So you've decided to perform live music. Getting gigs can be difficult when your just starting out. In this article, I'll take you through what I've learned from some of my experiences, help you see things from a different perspective and share the info that people don't like to give out.
Chances are your local music scene is saturated with bands, solo artists, duos and it's always the same regular names that crop up time and time again.
Why is that do you think?....
Are they the best?
Are they the cheapest?
Do they puke money on stage?
Maybe the last one isn't relevant but it would be very entertaining! The key is to be professional, reliable and to stand out from the crowd. Every time you approach a venue in person, think of it as a job interview. Every time you send an email with your promotional material, you're sending a C.V.
Granted, it's not quite that formal but it helps to understand things from the venue's point of view.
"Hey, I've heard of you"
Any venue hiring a band or artist are taking a risk. Their goal is to pull in as many people to their venue as possible and keep them there all night. Which means that they will always book the bands which leave a lasting impression and bring a lot of people with them. Sometimes the fact that your name rings a bell with the manager is all it takes,
"Oh yeah I've seen your name around..."
... and you're in.
If you are completely fresh to the scene, you will have little or no reputation (which is better than a bad reputation!). You need to give them no question that you tick all the boxes and out weight the risk on their part.
Get a friend to record a video at a local open mic event.
Send them a sample of your setlist making sure to include a few definite favourites and dance floor fillers.
Be affordable but not too cheap (see below).
Provided you're not appalling musicians and you don't sound like a goose full of plums, a venue will be more impressed by the number of people who ask about you afterwards rather than that amazing 8 minute drum solo you did in the interval.
This can be a very touchy subject for a lot of people. Price yourself too high and you'll price yourself out of work. Price yourself too low and you'll be cheapening the local music scene for everyone else.
I live in South Wales UK, there are a lot of bands and musicians playing the local scene. For some it's a hobby, and for others it's a full time career. It would be ideal if there was a flat rate for every band but I'm afraid that isn't the case.
I've made a list of the amount that myself and friends of mine have been paid at local music venues based on the industry standard 2 X 45 minute sets. Some people will think it's too low but this is an average for public venues, not taking into account for special holiday dates.
Weekend - £100 - £150
Midweek - £60 - £80
A lower price is sometimes negotiated if there's use of an in house PA a regular weekly residency.
Weekend - £150 - £200
Midweek - £80 - £120
3 Piece band
Weekend - £200 - £300
My opinion is that a 3 piece band should never be paid less than a 4 piece band.
With a singer/guitarist playing two instruments, they would sound exactly the same as a 4 piece with a singer who plays no instrument.
4 Piece band
Weekend - £200 - £250
Usually, venues only have a budget to provide entertainment for the weekend unless it's solo or an do pen mic event.
It's good to be a little business savvy.
Take into consideration the size of the venue, if it's particularly small, then there won't be as many people there buying drinks etc.
If its a hotel or restaurant, they have income based on more than just bar sales and usually have a higher budget.
Some venues will dictate how much they pay for entertainment depending on the type of act and a lot will only go through an independent agency.
Venues can't reply to all enquiries and sift through message after message of band videos, musicians sometimes don't have the time to approach 30 different venues and tailor an email for each one, follow up with a phone call and maybe pop in to meet the manager in person.
Thats where an agency comes in. You will pay a percentage of your earnings from each gig for this convenience (usually 15%).
Also, a lot of the time it will be written in your contract that you will be unable to play the same venue (for a limited time afterwards) without paying the same fee to the agency. Even if it's booked without the agency's involvement.
Scott's wisdom nuggets
You have to start somewhere
If you have never played a gig in your life then you don't know how your going to react when something out of the ordinary happens.
In my long hair days, I was regular heckled to the tune of
"Who's the singer? She's hot".
Luckily, I get much worse on a regular basis from my close friends but to find out that you don't handle drunken insults very well could be a deal breaker.
My advice is to spend as much time on stage as possible. Good open Mic nights are a hub for musicians to meet and connect and you never know who's in the audience. The most fun and influential Open mic events that I've been to in the past is The Bay View Open Mic (Swansea) on a Tuesday evening. Run by Ross - Bay View Open Mic Swansea
I'm not really a regular any more as teaching eats up my evenings but the friends I've made at similar events have had such a positive affect on my career and we still pass each other surplus gigs to this day.
Delayed invoice payment
This is something you need to know before you agree to play somewhere. Sometimes a venue will only pay once they've received an invoice from you and sometimes that payment will be delayed by anything up to 1 month. In the past I have waited 2 months for payment from a hotel who were having cash-flow problems. In their situation, they thought my services were less important than any of the other staff that they were paying on a weekly basis. As it was too far to deal with it in person, it took a lot of phone calls, emails and finally the threat of court action to finally get what was owed.
Do your research before agreeing to anything and ask anyone who's played there previously.
Do not undersell yourself
The market is teeming with greedy venues taking advantage of amateur musicians willing to play to next to nothing. Don't be afraid to ask other bands/musicians what the rate is in your area and don't be pressured to go below the minimum rate.
Share what you've learned from playing terrible venues as well as bring people's attention to the good ones. Make friends with other bands. If someone in your area is pleading on social media for a spare mic, go out of your way to help. It's those situation which can lead to a lot more work.
Be prepared for a few set backs, cancellations, amazing crowds, empty venues, unforgettable experiences, lots of drunk people, the occasional tip, horrible people, wonderful people and a steep learning curve.
That'll be all for this episode, and remember,