When you’re a musician starting out, you have several milestones to look forward to. Jamming with new bandmates for the first time, coming up with a great name for your band, playing to friends in the garage, and using a recording studio for the first time are all things we can tick off our personal achievement lists.
While these are all big things to any musician, playing our first live gig is arguably the biggest step we will make. While YouTube and social media means we have a bigger audience for our talents than ever before, only a handful of musicians that market themselves through these channels will crack the industry. For the rest of us, we will start to build our following through playing the local pubs and clubs and generating a loyal following in our own towns and cities first.
Whether your first live gig is ‘headlining’ at your local pub or trying your hand at an open mic night at the rock club in town, preparation is everything. What do you need to do to prepare well?
Know What You’ll Perform
How to Prepare for Your First Live Gig
This sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how often people get to gigs and just have a brain freeze because they’ve not actually thought about what they’re going to do.
The biggest question in your head is probably whether to play your own stuff or cover something well known. We’d probably suggest going for something of your own, though it depends on where you’re playing and what the audience will expect from you. The biggest piece of advice is to do the same thing all the way through. This means either you do all covers or you do all your own stuff. If you mix them up, and especially if you cover popular songs, the danger is your audience will zone out when it’s time to do your own songs as they’ve already invested in your covers. A song they don’t know mixed in with this can often prove the cue to head to the bar or to the toilet.
Know the Venue
When we say know the venue, we’re not talking about where it is, how much a pint of lager is at the bar, or whether they have a pool table and a dartboard. What we mean is know the venue in terms of what happens when musicians are playing there.
If there is a separate band room with plenty of open space, then depending on attendance you might have people standing.
Alternatively, if it’s a pub you could just be thrown in a corner somewhere. This might not make any difference to you, but sometimes turning up and playing a heavy guitar song or something quick can be disconcerting if people are just sitting still in their chairs.
If you know the usual atmosphere for gigs at the venue, you can tailor what and how you perform around this. Later, people who have seen you in numerous venues will credit your versatility for being able to play different styles at different locations, for different audiences.
Get There Early
One of the biggest mistakes musicians make when preparing for a gig is to just turn up a short time beforehand. If you’re on the bill and not just going to an open mic, get there early so you can get involved in sound checking and organising the set up you want. In fact, there’s an argument to say you should ensure you’ll be able to do this when enquiring about playing there or accepting a booking. Why leave how you’re going to sound to chance? After all, your reputation will suffer if you don’t sound brilliant, no one will blame the venue!
Keep these tips in mind when planning your first gig, and indeed any gig after that. If anything does go wrong, don’t worry! Simply take everything on board and make it better the next time.
Guest post by Pro Music Tutor