By now, I trust your solo or duo act is clicking right along, according to your business plan. “What’s that- you DON”T have a business plan?” Then I strongly suggest you go back to my first installment and read up on the past 18 months or so of the Solo Gigger. Then, you’ll be better prepared for this month’s entree- Problem Gigs.
I am sure most of you have encountered the problem gig from time to time. Bad rooms, bad sounding acoustics, bad load ins (another column will be devoted to this topic), late pays or no pay shows, rude clients, guests, equipment and power issues, etc. We could go all day on the variety of ways a gig can head into the toilet. Instead, let’s discuss and deal with those areas we can handle ourselves.
BAD ROOM/ACOUSTICS- While some places are more fun to play in than others, many are downright awful for a variety of reasons. I performed in 1981-2 at a hotel in North Myrtle Beach, SC and wow, what a stinker! The room looked breathtaking atop the 17th floor of the hotel with beach views of the Grand Strand for miles. The problem- fitting a five or six piece group with live drums into a room with nothing but glass and mirrors. Too many people and too much volume disrupted the quiet ambiance the hotel wanted to provide its dinner guests. We knew going it it wasn’t going to be fun and while one member called it a “working vacation,” it was so stifling we never kept a crowd dancing for more than a couple numbers. It never was fun for me- I hope they got a solo or duo. That way they can ride the volume and abuse one or two people, not 5 ot 6. The only answer is either turning so low you can’t hear yourself or avoid booking it altogether. I much prefer to avoid such venues.
I did a gig recently where the client wanted me to perform withouth my tracks, just guitar and vocals. It was a four hour show, so I politely explained my video, which she loved, had me use my backing tracks. I used the tracks but got hassled so much about the volume, interacting with guests, etc that I couldn’t wait to leave.
RUDE CLIENTS/GUESTS- I just dealt with this and found when the client hiring me is a creep, try and avoid future bookings. I should have noticed a red flag when the previous client had her regular entertainer back out at the last minute. If a client is lazy about returning phone calls, e mails and is hard to reach in general, proceed with caution. Be sure you have a signed contract and ALWAYS GET A DEPOSIT UP FRONT!!! This way, you are at least covered for driving to the date and setting up your gear.
Rude guests are usually looking for attention. Remember that “most obnoxious behavior is a cry for help” and act accordingly. I have the ability to think quickly on my feet and sometimes this backfires on me. Try to avoid getting into an argument with someone like that. Be careful not to say sarcastic remarks over the microphone, like “Gee, the bride doesn’t sweat too much for a fat chick.” No one wins when you try to get even. Do your best, be polite, get paid and go home without making a commotion.
EQUIPMENT FAILURE- We could devote an entire column to this one. For now, simply realize that gear will break through no fault of your own. When it does, do your best to pull it off, whatever that requires. I have cut up credit cards to use when I forgot my guitar picks, played my electric guitar dry without my multi effects device when I forgot to bring it, borrowed a client’s iPod cable to recharge mine, which I use for my backing tracks, played without the backing tracks when I forgot the approprite cable for my amp, etc. Some musicians will actually bring two of everything they use to a gig. While I admire that level of preparation, I have a compact car and not a van. I also don’t have two of everything I use on the gig. I try my best to be prepared and keep my gear in good condition so I minimize failures. If they happen, do your best, even if you have to explain why the show might not be 100%. Try to pull it off without making a big deal out of things. This happens to all groups, even bands like The Who (Saskechewan) and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Italy). As we’ve all heard, “the show must go on.”
LATE PAYS/NO PAYS- I have had clients within the past two years attempt to pay me with a credit card or offer to “mail a check out on Monday.” For this reason, I always touch base within a week of the performance, reminding them the balance is due at the performance, payable either cash (preferrable) or check. Since I no longer play bars or nightclubs, I don’t have to run down the club owner to settle up at 2 am. Again, have a signed contract and remind the client that you’re a professional and expect to be paid like one. Doctors and dentists still have signs in their offices reminding their customers “payment is due at the time of treatment.”
We did a trio gig in Ocean City, MD about 20 years ago and the client went up to their room to go to bed before we finished playing! I had to drag them out of bed to get the balance. A more recent gig was a party in Houston where the client, celebrating his 30th birthday, passed out on the couch just as I was wrapping up. His wife wrote me the check while he failed to “see me out.” Fortunately, most folks are nice, they pay me at the end of the show and often tip me, just like they will tip you. Just make sure you do your best.
As you can see, gigs can take sometimes confusing or frustrating turns. Try to keep a positive attitude, chalk the bad ones up to experience and ALWAYS GET A DEPOSIT UP FRONT!!!