Advice For New Bands

So you've studied and practised hard, you've learnt your chops and now you want to play in a band, that was me back in 1982. But, how do you find a band? What gear do you need? How do you find gigs? Will I be able to cope with the fame and adoration of my fans? All kinds of questions face the aspiring musician, so I've put together a few pearls of wisdom gathered over my 30 years of playing in bands. I hope this helps, and, if there are any other seasoned players out there who can think of anything I've missed then please get in touch.

What is the First Thing You Should Do?

Buy a diary and enter up all of the dates where you are committed to doing something, and I mean everything, work meetings, wedding anniversary, birthdays, stag nights, curry night with the lads, this diary will be your life and will be the method you will need to organise your life from now on. Every time you get a date for whatever, enter it in the diary.

What Sort of Musician Are You?

In the beginning it's just you and your instrument, in 1980 it was just me and a dodgy old Lorenzo 6 string acoustic guitar (with an action at the twelfth fret that would make you cry with pain) playing in my bedroom. I was listening to my Nazareth, Black Sabbath and Beatles records dreaming of being in a band. Back then Rock was my thing, so I wanted to be in a Rock band. So look at the music you like to listen to and want to play, and consider as many genres as you can. 

What Kind of Band Are You Looking For?

Do you want to play original material or covers or a combination of both,in general /tribute bands are a lot easier to sell when it comes to getting the better paid gigs.

How Do You Find a Band

If you want to play in a band you basically have two choices, join an existing band who is looking for a new member, or start your own.

Check out the Audition Sites & Tips page for a list of Audition websites.

In the beginning most people usually start up a bands with a few friends, and if this is just for some fun with no plans to make any real money out of it then this may be for you, but beware that you may lose friends through artistic differences, musical ability, and money issues.

I always try and seek out musicians who are better than me to try and push my playing ability and help me grow as a musician and hopefully as a person.

I think it pays to play with as many people as possible, make connections, get down to open mic nights get as much experience playing to as many people and as often as you can, who knows who your band mates may be in five years time.

What Happens at Auditions?

Check out the Audition Sites & Tips page for articles related to preparing for your audition.

How Do You Prepare For Gigs?

Rehearsal is where the magic is created and perfected.  If you are just going to be playing with a bunch of friends you'll need to agree on the songs you are going to play, if it's covers (covers are always a great place to start). If you are just starting out pick say 4 or 5 numbers, fairly straight forward ones (you can leave the complicated Genesis and Yes tracks until the second rehearsal). If you pick too many numbers to begin with you may find you turn up to rehearsal and you've all picked different songs and then you are a bit stuck and end up wasting a lot of time.  Once you have picked your 4 or 5 songs decide on the key you are going to learn them in and which version you are going to learn, just make sure you are all learning from the same recordings.  You may need to change the key of the songs if the current key is too high or low for your singer.

You'll need a place to rehearse, if you are just going for an acoustic duo set, then anywhere without distractions will do (living room, kitchen, or even bathroom as the acoustic sounds may be better in there).  If you are adding in drums and loud amplifiers and you don't want to disturb the neighbours you'll need a rehearsal room.  There are lots of places set up for band rehearsals with PA and amps so you'll just need to bring your guitars and maybe snare drum and cymbals. I'd always advise taking your own microphones as your singer(s) may not want to be tasting the slobber from the lead singer previous band while trying to sing.  A quick web search should provide you with a list of local rehearsal studios. Obviously check price per hour, what you need to bring, where you will be parking (is it secure or in a dodgy part of town).

There are other alternatives, there may be a local church hall or some pubs/bars may have back rooms which you can hire.  The big problem with these is that you will have to take all of your equipment with you including PA, drum kit, amplifiers , kettle, heaters, etc plus you will lose quite a lot of time in setting up, stripping down, loading and unloading your vehicles, and think of the strain on your back.  A lot of musicians do end up with bad backs (and I am included in that statistic).

