Is it cement? Wood? Are you playing the short way in a long room? Is there an evil echo in there? Is your treble going to pierce the ear drums of everyone like a flaming arrow of death? Are you bassing everyone into the ground? Pay attention to the sonics of the room you’re playing.
6. SUPPORT THE OTHER BANDS AT THE SHOW! There is nothing more annoying than the smug band that shows up 15 minutes before they’re supposed to play, plays their set and then immediately bails. This is a great way to ruin your reputation quickly with other musicians and never get invited to bigger and better shows. Sure, sometimes it sucks and you don’t really want to stay out till 3AM watching other people’s bands, but it’s also your job to support one another. A good music scene can’t survive without bands supporting one another. I often hear musicians complaining about how the scene isn’t what it used to be or that it’s dying, but then they never go out and support anyone anymore. They expect everyone to just show up to their show, but they never return the favor or stick around to hear the poor band that got stuck with the lousy closing spot.
7. Beware of shady promoters. I’ve been contacted in the past about playing a SUPER AWESOME GIG PLAYING FOR HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE before only to find out in the end that you have to sell all the tickets yourself, manage all that money, not know what your time slot is going to be or how long and in the end you end up paying the promoters for your 25 minute slot at a show with 10 other bands. None of your fans are going to show up and stand around and listen to 10 bands they don’t know so they can watch you play for 25 minutes. You will end up having to pay to play for the 10 people who do show up. If you are contacted by a promotion company from out of state or someone you’ve never heard of, a quick google search will usually quickly show if they’re legit or not. Again, a little research goes a long way in not ending up getting screwed over.
8. Don’t be afraid to turn down a gig. As a professional, sometimes it’s necessary to turn down a gig that doesn’t fit your band or that isn’t worth your time. Say if someone offers you $100 to play for 4 hours at their annual drunken stab-a-thon, you might want to turn that down. The more you give in to lousy gigs with low pay, at a lame venue with low turnout or no clientele, the less people are going to take you and your band seriously. Now it’s not all about the money, but there is a line between doing something that will benefit you and getting totally screwed over.
9. Be responsible with your promotion. Promotion is a very important part of every show and as annoying as it can be sometimes, it must be done. Making fliers, advertising on social media, word of mouth, radio time, etc., can all be great ways to promote. Just make sure you don’t go overboard. People on social media these days are VERY sensitive to bands and venues that constantly spam their shows relentlessly. Be careful, or you will lose all your fans very quickly. Posting your shows 1000 times a day, sending 400 event invites, posting annoying giant fliers and/or music players on people’s profiles, relentlessly badgering your local radio DJ’s or constantly putting pressure on your friends and family are all great ways to make sure no one ever wants to come to your shows or help you promote them. Everyone understands promotion, but when you become the pushy used car salesman wearing the sequin blazer of annoyingness, you’re going to drive everyone away.
10. All in all it’s the little things you do that people will remember you for. One simple hand shake and a sincere compliment can make the all the difference in your interaction with another band, sound guy, promoter or bar owner. Just be cool and professional, it’s that simple. Basically it’s all just common sense. I’ve learned this all “trial by fire” and have violated probably every one of these things I’ve mentioned at one time or the other. No one is perfect. Happy gigging and rock on!