Photo: Nicole Mago
So you have a band… you have a few songs… you’ve rehearsed a little bit... you’ve told your friends about it… it’s time to play a show, right?! WRONG.
“What?! I already printed, like, 100 flyers at Kinkos!” yeahhhh, sorry. You need to check off a few more things before you book that gig.
There’s a couple of reasons for thinking this way -
ONE - you literally aren’t ready. As in: your set list is not thought out, your transitions are lacking, and your band isn’t tight.
One of my biggest frustrations is going to a show and realizing that the band is probably good, but that they just aren’t ready to play in front of actual people yet. Unfortunately for most industry people AND fans you will have already lost them if you don’t wow them in the first show. For most new bands, a few two hour rehearsals isn’t going to cut it. Spend some time trying out different set lists, practicing different stage set ups, trying out transitions between songs, etc. It’s even helpful to have an idea of how you’re going to interact with the crowd between songs. Obviously you don’t want to sound like a rehearsed robot, but very few people can really get away with “I’m really nervous but it’s kind of endearing” thing -- it usually comes across as awkward. People can feel confidence and if it doesn’t feel like you believe in the show, then why should they?
TWO - You haven’t put enough time into cultivating a fanbase.
Another major frustration - I get invited to go check out a band and there is barely anything to see online. I (like most people) like to do a little research before going into an unknown band’s show. What does it look like? What does it sound like? Is there already a song that has some buzz? Are people reacting to it in any way? It’s cool if you can fill a room with friends and family, but that will really only happen once or twice. Most of your F&F are pumped to go support you in at a real show but you can’t expect them to always go out of their way. You need to spend some time making sure you’re cultivating a real fan base of non-relatives that like your music. Shows will start out small, but a small engaged crowd will grow and follow you.
PS - You lose double points if you invite me and don’t include ANY links in your email. Make it easy.
THE HYPE SITUATION
This all gets dicey if someway, somehow your band has a song that goes viral or gets a ton of hype. This is why you have to be READY. If that scenario plays out and a bunch of people are all of a sudden very into what you’re doing, you’re going to have to put on a killer show… and soon. You don’t want that buzz to die down, but even worse, you don’t want that buzz to die because you’re not ready for it. You often get one shot in this situation and you can’t afford a bad live show review. There are a lot of things that can be faked in this industry, but a live show is not one of them, my friend.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Playing shows is one of the most gratifying things as a musician (and manager!). All of your hard work is laid out and people are there to show love for it, so we definitely get wanting to do it as soon as you can. All we’re saying is to make sure you’re going to knock socks off and blow people away. Don’t expect to start selling out every venue immediately. While hype is cool, the people that often have the most long-term success in the industry are the ones who started small and kept at it. The small but engaged crowds at the beginning will grow. The large, chit-chatty, there for the scene ones will fall away if you can’t reign them in.
REASON TO IGNORE THIS ADVICE: Possibly if you are in one of those musical, sound of music type families. I guess in that case you’ve been rehearsing your whole life.