As a musician, you're always looking for opportunities to gig. Some money, some exposure, a good time. It's all a walk in the park, right? Not quite, my friend. There are plenty of instances where it's actually best to say no to a performance offer, and here are four of the most notorious circumstances.
1. The venue or promoter has a bad reputation
First and foremost, avoid anyone who's very obviously looking to rip you off. Do your research on spaces and people, and read everything before you sign.
This advice is especially relevant if you accept a pay-to-play gig, in which the promoter gets a quick buck by getting young musicians to sell tickets and give the money to the promoter. If you accept a pay-to-play gig, that's on you.
Make sure your choice of venue is straight-shooting both financially and ethically. In the hyper-connected modern age, any affiliation with the wrong, socially irresponsible people can severely damage your reputation. That means if a venue supports homophobia, racism, sexism, or any kind of oppressive ideologies, stay away. Your reputation is everything, and it'll save you a world of trouble if you're responsible about who you choose to associate with.
2. The finances don't justify it
Getting paid a ton for a gig is awesome, and a huge payout from a gig is a quick, easy way to deem a show "certified worth it." However, there's another element that can balance out the financial aspect, and that's good exposure.
If a show is going to get your band incredible PR and exposure, that attribute can outweigh some pretty bleak financial scenarios. Ultimately, it's up to you to weigh the pros and cons of, say, a gig that might be a drag but could take care of all the payments for your van vs. a show that you would lose money on but could catapult your career.
3. You're oversaturating your market
As your band starts to get bigger, one of the principles you'll need to adopt is to not to play too many gigs within the same radius. Oversaturation simply means that if you play shows all the time in the same area, people will eventually get bored of your band, stop showing up, and your band will lose momentum. This process is something very personal and very affected by your scene and where you are, but the hard numbers should speak for themselves.
Choose your shows wisely, so that your pull grows in size and doesn't diminish. If you do start to see your numbers drop and you aren't just about to make a big announcement or career move with your band, taking a break can be a great strategy to set yourself up for a little comeback.
Bottom line: If you think that playing as many shows as humanly possible in your hometown is the way to go, you can go ahead and let go of that one.
4. You're underprepared
If your band isn't prepared to take the gig (and can't feasibly get prepared in time), don't take the gig. It's that simple. If your material isn't ready for the public, if you can't bring the number of people the venue is expecting, or if your equipment isn't performance ready, the gig isn't for you.
Take your band seriously and invest in it as a business and a brand. Build a foundation of trust and reliability with promoters and venues by consistently delivering on your word and being thoroughly prepared for every gig, even if that means saying no to a show every now and then.
Max Monahan is a bassist and a writer living in Los Angeles. He spends his time working for an audio licensing website and shredding sweet bass riffs.