How to… get gigs

TGE2014: Brett Pracownik from the Borderline, songwriter Chris T-T and Lucian Beierling from new start up SplitGigs chew over the best ways to get good gigs…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 13 May 2014
  • min read
TGE 2014: It’s been said many times that the best way for a fledgling act to make themselves heard at the outset is via the power of playing live.

At this year’s Great Escape DIY day, on the final day of the weekend, the Getting Gigs panel discussed the importance of playing live and why the UK’s live music infrastructure is a network new and emerging songwriters would do well to tap into as early as possible. Not only does it help them get a name for themselves, but it also enables them to hone their musical and songwriting craft.

Brett Pracownik (BP) from the Borderline, songwriter Chris T-T (CT) and Lucian Beierling (LB) from new start up SplitGigs were all on hand to chew over the best ways to get gigs and why, whatever you do, you should never pay to play…

Make your first gigs as good as possible

CT - The people who come to your first two or three gigs are unearned. They will just come because you’re doing it. So for these shows you need to be as brilliant as possible. Make the gig as great as you can make it, then your mates will hopefully like it, come back and bring more people.

You can put on a gig anywhere for £200

CT - You can put on a gig in any town in the UK for 200 quid. Hire the space from someone you know, a PA and promote it online.

LB - The sooner you start putting on your own gigs, the sooner you will realise the dynamics of live music. You understand what it and the logistics are all about - this helps you become a self-promoter rather than relying on others for gigs.

Open mike nights

CT - Their value is in terms of honing your songwriting and your performance. If you’re a loud rock band, then a good challenge is to take your songs to an open mike night and perform them acoustically. Then bring them back to the band and rework them when you realise they’re all shit.

Approach the right venues

BP - If you’re approaching a venue, then do your research and check out the artists who are playing there to see about support slots. Introduce yourself with an email and link to your music rather than a huge attached file. Choose your best music to make the best impression. You need to know your sound.

Regional festivals

BP – If you’re a regional band, and you have an audience, then you have a chance to get a slot due to the number of new festivals across the UK.

When you approach them, make sure you have all the relevant web links in place - and make them look good - you need to show interaction on your social media, tracks, interesting videos. This way they’re far more likely to want to book you.

Do not pay to play

CT - If you pay to play a show, then you’re betraying every other musician in this room and the wider business. It’s a complete let down. Even after your first gig, you should ask for money even if they say no. Ask for petrol money. I feel very strongly that you’re not just ripping yourself off but you’re betraying every musician.

Party hard

CT - If you’re part of a local scene try and be visible. The bands that go out, have a great time and party the hardest, are the most popular. At the party will be people involved in the local live music scene. If you bring the party, they’ll want to hang out with you.

Blogs are useful

BP - Approach a blog and ask them to listen to your music.If they’re talking about you and it’s a decent blog, then it’s likely that others will think you’re good. This will help you land better gigs.

Make friends with touring bands

CT - Be brilliant, be nice and touring bands might take you on the road with them because they like you.