So you have taken the giant step to learn an instrument, picked your perfect guitar, practised hard and even got some friends together to form a band.
Following that you have rehearsed got some songs together (original, covers or both) and are now looking to make that next step that is playing your first gig.
Alternatively, you have been lucky enough to play a gig and want to play some more.
Either way, this article will detail what I have learnt about playing and organising gigs for 23 years in South Africa, Europe and the USA and hopefully give you some advice about getting gigs.
Getting your band gigs can be distilled into one important step which is getting to know people.
To make the step from your bedroom, garage or rehearsal room to the stage you need to open your mind, open your mouth, use your legs and go to where the gigs are. This first step is crucial in securing your first gig and getting further gigs.
I have friends in bands from Manchester, Leeds and Nebraska all cultivated from seeing their band, hanging out and playing each other’s gigs. It’s important to find fellow musicians you respect and form a scene based on the music you all like.
Musical history is littered with places and music scenes from Grunge in Seattle to Hip Hop in New York. When you find a scene or group of people who play gigs you will find that not everyone involved plays an instrument but love music. They express this love through attending gigs or even organising gigs. They may not have the aura of musical genius but they are crucial to getting your band further gigs.
People who spend money to see your band or help your band in some way deserve to be treated with respect no matter how weird they appear to be. These fans will build your following and bigger crowds mean promoters want you to play their venue
Find the Right Music Scene
If you live in a big city like London you will have loads of bands coming through to play gigs, of varying levels of fame and genres. Therefore finding a scene or a group of musicians is fairly easy to do. However in small towns chances are venues and like-minded musicians are few and far between. So you can either move to a big city with your band or you could create your own scene by organising your own gigs.
This was a trend first put into place by the punk ethic of 77 and grew through the hardcore scene of the early eighties.
The book “Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991” by Michael Azerrad chronicles this period of time and how bands created their own scene. If it could be done in the 80’s without internet it can be done now.
The way to create a great gig is relentless promotion and hard work fuelled by the desire to make a great gig. The internet has made it possible for you to be part musician, part manager and part promoter. The key is to use the internet as a vessel to hunt for talent utilising your communities’ skills. People good at maths can take money and work the door, people who are athletic can be roadies, and people who drive can transport the gear.
Take time to make a cool poster for the gig (both hard copy and online). Make an event page on Facebook, get creative and enthusiastic about your gig and write about the bands playing giving a description of their sound. If your design skills aren’t great find someone who is good at drawing, designing or make a collage of your favourite bands it really is up to you. It’s your gig and your scene. Once you have made a poster put these up in the local pubs, music shops, coffee places. Meeting the people that run these places is also a great way to connect with people in the music community and get further gigs. Once you have done all the hard work you will be an asset to your community and put your town on the map for future touring bands. You will also make it easier for people to start bands and play gigs in your town.
If you choose to play gigs with other bands or make your own gig make sure you have the right frame of mind. If you approach getting gigs with the attitude to achieve money and fame than people will find this out quickly and you will be outcast as an arrogant prick. It is important that you approach people that you want to play a gig with or that will help you create an event with the attitude that this will be fun.
View the potential payoffs of money and bigger gigs as a bonus. What is important to remember is that you’re doing this to cultivate good experiences in life even when things go wrong and it all seems pointless.
When you reminisce about what you did to achieve further gigs the good times will be remembered fondly whilst the bad times, mostly funny. Now get organised, go see some bands and have some fun!