The best plan I've always found is to try and have your own rehearsal room, I've rehearsed in barns on farms, caravans, lock ups, store rooms, shops (we used to rehearse in my Dad's record store on a Sunday morning), it's best if you can find a place that you can leave your gear set up that you can lock up and secure.  If you can keep a cheap/spare PA and amps set up in this space you won't even have to strip down the room whenever you have a gig.

Also, I would definitely invest in some a handy recording device to record your rehearsals, back in the old days it was a portable tape recorder, and all the issues arising with using cassette tape. I now use a Zoom H2 Handy Recorder, there are plenty of others out there in the market, but I'm very happy with my H2. Digital technology is so much easier to work with than tape.  Gete everyone in the band to listen back to the rehearsal recordings, this is where you see where you may be going wrong, or right, see what you need to work on. Also, it's really handy if you are just jamming and maybe songwriting.  Something played in the heat of rehearsal can be easily forgotten and lost to the world forever, and it just may have been the greatest song ever written.

Once you have the music down and tight, start thinking about stage craft, if you want to put some fancy dance moves into your show work out the choreography well in advance, and make sure you can actually still play your instrument and not crash into the drummer while doing that backflip.

Remember also that you will never be perfect, but don't let that deter you from getting out there and gigging.  Too many bands live in the rehearsal room, that's fine if gigging is not your aim.  Me personally, I just want to play live, and one gig is worth ten rehearsals, there is nothing like playing live, the rush you can get, the more you play live the more confident you get.  So get out there and just do it.  If you make a mistake, it doesn't matter.  I've had what amounts to car crashes on stage, where things had been so bad we've just had to stop the song altogether. If that happens just make a joke of it and move on. Also, if you make a mistake but you've managed to get through the number (or even if you haven't) never apologise, most of the audience probably won't have noticed anyway.

The old adage of the guitarist who makes a mistake in his solo, purposely makes the same mistake the next time round, so everyone then thinks he meant to do that in the first place.  Entertainment is all smoke and mirrors anyway.  Even the worst gig experiences are a learning experience.  I once saw a guy come out of a particularly terrible gig saying "well that's taught me a lesson". Even the top pros make mistakes they just know how to cover them better than us mere mortals. 

If you think you may suffer from stagefright check out my page that looks at this subject in a bit more detail.

What Sort of Image Should The Band Have?

This is one of the most difficult things to come up with. It would be nice to look a bit different to your audience so people know that you're in the band and not just someone who has come to watch the band.  Your image may have something to do with the music you are playing. Look at other bands in your genre, what do they wear on stage. If you were, for example, a Blues Brothers tribute act, you'd go for the dark suit, white shirt, hat sungalsses and thin black tie.  Do you want to all look the same, or have a similar theme but each of you with a different personality showing through.

Whatever you choose to wear on stage make sure it's light (a suit of armour may look cool, but can you actually physically move when you are wearing it), washable (after a sweaty 3 hour set do you really want to put it back on the following night unwashed?), and maybe have a change of clothes if you are playing 

How Do You Promote Your New Band?

The first thing you need to do is think of a name for your new band, you need something original, which can be a lot harder than it sounds.  So many great names are already taken and as you think of names, just do a web search to see if you can find a band that already has that name.  There are also a few websites out there that contain random band names generators that may be worth a look if you really get stuck. Ideally you'll come up with an original name that will also give your prospective audience a clue as to the kind of music you will be playing.

You will need a website, everyone has a website these days, there are free ones like Myspace and Reverbnation, for a more professional approach you might consider crerating your own.  Check out some of the details I have compiled on my Build Your Own Website page for some tips on this.

You will also need a demo, photographs and videos.  To get these done professionally can be pretty expensive and stressful.  One of my biggest pieces of advice is don't go into debt to pay for expensive studios.  

