From the Garage to the Stage – the Rookie Bands Guide to Getting on the Live Music Circuit

As an up and coming local band it can be very frustrating trying to get your first live gig, luckily there is help and advice out there.

After countless hours spent in your friend’s garage or in a rehearsal studio perfecting your songs and tweaking your style you are, at some point, going to want to unleash your sound on to the general public.

A good place to start organising your first gig is deciding how far you are willing to travel, sit down with your band mates and on a map decide on the areas that you could possibly travel to. Then contact every pub, club or venue in that area asking if you can play there.

The must have item for any band wanting to organise gigs is a demo. Don’t worry if your demo is a little rough around the edges, it doesn’t matter, the main point is that it conveys the sound of your band. There’s no point wasting hundreds of pounds on recording studio time producing a highly polished demo suitable for sending to prospective record labels when a simple 3 track recording will suffice. Try to make sure that the demo represents your sound well, if you have a varied sound reflect this in the song choices for the demo. The promoter or venue manager will use your demo to see if your band is suitable to play at the venue (heavy metal bands do not go down well on acoustic nights!) Along with your demo you should always include contact information, include email address, telephone numbers and your website if you have one. You can also write a small paragraph describing and promoting yourselves but remember to keep things concise, the more professional looking and sounding the better. Remember that promoters and venues get sent demos through everyday so be prepared to wait a while for a response. It’s always a good idea to chase the promoter or venue after a few days, just to make sure they listen to your demo, but do not hound them as this could put them off.

As well as contacting venues directly you can also contact promoters in your area. Promoters are always happy to receive demos from bands and they may have contacts with many different venues in the area. Also if you know anyone else in a band that gig in your area you could ask them if you could support them one night.

Another way of getting the opportunity to play live is to cut out the promoter and organise a gig night for yourself. Contact other bands in your area and ask if they would be willing to play (most of them will be more than happy), then contact possible venues. Any venue will be suitable if it holds enough people and has an area to set up the band. The venue doesn’t even need to have its own sound equipment or engineer as there are companies that specialise in hiring out PA equipment and sound engineers. A quick search on the web provides a list of companies that can deliver across the country, set up full size PA systems and engineer an event. Companies such as audiorent.co.uk specialise in hiring out PA systems to bands and even offer advice on the best type of PA set up for the event your holding.

Once you have got a venue don’t worry about filling it, the main thing is to make sure you put on a good show. Many bands bring a lot of friends along to see them play, which is good, but sometimes they can get caught up in talking and joking with their friends rather than playing at their best. This can alienate possible new fans in the crowd, annoy promoters and lead to you not getting booked again at that venue.

Once you’ve got your first gig booked in the main thing to be aware of is the sound equipment at the venue. Make sure you know what they have and haven’t got, if you have any special needs with regards to sound make sure you inform the sound engineer as early as possible. Its no good informing the engineer that you need 5 DI boxes and microphones for a 4 piece brass section 30 minutes before you are about to go on. Most venues will have the equipment you need but always check before hand.

With regards to payment it is always worth asking but do not demand payment or be to pushy, this is your first gig and you don’t want it to be your last. Remember to always be nice to staff and promoters, it may be fine to have a rock and roll attitude on stage but if you start to annoy or alienate promoters and venues you will start to find it harder to organise gigs in your area.

The final point is to have fun, the more you play live the more your name will get known and the easier it will be to organise gigs in the future.

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