Gig Advice – Firstly, this article is aimed at new musicians who don’t have much gigging experience. Professionally paid musicians will not benefit from this advice. As an acoustic singer songwriter living in North East England, you are lucky enough to have many options when it comes to booking a gig. There are an abundance of events every week that cater for all levels of players. Need Music have divided advice into three audience groups so you can understand how gigging works.
There are many busker (sometimes called “open mic”) events in pubs across the region These pubs includes The Dun Cow in Sunderland every Tuesday, or Mens Bar at Newcastle University every Friday. This event is typically hosted by one person, who brings a guitar & a PA system and plays a few songs until other buskers turn up. You just need to show up (with or without your own guitar) and ask to play (usually about 3-4 songs). Also, there may be a list to join if there are many performers waiting for their turn. Playing original or cover songs is highly acceptable, and if you’re lucky there may be a free drink to thank you for taking part. Remember, there is no pressure or expectations… anyone can get up and play – it’s a fun experience and helps you get some confidence and experience in performing live.
The next step up from open mic nights is “showcase”. Open mic nights are booked gigs. Open Mic nights promote musicians beforehand, and will generally expect musicians to play 30 minutes of material at an allocated time. For example 8.30pm – 9.00pm. All the PA equipment is provided, and there will usually be someone mixing the sound. You tend to get a better sound system at these events, and the audience should be aware that the gig is taking place. So, how do you get onto one of these? Firstly, you will need to prove to the promoter that you are capable of performing to a certain standard. Although you may not be at a professional level, it is reassuring to the promoter to hear you first. The best way to do this is by recording a demo (even on your smartphone if you don’t have any other means). Even a 30 second clip of you singing in your bedroom will give an indication of what you sound like. This will help the promoter put you on a suitable bill, perhaps with other artists of the same genre. Once you have your demo, upload it to YouTube or Soundcloud and copy the URL link. Now you are ready to approach the promoter. Need Music put on two showcases every week (see events page), so we’re always looking to help new talent get gigging experience and hone their skills. You can use the contact form on this website, or a simple message to the Need Music Ltd Facebook page will work too. Your message should include the link to your demo, and a small description of the type of songs you play. This goes for other promoters too, such as Nemix who are also a Newcastle-based events organisation. Tip: Ask the promoter for the gig poster or Facebook event so you can let your friends/fans know you’re playing. This will get you kudos with the promoter.
Be warned there are general terms & conditions that need to be adhered to, and these go for most gigs of this nature. Paid gigs tend to take place in bars, restaurants and weddings. Also, take a look at this list of terms and see if you can make it happen. 1. At a paid gig, musicians are required to play at least 2 x 45 minutes of song material. 2. The customer is very likely to ask you to play POPULAR covers – not cool songs from your favourite band, but songs everybody in the venue will already know. Yes, we’re talking Brown Eyed Girl and Mr Brightside. That’s the way it is – we don’t make the rules! 3. You will almost certainly need your own PA system to project the sound. This is usually one speaker, one mixing desk, microphone and stand. Feel free to contact us about the specifics. 4. Payment varies. Each venue has it’s own budget for entertainment. It is important to ask the venue about specific costs and conditions, as each venue will pay differently. Some clients pay on the day, others can take 30 working days. 5. You will need a good level of stage presence too, as you are now a professional musician. See our article titled “Stage Presence” for more tips on this topic. I hope this has cleared things up for you, and you can make your way through the different levels of gigging at your own pace. Or if like many others you do it for fun, just take each gig as it comes and have fun. Good luck!