Want more and better gigs? Here are two fists full of tips for making that happen.
Get really tight on all your songs. That will help probably more than anything. If your band is bad, you sing out of key, play bad solo’s, etc., you’re not going to turn any heads or keep people in their seats. Practice Practice Practice! And then after that, practice again! It doesn’t really matter what style your music is, if you are tight, people will notice and listen.
2. Turn It Down, Hollywood!
You don't need to blow people’s heads off to get a good reaction. Keep the PA down and play at a reasonable volume. People will appreciate it and listen to your show with a much more positive outlook. The bar/club staff will also praise your name for not blowing their customers out the door. This also helps minimize potential sound issues. If the mains are blasting too loud, no one will be able to hear their monitors, so you have to turn those up and suddenly you’ve transported yourself into the bog of eternal feedback. Nothing makes people head for the hills like constant ear piercing screeches.
3. Sell It
Mention your CD's / Merchandise between songs and make sure people know where it is being sold. That can be the difference between selling 2 CD's and selling 20. You would think people would see the merch booth and your big giant colorful sign for CD's... but they don't.
4. Be Friendly
Talk with people during breaks and after the shows. Even to the annoying drunk guy who is bumping into you and can't stop blabbering about how awesome you are. The better you are at dealing with people, the more awesome they will think you are later on. People hate smug egotistical musicians and if you’re a jerk, good luck getting anywhere. Bad word of mouth spreads 100 times faster than the good. Don’t anger people, they’re your customers.
Don't let a lack of thundering applause or wild cheering after every song make you think people hate you or that your band sucks. Not everyone is going to dig everything you’ve got and some people simply don’t pay that much attention. It’s not something to focus or dwell on. if you do, It will depress you, make you self-conscious and then second guess yourself (AKA Start to Suck).
6. Watch the Clock
Don't take long breaks, especially after 11:30PM. if you stop and take a half hour break, people will think you’re done and then leave. Take short 5 – 10 minute breaks and make sure you tell the crowd about it and how long it’s actually going to be. Don’t say “we’ll be back in 5 minutes” and then take a half hour, your people will bail. (The exception here is if the venue has a "system" of scheduling breaks. Some clubs especially have found that they sell more food and drinks during breaks. If there is a system or schedule, follow it.)
7. Cover it Right
If you're going to do a cover, or many covers... Do them well! If you horribly butcher a person’s favorite song, they will hate you forever. No matter how good the rest of your music is. Also, keep it as upbeat as you can. I understand there are different styles of music, but no one wants to hear Eore and the Suicidal Depressives all night long. People don’t go out to get bummed out.
8. Tune Your Instruments!
As often as you can, I can't stress this enough. There is nothing worse than out of tune instruments. Make sure you have some kind of tuner with you at your gigs and use it often! I can’t tell you how many bands I’ve seen that have played well, but their guitars were so out of tune that I felt like drilling a hole through my head. That will drive people out in a flash. It’s a great way to get booed off stage, which is horribly embarrassing. It’s also a great idea to make sure to mute your signal while you’re tuning up, no one wants to hear the “tuning song” over and over again all night. It’s also OK to tune up in the middle of a song if you must. Better you drop out for a quick tuning session than trying to warble through the rest of a song while horribly out of tune.
9. Make Space
Give people room / a place to dance and they usually will get up and do so. Get off that stage a few times and go dance with them, people love that! It makes them feel like part of the show. All in all, just have a damn good time. If you’re having a great time, most everyone else will be as well.
10. Clean It Up
Your image matters. Showing up to a gig in a worn out greasy t-shirt and old jeans may be the image you and your band are going for, but most of the time people are not going to take you seriously. There are still venues out there that won’t even let you on stage unless you are wearing at least a collared shirt. People are always going to be judgmental of your looks, that’s just the way it goes and if you look like a greasy hobo that just crawled out of the dumpster on stage, again, people aren’t going to take you seriously and you’ll probably be subject to ridicule. Also, let’s say you are headed down for a night of jazz at the local coffee shop, dressing like you’re about to see a Slipknot show... Probably isn’t the best idea in the world. It matters what kind of gig it is. If you’re playing your friend's backyard BBQ, there is no reason to really dress to the nines. But say you’re doing a benefit show to raise money for kids with cancer; well at that point you may want to dress to impress. It’s something you should always ask about when scheduling a gig, what is the dress like? Is it casual or formal? The more you know, the better off you’ll be.
11. Be a Pro
I know, I said 10 tips here but all of these are part of that last one. Act like a pro. Prepare like a pro. Dress like a pro. The venue expects it and your audience deserves it.