Jump to content

Le Help! Starting Gigging as a Solo Act


TL22

Recommended Posts

  • Members

So I've been lurking around all over these forums for some time now, taking a lot of the advice and suggestions you folks pass betwixt yourselves to heart. This advice has helped my musical partner and I create and release our first album together. So first off, thanks on that. A lot.

 

I can remember first wanting to do professional musicianship as a career in 1998, after purchasing my first CD myself (no help from dad!) From then, I mucked about as a guitarist/singer/songwriter/performer for about 10 years now, which is a good chunk of time in and of itself. Not claiming complete mastery or expertise, but I know my way around a melody and a set of lyrics, and can conjure up a somewhat-stronger-than-your-average-courtesy applause during public performances with strangers who've no clue who I am.

 

Of course, during all the course of this time these have been either open mics or invited performances for benefit concerts and the like, but I have yet to play my first actual paid gig. My problem being I've no clue how to get my foot in the door with venues when starting from what may as well be square one. I'm aware that the better rep you have, the better draw you have, the more lucrative you look to venues (usually), and that you definitely have to be quite proactive to get bookings. I know I can play for drunks and get them to give somewhat of a damn in 3 songs, but how do you convince venues to pay you for playing? How do you start off?

 

If it helps, http://davidlee.bandcamp.com/ and http://www.youtube.com/user/davidleeband are what we sound like (though I'll be playing mostly solo acoustic what with my music partner living out of state).

 

I know, another kid with a guitar and some songs wants people to care about what he's playing, nothing new. But still... help me, Harmony Central. You're my only hope!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I'm going to give you some honest criticism. Please don't be offended. It is meant to help you get paid gigs. I really think you need to work on your vocals before you can get paid as a solo act, especially if you're doing original material. Your pitch is just not good in two of those vids.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

 

So I've been lurking around all over these forums for some time now, taking a lot of the advice and suggestions you folks pass betwixt yourselves to heart. This advice has helped my musical partner and I create and release our first album together. So first off, thanks on that. A lot.


I can remember first wanting to do professional musicianship as a career in 1998, after purchasing my first CD myself (no help from dad!) From then, I mucked about as a guitarist/singer/songwriter/performer for about 10 years now, which is a good chunk of time in and of itself. Not claiming complete mastery or expertise, but I know my way around a melody and a set of lyrics, and can conjure up a somewhat-stronger-than-your-average-courtesy applause during public performances with strangers who've no clue who I am.


Of course, during all the course of this time these have been either open mics or invited performances for benefit concerts and the like, but I have yet to play my first actual paid gig. My problem being I've no clue how to get my foot in the door with venues when starting from what may as well be square one. I'm aware that the better rep you have, the better draw you have, the more lucrative you look to venues (usually), and that you definitely have to be quite proactive to get bookings. I know I can play for drunks and get them to give somewhat of a damn in 3 songs, but how do you convince venues to pay you for playing? How do you start off?


If it helps,
and
are what we sound like (though I'll be playing mostly solo acoustic what with my music partner living out of state).


I know, another kid with a guitar and some songs wants people to care about what he's playing, nothing new. But still... help me, Harmony Central. You're my only hope!

 

 

 

The heart , soul and life blood of any beginning solo acoustic act is 50 cover songs. start grinding out a set list,, record it and use that time to put the polish on your vocals like chord girl suggested. Pretty well everyone that does a gig like that has 3 hours or more of covers even if they do write and perform their own material.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

The vocals don't bother me- they're unique and a bit quirky. But I would ask if you are able to play without looking at your guitar so much. It seems like it's a distraction to you, and certainly was for me. And unless you're wearing a headset mic, your sound will suffer for it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

+1^^

 

learn the songs better so you don't have to look at your fretboard(shows low confidence/skills).

 

I noticed you also look down even when you're not looking at the fretboard, don't do that either,also looks like low confidence from the crowd perspective. Just keep your head up high.

 

You messed up a high note or two but whatever, overall not bad.

 

 

P.S. stop looking at your fretboard :p;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I'm going to give you some honest criticism. Please don't be offended. It is meant to help you get paid gigs. I really think you need to work on your vocals before you can get paid as a solo act, especially if you're doing original material. Your pitch is just not good in two of those vids.

