Getting music gigs is a crucial part of becoming a successful musician. Having good shows to play at allows you to not only work on your stage presence, but also to build a dedicated fan base for your act.
Getting and playing gigs is one of the most effective ways of getting recognised in the music industry and getting your music heard.
The importance of getting music gigs: As so many people attend music events, there is potential to play for a lot of people, providing you with great exposure if you impress. It’s also a brilliant chance to develop your stage presence for when you start getting paid gigs.
Part 1: Stage development
What is good stage presence?
What does it mean to have stage presence? Good stage presence is something that the best musicians all have. It relates to how engaging you are on stage and how well you bring in your audience.
Why is stage presence important?
Without a good stage presence, you’ll never stand out as an artist. More importantly, you’ll never draw your audience into your performance, which may make you less memorable.
Often people looking to work with musicians in the long terms look for musicians with the full package. Confidence is often one of the things record labels or managers may look for, and it often is portrayed through your stage presence and how engaging you are.
How to develop stage presence
Take every opportunity to practice that you get. Practice will make you feel confident at a big show, and the more venues you get to play in, the better.
Practice alone at home, practice with a band, practice in front of the mirror, play for your mum, your friends, anyone who will listen. The more practice, the less of a chance you’ll mess up when it counts.
Get lots of experience playing at different shows. Don’t wait around for a big opportunity to present itself. Look for little gigs at local, smaller venues that feature your musical style. It’s a great way to build confidence, and also a lot of fun.
The more comfortable you feel with the logistical parts of your performance such as words and body movements, the more you can focus on being emotionally convincing and adopting your artist persona on stage.
Check out loads more stage performance tips in this article here:
How to perform live on stage
It often depends on your genre. However, no matter what kind of performance you’re involved in, from rock to folk to pop to indie, the most important trait to have on stage is confidence in yourself.
Even if you’re a bit more reserved in real life, on stage, let yourself become passionate and energetic. For softer music such as indie or folk, it’s still important to show the audience that you’re engaged and having a good time.
Don’t just stand still and play even if it’s a slow, quiet song. Move to the music, interact with your audience, and convey emotion through your face. For louder music, it’s important to let loose.
How to sing on stage with confidence
How music gigs can help singers & be a good performer on stage
For music such as punk and heavy metal, don’t be afraid to scream in both high and low registers, and jump around.
For hip hop or rap, make sure to use clear, audible enunciation, and vary the cadence of your voice. If you speak or sing in monotone, the crowd will think you’re not confident in your music.
Remember that the crowd will only be as enthusiastic as you are. If your facial expression, body language, voice, and musicality show that you’re 100% into the music, the crowd will be, too.
Get out of your comfort zone
‘Looking the part’ also means acting the part on the stage. Everybody has different strengths and weakness that need to be practiced, and it’s important to recognise what needs to be worked on.
If you struggle with dancing and getting into the music physically, take a dance class. If you’re feeling shaky on hitting higher notes, sign up for a voice lesson.
Enrol in an acting class with a teacher that you admire. Getting individualised attention will help you fine-tune problematic aspects of your performance and allow your strengths to shine.
Stage presence for singers
At any kind of show, the performer is faced with the task of manoeuvring around a stage. It’s important to maximise the space you’re given.
If you find yourself tending towards a particular side of the stage, be sure to move around and fill the space with your presence.
For musicians, don’t spend the whole show in front of the microphone stand. Take it out and hold it in your hand, or dance so that the audience is constantly watching to see what you’ll do next.
If you stay in one place when performing, your performance might seem unconvincing and stunted.
How to perform on stage singing
Make the crowd feel like they’re part of the show. People don’t come to music shows just to listen. They want to move, dance, and sing along.
Create an energetic environment that allows the crowd to let loose and have fun. The best way to do this is to have fun yourself!
Make eye contact with the crowd. Eye contact is the closest you can get to making physical contact with your audience.
Striking a balance
Don’t choose one or two audience members to look at. This might make them feel nervous or singled out. Instead, practice scanning the crowd in a way that appears natural to engage each audience member.
Remember to show as much emotion as you can through the eyes to make the performance convincing.