You will also need Business cards, these can be really cheap to produce especially on the internet (I use Vistaprint these days) in the past I had gone to high street printers and got totally ripped off.  Hand out your business cards at gigs if anyone shows an interest and take a good supply with you if you get to play any showcases.

Professional photographers are expensive, and you need to be mindful of who owns the copyright to those photographs (just because you've paid the photographer to have them done, you may not own the copyright and may be restricted in how you can use them). There are many good photographers out there who are just hobbyists or are studying photography at college, so it may be worth approaching some students, who may just do it cheaply as it will help them with their portfolios.

You may want a logo designed, if someone close to the band is a decent artist you could give them the job of designing one or seek out an art student that may be able to assist, for a small fee.

Video seems to be one of the key factors in success these days, as with photography, check out the colleges and contact media students who may be more than happy to produce you a cheapish video that they can then use in their own portfolios.

I'd much rather pay an up and coming photographer, graphic designer or film maker (who is trying to make a name) than pay outlandish prices to the top professionals for this kind of work.

If you really can't afford the cost of a studio demo, there are some great digital portable studios available on the market these days.  If you do go for one of these make sure you read the manual and get to know how to use it properly.  The main problem in demoing in this way will be your lack of recording knowledge and how long it might take to actually get a demo that is half decent.  On the flip side you can take as long as you like to make your recordings and all it will cost you is your time.  If you need a quick professional sounding demo then the recording studio may be your only answer.

What Happens in the Studio?

A day in the studio is a cool thing to do, and there are budget studios out there.  I remember my first demos recorded in studios, and although it was a great day out those early demos were a bit poor in quality, mainly due to us being unprepared.  

If you do decide to go for a studio demo you'll need to rehearse the songs you are going to record carefully, and exactly as you will be recording them in the studio. Which will be slightly differently as to how you'd play them live.

You can record the band live or layered.  Smaller studios will have you all playing in one room, larger studios will have each member in their own sound proof booth which prevents overspill onto the other instrument microphones.  Sometimes you may put a guide track down, which is everyone playing their parts but only the drums and maybe bass will be recorded for the actual finished demo.  Sometimes it may be just drums, bass and a guide vocal that is recorded initially  then each member of the band adds their parts layered over the top.  This is why you must know your parts inside out.  The guitarist may layer several parts, it could be one part that is just playing rhythm all the way through, then record an additional track with just lead guitar parts.  

When you start a song live, the drummer may give you a 1,2,3,4 and you start.  In the studio go for 1,2,3,4,2,2,3,4 as an introductory count, but count the last 2,2,3,4 silently so it will not record on the drum track and will be easier for the sound engineer to make sure the intro clicks don't appear on the finished demo.

When you listen back to your part, be critical, if you made a mistake now is the time to correct it.  You may be listening to this recording for the next twenty years and you'll hear that mistake and cringe everytime you listen.  But, also remember, the more takes you have, the longer it will take, and the more expensive it could become.

Once you have all recorded your parts it's time for the mix down.  This is when the engineer will prove just how good he is in making your demo sound professional.  It will invariably sound fantastic when played back in he studio.  So make sure you get a CD of the track and play it in your car stereo and see how it sounds there. Even better would be if you could get an mp3 there and then and play it back on your laptop, ipad, whatever device you have and hear what it might sound like to any prospective agent, or venue when they play it from your website through speakers or headphones that aren't as good as those in the studio.

How Do You Find Gigs?

The key to finding gigs is persistence

1) Compile a list of possible venues a Google search of venues in your home town is a good way to start.

2) Contact the venues on your list by email, telephone, social media. Always keep records of who you spoke to and when, I use a spreadsheet with the name of the venue, address, name of the contact, phone number, maybe a few notes about the contact, date(s) you contacted them. If they gave you a gig make sure you note down the agreed fee, times you are required to play, time you can get into the venue for load in and sound checks. If they didn't, and you still want to play there, put a note in your diary as to when to contact them again.