 

He's a bit weak but most people I have seen around this area playing and getting paid are NO BETTER and a lot of them were worse. :eek::eek:

 

You need a list of tunes that you are into that you can sell to the crowd. That's about it man. Getting {censored} bar gigs for $100-$150 is easy. You only have to be Mediocre AT BEST. I will give you the $$ list of classics if you want it that has made me Hundres of Thousands of dollars over the years. All the new stuff and any originals you'll have to fill in yourself but I would recommed doing only covers you like to play, that also happen to be stuff people will recognize as well:) Otherwise you WIL GET BURNT AND HATE LIFE!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I'm actually able to play most of those songs without looking at the fretboard. It just looked awkward to me staring down my audience the entire time. Like someone staring you straight in the eyes, many people seem to find it either offensive or threatening or just plain uncomfortable if you dwell too long on them, so I kinda took to the mindset where I look to my audience when I'm addressing them vocally (because I don't actually have a problem looking folks in the eye). But yea, if you guys think I should stop having a staring contest with my fretboard, I'll see what I can do. :p

 

@ChordGirl

I don't take offense easily. As far as I'm concerned, criticism is part of what helps us grow in any field. However, if you could help me out by letting me know which of the two vids you're talking about and what was off about the pitches, then I will be able to actually improve on them. Although if you're talking about the part in the "And I Was" video where I start singing, "Cause love's such an old fashioned word...", don't blame me, blame David Bowie. :p For serious though, I could use a little more specificity on the crit.

 

@rhat

Yea, I was a little afraid that cover songs were the way to start out. Not that I don't know any, just be nice not to have to do a million covers. But yea, I can see your point on that.

 

In any case, a lot of this seems more "improve your performance!" (not that I mind, you guys aren't throwing out bad suggestions), but what I'm asking more for is what do I need to get booked starting out? What will make me more lucrative to someone who doesn't want to listen to my demo or doesn't really feel like checking out my webpage? Keep them from throwing out my business card and all that jazz?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

 

What will make me more lucrative to someone who doesn't want to listen to my demo or doesn't really feel like checking out my webpage? Keep them from throwing out my business card and all that jazz?

 

 

If you really want to get the attention of the bookers you need to have something that will draw and hold a crowd.

 

"Something" can be a whole bunch of different things, but pure musicianship is usually pretty far down on the list.

 

So... you tell me. I'm a booker. How are you going to make me money?

 

Hint: the answer is not "play original tunes while staring at my fretboard".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

 

If you really want to get the attention of the bookers you need to have something that will draw and hold a crowd.


"Something" can be a whole bunch of different things, but pure musicianship is usually pretty far down on the list.


So... you tell me. I'm a booker. How are you going to make me money?


Hint: the answer is not "play original tunes while staring at my fretboard".

 

 

Yea just the type of attitude that has {censored}ed up this business to begin with. Musicianship doesn't matter...Never mind great bands and talent are what it's all about, and what lasts. Not someone's bull{censored} alcohol retail establishment of which, if you're a pro and in it for the long haul, you are sure to play thousands of....I can assure you someone being good DOES NOT DRIVE PEOPLE AWAY FROM YOUR BAR EINSTEIN. Whether it's original's or covers.

 

That said, you are right about bringing "something" to the table. Gotta have something to make a living...Develop your writing, playing, singing and skill and assholes will be calling YOU!!

 

Here's a reality check dude...Talking to the OP...You are not good enough yet..As a singer, player or performer..You need a solid few years to develop but if you put in the HARD work and start kicking ass, you'll write your own ticket and not have to worry about assholes in dive bars asking you how you are going to make them money....Reference young dudes like MATT DUKE. Google him..Get as good as him. Nuff said.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

So... you tell me. I'm a booker. How are you going to make me money?

 

I make you money by bringing in a significantly larger crowd than you normally get on your own or more than other acts would get you...

 

... I bring in that crowd by having them want to see me...

 

... I have that crowd want to see me by leaving a good impression in their heads...

 

... I leave a good impression in said crowd's heads by making them feel special/understood/generally good about themselves via performance...

 

...I perform for said crowd by... oh no! Circular logic imminent!

 

Just kidding, but I get what your saying. The most important thing to the venue is obviously to make money, and I know enough that if the venue doesn't think it can make any extra money off of me it may as well either hire someone else or hire no one at all. I also understand full well most folks don't actually give much of a damn about musical proficiency, much less when they're out drinking or partying. Usually they want something they can carry a conversation and a drink over, recognize and sing along with, or dance to if they deem it an appropriate situation.

 

You suggest something special, then say it can be lots of things. What would you suggest for an act like me, aside from learning covers (which I already know I'm going to have to do) ?

