As the scouts always say, be prepared
This is especially true when planning your first gigs, plan for the worst and you should be planning correctly, don’t assume anyone will turn up; don’t assume the venue promoter will promote you; don’t assume your instruments will work properly’ don’t assume the sound engineer is your new best friend. Prepare, rehearse and hone your stage craft, right through to what you say to the audience, assuming it is more than ‘Please stop throwing beer at us’.
This is about preparing yourself for that first rush of success, where your band’s name is top of the bill and making a name for itself by performing live in front of people who want to hear good music and follow a band on their journey, wherever it might lead but for them to follow they must feel like you will lead them somewhere good.
Here is a quick guide on how to get your band on the road:
Building your Audience
No band in the history of music has learned a couple of songs and then hit the road with perhaps the exception of The Sex Pistols and other punk luminaries of a time gone by if you are to believe rock legend, and if they have, you can be sure that it didn’t end well for them. In order for you to start playing larger gigs, you need to have built an audience, and that means engaging with social media, building a website, using Soundcloud and actively seeking new listeners and followers of your band. Most people who like music will be supportive of you if they like your sound, and you’ll have a ready-made audience when it’s time to progress to larger venues.
Know Your Limitations Before Others Do
The leap from playing two covers and one original song at an open mic to playing a full gig is one that can swallow a band whole. In order to hit the ground running, a band should have a solid set list that can be performed well on any given night, so that your audience and the venue don’t hear you implode on stage due to you not being ready for a full gig yet. A comedian doesn’t go from a 5 minute set to Live at the Apollo overnight, so put in the hours and be prepared to blow an audience away when you make the transition to larger venues. Get yourself hooked into a night where there are three other acts playing so you can hit the crowd hard with five or six frontline tracks performed well. As opposed to trying a full hour long set and finding that by the end of it tumble weed is drifting across the venue floor as the crowd have retired to the bar, or just left the building totally.
Many venues will have a PA system for you to use, but it still pays to have as much quality band equipment on hand as possible, so you have the opportunity to turn any venue into a gig for your band. It is wise to focus on the tools of your trade i.e. drums, guitars, amps, microphones etc. at the outset. Understand them fully as there is no point in getting the friends, family and some fans into a venue then being let down by crap equipment. At the same time make sure you get to know the sound engineer as he needs to be your new best friend. Your life for 45 minutes is in his hands so take time to get the relationship right.
Think small when Approaching Venues
When you are ready to make the transition to proper gigs, you can start approaching venues with a view to performing there. Think small not big, most venues will be putting forward a pay to play style agreement and that only works if you can get people through the door. Once you have people in the venue then it is all down to you as a live act. When you start seeing them buying your t-shirts or CDs etc., you know you have real fans. But there is nothing worse than a venue being empty as it is very hard to create the all important fan build up with no one present.
Get Reviews of your Gigs to Build Buzz
Building the buzz is vital. Approaching local media or connected music freelancers, bloggers etc. always seems easy but that is where you need the support of a promotions team to make sure the correct approaches are made in the correct way. Building localised media is often overlooked by bands as they aim too high too soon trying to gain leverage with the likes of the NME when really it is better to focus on gaining coverage where ever is possible on the first series of dates. Adding in the creative angle too, is again where PR and music marketing can come into its own when looking at attracting attention. From Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello the regional touring was backed by ‘hype’ whether created or opportunist, every band needs professional help to really drive media attention and ticket sales.