Photo by Aidan Ryan
So you’ve got the band together for practice and you can finally nail the killer solo in your new song. You’ve got a heap of songs perfected and ready to blow people away with your sweet solos and banging beats. It’s time to play live and finally show people (including that one bloke who thinks you can’t really play) how good the band is.
1 – Find Your Demographic
Are you a pub rock band from northern Queensland, a soul/jazz band ready to serenade a wedding in Adelaide, a dub-step crew of rasta’s wanting to play the festival circuit or an art-prog band with a 30-minute set of amazing weird-ass originals in Fremantle? It’s vitally important to know where you sit in the music spectrum. You don’t want to blast White Stripes and Black Sabbath covers to a heap of families and retirement home visitors at a flower festival (doesn’t go over well – believe me). Take a look at the songs you’ve written and find where you fit – or at least where you don’t.
2 – Make Friends With Other Local Bands
Networking is a no brainer. What local bands have you seen that are similar to you (you ARE going to local gigs right?). Have a chat to them and introduce yourself. If you loved their set or if you really enjoyed the syncopated floor tom drum beats – tell them! If they’re keen to chat you could even tell them you’re in a band yourself and ask them where they played their first gig. They might know the venue booker who does the local band nights. If nothing else – know what local bands are similar to you and where they usually play. This leads me to my next point…
3 – Finding Suitable Venues
Sometimes pickers can’t be chooses. General rule of thumb is that, if you’re yet to play a gig and get offered one – take it. Exceptions to that rule being crack dens or parties. For parties – check rule 1 (know your demographic). If your band focuses on covers it can work quite well, just know that unless people know the songs, parties tend to attract drunks that will boo you, ask you to play Khe Sanh or tell you to turn it down so they can talk (also know this doesn’t go over well).
Local pubs, which have gigs, quite often have one night a week where they let any local bands play and test them for the weekend slots. It’s usually on a Wednesday, Tuesday or (god-forbid) a Monday, which means you’ll have to try to tell all your friends to go (including your mum who will be over-zealous at the back to embarrass you), because it will be empty. If pubs aren’t your thing, follow rule 2 and see where other similar bands are playing. Maybe that means a local church or community hall, as a background band at a café or that could mean the hidden venue behind the coffee shop at the back of west end (you’ll never find it).
4 – Scoring the Venue
You have a list of places you want to play, you know similar bands that have played there and now you want to let them know how great your new songs are. The best advice is to do everything in person or know people who know other people who know people. If it’s a café/pub/venue that’s open during the day, go in during the day and ask to see the manager (or if you know who runs the music there).
If you have an EPK, great, get ready to email that to all prospective venues. If you don’t know what an EPK is, it’s an electronic press kit – and it’s vitally important in today’s industry. The EPK includes a photo, bio, quote from a good review, a link to your music (make very visible), and links to ALL the social media networks (which you should have made already) and most importantly – CONTACT information.
When you meet the manager/booker, tell them your style/what you sound like and that you’d be keen to play if the opportunity arose, telling them that you’ve emailed your well-written EPK.
Check out our course on EPKs!
5 – Keep Pushing
You might go months without hearing back from venues. But what are you doing waiting months to hear back?! Email or call them again! Go see more gigs at the venue you want to play at, maybe talk to the barman, see if you can meet the manager again (sometimes they’re just sitting at the bar having a drink). This is where you need to know your boundaries. Know how to network without coming off as pushy. Annoying doesn’t get gigs, but friendly and relaxed opens doors. Keep your wits about you and know when the manager is too busy to care. If you’re chasing them around the venue while they’re carrying leads and a tray full of drinks you know you’ve gone too far. It’s not hard – just be smart and courteous.
While this entire venue business is happening make sure you’re contacting bands and asking THEM if they have any gigs coming up that need a support. The more bands you ask, the more chances you have and the more your name gets out there. Getting your name out there is vital. If a manager opens the email you’ve left and remembers the name from a band that mentioned you, the gig’s practically yours.
6 – PRACTICE
There’s no point finding a gig if you don’t have well-crafted songs or can’t play well. This might mean getting a friend you trust to stand in on part of a band practice and getting their REAL thoughts on it. Take a good look at yourselves and make sure your songs are good enough for a gig. You can’t always know if you’re going to strike musical genius or accidentally release a completely forgettable single, but it’s imperative you know the venue manager won’t tell you to leave after you finish playing a badly written song completely out of time. If you do all this work to play a gig, then you can’t even play in time or nail that solo – it’s a lot of effort to waste. So what are you waiting for? Always be experimenting with new material and practice, practice practice!
For more info and advice on scoring gigs, check out our premium content on Booking Gigs.