 

Hint: the suggestions don't begin with "not playing original tunes while staring at my fretboard". ;)

 

EDIT:

@sventvkg

Just saw your post after I made this one. Currently checking out Matt Duke, he's pretty good. And thanks for trying to back me up, in your own way. I wasn't offended by him, and can definitely see it working both ways, depending on venues and bookers and such, since I know of some bar owners who actually just have live performances because they like to have it and no other reason. Still the point that rangefinder makes is not lost on me.

 

I also understand the sentiment here about my ability. After all, all I've given you were some studio work and some silly little YouTube videos of me busting out songs to the webcam. I've no way to prove to you that my actual live performance in front of an audience is significantly tighter than the YouTube videos, but also trying to prove whether I'm up to par to take my musicianship to the next level is beside the point of this topic. I'm trying to learn the actual booking process. You know, the part where you actually convince the person on the other end of the phone line to let you play at their place. That's what this topic is about. How do I do that? How do I make them believe I'm worth it? And that's make them believe, since worth is entirely subjective. I mean, let's be honest with ourselves: look at what's charting these days. :p

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I make you money by bringing in a significantly larger crowd than you normally get on your own or more than other acts would get you...


... I bring in that crowd by having them want to see me...


... I have that crowd want to see me by leaving a good impression in their heads...


... I leave a good impression in said crowd's heads by making them feel special/understood/generally good about themselves via performance...


...I perform for said crowd by... oh no! Circular logic imminent!


Just kidding, but I get what your saying. The most important thing to the venue is obviously to make money, and I know enough that if the venue doesn't think it can make any extra money off of me it may as well either hire someone else or hire no one at all. I also understand full well most folks don't actually give much of a damn about musical proficiency, much less when they're out drinking or partying. Usually they want something they can carry a conversation and a drink over, recognize and sing along with, or dance to if they deem it an appropriate situation.


You suggest something special, then say it can be lots of things. What would you suggest for an act like me, aside from learning covers (which I already know I'm going to have to do) ?


Hint: the suggestions don't begin with "not playing original tunes while staring at my fretboard".
;)

EDIT:

@sventvkg

Just saw your post after I made this one. Currently checking out Matt Duke, he's pretty good. And thanks for trying to back me up, in your own way. I wasn't offended by him, and can definitely see it working both ways, depending on venues and bookers and such, since I know of some bar owners who actually just have live performances because they like to have it and no other reason. Still the point that rangefinder makes is not lost on me.


I also understand the sentiment here about my ability. After all, all I've given you were some studio work and some silly little YouTube videos of me busting out songs to the webcam. I've no way to prove to you that my actual live performance in front of an audience is significantly tighter than the YouTube videos, but also trying to prove whether I'm up to par to take my musicianship to the next level is beside the point of this topic. I'm trying to learn the actual booking process. You know, the part where you actually convince the person on the other end of the phone line to let you play at their place. That's what this topic is about. How do I do that? How do I make them believe I'm worth it? And that's make them
believe
, since worth is entirely subjective. I mean, let's be honest with ourselves: look at what's charting these days.
:p

 

 

Yea man, come out as strong as you can..Practice 8 hours a day while you can and just start doing some coffee houses and open mics...You will crush it in a couple years. You have talent, ya just have to develop it a bit. Good luck!!!!

 

As far as getting gigs..That's simple man..go in and look them in the eye and tell them you are great with a smile. Pay them a vid of you on your iphone or email them links of a vid of you killin it!!! Go in person till you speak with them face to face, then call and follow up. Tell them you will come in for a free set to show them how great you are!!!! But first, hit the woodshed for a couple years so you can drop jaws when the time comes and then you will be confident when you say those words to a manager/club owner. :) It's really just sales but the product is YOU!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

 

I can assure you someone being good DOES NOT DRIVE PEOPLE AWAY FROM YOUR BAR EINSTEIN. Whether it's original's or covers.

 

 

Where did I say that?

 

Learn basic reading and logic skills before going off on some ridiculous rant, please.

 

Writing skills and people skills would also help.

 

Or, just keep living inside your instrument like most random musicians.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Where did I say that?


Learn basic reading and logic skills before going off on some ridiculous rant, please.


Writing skills and people skills would also help.


Or, just keep living inside your instrument like most random musicians.

 

Sure buddy, whatever you say :):thu:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

 


You suggest something special, then say it can be lots of things. What would you suggest for an act like me, aside from learning covers (which I already know I'm going to have to do) ?