3) Agents - If you want the better paying gigs you'll need an agent. There are plenty of these around some good some not so good.  Do your websearches carefully. See if the agents are actually suitable for your band.  Some agents will need to see a website with photos, mp3's and video.  Make your offering as slick and professional as possible as agents often won't give you a second look if they don't like what they see initially. Even if you are fantastic live, you can let yourself down badly with a quickly prepared website.

4) Showcases - These are where a number of acts all play for a bunch of people who may be interested in booking you.  Often it will be social club entertainment secretaries. I quite like playing showcases (or "shop windows" as they used to be called in the UK) it's always a bit of a scramble to get several acts worth of gear into the venue and get soundchecked. Usually there's a pre-decided running order, but the acts themselves often organise who's setting up where. But I find it great to connect with other performers and hear some of their road stories, and who knows you may either share a bill with them one day, or even join their act, use this opportunity to get to know as many people as possible and take plenty of business cards with you. One last tip on showcases, if you end up playing on a Sunday lunchtime, try to avoid the last spot, you might think that would be the headline spotr, it's not. You'll often see people leaving in droves during the last spot, nothing to do with the act that's lumbered with that spot, it's just they are off to their Sunday dinner and you won't be talking to those people about booking you if they've already left.

5) "Promoters" - I'm not talking about the Harvey Goldsmith level promoters here. In recent years in the UK there seems to have been an explosion in the number of people calling themselves "promoters".  The way they seem to work is as follows.  They will agree to organise bands for a venue, which in itself is fair enough, and I'm sure there are genuine people out there who take on booking bands for a club. The scenario I'm talking about is, the "promoter" will arrange to get three or four bands to play each night. Most of these bands will probably be playing original material (and to be totally honest it is very hard to find paying gigs for new bands playing original material). The "Headline act" or as I prefer to call them " the last band on" will be asked to provide the backline and drums with the venue itself taking care of the PA. Each band will be given a time slot for their performance and also a time slot for their sound check, if you are late for the soundcheck, you won't get one. All sounds reasonably okay so far, sounds a bit like an indoor festival.  The main catch is that you will only get paid any money if you get loads of your friends and family to come to the gig, and then you will only get a percentage of the ticket price. The promoter will usually provide you with tickets to sell. Do not lose these as any unsold ones you do lose will have to be paid for. At the end of the night the promoter will work out how many tickets were sold for which band and you will be given your cut, provided you actually brought someone with you that is.  I've played a few of these gigs over the years with an originals rock band and the most I've ever come away with in my pocket is about £3 or £4, and it's usually cost me more than double that to park my car.

I think the worst spot on the bill is the "headliner". As you are on the bill with say two other acts, you would think that, 'okay, I won't get paid much but we may win a lot more fans of the people that have come to see the other bands'. In my experience it doesn't work like that. First band on will play to their friends and family and members of the other bands (if they've stuck around). Towards the end of the first band's set the people supporting the second band will start to arrive. The second band comes on and may catch some of the first band's crowd as they leave. They will play to their own friends and family and maybe some of the third band's crowd as they arrive. Third and last band takes to the stage and may play to some of the second band's crowd as they leave, Most of the other musicians will have left at this point, so most of the set will be playing to just the people they have brought along and the bar staff.  Then as final band, you will have the pleasure of stripping your gear down and carting it all home.  I think the headline spot is the worst spot in these conditions as you have to be there first to set up and last to leave as you have to pack up, will have played to the fewest people, If you really want to play these types of gigs, try and get one of the middle spots, if there's three bands on, try and get second spot, if there's four bands on try and get third spot.  I'm not saying 'don't do these gigs', as for some bands it's all they can muster, certainly in the early days, but just be warned that they are not always what they are cracked up to be.  I know some promoters insist on you guaranteeing to bring forty people along per band, and to be honest, unless you are a young band with loads of unmarried friends you'll struggle to get that many people to regularly commit to coming along.  Plus, if you can absolutely guarantee to bring forty people to a venue to see you, you'd be better off approaching venues yourself and negotiating a decent fee.

