Before we provide recommendations on how musicians can navigate their career we need to establish some definitions. Some musicians are writing their own songs & trying to get to a point where they can headline tours. Others are perfectly content playing cover songs in a bar. This post will help define what types of performances you are playing so that our recommendations on how frequently you should play and how to market your events make sense.
Bands that primarily play other people’s music are called cover bands. This includes bands or artists that play other people’s songs in your local bar or at weddings. This also includes artists like Badfish (a Sublime Tribute Band).
For the purpose of reducing confusion, we are referring to a gig as any performance where your band is not the primary revenue generator or reason someone comes to a bar/venue. This includes weddings, tailgate parties, etc.. It also includes performances in bars where there is no cover charge. We explore different types of promoters in another blog post. The person booking talent in these situations is interested in selling alcohol, not tickets.
Gigs are a great way to establish yourself in a market and to get better at performing in front of people. The Beatles famously played clubs in Hamburg for two years (1960-1962), often 5-6 hours a night. George Harrison said that “Hamburg was really like our apprenticeship, learning how to play in front of people.”
We are referring to a show or concert as any performance where there is a hard ticket, meaning someone purchases a ticket to see you play. Your check comes from the box office, not the bar. In our blog post about different types of promoters we discuss a few different types of people you will work with in these situations. These promoters are interested in selling tickets to events and have relationships with agents.
Most of our advice is geared towards artists that are trying to build a career playing original music in venues where alcohol is not the primary revenue generator. If you are making a living playing gigs then you may still be able to get some useful information out of our posts. If your goal is to headline at Red Rocks then this series of blog posts is meant for you. When you are first starting out, gigs are a completely necessary part of the equation. As your career grows there needs to be a time when you decide to take a different approach & start building a fanbase.