Session Musician Q and A
1. How do I get my band more gigs? Part 1 of 2
This is a question often asked by fledgling bands when starting out and thankfully it's a lot easier than it may first appear. Although not set in stone, there is a common path that bands tend to take to get to those big world tours / stadium shows that all us musicians dream of and I've detailed them below in order of easy to achieve. Before anyone goes and says "There's no way Slipknot entered any lame Battle of Bands!" Admittedly, I'm sure they didn't however, I'd be very surprised to hear if the members bands such as them, Muse or Guns N Roses never entered any music competitions or put on their own show back in the day.
"Battle of the Bands" – Ideal for those with little to no experience and often the first starting point for young bands or musicians if they haven't played any school gigs.
Almost all cities and a fair amount of towns will have some form of unsigned band competition that you can take part in which, were once commonly referred to as "Battle of the Bands". All you will need to do is find out where your nearest one is, what their criteria is for band entry then sign your band up to compete. As well as finding local competitions, there are also always annual competitions you could enter provided you are willing to travel. In all cases they will ask you to submit some kind of entrance fee but probably won't ask to hear a demo. If they do, a microphone carefully positioned recording somewhere whilst you practice will be more than enough to show you can play some form of tune even if only barely. The organisers of these events will be more interested in how many people you bring through the door and they will probably achieve that by factoring it into the scoring somehow. For example, bands will be awarded points for audience votes / reaction enticing the bands to bring more people with them so as to progress to the next round. The more rounds you get through the more gigs you will get and the more people will get to hear your band. All you have to do is be organized and get a coach load of friends to come along for each gig to keep the organizers happy. This will be easy for the first round but will get progressively harder to achieve each round you reach unless you have some very supportive friends and family. Winning a competition such as this is unlikely to help your band progress any further in the music industry but if you are just after playing a few gigs and getting used to performing they are a good place to start.
Organizing your own gig. Ideal for those who have little to no experience playing live or who want to raise money.
For those who don't yet have the confidence to launch yourselves onto the music scene or you're still relatively inexperienced then organizing your own show is a great way to start. To do this you will obviously have to do your own research into the best SMALL venue area that, not only puts on bands, but that you can hire at not too great an expense. If you think you have a lot of friends or you are excellent at marketing then you could go for a larger venue but only if you are confident you can draw a lot of people in. If it's your first show you should be able to do this if you invite family friend and advertise it enough. There are a fair amount of considerations to make sure you take into account such as; do we need security, does the venue have PA system, cost, who's liable for any damage caused etc.
Organizing a gig is a great first step as you don't need to be a polished commercially viable band with a website, CDs and merchandise to sell or have to prove to anyone else that you can pull in a crowd. It's your gig so why not put yourselves on as the headliners and ask whichever other local bands if they want to come and support you. You don't have to worry about paying them as there will always be local bands who would be happy just playing a gig for free. Charge people a small fee for entry and you have a nice little earner to raise some cash for the band.
Small time promoters. Ideal for those who have done the two above and now want to start playing more regular shows.
In Europe there are people known as promoters and their job is simply to get as many people to come to their shows as possible. I can't stress enough how important being on the right side of promoters can be if you want to, not only start playing more shows, but start playing shows where you will be the supporting act for touring bands. Perhaps if you are personal friends with the guy or girl, then they may give you the one show as a favor but if you don't bring many people in at the show then you are not adding any value where as he could easily find another band who would add value in your place. Promoters are also often in contact with other promoters around the country so if you impress one it could lead to you playing shows in other towns!
You should honestly do all that you can to make his job easier even if its just putting up posters for free or spreading the word about the gig to people you meet or even better posting information about it in various places online. A little extra effort at your end will go along way with regards to band to promoter relations. The more people you get to gig the happier the promoter of course but you are also creating a better gig for yourself and getting more people to come see you play so this really is a win win scenario.
For small time promoters if they haven't seen you live yet, you will need a decent sounding demo so they can here if you are any good. Unlike the competition organisers the promoter will pay more attention to your recording as he will want to put on a good show to keep his customers happy so make sure this recording is as good as you can make it.
By Alex Kehoe
Got a bass related question you would like me to write about? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header "Session Question" and I'll endeavor to get it answered.
Copyright 2012 Alex Kehoe