You want paid gigs?
How do you get paid gigs? The concept is actually quite simple, but it eludes many. Anyone can get a free gig. No matter where you play, you're playing a gig. Whether it's an open mic night, a talent show or a small community festival, if it's not paying - anyone's got a chance of getting up on stage, no matter how terrific or how bad they are. Getting "paid" work takes understanding, to begin with.
Just playing an instrument doesn't automatically grant you to the right to be paid to play
You have to understand what it is you're doing and what your 'product' is. I've been paid to play since I was 15 years old. In a band, as a solo artist, as part of a duo and as a DJ.... it's rare that I've not been paid to perform. Here's how to achieve paid gigs...
1. Decide what you want to do
Before you can achieve anything, you have to decide what it is you want to achieve. A boat without a destination will eventually arrive somewhere - good or bad... a driver with a destination will arrive exactly where they meant to. This simple principle can be applied to any professional career. Decide what you want and then do what ever you can to achieve it. There are hundreds of motivational posters knocking around the web stating this!
Before you can be successful, you have to decide what you want! What kind of gigs do you want? Small pubs? Large clubs? Social clubs? Hotels? Restaurants? Cruise ships? Concert Venues? Theatres? Festivals? Tours? Tours with famous people?
Do you want to perform as a soloist? In a duo? In a band...? How many people do you want in your band?
What type of music do you want to play? Will it be original or covers? What genre? The style of music will suggest your target audience, and this will suggest the types of venues you may be limited to.
How much do you want to earn from your gigs? This might influence the size of the band, the types of venues you can play at, the types of gigs you will be aiming for and, ultimately, how good the band needs to be.
Without deciding all of these things first, your 'act' will have no direction and will be unlikely to succeed in the long term.
2. Get good on your instrument
As stated previously, just owning and playing an instrument doesn't automatically earn you to the right to be paid for playing it. Since the rise of pro music schools and University courses - the standard of musicianship out there in 2015 is outstandingly high. There are world class players playing in pubs... players who could easily stand on stage with the likes of Steve Lukather, Chester Thompson and Nick Beggs and match them note for note, with unique tone, feel and style. True, there are also some amateur players, but how long will they last when venues experience the quality that they can maintain.
If you want paid gigs - and maintain those paid gigs - get good on your instrument. Play for hours a day. Concentrate on accuracy, tone, timing, technique and feel. If you want to take it seriously - enrol in a course and study music. You'd find a majority of the newer kids on the block studied music somewhere. It's true that some will make it without formal training - but it's not the case for most!
If you're a guitarist - learn all of the major chord groups and shapes in all inversions. Study scales and modes. Same for pianists, I guess. Develop creativity through fretboard knowledge. If you're a vocalist - study breathing techniques, diaphragm control, develop the tone of your voice, strengthen your body to achieve and maintain accurate pitch. If you're a drummer, strengthen your internal metronome, develop your drum vocabulary, develop groove, master paradiddles. If you're a bassist, study scales, develop good tone, develop a strong sense of timing and feel - locking in with drummers.
If you're average on your instrument, you may achieve 1 or 2 gigs in a locale, but you'd soon be discovered as being average and not asked to return.
3. Once you've decided 'what' you're going to be, practice practice practice!
The part of music that musicians hate - rehearsing. The most critical stage. Too many musicians rush through rehearsals and go out to gig with a half cocked, half practiced, loose sounding pile of mulch.
Good bands and acts rehearse for months. They tighten their sound and refine their arrangements to make sure each song is a convincing and cohesive piece of music. Personally - I suggest 6 - 9 months for newer or less experienced musicians. A group of professionals would be able to turn out a professional sounding outfit in 2 - 3 months following thorough preparation.
4. Learn about 'performance'.
Playing your instrument well is only half the battle. "Performing" on stage is the other half. You have to learn to be visually interesting in front of a crowd. No matter how good you sound, if you're boring to watch, few will care. Go and study acts working in your local area. See how they conduct themselves on stage. See how they interact with their audience. You'll find that the acts with the most successful nights will be the ones that really 'perform' their songs and develop a connection with the people watching.
5. Get your promotional material together.
If you want good paid gigs - get good promo together. There are three 'essential' things that a band needs to give a client confidence to pay you to play at their venue or event:
a. a good, professional looking, website. Not Facebook. Not SoundCloud. Not YouTube. (These will be used to collect and communicate with fans - but you don't use them to 'sell' the band.)
b. a good live video. Not an over produced studio recording. A truthful representation of the band in a live setting.
c. professional looking photographs.
Every photo you take and every video you produce must give a positive first impression. If your promo video was taken in a noisy bar with an iPhone - with awful sound and a drunk dancing in the centre of the shot.... the first impression will be that you're not a professional. With an exciting, dynamic and well shot/edited HD video - and well recorded supporting audio - you'll demonstrate the band's dedication to quality.
If you're asking for someone to pay you for your product, you have to act like a professional even before a client has spoken to you. You promo must be strong enough to give them confidence that you're worth hiring.
6. Get good equipment
With the quality and cheapness of PA these days, there's no reason why anyone needs to go out with a cheap speaker system. The PA you choose to amplify your voice will directly influence the enjoyment of the audience. Cheap speakers sound thin and piercing. Cheap backing tracks sound naff and outdated. Cheap instruments don't maintain their tuning very well. Playing music is a business and you should have the right gear to be able to conduct your business effectively.
7. Understand that at all levels, the music industry is a business.
If someone pays you to do something, it's a business transaction between 2 parties. Just like hiring a plumber or a carpet fitter. The business transaction is between you (the artist) and them (the client). They are hiring you to entertain their crowd/customers. They expect you to do that. They expect you to perform well. They expect you to play well. They expect you to sound good. No more and no less. You expect them to pay you. No more and no less!
If you perform badly, you'll drive customers away. If you perform well - it's likely they'll stay and buy beer.... which is all the venue wants. Money is precious to a small venue. They buy in entertainment to tempt in crowds and increase their profits.
If your performance negatively affects their profits, you won't be asked back. Simple.
As you can see, the concept of getting gigs is quite simple but in practice - there is quite a lot to do before you can/should/do.