6) Paying To Play - I remember a time back in the 1980's and 1990's when I was chasing gigs in London I was forever being asked to pay if I wanted to play in a venue. London was always seen as a place to make it, to be seen and hopefully spotted by some A&R man looking for the next big thing.  I've never believed in playing to play, it's all on the side of the venue it's like asking the bar staff to pay to work behind the bar.  With the advent of the internet you are more likely to get spotted on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook these days. There is however a market in paying to play when supporting headline acts.  I've heard even medium level acts are charging new bands thousands of pounds for the pleasure of supporting them for a couple of nights on their tour.  Back in the day, it was the record companies that stumped up the money for this as part of their band promotion drive. With fewer new bands being taken on by record companies, it's now the bands themselves that are paying to play these gigs.  If you can afford it then great, what a brilliant experience to say you've supported your favourite band, and played to their audience (or at least the ones you can prise from the bar before the main act comes on).  You might win some new fans, and if you are really set on doing this, have some merchandise and CD's to sell, get loads of flyers printed and make sure everyone gets one when they enter the venue, be available after your spot to sign autographs pose for photos, do whatever you can to get email addresses off people as they may just be your future fanbase.  So what I'm saying is, if you're set on doing this, make sure you make the most of the promotional opportunity.

7) Festivals - These gigs are such fun to play.  They are mainly advertised well in advance so do a Google search for festivals that cover your genre, there are loads of folk, jazz, blues, rock festivals throughout the world to choose from.  Do your research carefully, look to see what sorts of bands they take on, certainly at the lower end of the bill.  How do the bands that you've never heard of get on the bill? Who are the festival contacts? Are there any stages for lesser known acts? Is there an application form on their website? Festivals like Glastonbury are probably wildly over subscribed, but I'm sure you'll find plenty of smaller festivals that are really cool to play and you will have a great time.  I love playing festivals, there's usually very little money involved, but the whole vibe of playing them can be wonderful.  There's often the chance to meet other bands and share stories and more importantly contacts.  This is a great opportunity for building your fanbase so don't forget the business cards, flyers, merchandise, CD's etc and try and obtain as many email addresses for your mailing list as you can muster. The real great advantage of playing a festival for me, is you get to see the other bands on the bill for free.  If you are in it for the money it may not be for you, but I believe the experience far outweighs the money side of things in this instance.

8) House Concerts - I believe this is something that has proved popular in the US so I would really hope it will become popular here in the UK over the next few years. Basically people open their home up to friends and family and invite their favourite musicians to play (for a fee).  The host prepares the room, chairs and refreshments. The performer will also have the chance to sell their merchandise, CD's etc.  It gives the host and guests the chance to meet the performers and allows the performer to play in a more intimate setting and get to know their fans. It can be a handy extra gig if you happen to be playing in a particular area anyway.   Use this link to see how my favourite harp guitarist, Muriel Anderson, promotes her house concerts:

9) Depping - I like to play with as many musicians as possible and depping is a good way of doing this, plus it's an extra way to make more money. I currently play bass with four regular bands and play for a number of others when I'm free and they are in need.  The best way of doing this is connect with as many musicians as possible either via social media or put adverts on the audition sites (most of these are free).  Depping gives you the opportunity to play different styles of music and does improve your playing ability.