 

 

Who knows? For me, it's being a buffed-out stud with a twinkle in his eye and a voice that can raise the roof. (Note that has nothing to do with my music or my set list.) For you, that might not work. But it should be something. Because there are lots and lots of musicians with chops out there, and nobody besides our friend sven really cares.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Who knows? For me, it's being a buffed-out stud with a twinkle in his eye and a voice that can raise the roof. (Note that has nothing to do with my music or my set list.) For you, that might not work. But it should be something. Because there are lots and lots of musicians with chops out there, and nobody besides our friend sven really cares.

 

Really, so your studliness will get you more gigs over someone with talent eh? Cool man...Have fun with that :):thu:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Now guys, let's not get too riled up. Remember, this is the internet: nobody wins. I'd prefer to stay on topic. Hell, this topic might even be helpful to a lurker that may be too afraid to pop out their head and get "skewered" by you more experienced folks. :) I know I spent awhile searching fruitlessly for this, 'til I decided, "Hell, why not ask?"

 

In any case, I don't disagree about something special. I feel it would have to be something more to do with content in my performances. If I can get better at mini-standup for quick little inbetween song banter (i.e: if I can tell a really funny joke in 30 seconds!), that might help make a more memorable show beyond just good musicianship. Also, I've thought about controlled audience interaction, things like offering someone the chance to take the stage with a harmonica or some other instrument that can be keyed and controlled without much risk to the performance, though that's a dangerous prospect in itself due to the largely unpredictable nature of that kind of scenario. Plus, if no one comes forward and you keep asking you just look like a jackass. Whatever, something to think about I guess.

 

@sventvkg

I suppose it would be worth my while to get pals to record me performing at a number of open mics or benefits or things of that nature and then pick a "winner" to just show to the bookees when meeting them face to face. You suggest meeting them in person first and then calling to follow up? Never thought of it like that. Certainly sounds worth trying when I'm ready to.

 

Of course, as we all know, we never ever really leave the woodshed. We just pretend we're ready, but the moment we actually believe it is the moment we stop trying to improve. And there's always room for improvement, whether you're 10 years or 30. I think most of us can agree on that. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

As a solo act, absolutely not. Don't even think about it. Look, I'm not trying to discourage you in any way. I always commend those who go for their dreams no matter what others say, but you will have a very, very difficult time drawing a crowd at your current level.

 

Do you have to be amazing to get paid gigs? No, but if you are you wouldn't need to be asking how to get them. Such is the price you pay for turning music into a business: the sword of criticism is merciless and unforgiving, and this is tame in comparison to what you will face when you proceed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Who knows? For me, it's being a buffed-out stud with a twinkle in his eye and a voice that can raise the roof. (Note that has nothing to do with my music or my set list.) For you, that might not work. But it should be something. Because there are lots and lots of musicians with chops out there, and nobody besides our friend sven really cares.

 

 

Um..I get booked solo at one venue in town more than anyone else because they think I'm the best player, the best singer and the best performer of the lot playing there. I don't tell a lot of jokes, I sing a lot with my eyes closed, and I don't play the hits. If you think people aren't listening to musicianship in a solo gig, you're insane. :wave:

 

OP: don't give up on it. Get your feet wet with some open mics, then try to book some offnight stuff, Mondays Tuesdays Wednesdays. Don't expect a lot of dough at first, but playing solo is one of those things where you will get better very quickly if you work at it. I've been playing for 40 years, almost all of it in bands. I started doing a solo 5 years ago, and it was tough at first. I finally found my niche a year or so ago, my singing and acoustic playing has improved greatly, I'm much more at ease, and last month I earned over 1500 dollars in extra money doing solo and duo gigs. :wave:

 

Oh, and I'm an old guy. You're a lot younger so time is on your side. I wish I'd started the solo thing 25 or 30 years ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I have been doing it for year now, and it's going great. Hit the open mics. I also played songs with solo and duos as a sit in/opener. This worked out well for me(i eventually got booked as a performer in my own right at one of these venues). Good luck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

@espec10001

I'm not new to this. I've been dealt some pretty harsh criticism over the years, just like everyone else. This is actually less than tame in comparison. The only problem I'm finding with some of these crits in here is that it's not constructive, there isn't much "Well you could improve on A by trying B", and even though some of you think you're trying to be helpful you're really not giving me anything other than a bully would give. Now, like I said, I can shrug off bullying real easy, but I came here for advice that will work for me. Advice isn't "Don't, you're not good", it's "Don't stare at your fretboard so much, look your audience more in the eye". And to say "if you're amazing you wouldn't need to ask how" isn't true either; I know of plenty of musicians with so much skill that haven't a clue how to get a paid show just because they've never tried before. I get the whole keeping shows going thing, or the whole escalation thing. What I'm asking here is suggestions for liftoff. While this question has nothing to do with quality of performance I understand that I did open myself up for criticism and am willing to take it. But don't pretend to be helpful by just saying, "Don't."

