A Guide to “Making it” as a Band
After what feels like years spent practicing, dealing with as many internal conflicts as Fleetwood Mac, threatening to leave the music industry more times than Cher and arguing over which member of the Spice Girl you’d each be (you’re Ginger, obviously), finally your band is ready to play in front of a live audience! The only issue…how do you start booking gigs?
While it can seem like a daunting experience, we promise it’s not as hard as it seems. To help you, Jellynote has prepared an eight step program to get you out of your parents’ basement and onto a stage.
Step 1 Make sure that you’re ready
It’s all very well having charisma and stage presence, but unless you can actually play your songs, it’s probably not a good idea to be performing them in front of an audience just yet. You only get one chance at a debut so don’t blow it.
Side note: Make sure that you’ve settled on a name for your band before your first gig. You don’t want to keep changing it as this could get complicated later down the line…
Step 2 Record a demo
Honestly not as hard or as costly as it seems. All you need is a friend who’s willing to record your band playing a song or two. The video doesn’t have to be professionally shot, it just needs to show possible venues and promoters what you can do.
Step 3 Ask for help
Know any musicians currently doing gigs? Ask them for advice! Where did they start? Which bars did they originally play at? Do they know any promoters or venues that you could approach? Knowledge is power so start asking.
Step 4 Do some free gigs
It may seem like it’s beneath you, but it’s vital experience. Ask your friends and family if they’re looking for a band to play at their birthday parties, weddings, first holy communions, bar mitzvahs, etc. If they like your band, they may recommend you to their friends.
If you can’t find any gigs through your friends and family, put posters up, hand out flyers, look for adverts on the internet. Get creative.
Step 5 Start networking
Unfortunately, in this business it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. So start meeting people. It’s a tedious process, but the more connections you make, the more opportunities you’ll get to perform.
Visit all the venues you like (consider a smaller venue for your first gig as you will need to fill it). Ask the owners what the process for booking a band is. What kind of music are they looking for? How long are the sets? Will you be expected to fill the whole venue with your friends and family? Make sure you’re the right fit for that venue.
Step 6 Ask for a slot
Politely email the owner requesting a slot. Be warm and personal; use their name, tell them why you like their venue. Give them your availability (but be flexible). Don’t forget to send your demo!
Step 7 Wait
The owner is likely to receive a lot of requests every day so don’t be offended if they don’t get back to you straightaway.
If they say yes, congratulations!
If it’s a no, try a different venue. Don’t be disheartened. Think how many times Stevie Nicks was rejected, and now she’s playing herself in “American Horror Story.” Dreams do come true! Be resilient!
Step 8 Be professional
If you are lucky enough to be invited to perform, make sure you turn up on time, sober and ready to play. Play your heart out, but don’t underestimate the importance of being kind and respectful to the venue staff. They’re more likely to invite you back if they like you.
As you can see, the process can be quite complicated, but it’s definitely worthwhile mastering both the musical and the business side of things. Here’s what Catherine Anne Davies, a songwriting tutor at The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, has to say:
“The big takeaway for the era we are living in is that you have to be good at lots of things. You have to understand every facet of the business. Some people are lucky enough to build a great team quite early, but if you are able to do those things yourself you have a much better chance at becoming successful”.
Break a leg!
If you’re keen to start your musical career, but are worried about playing in front of an audience, check out our advice on how to deal with stage fright here.
If you’re not quite at performing standard yet, why not do some more practicing? You can access all of our sheet music at jellynote.com to get you started.
Feeling intimidated by the prospect of reading music? Check out our guides on how to read sheet music here.