Few things are as important, to musicians, than to play great gigs. But sometimes it's good to consider putting your own... here's our guide to help you with all the info you might need!
Some musicians are happy enough to just make music in their bedrooms and/or jam with their friends. OK, that's fine. However, playing live in front of an audience can be a great experience, and it's still the best way to develop yourself as a musician and performer. Events such as the Firestone Battle Of The Bands can be a good step for some. Contacting as many venues and promoters as you can is another good move. For many bands, this could be enough: sometimes getting good gigs, sometimes rubbish gigs, sometimes great gigs and sometimes even an important support or festival slot, eventually.
However, doing things this way can have some drawbacks, such as: always being told what time and for how long to play, struggling to get paid and, of course, depending on the musical tastes of the promoters to actually get the gigs in the first place!
If you want to take more control of your live performances, maybe putting on your own gig is a good move! That's what every established artist do: when you see a Noel Gallagher or U2 headlining their own tours, they're pretty much doing just that - playing gigs which they've organized for their own benefit, rather than joining someone else's lineup. Obviously, they're doing it on a much grander scale, but it's pretty much the same principle: they headline, choose who'll support, choose the venue, decide when they'll be onstage and how long they'll play, besides how much the entry will cost.
Unfortunately, becoming a signed act, and having manager and booking agents to organize headlining gigs for your band is a pipe dream for most, but that shouldn't stop you from just biting the bullet and doing it yourself. And those are the magic words: Doing. It. Yourself. The D.I.Y. ethos lives on, in most towns which have a healthy music scene, with many bands and artists also being promoters of live music. Maybe it's your turn to do it, too!
The Pros And Cons Of Organizing Your Own Gigs
Before we proceed further, here's a quick look at some pros and cons, if you're deciding whether to organize an event or not.
You choose the bands who'll play
You can keep more money
You can decide what time you'll be onstage, and how long you'll play
You can make new like-minded friends or at least new contacts
You can play gigs more often
You can learn new skills such as event management, PR, etc...
Your night could become a talking point of your local music scene, boost your reputation
It can be stressful
Less free time to do other things, such as practice
You could lose money, sometimes
Remember This: Be Part Of The "Scene"
If you want to start your own night, it shouldn't just come out of the blue. You should be part of your local music scene and understand what it's all about. So, before you even start, make sure you're not just hiding in your bedroom, but go out and mingle - go to gigs, support other local acts, talk to them, discover the new bands in your town, find out what are the good venues, bars and pubs for live music... spread the word that you're thinking about doing a night. Some bands might be interested in helping out, in playing for you, and you could even start a bit of a buzz before anything else!
Organizing a gig for your band? Become a D.I.Y. Gig Promoter!
If you want to put on your own gig, for your band, you will effectively become a gig promoter - it's not just about playing anymore... you'll have to "Do It Yourself" and organize the whole thing! It's not for everyone, so here's a few pointers you should bear in mind.
Choose your venue wisely. You don't want a place that's too big or expensive. There can be venues that are as cheap as £50 or even free to hire, but ideally you should find a place that's already known for live music and has a decent sound system. Small venues with PA and sound engineer can be hired for anything between £150 to £300. The more you pay, the riskier it'll be to put on a gig...
Book the right number of acts. Three is the magic number, but if you're not too sure how many people these acts can attract, add one or even two more to the bill! But as we'll explain further down, this is not an exact science...
Do the maths, All The Time. You'd better be good! You need to work out entry fee X number of people you need to attract to cover costs and performance times X number of acts, for instance: if venue costs £150 and you want to charge £3, then you need to attract 50 people to break even. Sure, you could charge £5 and only need to bring 30 people, but would people want to pay £5? Sometimes the answer might be "Yes", sometimes "No"... and this is the difference between making some money and making a loss! You need to be prepared... for both!
Keep entry cheap. Many people will fork out hundreds of pounds for a festival, but won't pay much to see small bands. £10 in London, £5 anywhere "Up North" at the most, is what we'd recommend. But the cheaper the better - when the entry costs more than the price of a pint, people start to think twice before attending the gig.
More bands = More People = More Trouble? You might think that maybe getting more bands to play will help to attract more people - and usually it will, but sometimes not, because some bands may attract lots of mates one day, and not the other, who knows! The more bands you add to the bill, the more stressful things can turn out, too: delays, more acts to sound-check, drummers missing, changeover times between bands etc! You gotta work out stage times, and how many bands you can fit the bill in the allocated time you'll run the event. Sometimes, some places are great when bands play until late, sometimes people expect things to be done by 10pm or 11pm. Sometimes starting at 7pm is good, sometimes people only start to come after 9pm... so you should consider all these factors when booking the number of bands, to make sure things don't start too early nor end too late - it depends on things such as type of venue, type of gig, type of audience.
Share gear, where possible. Sharing some gear may help things to run more smoothly, such as only using one bass amp for all the bands, and drummers sharing their non-breakables. Most guitarists prefer to use their own amps, and sometimes the stage can be full of guitar amps. If the venue you chose has only a small stage, you may suggest that they share just one amp... but be prepared to be ignored! If a guitarist has a Marshall stack, he won't settle for a Fender, and vice-versa...
Pay the acts, however you can. If you're booking mates, things can be more relaxed, but you should always be upfront and say whether you think you'll be able to pay the performers or not... some bands care, some don't! If you make money, you should definitely share and don't just keep it to yourself!
Promote your event everywhere you can, and way ahead of the date! Of course, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are essential to help promoting events, but don't ignore old-fashioned flyers and posters, too! Good artwork always helps, not only if you print it, but also to share online. Start to promote event as soon as you can - you want at least a month to spread the word about it! Record shops, cafes, vintage clothing shops and anywhere where people interested in music like to hang out, are always great places to leave flyers... so, of course, you are also welcome to promote your gigs at your local PMT Store!
And remember to have fun! That's what makes it all worthwhile... and in the end, you'll can be proud to have organized it all yourself, and hopefully have made something special, with the bands you chose, that punters have enjoyed. Now, get ready to do it all over again!