While playing for your enjoyment might be fun, the real fulfillment comes when you get the chance to share your talents, skills, and even your original music with the rest of the world. After playing for a while, may it be a few months or a few years, you’ll have the desire to perform and share all the emotions you get from your music. And yes, this means with someone else other than the imaginary stadium audience you’ve played to within your four walls. Sounds like it’s time to get your first music gig.
Getting your first gig is enough of a hustle on its own, and we have already talked about it in one of our previous articles. And after all the hard work of searching, busking, and introducing yourself to people and venues, you finally managed to schedule your first-ever live performance.
Congratulations! You must be all thrilled, excited and a bit nervous, which is normal. But you need to bear in mind that the real work is now ahead of you. Sure, you managed to break the ice, but the time has finally come to go out there and play.
Since this is your big chance, you don’t want to mess this up. You’ve worked so hard honing your skills, rehearsing with your band, and investing countless hours for this moment. It would be a shame if your first gig went bad.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the end of the world and you’d still be able to become a professional musician. However, having a solid start and a good first gig can be one hell of a motivation booster, and will encourage you to pursue your music.
Now that the first performance is on the way, let us go into some details on how to prepare for your first music gig.
Take Care of Your Gear
The last thing that you want to happen on your first live performance is for a string to break or, even worse, for your equipment to malfunction. Imagine this: you’re performing, everything going perfect.
You’re in the zone and in the middle of your solo, then suddenly something starts making unpleasant sounds. Or, at that moment, your string breaks, or one of your cables malfunctions. Imagine how anti-climactic that would be.
And, on a live show, you want everything but anti-climactic. (Unless you have a specific prank in mind but we wouldn’t recommend anything like that for the first show.)
But all this, like a common cold, is preventable. One week or a few days before your first show remember to check everything. If you’re playing an electric bass or a guitar, open it up, check for any potential faults and the general state of the electronics.
Living in this day and age, when everything is available online, you should be able to find documentation on your instrument.
In case something wrong, take it to a professional to have it repaired. If you don’t have enough funds or can’t find anyone available, you can always pull up a YouTube tutorial and do it yourself.
You might end up spending a whole night trying to perfect your soldering skills but there’s got to be some sacrifice if you’re planning on dedicating your life to music. That’s show business for ya…
Of course, you’d need to check all your cables and all the other weak points and loose ends for any potential issues. Make sure to be thorough in your inspection process.
No one wants to listen to an out of tune guitar. Well, unless you’re playing microtonal music but we doubt that’s the case here. If you’re playing guitar or any string instrument, it’s mandatory to have a tuner at your disposal.
Be On Time for your Gig!
Needless to say, you should be punctual and arrive at your gig on time to set up your equipment.
There’s always a chance something will go wrong and you will want to sort it out before the show starts. Any kind of unexpected delays won’t go well with the audience and the venue owner.
Always Have A “Plan B“
Another thing that’s important is to make sure to have a spare gear. If you’re a guitar player, you should always have at least one full set of spare strings.
And if a string does break, you’ll need to be ready to change it as soon as possible. This means you also need to have a decent tuner with you (as we already mentioned that above).
An even better option for guitar and bass players is having a spare instrument prepared backstage.
The same goes for other instruments and microphone cables. Have at least a couple of spare ones with you. If you don’t have spare instruments or a cable and can’t get your hands on one, ask your friends if you can borrow theirs.
With this being said, it’s important to keep a good relationship with other musicians; something we’ve discussed in the previous article. And remember to always be ready to return the favor.
Another thing that could be useful, is having someone helping you at your first gig. Hire a friend who’s at least somewhat familiar with music gear and have them help you.
It could be as small as fixing a broken strings, faulty cables, or a flaky microphone stand. Of course, you can return the favor by helping them when they have their live performance.
Even if your performance flawless, having an assistant around for emotional support will help you feel at ease.
Create a Stunning Set list
If you’re playing in a band where there are three or more people involved, you must discuss your setlist. With this being your first performance, you’ll most likely be doing a shorter set on a bill shared with several different bands.
You want to make the best impression, but also want to please your musical tastes. There’s a lot of thought to needed into coming up with a perfect setlist. The process is, of course, way easier if you’re a solo performer.
However, what you need to think about is choosing songs you’re good at and songs that will show you in a positive light.
This being your first live performance, it’s best if you play it safe and choose the songs that you’re most familiar with. Then again, if you go with cliche, simple, and boring pieces, then there’s a chance you’ll let the audience down.
Difficulties might arise if you’re the only band on the bill and need to play one hour or more of repertoire. This means you’ll need to put extra effort into practicing.
On the other hand, you might take a risk, and decided to perform only difficult pieces. This is a win-or-lose situation. You might end up being a champion or (to be completely honest here) a complete embarrassment.
Even if you do mess up, you need to look at this as a positive experience. Some may say that your first show can make you or break you. But you need to stand by your own decisions and have the strength to move past your negative experiences. Like anything else in life.
Another thing to consider when coming up with the repertoire is the kind of audience that you’ll be playing for. If your repertoire is filled with songs your audience isn’t familiar with, play another song in the setlist.
