PTFIB

How to Get Gigs

This  episode is all about how to get gigs: what do you need to get started, and how do you actually get yourself booked?


First off, here's a list of things to be sure you have before you even start searching for performance opportunities.

Songs

You need songs. Good songs, and several of them. You need to know them inside out, and be able to them play without being able to clearly hear your own instrument, or any of your bandmates, (Don’t worry, if that doesn’t make sense now it will when you start gigging)

A Set List

You need to be able to play those songs one after another with little to no gap between. Maybe have some different length setlists - for instance a 15 minute one, a half hour one, and a 45 minute one, just so you can fill a variety of slots. Also, once you’ve played a gig or two remember to swap out songs which your audience don’t seem to like with newer ones - it’s kinda more important to act on what an audience thinks than what you people in the band think.

how to get gigs

An E-Mail Address

One from which you actually respond to messages. Maybe you nominate someone in the band to do that - that could be their “band job” - i.e. the thing they do in the band which isn’t playing an instrument.

how to get gigs Video recordings

Basically proof that you can perform music, which you upload to YouTube Not a music video, (although that’s cool, it won’t help you get gigs), but videos of your band playing a song or several, all the way through will help promoters see what you can do, and what you’re likely to be like on stage. It can just be you guys playing in a garage, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Once you’ve played a few gigs see if you can get video of an actual live performance, then start sending out the most recent footage you have.

Stagecraft

Lastly, you need to be able to perform to an audience and look like a cohesive unit on stage. This is kinda hard to learn without playing gigs, but you can totally perform to your family or friends to get used to being watched.

how to get gigs

Now we can look at the actual steps involved with getting yourselves booked.

Research Venues

Step one: go to the internet; step two: use the internet. It’s easy, type where it is you live followed by the word “gigs” or “events”. Maybe try “pub gigs” as well. Some of these venues will have an in-house promoter in which case you can just drop the pub an email with a link to your performance video, and a little bit of info about your band.

Research Promoters

Research promoters. Again, use the internet. Some promoters will run different nights at different venues for different crowds so they’re possibly more likely to be able to help you than an in-house promoter. Even better, you could go to one of these local gigs from your research and at the end of the performances try and talk to the promoter When talking to a promoter don’t go into loads of detail about your band “we’re a metal band / we have our own drum kit and amps we don’t mind letting others use them” then you swap contact details.


Lastly, here's a few final considerations which may help.

Business cards

So when you talk to promoters, (or anyone else for that matter), you don’t have to go scribbling your email down on a scrap piece of paper. Even simple business cards will make you look twice as professional.

how to get gigs

A Facebook page

Promoters shouldn’t judge you by the number of likes you have, but some of them will. What’s important to promoters who are a little smarter is the number of interactions from fans, so try and propagate likes, shares and comments on whatever you post.

Confidence

You have to be pretty ballsy to talk to strangers, especially when you know nothing about each other and you want them to give you gigs, so it doesn’t hurt to send the most confident person in the band to talk to promoters - as long as confidence doesn’t turn into arrogance.

how to get gigs

Transport

If you’re able to move all your own gear around it makes it much easier on the promoter as they won’t have to find amps or cabinets or bits of drum kits for you to use. In fact, if you’re able to bring your own drums and amps and that you should consider letting the other bands performing with you use them - that will make you pretty popular.

how to get gigs

Interviews

This may be more helpful down the line, but any interviews, whether written, audio or video, can help a promoter get an idea of how professional you guys are. In fact, we have another video on exactly this - check out How To Get Gigs right here.

 

Budget For Promotion [ft. John Wheeler of Hayseed Dixie]

In this episode Liam talks about how best to budget for promoting your album or E.P., with a little help from John Wheeler - front-man for rock n' roll parody band, Hayseed Dixie. These guys coined the term "Rockgrass" to describe the way in which they perform classic tunes, and Si managed to talk with John for a while about his experiences in the music industry. Scroll down to find the interview in full.


Budget

85-90% of your budget should go on promotion. "Build it and they will come" is a dumb idea, people have to know your *thing* exists, otherwise how do they know they want it? Create your record as cheap as you can, without compromising what you want to achieve musically. Remember, a good song is a good song with or without huge production value. At least by keeping it simple people won't be able to accuse you of "hiding behind the mix"

Hire A Publicist

You may have your own list of contacts for reviews and press, but imagine combining that list with someone else's? Specifically, someone who has based their career on making these contacts, and probably knows that side of the industry way better than you. Hire a publicist.

Tour

Go on tour. Take your *thing* out into the world and see how it fares when the venue isn't full of your friends and well-wishers. Self-improvement aside, it's a great opportunity to spread the word about what you do. As with the above point, you should hire someone to arrange these tours for you, or to at least assist. This allows you to focus on the thing you really want to do - y'know, make music?

Record Labels

All they really do is sub-contract people to do the various jobs involved with promotion and tour management. Yes, they may have better contacts than you, but they will probably take a huge cut of the profits. That’s the big labels anyway, we can’t really talk about independent labels because they all vary so hugely in what they do and what they’re capable of.

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Photographers

Get one who’s actually a photographer. Y’know, someone who owns a camera and lighting and stuff. This is a real easy way for promoters to tell whether or not to send gigs your way. Some bands will use live photos, but this only works if you have reasonable stagecraft as a band.

Band Biographies & Press Releases

Put effort into your band bio and press releases, because most publications are just going to use that word-for-word. Also, for people like us who have to crawl through press releases to get to the kettle, please make them fun. Please! 


Thanks again to John for his time and the honesty with which he expressed his experiences. The full interview is available below, and contains info on how to tour without exhausting yourself, leadership and roles within a band, and how not to cack your pants on stage, (no, really).


REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

 

Acting Like A Professional vs Actually Being A Professional

Liam complains about discusses the lack of understanding surrounding the word “professional”, a personal bugbear of his. What does it actually mean, and what does it mean to get it wrong?

Music by The Centimes: https://www.fb.com/TheCentimes We also recorded an interview with The Centimes a while back, which you can enjoy right here.