 

Sorry if that came out as a rant, just a slight half one, and not completely targeted at you, Espec. I'm sure you would find it just as annoying if you're trying to ask directions to St. Louis and the answer the person vaguely gives is that you should trick out your Volvo. I mean, I don't mind being given pointers on tricking out my Volvo, but I still need to get to St. Louis.

 

@BlueStrat

Yea, I don't expect a ton of cash flow from any one gig or anything. I'm fully prepared for that. It's nice to know that there is a market for the solo acoustic gig around, and that you don't necessarily need a gimmick to find that niche.

 

@IrishMatty

Well, I do try to hit the open mics as often as I can, and I'm usually really well received (you know, when they're not just being courteous and actually describe to you what they liked about your set). But another big part of what you're suggesting is to get friendly with some other acts, open for them as a way to get into the "cool kids club"? Definitely worth looking into.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

the #1 biggest mistake I made as a musician was gigging before I was ready both as a solo performer and again with my band.

 

In both cases I thought I/we would be 'good enough' and we could just 'wing it' on parts that were rough. In both cases I had huge turnouts for my debut shows as all of my friends came. In both cases the shows were simply not polished enough to be worthy of 'paying gigs' but I was blinded by my eagerness to get onstage.

 

The big problem with this is that there were people at those first shows who's impression of me was set by that performance and they didn't come to another show for years, if ever, because their impression of me as a product was what they saw that night.

 

You need to get better. You have potential, probably more than I did, but if you play gigs right now you will essentially sabotage your future music success because the bar owners will label and brand you as you appear now. Just keep playing open mic nights for a year. Get better and better and streamline your setlist so you recognize what is good, bad and filler. Learn to read a crowd so you can play the correct songs at the right time and don't gig before you are ready.

 

I hope you listen to some of that as it might be the best one on one advice I have given anyone on this board.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

the #1 biggest mistake I made as a musician was gigging before I was ready both as a solo performer and again with my band.


In both cases I thought I/we would be 'good enough' and we could just 'wing it' on parts that were rough. In both cases I had huge turnouts for my debut shows as all of my friends came. In both cases the shows were simply not polished enough to be worthy of 'paying gigs' but I was blinded by my eagerness to get onstage.


The big problem with this is that there were people at those first shows who's impression of me was set by that performance and they didn't come to another show for years, if ever, because their impression of me as a product was what they saw that night.


You need to get better. You have potential, probably more than I did, but if you play gigs right now you will essentially sabotage your future music success because the bar owners will label and brand you as you appear now. Just keep playing open mic nights for a year. Get better and better and streamline your setlist so you recognize what is good, bad and filler. Learn to read a crowd so you can play the correct songs at the right time and don't gig before you are ready.


I hope you listen to some of that as it might be the best one on one advice I have given anyone on this board.

 

My sentiments exactly Austin! WELL SAID! :thu:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

My sentiments exactly Austin! WELL SAID!
:thu:

 

 

 

I agree, it's a good post. I would say, though, that there are places where a solo player is pretty much background noise. I've done some gallery gigs, restaurant deals, and corporate parties where I was virtually ignored. Those gigs do exist, and they can be great places to basically rehearse in front of people without risking a lot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

"...But another big part of what you're suggesting is to get friendly with some other acts, open for them as a way to get into the "cool kids club"? Definitely worth looking into."

Well, not exactly the "cool kids club" so much, but it definitely will help( i see what you're saying however). Venue owners will see you performing with an established act and understand you can do the same in their place. Additionally, you will kind of be audtioning your best material at the same time(as your time is limited). For some reason this always felt different to me than an open mike. I would say this was the single most important thing I did when starting out. There is a point to honing your act and skills as well. I spent almost a year learning a set list of songs to play. I asked solo and duos that I knew what the "essential" songs were and learned many of them. I combed the net(including this site) and took a bit here and there. Then I sat in my basement and learned about 50 songs(I have since learned another 20 or so). I also went out and watched many solo and duo acts play to see what worked and what didn't. This also helped me to make contacts. Keep at it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...