How to get a gig for your band
Hey, you! Yeah, you! The rock chick! Have you already started a band? Think you’re ready for the big time? Then let’s hit the stage. From networking promoters to dealing with stagefright, it’s time to sharpen your gigging claws and get a gif for your band
Schmoozing venues and promoters for the first gig
Let’s start with finding that all-important gig. Make a list of possible venues. Order them from smallest to biggest. Then find their numbers, or better yet, their website pages. Make a list of venues and promoters to approach – promoters love new bands and acts. They can bring something new and different to a scene. Talk to friends, they might want to do a gig with you or may know an Uncle Joe who needs an opener for his band. Ask, beg and borrow favours to get on stage. Once you’ve done it the first time you find yourself always wanting gigs and it will get easier to ask and find them.
Ask the right questions of the promoter/venue
Ask the promoter or the venue what equipment you will need. Some places just require you to have your guitars, sticks and leads, but more often than not you’ll need a set of cymbals for the house drums, so always check.
- How long will your set be?
- Will you be opening or on later?
- Is there a sound check? When is it? If there isn’t when do they need you there?
- Are there any age limits on the show?
Money talks and it’s always best to ask it questions. It might seem obvious, but is it a paid gig? If so, is it a basic rate or will it be based on how many tickets you sell? How much are the tickets? Can you get some beforehand to sell to friends and family? Will you be needing a ticket to see the gig?
Once that’s all set, you might want to call back a few days before the gig to check everything. Leave either the leader of the band’s name or the band’s name. Tell the name to every band member so if they turn up before you do, they can still check in with the organiser.
What to bring to your first gig
Bring all your equipment, clothes and make-up with you. And double check you still have them all before you leave. You might be lucky and have a dressing-room… you might not. I’ve changed clothes in bathrooms and applied make-up in car mirrors (during an interesting gig in a park). Choose your outfits wisely. Black is the trademark of a rocker, but it might hide you a little on stage. White stands out, but you might not like it. Above all else, be comfortable. And one final tip: If you’re a vocalist, don’t wear your corset. Yes, you’ll look gorgeous, but you’ll also limit your lungs and your ability to sing.
The setlist is what you’ll play on the night, and the order in which you play the songs will be vital to how this gig goes. Open with your second best song and end with your best. Try to use your own songs for those key positions. You want them singing your songs into the night. It goes without saying: Check everyone knows the songs. Actually, maybe it doesn’t.
Sound checks on the day
On the day of the gig, you need to run your last-minute sound checks. Make sure you have all your sticks, picks and strings. I can’t stress this enough: bring a tuner for the guitars! Your most prized item will get out of tune in transit. Tune up before the sound check. And always arrive on time – or early. Use the old expression of being there ‘for a time’ not ‘at a time’.
Be warned: sound checks are just plain weird. You’re playing to a near-empty room. The easiest sound check is to just listen to the house engineer and follow his lead. Listen to your monitors, they will be what lets you hear your bandmates. You’ll need them to play in time with each other. Normally the engineers will ask you to play something individually, then one song (or part of a song) together. All you drummers will be lavished with attention as each of your drums need to be mic’d up.
Be professional on the night
That last hour or so, know your limits. No stupid antics. If you’re going to drink don’t get blotto. My band DrainPipe has a two-drink limit before a gig. Enough to chill, but not enough to get sloppy.
Another thing to avoid is having your bandmates going for a walk before the gig begins. If people get lost it could lead to near-disastrous changes in last-minute plans. The idea of paying one’s former band mates to play for you is a terrifying idea but might be a necessity if you can’t get your bassist back from the shops. Thank god he got back in time, is all I’ve got to say on that matter.
Getting confidence to go onstage
In those final moments before you hit the stage, the energy is pouring through your system, your breath is laboured and the sweat is pouring down your forehead. Before you take that step into the limelight, take one deep breath. Take the air right into your fingertips and toes, let it run into your instrument, breathe out the stress.
Then step onto your stage.
Yes, that’s right. Your stage.
Own it, claim it, and be proud of it. Be sassy, be driven, know that the people out there will love you.
Oops! We did it again
Things will go wrong. Someone will come in at the wrong point, someone will try to heckle you. If you’re the one that screwed up, pause for a second and come back in as soon as you can. Make it look like part of the song. No one knows what’s meant to happen, so as long as you don’t freak out it will look like part of the act. If it’s someone else, trust them to fix themselves. Don’t shout or glare at them.
It’s your night – enjoy it! All eyes are on you (and your band) so smile and love being the centre of attention.
The set will go quickly. No matter how much you’ll want it to last all night, it won’t. Don’t go overtime, the next act won’t love you for it. And the hosts of the gig won’t be happy either. If you’re worried about going over, have someone gesture to you when you have 15 and 5 minutes left.
Dealing with the groupies/fans/engineers/promoters
And it’s done… but wait! Hold up. You’re not finished yet. Now you have to meet the fans. Some nights this is brilliant, they pat you on the back and love you. Other times they look down on you. On those days just wave them off, smile happily and get a drink from the bar. Always have a buddy in the crowd who will smile at you and tell you it could have been worse. Thank everyone involved: sound engineers and members of the promotional team are always good to have behind you. Get numbers and cards. If you have them, hand out your own.
Bring a big old note book to get email addresses of people who liked your act. Just to let them know when the next gig is or when you have a demo out. Keep in touch with people, the internet is built for it.
And over the final rock’n’roll excess we shall draw a veil…
And now, finally, it’s time for the aftershow party, I won’t tell you how to party. I’ll bet you already know how. Have fun and keep rockin’!