February 26, 2019
Starting your own unique music thing and being able to play and create whatever you want is one of the most incredible experiences. You can set the vibe to entertain people, make amazing friends, and have a fun hobby that pays you for essentially having fun (or at the very least give you free drinks!). What could be better?? My sister (Molly) and I had talked about doing a fun acoustic duo project for-ev-errrrr. We grew up playing music together and I had been playing for a lot of different artists so we always thought it would be easy and fun for us to do something together. But as the years crept by we realized that every year we would set a new year’s resolution to get gigs together and it just never happened. We had jam nights, tossed around band names, and talked about places we could get gigs at but we never actually did any of it.
There are a few reasons, but the main reason we never actually started playing together was that the steps to actually get a gig were so vague. In all the other bands I’ve played in, there have been other people handing me a set list with the keys to each song. We’d have one rehearsal and I’d show up to the gig they had already booked. However, last year, my parents started a band together (isn’t that awesome?!) and they rock! They immediately started getting all these gigs and came up with about three hours of music, practicing every week until their first gig. So this year my sister and I were like alright, if they can do it so can we — it was time to get serious!
And I’m so glad we did. It has been a complete blast! ! If you are in this boat of wanting to “get out there” (isn’t this phrase is the most vague btw?!) now is your time. I made this post to guide you through EXACTLY what you need to do to get a gig and start a band/duo. The biggest thing to remember is you don’t need to be at a certain place with your playing/music and you are already good enough!
So if you are looking to get started, this is the post for you!
1. Find your peeps
A lot of times the people you will want for your band are not as far as you think. I think working with people you actually have fun with and enjoy being around is the only way to go. For me personally, I always play my best when I’m playing with other people who are super positive and encouraging (s/o to my other amazing people in the bands I play with!) because it makes me more ok with taking musical risks and being creative. My sister is a great singer and I knew we would have fun on stage together (or just talk about random things and make fun of each other!). And my husband is a bass player so duh! Obviously, you also want to find people who have kind of similar tastes in music and are pretty good at whatever they do. A way to test the waters before really getting into it is having jam sessions. I have had a lot of jams this past year and it’s been a really fun way to see if you enjoy playing together. If you don’t know anyone who does music in your community, try looking through Instagram hashtags (like # “your city” musician etc). I love using Instagram to meet musicians. Also you may just need one person to start with so focus that first!
2. Make your set list
I feel like making a set list for about 2 hours of music is a good at first. You will probably take a 15 min break in-between sets too so about 25-ish songs is a great place to start. Because Molly and I have only like 4 original songs right now, we chose a lot of covers we felt we really connected with and loved. This way we could completely own it playing them. Everyone has a different perspective on this but mine is if you are doing covers, choose covers that you feel like people will know and get excited when they hear it coming on. Also take into consideration whether you will be playing the songs only acoustic or electric too.
I deeply believe that having a gig on the calendar (with a clear deadline!) is the way to really get the motivation to practice. But it is also good to have at least one or two practices before trying to get a gig to make sure you are semi-prepared. That way you actually have an idea what you will sound like and a rough idea of your setlist.
Sidenote: If you have a big set list, you can’t beat the Onsong app, It’s awesome for sharing set lists and keeping everyone on their A game.
4. Have a video or recording
Unless you know the owner of the venue or restaurant you want to play at, you will want to have some kind of proof that you are not terrible (which obvi you aren’t)! This doesn’t have to be this big professional recording or video, but you do want to look professional in it. A lot of times, venues will like to share a link to who you are on their entertainment calendar, so you want this to be something you are proud of. I recommend choosing a space that has a cool vibe (that may be in your house) and you can even just film on your iPhone. You want them to be able to picture you playing out though, so unless you are doing something really artsy, being like in your bedroom or at your desk or something may not be setting the professional tone you want. As you go along, you can upgrade this and make it more professional, but just starting out, the biggest thing you want to show them is that their guests will enjoy listening to you! As you get further along, you can create a website, Instagram/Facebook, and email newsletter to market yourself, but in this post we are just talking about the start!
I am thinking about releasing a musician marketing course on how to grow your social media, build a website yourself, and make things look more professional, so if you are interested in that, sign up for my newsletter here! :)
5. Make a list of where to play
After you have something to show people you are legit, make a list of 10 places in town/house shows you think would be good starting points and email them. You can use the general contact form or if there’s an email for booking on their site, even better! Just email them telling them why you want to play at their venue specifically, what type of band you are, and ask how they book their gigs. It’s as simple as that! If you are wanting to play house shows, start going to house shows and meet the people putting them on!
6. Ok so you have your gig on the calendar
YAY! Now it’s a real thing! To be prepared, email them to see if they provide a PA and someone to run sound. If not, you can always rent one and have a friend or someone who knows how to run one come (I think having a good ear is key!)! I’m always extra prepared and bring along water, extra strings, and a guitar stand just in case.
That’s it. So simple right?!
Here are a few tips I have learned over the years from playing with different people, being a entrepreneurship major, and having just started doing my own thing with Molly and John:
· Think of your audience
At the end of the day, you are not really there to express your art, but to share that with other people! You want to connect and think about making the experience all about THEM. The great thing about having your own project is that the sky is your limit. So you can use your creativity how you want to make your show unique and a true experience for people there so don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. On this note, you also want to put yourself in the shoes of the restaurant/venue/bar owner. They are paying you enhance the experience of their guests and to create a fun vibe of their venue. So your song choice, stage presence, and the connection you build with your audience will also affect their business!
· If you get nervous…
Avoidance is maybe the most helpful trick I have discovered (I know I'm breaking the rules of counseling 101 here!). Lately, I have started denying any nervousness I feel and simply not acknowledging it to myself or anyone else. Telling myself I am confident and anytime I feel nervous thinking about something different has worked wonders for me! So next time someone asks if you are nervous about your show tell them no and just decide you aren't going to be! So have fun with your show and know this will get easier with time.
· Make each show unique
The best thing about live music to me is the connection you have with the audience. With a bigger crowd, this can be putting on an awesome high energy show, but in a smaller crowd, this may just mean engaging each person who is there.
· Find your niche
This is so entrepreneurship major of me, but really it helps so much to know the people you are wanting to connect with and what type of places they go. Chances are your songs and vibe are probably pretty specific and influenced by certain artists, so find venues/house shows that you think other people will be at that get you. Don’t worry about everyone liking your music, but focus on finding and playing for the people who do!
I hope that was enough to push you to start! There is a point that practicing by yourself isn’t fun if you never have anyone to share your music with, but it can take courage to start. Remember that you don’t have to have everything planned out and perfect to start (woof this is hard- I am such a perfectionist!). You can be prepared, professional, and ready without having the most perfect band name, look, set list, marketing, following etc. Things are going to grow and change as you go along anyway, so take time to enjoy the process! You can 100% do this though and I would LOVE to hear about your progress! Hashtag #haleypowersmusic or tag me in a post when you get your gig! You are completely ready for this!
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