Old News But Bad News: The dream of getting a major record deal, complete with a million dollars and free drugs, is a thing of the past for all but a handful of artists.
The Good News: With that dream crushed, playing live can be the single most important thing a band can do. It builds a fan base in a way that Facebook cannot. Think your band is hot shit for having 10,000 ‘Likes’ online? Then why are there only 15 people who gave your band name at the door? Playing live can get media attention. Playing live can give a band the momentum and numbers to get sponsorships, endorsements, and other business opportunities.
So… live gigs are important. And that means it’s worth doing it right. J-Rock Staffieri (Events Coordinator & Production Manager for St. Pete, FL’s State Theatre and The Local 662) and Brandon Delph (Owner/Sound Engineer for BS Productions) outline the right way to get a gig:
1) Have a Decent Demo: Home technology has come a long way so there is absolutely no excuse not to have a listenable CD. Then respect the time and effort that’s put into making that demo. You wrote the songs and learned how to and recorded the songs, which is no small feat. So put a proper label on it, with the song names and your contact info printed on it. Why put in all the work and then scribble sharpie all over the Memorex CD you got on sale at Radio Shack?
2) Get a Calendar: Know the schedules and availability of the entire band. Ask for a specific date. Make it as easy for the booker to work with you as possible. Simply asking to play anytime means the booker has to do the work to fit you in instead of a quick no or yes. And if you take any date without knowing when you can play you run the risk of your bassist not being able to take off work. Asking for a specific date means you’re in control of your band schedule and that’s a good thing.
3) Pick a Venue: Find a venue that fits your style of music. Just because it’s the hottest venue in town doesn’t mean your band will go over well. Think out of the box. What kind of places do people who might like your type of music go to have fun? Become a regular there. Show them you support the venue and its efforts. Get to know the staff and if possible the owners. While digital is becoming the norm, “If you can bring a physical press kit with you when you meet the booking agent or owner and your band is ready to play that venue, 99% of the time, you’ll get a gig,” said J-Rock.
4) Make Friends with the Right People: Go online, call or ask directly but get to know the person who can make it happen. Be it internal booking agent or outside promoter, pitch to the person who can make it happen. J- Rock said, “Be professional. Saying, ‘Hey, we’re a band and we wanna play’ won’t work. Include your bio and website. Especially for a national venue like the State Theatre.” Brandon Delph added, “Coming in the introduce yourself is the right thing to do but also be realistic for in the type of music you play and sound like, and what your draw actually might be. If you’re new and don’t have a draw yet, just be honest. We’ll give you a chance.”
5) Promote Your Show: It’s wise to clearly define who is responsible to promote the show. Is it up to each band? Is one band coordinating the promotion? Does the venue have their own promoter? Who is responsible for labor and costs? Answer these questions up front and live a happier life. Both J-Rock and Brandon noted local bands that are shining examples of doing it right:
- A Brilliant Lie does a great job in communicating with the venue and passing out flyers.
- Sunshine & Bullets has done it by the book and they have a huge fan base now.
- Team Cybergeist approaches it like a job, and they’re successful.
6) Confirm the Details: There is no need for a formal contract signing for every show but there should be at least an email confirming the important details. It should be clearly understood, how much is being paid, when to expect payment, when the venue wants load in and sound check, and performance time.
Once you’ve played, “If you want to come back, respect the venue – their policies and their employees,” notes J-Rock. The venue is their home and the employees are its family. Treat it like you’re playing in someone’s home – a very cool, smoky, home that charges for drinks.
Play by these rules and getting a gig is the easy part. Being the rock stars you really want to be…now that takes work.