To start the show off on the right foot, applaud your audience as you first walk onto the stage. Though it may sound strange to clap towards the audience, they’ll start clapping back and the room will be immediately buzzing with energy.
You also might want to try holding the mic out and asking the crowd to sing along.
If you want some more tips on how to engage your audience, check out this article:
Tips for performing on stage for the first time
Here’s a more outlandish tip: Choose a stand-out outfit for your first performance.
When an audience comes to a show, they’re not just looking to hear your songs, they’re looking for a full sensory experience.
The reason for doing this is so that you can feel different on stage. It will instantly make you feel more like you belong on that stage!
Artists have their own styles
Look at stars that have developed their signature style. Missy Elliot is famous for wearing Adidas tracksuits, Michael Jackson his futuristic, red Thriller outfit, and Ke$ha known for her unique glitter patterns. Choose a signature item that will make you memorable within your genre of music.
Wear that pink hat you’ve always had your eye on, or finally buy yourself a brightly coloured suit that nobody will be able to forget. Don’t be afraid to accessorise. Wear jewellery, make-up, and anything else that adds charisma to the performance. For dancers, be sure to wear clothing that doesn’t inhibit movement.
What should you wear to an open mic night? Take a look at this article.
What should you not do on stage?
Never do these things:
Shout into a microphone at close range
It’s easy to get excited by a crowd that is really into your show. If you’re going to raise your voice and interact with your audience, it’s important to be conscious of the volume. Never shout into a microphone at close range. It’s not always a scream that gets a crowd going..
Let your ego get in the way
It’s important to never boast about your act or music while you’re on stage. Keep your ego in check.
Remember to let people know where they can catch you next or that they can buy your merch during or after your set. That said, no one wants to hear you talking about it for ages between each song. This gets boring and breaks up your show.
Be sure to incorporate short bursts of promo across your gig, but keep it entertaining. Mention things in intros while the music is still playing, at the end of songs, and to backing music briefly between tracks. This lets you get out what you have to say without killing the vibe.
Make it obvious when you make a mistake
Mistakes do happen. What should you do when they do? Just carry on with the show! Unless it’s something major, like a part of the stage has fallen, chances are the audience won’t even notice.
Even if your audience does notice, if you carry on as normal, it probably won’t bother them. Don’t make a big deal out of mistakes or highlight them, just keep on with your set.
Get too overly confident
Always grow your confidence steadily. People will think you’re full of yourself if you’re too over-confident. Keep that confidence to yourself.
As a crowd member, it’s so not attractive to see artists hype themselves up on stage. If you think you’re great, be great. No one likes musicians who are too full of themselves.
Talk badly about other musicians
Always do the opposite on stage. Mention the musicians that have supported you, and hype up the crowd for the next artist or band on stage.
Part 2: How to get gigs and why they matter
Why do you need to play gigs?
Gigs are massively important for any musician. One of the key things about gigs is that it helps you grow your stage presence.
Doing it consistently will help you with building your act on stage and it’ll eventually make you into a well-seasoned musician.
Building yourself as an artist
Not only does playing gigs help you with your stage presence, it also helps build up your musical identity.
A lot of musicians forget how important it is to have a consistent persona between your personal and musical life. Playing more gigs will help you tap into your inner rock star or diva that you can use to build up your entire brand as a musician.
Coming across as a professional musician both on stage and off stage is a great way to build up your fan base reliably.
How do I get gigs as a musician?
The best place to start looking for gigs is in your backyard. Get to know the music scene in your area. Which venues and promoters are willing to give up-and-coming musicians a chance?
Which artists in your area play live often and might need a support act? What venues in your area put on touring musicians who might need a local opening act?
How do you get gigs at a festival?
How to get gigs at a festival: Word of mouth
Word of mouth is a powerful thing for an artist to have. All it takes is a few people to be impressed by your performance to tell their friends about you and that gets the ball rolling of expanding your fan base.
The more often you play, the more often you increase your chances of this happening, provided you are impressing with your music and performance.
Often people who run festivals are close friends with local venues.
How do you approach a club for a gig?
To get a gig directly with a venue, call to find out who is in charge of booking artists and send them your promo package.
The venue may tell you when to contact that person again. If not, give them about a week, and follow up by phone or email.
