HOW TO GET A GIG
This is why we do it. Playing live is the best part about being a musician. There’s nothing quite like sharing your heart, your joy, and your hard work with a room full of people and feeling the energy they are giving back to you.
If you’ve made it this far along your journey, you have the power to affect other people with your music. When you perform live you will watch in real-time how people react to the sound you make. It is truly a beautiful thing.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. You don’t even have a gig yet. Sure, you’ve played in your lounge to your family, you might have played at school or for your friends at a party, but I’m talking about a real, organised and advertised gig, at a venue with a sound system.
Do as many gigs as you can... Take any gig that suits and treat every gig like it’s the last you’ll ever play.
Once you’ve got your demo you need to be sending it around town to promoters, venue organisers and bar owners, asking to be placed on one of their shows or ‘nights’.
Who are they?
Part-time or full-time, amateur or professional, these people promote gigs. More often than not a promoter will be the person in charge of putting together a line-up of acts for the night or event. If they promote for a living they make their money by getting a cut from the entry fee, a percentage of the bar takings, or agreed payments by the venue organisers or bar owners.
Promoters can be the kid who puts on local indie gigs for the love of it, they can be the singer of a band putting on their own show so they can play, they can be companies that promote hundreds of gigs a year. You will know someone is a promoter because they handle the promotion and advertising of the gig. If they aren’t doing any promotion then they aren’t a promoter.
If the venue is a bar, often the bar manager or bar owner is both organiser and promoter. If it’s another type of venue that has live music there will be someone in charge of booking music acts. It could be the guy who owns the record store putting on gigs in his back room, or someone on your regional council that runs the local town hall. These people or organisations get paid by either charging a fee for the use of their venue, taking a cut from ticket sales, or by selling drinks at their bar. A venue can have both a promoter and a venue organiser, it’s up to you to find out who books the music acts.
These people are booking music in their bar in order to get people through the door to buy drinks. They make their money from what they sell in their bar. They might offer to pay you, or give you food and drink, or nothing at all. Usually these people are extremely busy, so be nice, direct and professional when dealing with them.
All of these people essentially want the same thing you do, just maybe for a different reason, you both want as many people through the door as possible. You want to play your music to a room full of people, they want those people to have paid entry and/or be paying for drinks.
Find where the gigs are in your town. The kind of gigs that you want to play. Go to the gigs and ask around for the promoter, or whoever is in charge of booking the music acts for the night. Talk to them in person, or get an email address, say you want to play one of their shows and ask them to check out your demo. Have your demo with you, or at least a link to download it. If you are meeting them in person, always, always write down their name and contact number or email so you can follow up at a more convenient time. Many venues will have a website with a contact number or email address. Get in touch and ask how you go about playing there.
Only you will know which venues are putting on shows locally to you. Make a list and get in touch with them all. Remember to look for somewhere appropriate to your music; there’s no use trying to book a quiet background-music restaurant gig if your act is an eight-person energetic hip-hop crew (but hey, don’t let me tell you not to take a gig). Here’s a list of the usual places to start looking:
- Bars & pubs
- Night Clubs
- Rehearsal rooms
- Youth Clubs
- Local festivals
- Event Centres
Organise Your Own.
If you can’t find anywhere to play or anyone to book you, put on your own show! Ask everywhere you can think of that could work as a venue: hire a PA, throw a party and play in your garage, book the local town hall with a few friends and sell tickets to cover costs. There’s always an option if you look hard enough. Maybe you need to travel to find a venue that will have you. Don’t give up.
I’ve toured the world playing in lounges, boat sheds, garages, barns, backyards, R.S.A’s, town halls, record stores, clothing stores, tattoo parlours, basements, backrooms, workshops, factory’s, tents, horse stables, motorcycle clubs, and everywhere and anywhere a gig was going. Get creative!
The most important thing is to get a gig, and keep getting gigs. Playing live is great fun, but it’s also a sure-fire way to gain confidence and get really good. Do as many gigs as you can. When you’re starting out you should be playing live as much as possible to rack up that all-important experience. Take any gig that suits and treat every gig like it’s the last you’ll ever play.