10) Social Groups - There are many different social groups out there performing all kinds of hobbies and pursuits.  Most clubs will have at least one function a year, it may be a ball, prize giving or Christmas party these are ideal gig opportunities and the chance to earn some money. You'll probably need to tailor your set to reach a wider audience than just your regular fans, so general cover bands or tributes to popular bands would probably be better suited to these kinds of occasions. Examples of social clubs could be:  Sports Clubs (any kind of sport: football, tennis, golf, sailing, darts, etc) Biker Chapters, Round Tables, Nudists (trust me, I have a buddy who regularly plays for nudists), Works Do's etc

11) Charity Gigs - A good way for any new band to start to get noticed is through charity gigs. Charities are desperate to raise money for their causes and will often hold do's to try and keep the funds rolling in. These are good gig opportunities for the new band as you are guaranteed free press. The charity will do some promoting but make sure you contact the papers, television, radio yourselves to give you the best chance of exposure and to show the world what nice people you are supporting the charity.  It may sound a bit mercenary and that you are 'using' the charity to suit your own ends, but why not? The more you promote your band for this event, the more advertising the charity gets too, so it's win-win really.

12) Promote your own gigs - Here's an idea that a lot of bands don't tend to go for, but it could be another way of getting out there and gigging.  There are many clubs and bars that are crying out for people to come in and buy their beer, food. You could approach a venue and offer to play for free, or for a percentage of bar profits, so if you bring a crowd, they sell beer and you make a bit too.  There are social clubs in the UK that have concert rooms that stand empty most of the week, some may allow you to play for free, or maybe rent the room for a nominal fee (to cover extra bar staff wages and extra electricity used), you could charge an entry fee or make it free and try and make money on merchandise and CD sales.  If you go down this route, you'll need to promote like crazy, get posters out there (especially in the venue itself) at least two weeks in advance, contact all of your social media 'friends', get an article or advert in the free papers, do whatever you can t pull in a crowd.

13) Door money gigs - I haven't played these kinds of gigs in a while, and I'm not keen to do so ever again.  You usually end up getting these kinds of gigs in bars where they haven't already got a crowd to be entertained, it could be a venue that's just starting up or a place that's just plain struggling.  The worst kind of these are venues that insist that you provide someone to "do the door".  We've had bad experiences over the years of this. Picture the scene, there you are sat at a table by the door of a bar. A big rough looking guy with a bunch of rough looking buddies comes to the door, you say "it's £2 to come in tonight" he says "We're not paying to come in here, we never have to pay to come in here" and then he and his pals walk straight past you into the bar. What do you do? It creates tension, it ruins the night for you, and it's not worth all the pain just for a few lousy quid.  If the venue puts someone on the door, that's different, you may not get paid much (as the doorman usually takes a cut) but at least you're safe and won't have to deal with that awkward situation yourselves.

How Do You Promote Your Gig?

In the old days if you had a local gig all you could do to promote your gig was to stick up posters, phone your friends or get a mention in the local newspaper.

These days it's a lot easier using the latest technology.  Certainly you still need to get posters to the venue at least a couple of weeks before you play, and still call your friends and go for the newspaper angle.  Now though you have the internet.  There are gig listing websites out there that you can usually get onto for free. Here's the main points to consider when promoting your gig:

1) Keep your website up to date, if your wesbite only has a few old dates and old news people won't go back there very often to see what you're up to.  Also, if you are continually updating and posting new content you will start to rise up the Google rankings, and that has to be a good enough reason anyway.

2) Get your local newspaper to run an article about your band and mention the gig you are playing in the area next week. Local newspapers are crying out for local interest news to fill their pages, so use them. Plus you can take upload your press cuttings to your website.

3) Blogs - If you have a blog or know someone who has a regular blog, get your gigs mentioned, so readers you may not normally have access to will get to know about your show and your band, try and get reviews and links back to your main website out there too, it all helps with your Google rankings.

4) You tube - This has to be the best place to showcase your band, set up your own Youtube channel again with links back to your own website

5) Social Media - Connect with as many musicians and music fans as you possibly can through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Myspace, Bebo to advertise your shows, this has to be the fastest way to let all the people you know (and maybe don't know) that you are playing a show.  Imagine having to phone all of these people up.  You would be on the phone for days, where now you can tell all of these people about your show in seconds.

What Do You Need To Know When You Play a Gig?

