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> Truth About Starting A Band And Getting First Gigs
Bogdan Radovic
post Jan 12 2015, 02:29 PM
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Hey everyone, I'm starting this thread to share some of my experiences related to playing with brand new, demo bands and getting first gigs. I'm not sure if everything here will be applicable to your local music scene but some of the things should be universal. My experiences come from bands playing mostly original songs not covers.

* How smaller gig venues/clubs usually operate

The deal with gig venue for starting, demo bands is that band pays a certain fee in order to perform. Yes, this is the first major disappointment, you need to pay to play. This fee usually covers costs of clubs sound engineer, person selling the tickets, security personnel. I'm mostly talking about deals with smaller/medium sized rock clubs not large venues. Sometimes the club would provide its own PA system as well as stage gear (drums, amps, mics etc), this could be included in the venue price or not. If the club doesn't have the necessary equipment or stage gear, you need to rent it 3rd party. Band gets the percentage of the sold tickets and takes on the responsibility of marketing and actually filling the club with audience. First of all, you'll notice that these conditions are not very fair: band pays a fee, shares percentage with the club and pretty much does everything else while club makes money off customers buying drinks, gets free promotion and higher attendance, gets a fee from the band for the show and doesn't take much risk at all (unless the band really sucks smile.gif ). This is why it is very hard for new bands to make any revenue from their music when starting and there are lots of costs involved in their operation (recording studio, rehearsal space, gear etc). I'd like to say that this is unfortunately normal and that you should be prepared to go through this process. Over time, the clubs will get better and bigger while the "fees and conditions" will start being looser and better for the band. This all relates to how much audience band attracts and how popular it is. My advice - just trust and believe in your music and go out and have fun and try not to be bothered with those things. Rock out that stage and have fun with your audience who came there to see you. There is no better feeling than that! smile.gif

* Gear in small/medium clubs


You can expect some small/medium clubs that have regular gigs to have their own gear available. This gear is unfortunately often too abused and not maintained well. Bands usually try to bring their own guitar/bass amps if they have them or can borrow them from friends. Drum kits usually don't present a problem as long as they are somewhat functional (drummers should bring their own kick drum pedal and some cymbals though). Don't forget to bring power extension cords as well as extra guitar and mic cables (xlr>xlr). Always have a backup plan in mind if something is missing when you get to the club. Usually there is a sound check organized several hours before the show, so you have some time to fix problems if you encounter any. Monitoring on stage in small/medium clubs is often non existing. This is the last piece of gear the club owners will get for their club. Also, bands usually don't have this gear - monitors for on stage use which allow you to hear back vocals, guitars and other parts of the mix so that you can play better and hear everything nicely.

* How to get a first gig

The best and easiest way to get your first gig is not to organize your own, rather find a slightly more experienced band playing similar style of music and become friends with them. Ask them if they would call you to play 6 songs as a supporting act on one of their gigs. Being social and just networking goes a long way. If your band sounds nice and has songs which they like, they will call you. This way you don't need to deal with too many organization factors and just enjoy your first show! To do this, you can just send some messages via FB to bands you and your band mates like and get in touch. Don't be shy!

* How to organize your first gig

Find a small rock club in your area and it should be a place where you already had a chance to hang out in and which organizes gigs. Go to the club and ask for the manager. Tell him about your band and ask for conditions for playing in the club. Usually they will actually not even listen to your demos etc rather offer you a "Standard deal" we talked about earlier. If you are OK with the deal, arrange a date and you got the major part down. I'm suggesting a small club as it will be easier to "fill" even if just your friends only come to the gig. It is always much more fun to play in a small club with enough people than in big one which is half empty. Also, the more snug the club and filled with people, the better the sound will be! Once you have the date down, find more "friendly" bands to play with you. Actually you can do this step before arranging the final date and check with club manager if he is ok with having 2-3 demo bands playing in one night. Ask 1 or 2 bands if they'd like to be your guests at the gig and perform for lets say 30 minutes each. More bands = more people in the audience = FUN GIG smile.gif Once you have all the details down (where, when, who), start promoting the gig. You can start with a gig event on Facebook and getting the word out in the school, via your friends etc. You could also print some flyers/posters if budget allows. Make sure you are professional in way you handle organization so always make sure that the guest bands are well informed about sound check. Also, see if they have any special needs or gear on stage etc etc. Show up at the soundcheck early to make sure everything is OK. The band which plays first always does the sound check last so that his sound/gear can just stay connected and setup on stage.

