Getting gigs is no easy task. There are an infinite number of local bands who clamor for the opportunity to get on stage, whether it be a small juke joint or a huge music venue. The competitive nature of getting your band off of the ground is just the nature of the beast. But, if you have a little knowledge and a lot of persistence you can give yourself lots of toe holds for an easier climb. There are plenty of ways to make your band shine bright enough to get yourself some paying gigs.
The easiest way to get noticed and booked is to just play – anywhere, and often. Open mic nights are one of the best places to meet other musicians and people who are interested in booking musicians. Your network is the most important thing to cultivate at all stages of playing. Having an entire band play at on open mic isn’t often a realistic goal. You should get the one or two key vocalist/musician combos and use them to spread your music. Often, a venue uses open mics to screen potential performers and many times, club owners or bookers will cruise them in order to hear up and comers and possible acts for their particular place.
Get a good 20-30 minute set together and do the research to find where the open mics in your community are located. Make sure to be courteous and respect the other musicians. You should show support and encouragement, and make sure to listen to other people before and after your set. Musicians form a community that is loosely based on mutual respect and help. Despite the competitive nature of booking gigs, most musicians will gladly give you a hand in finding the place that’s right for you.
Another thing to always have handy is a press kit. Beyond auditioning for someone, a press kit is the best way to impress your professional and efficient attitude. It should include a short bio of the band and members, a well recorded demo that includes more than one song, pictures of the band (preferably performing) and a list of references. Most, if not all of this, can be located online for easy access.
Finding your first gig can be difficult to the point that you want to pull your hair out, scream and quit but with patience and perseverance it almost always happens. People want to see a band succeed for the most part. They will be supportive up until you start to play. The real test is your ability to give a good performance. If you can impress upon them that you are a great live band, the odds are that they will offer you another booking and will provide a good reference for the future.
Finally, the most important thing you can do is deliver the goods. Many great bands shoot themselves in the foot, accidentally, by being immature. You should be the most professionally minded band that these people have ever seen. It sounds ridiculous to say these things but you’d be surprised at how often bands get a little too much “swagger” before they’re even able to get a gig.
Show up early enough to get your gear set up. Start promptly at the appointed time. Perform well and give a great show. Don’t quit early, and always fulfill the time slots by being prepared. A good suggestion is to have more than the required amount of material ready for performance so that if you run out early, you’ll have something to fill the extra time with. Treat the crowd with respect and smiles because they’re the ones who will be asking the employees about you. Even if they’re unruly and rude, don’t lash out physically or verbally. Professionalism is paramount if you are trying to maintain the right image. Do not give in to the cliché of the “rock star”. It is an annoying habit that most people don’t deal with.
Spreading your music is easy enough until you start to try to get booked in a venue that pays. Your friends and family will always be supportive and tell you that you are going to be huge. The reality of it is that until you build a good fan base and have a few gigs under your belt, nobody else cares. It will be up to you to book, promote and execute gigs. If you provide and continue to provide a professional attitude and a great show, you’ll be surprised how quickly “hunting” for gigs turns into deciding which ones to take and which ones to turn down.