Contact the venue the day before just to make sure you are still on and nothing has happened like change of ownership, bankruptcy, floods, double bookings, etc, so you aren't making an un-necessary trip.

Be on time, or better, be early, allow more time for your journey to the venue, allow for getting lost.
If the venue doesn't have stage lights, then you will definitely need your own. No matter how good you are, you won't look good if you are shrouded in darkness.  The new LED lights are by far the easiest to handle.  I remember the old days of using stage lights with bulbs in. When you are packing up you need to leave them about half an hour before you can touch them, LED lights are cold to the touch.

if you are going for the big effects show with flash pots, dry ice and strobe lighting,  be wary of the venue and the potential dangers, flash pots can cause fires if used in the wrong venue, using a bit of dry ice may look cool, but could set off smoke alarms, cause coughing throughout the audience and strobe lighting can provoke fits in some people.

One thing that a lot of bands don't think about prior to playing their first gig is fronting the show. You may be great at playing your songs, but can you talk/communicate with your audience.  There are very few natural front people, I have worked with just three natural front people in all of my years of playing.  If you don't have a front person who can just think of the most witty things to say off the cuff, it would pay to work out a script for the entire show, even down to exactly what you will say between songs, word for word, and learn it. At least you won't spend an entire song worrying about waht you will say once the song is finished (trust me, I've been there).

Try and carry spares for as many things as possible, think of all possible things that could go wrong, what would you do if such and such happened/broke down? I would always use plug banks with surge protection built in, just in case the electrical system at the club isn't up to scratch, you really don't want to get electrocuted while playing your show.

If your guitarist has only one guitar, do you have a little solo number you could drop into if he/she breaks a string and has a Bigsby (this could take a while), I hate dead air, silence and the inevitable "does anyone know any jokes?" Maybe have some jokes/shaggy dog stories up your sleeve just in case. I play and sing Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars as a bass/vocal piece if we need a few minutes filler while strings are being changed. 

Beware of the traffic light sound limiter systems, when you first set up, and before you power up your amplifiers (especially if they are valve amps) get the drummer to play as loud as he can, hit the snare drum hard.  Then look towards the back of the room, if you see a series of lights (Red, Amber, Green) be warned, this is a sound limiter. If the light stays on red for too long (it could only be a few seconds) the power to the stage is cut. One minute you could be rocking along, the next all you can hear is the drums as the limiter shuts off your gear.  This is a pain in itself, but the worst is yet to come.  As the limiter then realises the sound has reduced the lights go back to amber and green, and the power returns as a surge to the stage.  This process has wrecked many an amplifier, and I'm not even sure if you are insured for the repairs.  It possibly results in you not being able to continue.  Some clubs will assist in helping you find alternative off stage power so always carry long power extension reels they will be invaluable to you. In the UK I haven't seen these system very often in pubs and bars, they tend to be found mainly in working mens clubs, I don't know if these systems exist in other countries, but it certainly is worth checking out.

When you have set up your gear, it's time for the soundcheck, this is your chance to get your levels balanced so you'll sound good out front, and also to make sure you can hear yourselves on stage.  Bear in mind that when you start your soundcheck in an empty room the sound will be very different when (and if) the room fills up with people. Bodies are great at soaking up sound. You will also find that you will sound differently in different rooms. I prefer rooms with curtains, carpet and soft furnishings because it deadens the sound more, and makes it more controllable.  Hard rooms with wooden floors, glass, hard seating are harder to control the sound as the acoustic quality of the room will make the sound bounce and may give you all kinds of feedback problems, but the drums usually sound great in a hard room, so it really is a balancing act. 

Try not to be too loud, I hate it when you've set up, sound checked, it sounds great, you begin your show, then the boss of the venue asks you to turn it down, and your carefully balanced sound then goes out of the window, as each of you try and turn your amp down by the same amount (and invariably fal to do so), it's a nightmare.

If you are wanting to play the bigger money corporate type gigs make sure your equipment is properly PAT tested and you have the certificates to prove it.

