I had my attention drawn to this post of mine yesterday because Derek Sivers tweeted about it, which drove over 150 people to the page (thanks Derek!) and as I also had a tiny set last night at the Empress Hotel, which I enjoyed beyond expectation, it made me think about this point that I made in the post:
“I don’t want to do the same old rounds of crap gigs all over again. I might take the easy gigs that come my way but I am sure has hell not going to invest bulk time and energy into chasing two-bit gigs.”
Well since I wrote that I have had a massive change of heart. You see I was simply defaulting to the mode my brain had been set to for the last few years: that of the world-weary musician who had seen it all and was over it yadda yadda yadda which is SO BORING and CRAP.
I forgot how much I LOVE PLAYING MUSIC.
I WAS over it, and I guess that’s just the way it goes when you’ve seen the highs and the lows and just wound up with more lows than highs (my own fault too I might add) but I had a loooong break and now I am like a teenage kid all over again. No really! I’m champing at the bit to play any gig half worth doing and I’m doing crazy shit like leave my incredibly cozy domestic arrangements, drive for 45 minutes either way and then hang out in a bar for a couple of hours without any close friend there to hold my hand (tough call for an introvert like myself) just to play a 15 minute set! (Thanks to Robin and Frank by the way for the very affable reception and professionally run open mic night. Open mics are usually so terrible that I was in two minds about doing the gig at all, but it was a lovely atmosphere.)
I simply needed a break and now that I have had a long rest and a good think, I know that gigs are worth doing and DO help you to get where you want to go, even if it does mean sometimes putting up with crap (or no) money, dodgy PAs/sound engineers and grumpy promoters.
Here’s why doing little gigs is a good thing:
- It hones your chops. It keeps you tight. It gets you ready for the nights that really matter.
- If you are (at least a bit) organized then you can use little gigs to start a snowball of popularity rolling down the hill. You want to make sure you promote your BRAND while you do gigs. If you promote the same brand every time you do a gig then you build up a cumulative effect. If you chop and change names or don’t really bother getting people to remember your name and don’t leave them with a CD or get their email or whatever, then yes, marketing wise, the gig is a bit of a wasted opportunity – so make them count. Think it through. Be strategic.
More on the last point:
- A) I know from experience that if you do what I just said in point 2 then years later, when you have a bigger profile, some people will hear about you from a friend or wherever and will think “Oh yeah! I saw these guys years ago in some little dive bar! They were really cool/friendly/talented.” Then they will feel an affinity to you because you shared a very real evening once, so when they see you doing well, they feel connected to that, it gives them hope. (I have a theory that giving people hope is one of the biggest functions of successful creative people. We live vicariously through our favourite stars; we project ourselves against them and imagine that we too can escape the hum-drum of reality as we know it.)
- B) I have noticed that when you have even a small profile, like I do in one tiny city called Adelaide (and it’s a small profile these days let me assure you, but I am refanning the embers because where there is smoke there is fire) then some people will be happy to buy your CDs off of you after a gig. BUT when you are playing somewhere in which you have zero profile, as I did last night, people may enjoy your gig, but they strangely tend to resist the idea of buying your disc. I experienced this last night (crowd seemed to dig the tunes but did not respond to my calls to come up to me and buy a disc for $5) and seeing as I had clocked which people in the crowd had been obviously enjoying my music, I decided to give the five discs I had on me to these people.
Sure it cost me a few bucks, but they were really happy to get the freebie and now they have something to remember me by, and will hopefully dig my tunes, and come again to see me sometime or something good like that.
The other option, as I allowed to happen for far too long during my cynical, unproductive late twenties, is to do bar gig after bar gig, enjoy the evening but leave the crowd with nothing tangible to remember you by. Sure they might recall you once you are doing well like I laid out in point A – but the irony is, if you don’t practice point B then point A scenario will most likely never happen.
Generally, you gotta spend a little to make some.
P.S. and this doesn’t mean I am not going to do ‘Purple Gigs”. This is still part of the plan – but it is, in my opinion, best to do BOTH (refer to point 1).