The Essential Guide to Gigging



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The Gigging Essentials: The essential guide to gigging by Nathan Hallford

Getting yourself known is one of the hardest aspects of being in a band. As Radiohead once said, anyone can play guitar, and if you watch Pop Idol and other such programs, anyone believes they can sing. But not everyone can take it that step further and organise their own concert. It takes a lot of work, a lot of convincing, and organising a music event takes a lot of time too. Here's Blue Beam's step-by-step guide to gigging.

The Demo

Gone are the days when a band will play live in a garage, record it on cassette and copy from cassette to cassette. These days, a good demo is absolutely essential, and no band can get a gig without having a decent CD to take with them. The quality does not have to be of record-studio standard. You can make a home recording using a pre-amp into your computer, or you can record a rehearsal, if your studio has decent equipment. Naturally, it is best if you book a couple of days in the studio - making sure that you know your songs back to front, and then you record two or three songs at most in one weekend. Get everything down, print out a CD cover, get your CD done, and you have a homemade product you can be proud of.

The Location

Emerging artists have to be selective. Indie music is not played in jazz halls, and jazz music is not played at Indie venues. When selecting where you want to play, you have to consider yourself as the army general planning a campaign. Each location should be considered strategically - what will your audience be? What are the chances of people coming along on the off chance of seeing a band? Don't consider the money, you're an emerging artist, not Madonna; your time will come if you put in the hard work and you find the right places. To build up a buzz around your band, you have to be known within the local community, and that means finding the places people go to regularly, and being there - regularly.

The Promotion

Don't think that your band will automatically be given a gig. At the best venues, there is a selection process and the owner of the venue will seriously consider the musical merits of each band. And of course, not everything depends on your CD. This is where you have to have a little marketing savvy. Your band page, of course, is very important. Band pages have proliferated across the internet, but they serve one particular purpose: business cards. Your band page is where you direct people so that they can see your promotional material, they can hear your music, and they can see what you have done.

You should have a press kit both on paper and online. Emerging artists always have a concise, precise press kit, with information about where the band has played previously, what the band has already recorded, some photographs, and some information about each member of the band. The longer the press kit, the less likely it is that it will be read - when putting your press kit together, consider yourself as a journalist or as the owner of a music venue. You don't have much time, and you want the essential information quickly. Put it down, make it look attractive, and have it printed properly. When you give your CD, you will also give your press kit. The owner of a venue will look for interesting pieces of information to use for your promotion, as he will then contact local magazines, radio stations, internet radio stations and promoters, to advertise the concert. Remember, everyone in the music industry is looking to make money. That's why it exists. The owner of a music venue is looking to get people in his venue, to sell tickets and to sell drinks. You have to convince him that you will get people in!

The Buzz

So let's imagine that you have given your CD and press kit to a venue, and they have given you a date. Congratulations. You have done the first part. Now you have to create a buzz around that date, and here's where the internet comes in. You have a mailing list - use it. Use your band page to accumulate a mailing list, and make sure that your next gig is well advertised on the band page - there is every chance that people will visit your site more than once if they like your music, and they will want to keep in touch with what is happening. Create a flyer with your logo and the essential information. Make sure that the flyer can be displayed on-screen at 100% - this is very important because most people will be viewing your flyer on-screen.

See if you can get a cheap deal on printing - there are many offers out there for musicians who want to print their flyers and you should be taking advantage of them. Go round other venues and distribute your flyers - you can stand outside and hand them out, or leave them with all the other flyers. Marketing gurus say that 1 in 10 will look at the flyer, and that 1 in 100 will go to the concert. Make your flyer attractive, and you can improve those statistics considerably. Indie music has grown through hard work, and those emerging artists who have the wit and intelligence to do something a little difference will find that the hard work pays off quicker!

Next, you want to contact your local radio stations, internet radio stations, and local magazines. Every local magazine has a listings section, and it is often free to be in it. Maintain good contacts with the journalists who write these sections, send them a CD, your press kit, and your flyer, with a letter telling them about the date of the concert. Remember, those previous statistics still count - 1 in 10 people will look seriously at it, and 1 in 100 will go. Improve your promotion and you improve those statistics. Internet radio is also very important because it expands your audience at an incredible rate. Get yourself on an internet radio station and you will find yourself listened to not just in your community, but all over the place, pushing yourself up the ratings, and into a more prominent position.

Make sure also that your webpage is prominent in all of your promotional buzz. If you get people visiting your site, they will naturally be more interested in your concert. A music event requires this kind of buzz for anything to happen!

Preparations

Any gig requires a certain amount of preparation music-wise. Don't leave anything to chance. Make sure that you have your set list prepared well in advance, and make sure that you know the links between each song perfectly. If your lead singer is going to talk between songs, make sure that the rest of the band knows where, and that you move seamlessly between songs. There is nothing worse than a group on stage that doesn't know what's coming next - when the audience sees musicians talking to each other between songs, they are excluded from the experience, and the music event becomes a purely egotistical trip for the band. You need to work closely together, because independent musicians alone do not make an indie band. There needs to be a near-telepathic connection between each member of the group, and if your concert is to be a success, you need to make the most of your rehearsal time and perform your concert several times over so that everyone knows what to do.

On The Day

You have promoted your concert, you have the buzz, you have used your mailing list, and you are guaranteed an audience. If you are human, you will be feeling the butterflies in your stomach, you have created a music event, and you are about to actually do it. If you have rehearsed enough, you should be prepared well enough for any mishaps - and beware: mishaps do happen, you can't avoid them.

Arrive early, and make sure that you get on well with your sound engineers. If the venue doesn't have one, then you should always have one yourself, because it is essential that you have someone who can listen to how you sound in the rest of the room. Take time during your soundcheck to make sure that your return speakers are well positioned and that everyone can hear exactly what they want to hear. Don't be afraid to speak up and say that you can't hear your own voice or your own guitar - this is your chance to make your music event the perfect experience not just for the audience but for you!

Always, always remember your settings - check your amp, check your instrument, check everything, and write everything down. Many bands forget to do this, and it's the most essential part of a soundcheck. The sound engineer will write everything down behind the sound deck, but it is your responsibility to remember everything on stage. Once you've done this, once you've soundchecked with three or four different songs, and you feel confident with the sound you are creating on stage, then you're ready.

You have successfully created your event. Emerging artists have to do everything themselves, or at least they do until a promoter comes along and sees what they are doing. Every successful band, from U2 to Nirvana, has gone through the initial stages of sending of demos, creating press kits, and convincing venue owners that they are worth the risk. They have all had to go out and try to convince people that they are worth the entrance money.

Once you have got your foot in the door, there's no stopping you. Add the music event to your press kit, add the photos to your band page, write about your experience on blogs, and keep going. Indie music is all about hard work, and independent musicians know very well that it's worth it.

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Updated: 3/17/07