It will probably never happen, but if a member of the audience got injured during your show, because say, a speaker fell on them, or they tripped over a speaker stand, you may want to consider getting public liability insurance. By far the easiest and cheapest way to get covered (in the UK) is to join the Musicians Union they give you public liability insurance as part of your membership, as well as legal assistance should you ever need it, it's worth the membership fee for that benefit alone.

Bring an ipod / mp3 player and a lead to connect to your PA and load it with songs that are different to your set list, but are in the same genre as the music you play so you can provide your own background music for before you go on and during your breaks.  The venue may have their own background music, some venues don't. It would be quite a shock to an audience to go from silence to that heavy metal Motorhead number at full volume.  Start your background music playing reasonably low, then gradually turn it up prior to starting your set, that will condition your audiences ears to the volume you will be playing at.

Oh yes, and one last thing before you go on stage, just make sure that your flies are zipped up.

When The Gig Is Over What Happens Then?

Aside from getting paid, if the gig has gone well and the audience liked you get your diary out and talk to the manager of the venue about another booking, make sure you see him write it in his diary (as I've turned up to gigs where there is another band already setting up and they've double booked that date).

When packing up and loading the vehicles at the end of the gig (also applies when you first arrive), be extra vigilant. Any band I've played with that's 3 piece and upwards we work a rota system for loading the vehicles, at any one time one person is always out watching the vehicles, one is in the venue with the gear, and one is travelling with gear.  I had a bass guitar stolen after a gig some years ago.  I was gutted and I'd hate that to happen to you.

At the end of every gig, when all the gear is safely packed and loaded, I always go back in and search across the area where we've just played, we call it the "idiot check" just to make sure we haven't left anything behind.

What Are The Next Steps?

Can You Make a Living Out of This?

The simple answer is it's possible, but it's tough.  More and more venues are closing and certainly in the UK bands are being paid the same rates for pub gigs now as we were back in the 1980's.

1) Teaching see the Musicians Resources page for some information that may help you set up your guitar teaching business
2) Merchandise -Selling T-shirts, mugs, mouse mats, anything you can think of either through your website, on Ebay or at gigs
3) CD's and Download sales - sign up to an aggregator to sell your songs on itunes
4) Become an agent or promoter, if you are good at getting gigs for yourself, you could also make some money by getting gigs for other acts.

How Do You Stay Healthy?

1) Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water, if you are a singer make sure you drink plenty of water at least an hour befor you hit the stage to give the water the chance to work it's way into your system. If you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated, if your urine is a dark colour, you are dehydrated (nice and clear is good).

2) Get enough sleep - I put this point in because I need my sleep, some people can party late, get up early and be full of beans, I am not one of those people. With too liitle sleep I get grouchy and lazy.

3) Eat a healthy diet (sorry if I'm just stating the obvious here)

4) Look after your back, as musicians we tend to have to lift a lot of heavy awkward things, carry equipment long distances, up and down stairs. Adopt proper lifting techniques, use the power in your legs not your back.  I have to see a chiropractor regularly because I didn't do those things. One of the best things I ever bought, and I bought it only recently, was a fold up trolley, I would say it's an absolute essential. I also bought a bass cab with wheels.  I used to lug an old Peavey TNT 150, the one with the handle on the top (not one each side where it would be best for lifting) and I think that's what did for my back.

5) Avoid heavy drinking, drug taking and too much caffeine (I'm talking ideal world, here I'm not preching abstinence, just be careful and you will be fine)

Any Other Advice?

1) Keep increasing the knowledge on your instrument,

2) Learn music theory 

3) Expanding the styles of music you are willing to play makes you more employable

4) Learn to sight read

5) Don't turn up great opportunities, at least consider every offer that comes in, you never know what might happen

6) Keep your website up to date

7) Keep your diary up to date

8) Most of all Have Fun!!!

© Let's Play Bass Guitar 2018