Posted: 9 August 2018
For every musician there comes a moment when you’re ready to step out of the rehearsal room and onto the stage. Play time is over. It’s time to show the world what you’re made of. As scary as it all seems, every artist has started out in the exact same situation. Don’t believe us? We asked some of our talented friends about their first gig.
"I can actually picture it perfectly. It was really weird and terrifying because our set up was so different. I remember walking off stage and it was the first real gig that I did with Isaac as well and saying like “what do you think? I wasn’t sure.” And he just said “never doubt a gig, once it’s done it’s done. No negative feedback, just move on, it’s a gig.” It was wicked [advice] and we’ve never done it."
“Our first gig as Rews was…interesting and nerve wracking. It was raw and we had a few technical difficulties but it was so much fun and we loved every second of it. We came off stage buzzing!"
"Totally buzzing is the word! Our first ever Rews gig was so much fun. It was in The Empire in Belfast, a beautiful iconic venue. We sort of just booked it so we had a date to aim for to get Rews ready and get the ball rolling on our career. It was a little nerve wracking as the venue was quite big and we didn’t know how many people would come but it was really great and paid off."
"We played our first show at the Dog and Whistle in Hertford. It was very last minute, we only found out about it on the day and we honestly didn’t feel we were ready. It went so well though, was a lot of fun and we got some brilliant feedback, but our stage presence was lacking and it is actually quite funny to watch it back and see how much we’ve grown and changed since then. We are always trying to see what we can do better and how we can improve, but it was a good start!"
Organising a gig doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it first seems. We’ve broken down the process into some easy steps to help you get the most out of your gigging experience.
Trying to book your first gig can be a daunting task but looking online can be a good place to start. Bands and venues quite often use social media to advertise open slots at events. It’s also a good way to see what acts have been performing at your local venues and start interacting with musicians in your scene.
Typically when you start booking shows you’ll come across two key players: the promoters and the agents.
Promoters: Promoters are responsible for putting on a gig. Some work for multiple venues across a region and others are employed in-house. They take on everything that comes with putting on a great show including booking the bands, securing the venue and marketing the event.
Agents: Agents are employed by an artist to book shows for them. A great agent can make a real difference to the quality of the shows you book, especially when they’re passionate about you and the progression of your career.
Whenever you’re approaching promoters or venue owners for gigs, it’s important to show yourself in your best light. Having a demo at the ready and knowing your social media figures can help to establish some credibility. It’s also important to be realistic when you’re negotiating a deal. Making outrageous backstage demands or asking for an unreasonable amount of money may give people the wrong impression about you. After all, it’s the experience and the chance to make great contacts that will benefit you the most.
The time spent gearing up for a show can be just as important as the gig itself. It’s an opportunity to polish up your sound and work on any tricks you want to add into your live performance. Some people choose to record a rehearsal so they can really analyse their sound and stage presence.
However, good preparation isn’t just about rehearsing. It’s also about promotion. Even if you’ve booked the gig through a promoter, there’s a lot to gain from doing your own advertising. With the help of social media, self-promotion can be pretty easy. Creating an event on Facebook is a simple way to let people know when and where you’re performing. If you want to get a little more creative, you could design a digital poster and share it across multiple platforms. Don’t underestimate the power of physical posters though. Think about your local area. Are there colleges, universities, record stores or community centres that would put up your posters?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions ahead of the big day. Ask about what gear they provide and what you’re expected to bring yourself. Find out who’s on the bill with you and what the running order will be. If you’re thinking about bringing merch then check ahead of time what their policy is and how much selling space you’ll have.
Hopefully with all your preparation you know exactly what you need for the night. However, it’s always worth double checking the band’s gear before you set off. Have you packed your drum sticks? Do you have spare guitar strings? It might seem obvious but at one point or another we’ve all been caught out by forgetfulness.
Another important thing to remember is to be on time. Forming strong working relationships is a big part of the music industry and having a professional attitude can go a long way to convince people that you’re worth working with. From the bartender to the venue owner, everyone you meet at a gig plays a part in your success so never underestimate the power of a first impression.
Of course the biggest concern for most people is the performance itself and how to make a gig memorable. We looked at a range of fan reviews to see what makes a great gig?
As you can see from the responses, people often remember the interaction with the crowd and the mood of the audience around them. Fans also care a lot about the quality of the music played and how it’s performed. A lot of bands like to treat the audience to experiences they can only get live, such as improvised solos or special acoustic sets. One thing that might help is to think about what bands you enjoy seeing live. How can you infuse some of those ideas into your own performance?
In the excitement of the moment, people often forget that gigs are a chance to recruit new fans. Telling the crowd the name of your band and how they can keep up to date with your news is an important part of retaining interest in your music. Some musicians even give people the opportunity to immediately sign up to mailing lists.
The days after a gig are vital when it comes to improving your performance and maintaining the hype surrounding your music. A big portion of this work involves following up with all the contacts that you made on the night. That could include putting photos of the event up on social media, emailing upcoming dates to people on your mailing list or calling up the professional contacts you gained.
This is also the time for reflecting on how the gig went. One way to do this is to look back at a recording. How did your set sound? How did your band look on stage together? How did the crowd react to different songs? Evaluating all these interlinking elements can help you to form a stronger and more cohesive set.
It takes time to master playing live and the key component to getting better is to keep doing shows. It can be tempting to retreat back to the rehearsal room after a negative experience but often the best thing to do is to get back out there. Travelling further afield for shows, spacing gigs out and supporting different bands can help to maintain interest from fans without oversaturating the local scene.