How to: start playing gigs

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Every month, Guitar Techniques attempts to answer guitarists' playing posers and technical teasers with expert and practical advice. This time we offer some advice on getting your first gigs…

The question:

Dear GT

I'm a singer/songwriter with a repertoire of self-penned material and have played the occasional gig at friends' parties, open mic nights and so on but I'm unsure about how to build up some more regular work.

All the advice from various so-called gurus on the internet stress the importance of live work, but no one seems to able to say how you go about doing it. Have you any advice on how I can go about getting gigs?


The answer:

It's a difficult question to answer, James, because there is probably no single way of going about things, but there are many, many variations on a basic theme.

However, we would say that thanks to the internet it's never been easier to get your music out there and make steps towards promoting your talents without even leaving the house.

Your watchword here is 'networking'. First of all, you need a website. There are various ways of going about this, from do it yourself packages like Wordpress to getting one specially designed for you. It's really a question of budget and programming expertise.

Once it's up and running, keep it updated regularly with news of new gigs, instruments, techniques - anything in order to ensure that people revisiting the site have something new to read. You could employ Google Analytics to keep track of how busy your site is.

You can enhance your web presence further by setting up a Facebook band page and investigating sites like ReverbNation, the latter having many tools that will help to promote your music online.

Then you need to produce some demos of your songs and put them on a site like SoundCloud. You can open a free account and upload MP3s that are either accessible to everyone or only available via a 'secret' web address that allows only specific people to listen.

This is a great way of sending people demos of your music as all you provide is an email with the web address of your SoundCloud page instead of fiddling around with CDs, Jiffy Bags and post offices.

Lastly - and probably most importantly - you should make a few videos and upload them to YouTube so that you can build up a little bit of a buzz about your music before even playing a note in public. It will give landlords, publicans and club owners an idea of what you look like, too.

Then it's down to exploring the websites of players with a style of music compatible with your own. Look at the venues they've played, find email addresses and send a polite message with links to your demos and videos.

At the same time, investigate local venues, talk to the managers at local arts centres, acoustic clubs and other places and see if they'll let you play a support slot.

It might sound like a slow, longwinded process, but it's effective and a route that many other players have had success with in the past.