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What's on the Island

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

by David Shepherd Grossman

In the first part of this article I showed you what you needed to do to start gigging and how to get a gig.

In this part we'll look at 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.

Remember, you must be willing to work with the places that hire you as someone who is concerned about their business, not just your own. You have to be a friend to the business you perform in, not a liability. It is up to you to be a better investment than any other entertainment they might  invest in. If they want you back after your 1st gig then you are half way there. You must keep the gig. To keep the gig you must prove you are worth what they are paying you.

What do you do if you show up to your gig and there are no customers?

Many musicians believe it is the responsibility of the place they perform in to have customers and they should be paid regardless. I think this attitude made Karaoke the biggest threat to live music since the phonograph.

When this happens to me I hang out with the other employees for about an hour and then I ask the manager if it is worth it to THEM to have me. If not I ask for "gas money" (maybe a fourth of my regular pay) or I just say, "see ya next time." It does me no good to burden the places I perform. If the business goes down I do too. Word gets around. 

If you are known among business owners in your town as a performer who puts their interests above your own they will call you before they call an agency and you will get more gigs. Also you gain the respect of the staff...after all, many of them work for tips and why should you make money if they don't?

As a performer you are responsible for keeping your gig. You have to prove you are worth it to the business you work for. To do this it is good to ask to perform on the same night every week...say Fridays. This way you can advertise yourself and encourage the business to advertise that you are there every Friday. They can gauge their Fridays and see if you are increasing their business. 

Make it clear when you are hired that it may take a month or two to really see if it is working and tell them you are aware of the risk but you will try your best to advertise their business as well as perform. This will give them an idea whether or not you are worth it to them and it will give you a month or two of job security to prove your are!

If you want to perform music for a living you may have to do a few other things as well. One of these things is advertise the places of your performances. The more you convince a club or coffee house that they are 
not ONLY investing in live entertainment but advertising too, the more valuable you are to them. 

If you are on the web set up an E-Mail list. Start with those friends you learned the songs for. They will come in handy for those first few weeks when you are being tried out. Your friends should help you get your 1st gig. There is no shame in that. Make flyers. Say, "RICK'S COFFEE HOUSE PRESENTS" ... and add your name and when you are playing. Give the flyers to the club but don't be discouraged if they don't use them. Some places just don't want stuff on the walls. They will appreciate your effort.

Once you have one gig it becomes easier to get others. If you want another gig you do everything previously discussed and add that you have a gig and invite them to see you. You will find that if one person has hired you once a week other places will give you a chance without much trouble. 

After you have a few gigs a week it is important to print out a schedule of your performances and fax them to your local radio stations, both music AND news talk. You will be surprised. Do this (there is no need to call them to see if they got it, don't bother them) and someone from one of your radio stations is bound to show up at your gig out of curiosity. If they like you they may want you as a guest or they may just plug your gig once in a while. This is cool for you - but more important to the place you play.

Radio ads are expensive and if your employer is mentioned once... you have done your job. If you are fortunate enough to meet a radio personality at your gig introduce the person to your boss and suggest they give away a certificate and/or one of your CDs. This is some of the best "free" advertising you can get.

Once you have accomplished all this you will probably not have to look for gigs anymore. You will find you may have more gigs than you can play!

You could start an agency but if you are like me you know a few folks who can do the job and might need the work. It is good to have a strong community in the field that you depend on. There is enough back stabbing  without doing any yourself. Playing music for a living is a big dream but not if you think small.


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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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