* Other first gig opportunities

Great other opportunities for first gigs also include: school gigs (these are always so fun), local demo band competitions. Both are great opportunities as you don't need to handle any organization on your own, rather just show up and play.

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To sum it up, always believe in your music and have fun! smile.gif
There are tons of hurdles, disappointing things etc in bands "life" but trust me - good things always outweigh it and fun and happiness always prevails. Playing in a band is an amazing experience, it is fun and it can bring a lot of amazing things in your life!



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Todd Simpson
post Jan 13 2015, 07:49 AM
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This is a KILLER Post Bogdan!! If it's not part of our wiki, it should be!!!


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PosterBoy
post Jan 13 2015, 12:36 PM
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If you want to be invited back make sure you encourage your audience to buy drinks!


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Osedmen
post Jan 13 2015, 01:03 PM
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Hi Bogdan!

Nice post! is real! is the similar situation in here, Colombia.

Ok. In my opinion... i think this post is really helpful to a person who wants to had experience.... or maybe feel emotions in this field .

In my case , when you decided to live in music you have to be more serious and work with serious people!

take care with people who working with you.... always is a business... always people want $$$$$ and don´t think in the side of the band.

If you want to organize an event also try to include 3 or 4 people.



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klasaine
post Jan 13 2015, 04:17 PM
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QUOTE (PosterBoy @ Jan 13 2015, 03:36 AM) *
If you want to be invited back make sure you encourage your audience to buy drinks!


+1
I learned a long time ago that (when playing in a club) I'm just a glorified alcohol salesman.

Also along the same lines ...
If you want folks to show up at your gigs, figure out a way to get girls to show up. When girls show up the guys show up in droves.

If you're playing with more than one band per night(?) - please set up and tear down quickly. Get off the stage so that the next band can set up.


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Bogdan Radovic
post Jan 13 2015, 11:15 PM
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QUOTE (klasaine @ Jan 13 2015, 04:17 PM) *
If you're playing with more than one band per night(?) - please set up and tear down quickly. Get off the stage so that the next band can set up.


Yes, this is extremely important. I had luck of playing with a band at a lot of gigs where where was a live radio broadcast. We literally had 5 minutes to get on stage and setup while the song was playing on radio and you also need to quickly get off once finished to make room for the next band.

Also as a general tip for first gigs: don't tune on stage out loud and don't play anything in between songs. I have noticed inexperienced bands tend to sometimes play some stuff in between songs or just randomly make noise smile.gif It is much more effective and professional to end the song and start playing when the next one starts not before, unless audience is cheering for C major scale or random drum fills laugh.gif

WIth the above advice, it is also good to have a solution for tuning your guitar quietly on stage. Most tuner pedals will mute the output when engaged.


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Todd Simpson
post Jan 15 2015, 12:13 AM
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Great advice smile.gif Musicians generally can ignore the sound of someone tuning up, but a paying audience is not in that group. Most regular folks find it a bit irritating. Having a pedal or rack unit that mutes your signal while you tune is a must have for live giigs smile.gif


QUOTE (Bogdan Radovic @ Jan 13 2015, 06:15 PM) *
Yes, this is extremely important. I had luck of playing with a band at a lot of gigs where where was a live radio broadcast. We literally had 5 minutes to get on stage and setup while the song was playing on radio and you also need to quickly get off once finished to make room for the next band.

Also as a general tip for first gigs: don't tune on stage out loud and don't play anything in between songs. I have noticed inexperienced bands tend to sometimes play some stuff in between songs or just randomly make noise smile.gif It is much more effective and professional to end the song and start playing when the next one starts not before, unless audience is cheering for C major scale or random drum fills laugh.gif

WIth the above advice, it is also good to have a solution for tuning your guitar quietly on stage. Most tuner pedals will mute the output when engaged.