Keep trying until you get an answer. If you’ve haven’t played live much, your best bet is to try to get on an existing bill with an artist that already has a following.
Keep in mind that if you book with a venue, you may be in charge of promoting the show yourself and paying venue rental fees, unless you are invited to join an existing concert bill.
If you’re looking for more tips on how to secure gigs, check out his article here:
How do you book a gig?
If you’d rather not self-promote and take on venue fees, you can approach a promoter to get a gig. Send your press pack to the promoter directly instead of contacting the venue and follow up (like you would with a venue).
You can find promoters through Facebook and Google – have a look at what shows other artists have played, their promoters, and their mutual friends.
If a promoter agrees to get you a show, they will book the venue and promote the show for you, but you may need to send them posters you have made yourself to do so.
When the promoter doesn’t want to put you on by yourself yet, ask them if they have any shows you could play as an opening act. If they say no, check-in from time to time to remind them you are available as a support act.
How do artists get gigs?
Venue owners, managers, and promoters are all looking for the same things from a singer or artist. You will need to be reliable and on time and you will need to bring a crowd.
It’s important to make a good impression when it comes to promoters. They can be looking to book acts for different venues across the country, so impressing one could mean getting plenty more gigs in the future.
If it’s your first gig, use any evidence of your ability and popularity to your advantage. If you’ve recorded a demo, send it to them. Otherwise, make a point of telling them how big your social networking following is and how many paying customers you plan to bring with you.
If you’re wondering how to build up your social media check out this article – 21 Inspiring Content Ideas.
Expect to be at the bottom of the bill to start with – if you play your cards right, you’ll be headlining small local gigs before you know it. It’s worth remembering that promoters often put on ‘all-dayers‘ or mini-festivals.
Generally, all the artists playing at a gig share the same kit; either provided by the promoter themselves or the venue, so it’s a relatively low-stress way of playing a big show.
How to get paid gigs
Only playing paid gigs isn’t always the best thing to do, especially if you’re just starting. The only way to get paid gigs reliably, though, is by putting the time and work in.
How much do music gigs pay? Pubs, especially, are often good places to get standard rates, i.e., £100+ rates for solo acts.
Put the hours in finding local places that are more likely to pay well. For every 50 emails you send to 50 different pubs, even if only 5 get back to you, and 1 offers to give you a good rate, that’s £100 in your pocket!
Keep going, and eventually, you’ll build up a positive reputation, and it’ll be easier to get these shows.
N.B. Often pubs will expect you to play covers, so make sure that you have a large collection of 15+ well-known covers that people will know.
How much should you charge for a gig?
Part 3: Building a fan base
How to build a fan base through gigging
Creating a mailing list
To do this you will need to design a leaflet to take details of people’s names, emails or mobiles to add to a mailing list. You should do this every time you gig, if you gig enough, you’ll soon have a good amount of fan information that you can use to advertise your new songs, gigs or news updates quickly and cheaply.
Please ensure you are ready to play at a recognised music venue first; it may pay to do some local open mic nights to learn stagecraft and build the confidence before going in at the deep end.
If you’re wondering how open mic nights work, check out this article.
Getting a regular gig slot also allows you to sell your merchandise to existing and possibly new fans. All it takes is someone to buy your EP and share it with their friends to widen your fan base. Selling merchandise is also another way of getting an income stream.
Getting gigs allows you to network
You never know who will end up coming to watch you play a gig, so it’s smart to go and network after your set is finished. Talking to everyone will give you a good reputation as well as providing the opportunity to talk with someone who might have a contact you could do with.
The more often you gig, the more you will perform with other acts. One of the best ways to get noticed in the industry is to collaborate with other artists. So use gigging as an opportunity to make friends with other acts who would be willing to work on music and other gigs together.
Gig as much as you can
Gigging is one of the best things to have on your CV as a singer, as it shows you’re willing to make an effort. Also if you impress at a gig it’s most likely to lead to more opportunities such as getting asked to play at other gigs.
Many people in the music industry will look at your website and social media to see where you’re performing next and of course the people you’ve impressed previously.
Always ensure you have leaflets and/or CD’s so people can take your details or listen to you on the drive home and it’s also essential that you are searchable on the internet.
Have you ever got a great paid show? How have you developed your stage presence? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!