Remember – you’re the one that’s performing for them, they’re not there to satisfy your own needs.
Know The Venue
It is always more comfortable for you to perform if you’re familiar with the club/venue.
Also, knowing the PA and all the necessary equipment they have onsite would be helpful. And it’s something you should be acquainted with even as a more experienced musician later on in your career.
Knowing the venue and people who go there is also helpful in coming up with the best possible setlist.
The best scenario being, this is a place that you frequented over the past months or years. A place you know and a place where people are compatible with your band’s musical tastes.
If not, it might be tricky. If you have time, see what kind of place it is, and make sure to ask around about the venue. Yeah, this is annoying, but these are the challenges that you encounter will make you stronger in the end.
Practice, Practice, Practice!!!
There aren’t enough ways to explain how important it is to be ready. Not only for your first show but in general as a musician.
There’s never enough practice. If you practiced for hours and hours every day, you should push yourself even further if you want to become a pro. Or even as an experienced semi-professional.
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse!!!
Whether you’re a solo performer or a band, rehearsing is the upmost importance. Go over your repertoire and get all the loose ends sorted out, and make it sound confident.
The best thing would be to know how to go from one song to another, which also depends on the setlist that you came up with.
An important thing about rehearsing is performing the song properly from beginning to end. Sure, you might not be able to nail it down without mistakes, but the audience should be able to recognize the song.
There aren’t enough words to express how important song beginnings and song ends are.
You want to hear applause at the end of your performance, right? There’s nothing worse than playing a mediocre performance, and being greeted by an awkward applause from the audience.
If you’re playing in a band, this can be achieved with individual practicing. And if someone is not practicing enough, it’s likely that the whole performance suffers and your rehearsals and the live shows be a disaster.
Get in the Zone! Have a Good Mindset
Aside from practicing and rehearsing, you need to get into the right mindset for your show. Yeah, having everything polished is important, but if you’re nervous, or emotionless, it’s unlikely you’ll give a good performance.
It all depends on what your preferred genre is, but you’re there to entertain your audience and give them a piece of you in the form of the music. And getting into the right mindset is not the same for all the genres.
For instance, if you’re playing cheerful folk-rock, you want to have the mentality of a bard or a classic conventional entertainer. But if you’re an extreme black metal band, you need to have a completely different mindset.
With this being your first gig, try and not to overdo on all the extra moves and shouts. It’s okay if you say “Put your hands together for this next song” once in a while. However, be careful not to overdo it. You are less experienced and might end up sounding pushy.
One very important thing to remember is not to be nervous. Yeah, it’s easier said than done, but try to relax.
And know that whatever happens will be the experience of a lifetime and something you’ll look back on as a fond memory.
Your first live gig went wrong for some reason? Who cares! What matters is that it will be a huge boost to your experience, both as a musician and a person.
Appearance is Important as Playing
Okay, the music is the main priority, but the way you look is also important. There’s a slim chance people won’t be willing to stay through the first song if you go on stage looking like an average Joe.
When people go to see live shows, they’re expecting a full package – both musically and visually. Sure, you won’t be able to have all the pyros, lasers, lights or elaborate stage outfit like Gene Simmons, but looking decent for the genre that you’re playing will suffice.
And it all depends on the genre. If you’re a heavy metal band, it would be a good idea to have the clothing style of a metal band. Heck, even matching outfits are sometimes a must for certain sub-genres.
Of course, at the end of the day, although these things are relative, some audiences might not even care.
Gain Wisdom from Experienced Musicians
The best way for you to get advice is from other musicians. You know, musicians who have gone through the same experience you’re going through now.
True, there isn’t a simple answer on what makes a great performance, but guidance from someone who already had a few or more gigs is welcome.
Get the Word Out About Your Gig
In the previous article, we mention that you should always use social media to your advantage. Take advantage of social media by spreading word about your performance. But, make sure not to overdo it and make it seem like annoying spam.
Another idea is to have your musician friends spread the word and share the event on their social media. It helps if they play the same genre.
You can also try talking with the venue’s manager or owner. Never be afraid to ask them questions and see if they’ll be doing promotions for your gig.
In most cases, venues self-promote via social media, printing posters and spreading them near the venue and around town.
You can also offer to help with promoting. After all, the more people show up, the higher the chances that you’ll be playing there again.
Look, even if something does go wrong, it’s not the end of the world. This might be the crucial experience you need to become an amazing live performer. Many famous musicians have had mediocre first gigs.
Those who pack stadiums and record killer albums were once in the same position that you are in now.
If you’re playing in a band and in case something does go wrong, make sure not to give a hard time to any of your band-mates.
Whoever made a mistake, missed a note or two, or had equipment issues, don’t make a big fuss about it. After all, it’s a lesson learned for your future gigs.
It would be a good idea to have someone record the show, or if possible, have the audio recorded directly from the mixer so you can have a clear idea of how you sound.
Sure, you might hate some of the parts, but it is a great way to see how you can make your live shows better.
At the end of the day, getting a music gig this is an experience of a lifetime, something that you will remember forever. So go out there, play what you rehearsed, and, above all, have fun.