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Darius Wave
post Jan 15 2015, 02:39 PM
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Great topic Bogdan. Most of Your points probably covers the problem worldwide. Some of those form my experience in my location are different. Aside from huge music clubs or a few small but ultra professional pubs You don't have to pay any fees to club owners. But very often they do not deliver P.A as well...not even mention about backline (Personally I do not think it's bad - every one should play on his gear, take care of it, get Your own sound etc). I'm used to travel with my complete gear all the time. In the small clubs I'm happy if I see any P.A at all. Some clubs have a collaborating sound engeneer and some of those want a band to pay him, and some do not. Fortunately most of small clubs crews are same friendly and twisted peopel like us - players smile.gif They do not looks for money that much. They just don't want to loose any cash because of the gig.

If I do the "management" thing from time to time, I try to choose clubs that I know to have a descent P.A so I at least would not have to bother myself from anything more than taking care of our backline. We usually play for tickets. Sometimes we have to take a person to sell the tickets with us. But all those things are establisehd before the gig.

Unfortunately some clubs commit to have a P.A....but it looks like home audio when we arrive and see it live biggrin.gif

Ken - Girls You say smile.gif I have a different trick for this - get Yourself a local support band if You're playing away from hometown. They will bring their friends and play just for fun because they actually have nothing to loose aside from a day off from regular duties smile.gif


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Cornelius
post Jan 15 2015, 03:09 PM
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Great Topic, loving every sentence biggrin.gif


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klasaine
post Jan 15 2015, 03:28 PM
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QUOTE (Darius Wave @ Jan 15 2015, 05:39 AM) *
Ken - Girls You say smile.gif I have a different trick for this - get Yourself a local support band if You're playing away from hometown. They will bring their friends and play just for fun because they actually have nothing to loose aside from a day off from regular duties smile.gif


laugh.gif - Yes, absolutely!
We do that here locally as well. There's a very local bar/club that features original music and they like it if one of the local bands 'books' the shows. Usually 3 or 4 bands per night. Whenever we do it we ALWAYS pick bands that will get people to show up. The club makes money, the band makes money, the sound guy makes money ... everybody's happy!




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Darius Wave
post Jan 15 2015, 08:39 PM
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Yeah! I could never understand people who complain pub owners do want pay "just because" for the performance. I always say - before You point Your financial expectation , ask yourself what kind of product You are for the club. Our music business doesn't differ from any other kind of business smile.gif


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Bogdan Radovic
post Jan 15 2015, 09:26 PM
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QUOTE (Darius Wave @ Jan 15 2015, 08:39 PM) *
Yeah! I could never understand people who complain pub owners do want pay "just because" for the performance. I always say - before You point Your financial expectation , ask yourself what kind of product You are for the club. Our music business doesn't differ from any other kind of business smile.gif


Yes, this is very true smile.gif

Now check out this tricky situation:

1. Band can't really expect to get paid or if at all playing in pubs/clubs at the beginning of their carrier as they are practically "unknown". Their value depends on how good they are, how popular they are and tons of other factors. I'm referring to upfront payments for the shows here.

2. Band that is good and has made a name + established a certain price can have difficulties charging it in clubs where they played for free in the past and usually, at least in smaller cities there are only few suitable clubs for them to perform in.

BTW - inviting guest artists from the local city you are playing in to your shows always works really well as they bring their friends to the show. I have also noticed that in smaller cities gigs can usually turn out much cooler and overall better than in bigger cities, maybe because audience doesn't seem to have too much choice available for "night out" so everyone goes to the "event".


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For GMC support please email support (at) guitarmasterclass.net
Check out my lessons and my instructor board.
Check out my beginner guitar lessons course! ; Take a bass course now!
My solo and band songs : Keep Going On, Night Vibe, Kad Te Vidim, Susret, Plava Silueta
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