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What's on the Island

What you need to get the gig
(Part I of II)

by David Shepherd Grossman

In the first part of this article we'll take a look at what you need to do to start gigging. We'll also look at how to get gigs.  Next month I'll show you how to keep the gig and to promote it once you have it!

First thing to do is learn some songs. Write songs, but if you want to be a performer also learn the songs that inspired you to write music. Ask your friends and learn some of their favorite songs. This will help you when you go out to find a gig.

Stage fright is common and it only goes away the more you perform. Open Mics are great for working out material and getting used to being in front of people. Seek them out - or if there are none in your area - start your own! You need some tools to start gigging. It is best to have your own.

Equipment: You will need a PA system if you want to play gigs. Sure, lots of performers do not have a PA system and play gigs but they are limited to places that already have PA systems and live music and you do not care about them. They have a gig and you don't. A PA system with mic and everything may cost you $1000.00. I use one or two 10" powered JBL EONs (about $450) and a Soundcraft mixer (about $200) and a Alesis Nanoverb (about $100) and a Sure Beta 87 mic (about $375.00) and a mic stand and speaker stand. ($100).

Size Counts! The smaller your set up the more places you can perform. A 10" speaker can fit in the corner of a café - right next to a table of people and they won't run away as you set it up. A huge speaker (even if the volume is turned down) takes up space and intimidates both customers and owners. If the speaker is larger than the table it is time to get a smaller speaker.

Let's say you have learned about 50 songs, you have 20 originals, and you have a small PA system. You have been doing well at the open mics but you are feeling like this is as far as it goes. You have some of your songs recorded and maybe even a CD and now what do you do?

Well you need gigs. You don't need an agent or a need gigs!

You are going to face rejection if you try to get gigs. You are gong to be in bigger trouble if you hire your best friend as your manager. Trust me. So the best thing to do is be prepared so you can manage yourself without getting too emotional. The best way to do this is to have the answers to all the questions you are going to be asked answered without having to open your mouth! This is done with a printed request list/bio. When you open your mouth it should be to perform... not convince someone you know how.

Common questions can be answered with one hand out.

First make a list of all the songs you play. Include awards you have won.and a brief bio. Make sure the list of songs you know (including your own) takes up most of the page or pages. Keep the bio stuff short. Copy the list so you have plenty of them. Put your name and phone number at the top of the list and call the list something like "Bob's Request List."

When anyone (including customers) ask "What kind of music do you play?" you hand them this. When anyone asks "do you have a card?" you hand them this - (you can also give them a card it you want). When someone asks you "where are you from?" you hand them this. Use this hand out, not at your friend's house or to get a date, but when you are working or looking for work. 

When you are trying to get a gig don't talk to anyone but the person hiring you. You don't want to be rude so to get to that person use your request list. Hand it out to everyone who wants to know what you do then as they are looking at it find out when the person who hires will be in. This works. Whether it is a manager or a hostess they will be curious to see if you can really perform the songs on your list.

You have your request list, PA system, and the talent. Now you are ready to get gigs. I tell people here in Phoenix, to go to a business district and then walk into every restaurant, café - any place with a patio - and ask for the manager. Ask if they have live music there. If they have live music, drop off your list and LEAVE! They will call you if they need you and why compete for gigs? 

There are always places without music who will give you a shot. There is a certain respect you give a fellow musician by NOT trying to take his gig. This is important. You will need to trust other musicians when you have a gig and need someone to fill in when you are ill or out of town. Its hard to earn that trust after you have tried to take take their gig!

If they do not have live music then show the manager your request list (make an appointment if you have to) and offer to perform whenever is convenient for them. Tell them this is NOT an audition. If they want you to 
return you expect to be paid after the performance. Tell them in the event 
you are not right for the place you will move on and they will not be charged. Tell them you understand either way. There is nothing personal about it. You can be flexible about the audition part but its best to let them know you do not do this for free.

This is the first step in getting the gig. Follow these steps and you'll be gigging in no time!

Next month I'll show you what you need to do to keep your gigs, how to work with the businesses that hire you and how to promote your gig to improve your turnout. (READ PART II)

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David Shepherd Grossman is Arizona's Hardest Working Folk Musician.  He was voted Best Folkie 2000 - 2001 by the Arizona Republic. He plays 20 - 25 shows a month so come by his site to find his next  show date or sample some of his music!




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