- Published Mar 29, 2014 in The Biz
- Read time: about 4 minutes
Stack the odds in your favor by thinking ahead when it comes time to book a gig. It's not all about your playing. Sound, image and a good demo has a lot to do with it.
You've been rehearsing your material for the past six months. Your band has the best guitar player this side of Mars, and an even better drummer. The band is tight and is eager to play in public. However, booking paying gigs has been elusive. What should you do?
The first order of business here is to clear the air a bit. Are you looking to book gigs in order to make some money, or to gain notoriety? This article pertains to those who want to book paying gigs. It’s not about you being an artist with the utmost integrity, staying true to your passions, or anything like that. Often, business and art are mutually exclusive. Gigging, while fun, is also hard work.
Bands without an identity will be relegated to garages and basements.
In general, folks go out to have a good time. For a lot of girls this means dancing. For guys, it means going to where the girls are, dancing, or simply heading out to hear some decent music. So, doesn't it make sense to play music that folks want to hear? Too many times, bands don't consider what their market is, or even their identity. Bands without an identity will be relegated to garages and basements. This is worth repeating: Bands without an identity will be relegated to garages and basements.
I recently auditioned for a classic rock band. They showed me their set lists, and I asked them where they intended to play. The guitar player/leader said that it was too soon to be thinking about booking gigs. My response was that it made no sense rehearsing material that may never be a good fit to play in public. A band that has a well-defined goal, with prospects of places to gig, results in success. It is the same premise used in business: create your plan, then work your plan.
Here are 5 reasons your band is not bookable:
1 Your band lacks a clear identity.
Unless you are in a cover band with two pro singers and a repertoire of hundreds songs, variety bands are very difficult to market. Bands that play a particular style of music, or have a particular theme, are easier to book. For example, say you have a southern rock band. You can target some bars that have patrons who are into that style of music.
If you are only interested in playing original music, you need to consider open mic nights, then try to locate a venue that is a good fit for your style of music.
2 You don't have a decent demo.
Your demo needs to be perfect and reflective of your best work. This is often worth a bit of an investment. And it doesn't hurt to make a couple of different demos for different occasions.
Keep the listener in mind, understanding that he or she might not have a lot of time to listen. Put your best foot forward and remember that the quality of your audio is just as important as the quality of your playing. Take some time to do it right and you'll get more out of it.
3 You don't have an agent.
An agent will let you know right away about the band’s potential for bookings. Often, they know most or all of the places to be booked and what you can earn. If you want to try this yourself, make sure that you come across as professional. It's usually a good idea to seek out the owner or manager and introduce yourself in person. If this is the case, make sure you are punctual, dressed properly, organized, and sober. If you are not able to converse on the same level as those who will be paying you, find an agent who can.
4 The tone isn't working.
The sound has to be good. Period. Hire a sound man if necessary. Often, the sound out in front is different from what you're hearing on stage. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and make sure the quality of your musicianship is coming through. The best groove in the world won't get people to dance if the sound is truly awful.
5 Your singer is lame.
It is tough to find decent singers. Realize that for most cover bands, the vocals count for a lot. You can be the best musicians in the world, but a singer out of key, or without proper delivery, will have the entire band labeled as awful.
Approaching gig booking from a business perspective will help clear away the dust and clarify what you need to focus on in order to get booked.