We’ve read the stories. We’ve dreamed the dreams. And we’ve wondered, ‘how do I get to play stadiums filled with breasts that let me drink Jagermeister off of them?’ Sure, we all know it takes hard work and luck to achieve the musical unicorn that is a career of rocking stadiums well into your seventies. But we seem to retain little when it comes to understanding the excruciating hard work it takes just to be able to play in front of an audience.
We again talked to singer/songwriter John Taglieri (J.T.) to get his take on getting out there and gigging. He’s always playing somewhere – from Boston to Key West. He always has a new CD to talk about. And for some reason he is always willing to share what he’s learned with his fellow musicians (see exception below).
When we last talked to J.T. he told us to put our egos aside and do the work that needs to be done. Now he shares some tips on just how he’s been able to make a living as a performing artist.
Lazy Musicians Have No Gigs.
Once the music is written and a repertoire developed, it’s time to get gigging. Getting gigs if often easier said than done. It’s also a topic much discussed here – Because gigging and getting gigs is a musician’s life blood.
John Taglieri tells fellow musicians, “Get on the phone.” Agents work on commission. Unless you’re making them a few grand a month, your band is just not worth their effort. Agents want their commission. They don’t necessarily have a musician’s career in mind. There may be many non paying or low paying gigs passed over simply because there is no money in it for the agent. So you’d need a manager to fill in those gaps, and now the musician is paying 2 people for the same job! At the level of a newly emerging artist, “there’s nothing an agent can do for you that you can’t do for yourself.”
J.T.’s steps to getting in front of an Audience.
1. Find similar artists in locations you want to play. Reverb Nation is great for this. Note the places those bands play.
2. Fan and befriend that band. Never waste a chance to build relationships.
3. Research the venues. Go to their websites. Like them on facebook. Note in that gig binder what each venue’s policy is on soliciting bookings.
4. Follow those policies to the letter.
“Stop bitching and do it. Yes. It’s a lot of work. But it’s not brain surgery. Just stop whining about how hard it is and do it.” John always has a way of putting things so others can understand him. But don’t mistake this New Jersey native’s frankness. Like most musicians, J.T. is almost always willing to help others…as long as they help themselves. “If I see someone with no gigs listed and they’re asking me to help them, I think – They don’t deserve a gig.”
Go online, pick up a phone, and do that dirty work. Remember #2 above? When you help yourself and others see it, they’ll want to help you even more. Those other bands might help promote you to their fans, or at the very least, guarantee they’ll come out themselves.
Great Gigs Aren’t Always That Great.
If an emerging artists is playing any large stage, be it stadium or festival, chances are it was a buy on. That brings with it the pressure to gain enough fans and sell enough merchandise to cover that ‘promo fee.’ Such gigs can also mean the artist is under greater professional scrutiny. These are the gigs that make artists either put up or shut up. Stumble on local stages. Your friends will understand. Fail on a big stage and the artist might never get a chance to set foot on such a stage again. The stress level for emerging artists at those shows is often through the sagging roof of their tour van.
When it comes to playing shows, say yes. “There is no gig I won’t say yes to.” Free Shows? Yes. Charity events? Yes. Back yard cookouts? Yes. Quinceaneras? Who cares if anyone can pronounce it, Yes. Yes to all of them. J.T. would rather play a sweet sixteen party to 20 sixteen year old girls. “Those are the fans who like to spend money. There’s no choice between playing for large groups of drunk 40 year olds in a bar or playing for a small group of people in a private home who are really excited to hear me.”
People like to share, whether it’s a news story, pictures of their lunch, or their latest musical obsession. Create chances to be their obsession by saying yes. J.T. has learned not to turn down those nontraditional shows because in the midst of sharing their latest likes, they’ll tell all their friends about the funk y bald guy who jammed the face off their living room.
There would be more tips but John had to get to a gig.
[Watch this spot got a continuing talk with John Taglieri and his tips for making the most out of being on the road.]