You have your look and style down. You just got out the studio with a hot-ass release. But wait… you haven’t played a show yet?? What the hell is wrong with you?? Does anyone even know who you are?? Get your shit together…
All kidding aside, playing live is a very important aspect to getting your name out there. Whether its being an opener, headlining, or just stopping by a week night open mic.
I personally started attending local open mic nights, and from there a lot of doors opened up. Full disclosure, I did have ONE show before doing this as an opener… friends from work came… that’s about it. Anyway, in this final section I’m going to break down the live setting for you into a few categories: Sounding Checking, Open Mic Night, and Booking.
Believe it or not, this is probably the most important part of your night. Its the first thing you do after loading in and can be crucial to your performance. How the hell are you going to play well if you can’t hear yourself in a monitor?? So on this topic I spoke to a good friend of mine that runs sound on multiple occasions: Frank Maraldo. Outside of writing and performing with Niights, you can catch him behind the mixer at The Happy Dog. And for a little background, what inspired this article was a soundcheck guideline that Frank posted a while back! So here are his top five rules for sound checking and I’ll end the section on this:
- “Singers, stay up on the mic and sing directly into it when you sing. If you are afraid to the house mic, buy your own, or bring alcohol swabs.
- Drummers, set your drums up before you get on stage and break them down when off of the stage.
- If you sing, sing into the mic during soundcheck, if you scream, scream. Don’t talk, it’s not representative of your actual performing volume.
- Use hand signals (up and down) to indicate if you need more or less monitor. The sound engineer can’t hear what you are hearing on stage.
- Don’t play during soundcheck unless asked to.”
Open Mic Night:
When first starting out in the music scene (wherever you are), I recommend doing open mic nights before trying to get on a bill for a show. This way you get a lot of exposure to many other local musicians. Someone likes your set, you get to talking afterward and there you have it: you’re on a bill. Or at the very least you get some useful contact information! Just from my experience, this allowed me to join a few bands, collaborate with other musicians, and even be a guest host once! They’re normally week nights and can go pretty late, so plan accordingly! Some are even pre-arranged, coming off as more of a local showcase. These are particularly good to be involved with because they are promoted in advance and will get your name seen on the promotional material. With that in mind, I spoke with Jason Patrick Meyers (who hosts his own pre-arranged open mic at CLE Urban Winery) to see how he runs the show!
“When hosting I always expect the unexpected. My CLE Uncorked event encourages artistic and personal expression in the form of poetry, music, and magic. But none of this matters if you don’t show up early and introduce yourself to the host. I never expect performers to stay for the entire event, but I always take note of those who do so I can invite them back. These are the performers who tend to be more invested in the community and learning about those around them”
Some serious food for thought, but at the end of the day he’s totally right. Music, especially locally, is all about community. Collaboration, feeding off of each others energy and making some wonderful things happen. Creative aspect aside, I’ve made so many friends by going out and doing open mic nights, and that alone can be worth it!
So now that you’ve been going to some open mics and made some connections, you think it’s time to set up your own show. That’s great! Of course it’s not that simple… You have to have QUALITY recordings, QUALITY videos, and on top of that you need to know the right people to contact. Most venues have a booking contact on their website and make it easy for you. When first starting out, I recommend sending whoever you may be talking to a link to your website, social media and anything else that can help you. When I started doing this I set up a Bandcamp page to show my music and now I have a full running website. Make it as easy as you can for the person viewing your content, and by that I mean just have everything in one place!
Venues want to be able to draw and ultimately make money, so keep in mind who will be on the bill, what night of the week it will be and how many people you think will come. Once again I’m going to refer to an outside who has more experience on the booking end than I do!
Jeanette Sangston is in charge of SoFar Cleveland (among many other things) and was able to take the time to provide me with some great insight:
“As an artist, you want to make it as easy on the booker as you can. Some venues have very specific requirements for submitting a request for a gig. Familiarizing yourself with the venue is always a great first step. Look on their website or socials to see if there are specific guidelines. For example, some venues will only accept form emails through their websites. Make sure the venue is the right aesthetic for your music and that the capacity is not something that is either too large for your ability to fill or so small that you’re cutting yourself short in potential ticket sales. Seeing things from the perspective of the venue is a great way to really flesh out what they need from you. The venue pays their bills by being able to fill their club with paying customers. They also want people to keep coming back. So they’re going to want to book quality acts that can bring a crowd. If they’re not already familiar with your music, it’s your job to put them at ease and assure them that they would be getting both from you.”
Great advice. Use it. So when you get a show (quick note on this) and you’re either the opening act or headlining act, just respect the other musicians there. If you’re the opener? OPEN. 30-40 minute set, BOOM. Done. (…oh and stick around if you can). Headliner? Get there early and watch the other acts if time permits. Its just good manners.
Overall, booking can be a pain in the ass. Not gonna lie. Venues can seem uninterested, or sometimes they won’t even get back to you… THAT’S OK. Don’t give up. Keep going to open mics, keeping talking to anyone and everyone, and most of all KEEP PLAYING.
Thanks to Frank, Jason and Jeanette for offering up some solid advice!
This is the final post in my Musicians Etiquette series.
I might turn them into a booklet deal for shows if they get enough hits, but we’ll see! As always, thanks for reading!!