You’ve practiced, rehearsed and honed your craft and are ready to put your talent on display for the world. Now it’s time to learn a new lesson – selling the virtues of your act to the owner(s) of a venue. Rather than expound on the trials and tribulations of performing in bars and restaurants (after COVID), for now let’s focus on small, private gigs which tend to be more favorable to the artist.
Prepare Enough Material
First, ask yourself if you have prepared enough material for a three- or four-hour gig. Typically, a duo made up of a singer and backup instrument similar to a guitarist or pianist will feature limited soloing capabilities unless there is a third performer on a reed, brass or woodwind (think sax, trumpet or flute). Should that be the case, you will need between 15 and 20 songs to fill each hour unless you are the exception, have terrific “stage presence,” and can easily hold conversations with your audience between songs. Long pauses between songs can destroy any energy that you’ve established with your audience, so have a set list and don’t kill the vibe!
Decide Whether You Are an Entertainer or a Musician
If you are like most performers and don’t have confidence with your stage persona you’re not alone – many seasoned musicians exhibit phenomenal talent but have zero “rap” with their audiences. At the end of the day, this largely determines whether you should consider yourself an “entertainer” or a “musician” in the eyes of anybody looking to book your act. Many potential clients don’t do a good job of describing their expectation about this, so offering “background music” versus “foreground music” is always useful when describing your act and musical selections or style. An honest conversation with yourself about this important topic will assist you in communicating the type of entertainment your band offers.
How to Test the Gigging Waters During COVID-19 Times
At this point, maybe you’ve never performed outside of your home. Prior to COVID, the next step might have included numerous open mics at local bars and restaurants, but those are few and far between now. Music teachers previously held student “recitals,” which were great vehicles for supportive friends and family to gather for a display of diverse, collective talent. Sadly, neither of these opportunities appear to be largely available for the foreseeable future. Farmers’ markets are terrific venues as well but with the weather getting colder, those opportunities are limited due to season.
What to do? With holidays just around the corner, it’s a good time to assemble a few sets of music and consider playing for small, safe gatherings of friends or family that have practiced the same social distancing measures that you and your bandmates have exhibited. If comfortable for everybody involved, a back-porch setup or corner of a great room might be an ideal place to perform in a friendly and receptive environment.
Give these tips a bit of thought, and next week we will discuss a bit of PA gear that you might need for your first gigs. Until then, stay well, wear a mask, and consider adding some holiday tunes to your repertoire just in case…