Expert Music Career Advice For DIY Musicians

7 Steps to Prepare for Your Next Show (Besides Rehearsing)

how_to_prepare_for_your_next_showPhoto credit: Rich Abrahamson (image source)

You've practiced your songs enough times to play them in your sleep, established some sort of online presence, and put in the time and energy to connect with those booking agents, talent buyers or even other bands. Once you hear the wonderful news that your band has been booked, it’s time to get your game plan in gear.

You know that getting a show booked is not easy work, so you should reap the benefits of your efforts, right? Follow these seven steps, and you'll be prepared to deliver and get the most out of your next gig:

1. Make sure ALL of the logistics have been covered (in writing!) in your communications with the talent buyer:

  • The payout: Is it a door deal, guarantee or split with the bar? When will you be paid? Who will pay you?

  • Deals: Are there food and beverage deals for bands?

  • Guest list: How many guest list spots do you have and who should receive their names?

  • Sound: Will there be a sound person? Will he or she be soundchecking (or at least checking levels)?

  • The timeline: Do you know what time you're loading in, soundchecking, performing, and loading out?

This is all very basic stuff that should be in your agreement, but it’s essential to have it all written out so that you, your band and the venue are all on the same page.

2. Update your sites with event details:

  • Update your website. Make sure you get all the important details on your site to make it as easy as possible for your fans to find the information.

  • Get to social media. Coordinate with other bands to make sure you have one event that everyone can refer their fans and friends to. Maybe even try some of these tactics.

Don’t forget to add your show to discovery sites like Jambase, Songkick and Bandsintown. You never know who might stumble across your show because they like the venue you're playing, the other bands on the bill or your description.

3. Reach out to press, bloggers and magazines:

  • Ask the booker/venue for their press list. It's a lot of work to promote every single show, so they'll appreciate you taking the initiative to promote yours. Not only that, you can start compiling your own spreadsheet of press contacts for future shows or announcements.

  • Reach out to bloggers or magazines who are up-and-coming. They're usually looking to establish themselves and need content. Offer to record or answer questions for an interview to get the ball rolling.

  • College radio stations are similar in the fact that they're trying to establish their presence, so why not offer to come into their studio for an interview or performance? And hey, that might even get you on their radar to play your tracks.

Once you start getting these press opportunities, don't forget to track them in your Sonicbids profile. It's like a domino effect once you get one – others will want to join in on the fun.

4. Hit the pavement with your community:

  • Posters are still a necessity these days. It's your business card and billboard advertisement wrapped into one. Plus, flyers are a great thing to hand out once you've built up your...

  • Street team. You should always be your own street team when you're first starting out. Attend similar style shows in the area or at the venue you're playing, and talk to people and other bands about it in person (which could lead to other opportunities). However, if you can leverage your guest list spots, drink tickets or afford to pay people to help promote your shows for you, that's a HUGE resource to have.

  • Hand out flyers. Make sure your show and website details are on there. That way when the person you were talking to forgets your name in the morning but reaches into their jacket pocket, that'll be one more fan at the show.

5. Confirm your travel and equipment plans:

  • Carpooling is key. This will allow you to all show up at the same time, save on gas and maybe even practice some harmonies on the way.

  • Stay safe! Look into cheap housing or stay with friends to avoid traveling too far and being a target for theft. Airbnb and Couchsurfing are also great options for affordable lodging, and you may even meet some new friends!

  • Backline if you can. Not many venues backline their equipment anymore, but if you can share as much equipment as you can with other bands to save time in between sets, go for it.

  • Take care of your instruments. The last thing you want to do is ask the crowd if anyone has an extra guitar. (Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.)

6. Figure out your setlist and stage setup:

  • Craft the perfect setlist. Start soft, start fast, it’s all up to you – but make sure everyone can play it with their eyes closed, because of...

  • Stage setup. Not all venues are going to have the most comfortable stage sizes, so be prepared to play with whatever setup can fit you. Be comfortable with being on top of each other and creating cues you can see and hear. All the more reason to know your setlist with your eyes closed.

7. Have an action plan for capitalizing on potential customers:

  • Merch table and email signup list. Get your T-shirts, CDs, flash drives and coozies ready, and don't forget a cash box to change big bills. It would be great if you could get one of your friends or street teamers to help – and maybe they can even help with...

  • Photos and recordings. As an artist, youprobably know other people involved with art, or at least have a friend of a friend who's into photography or videography. Either way, get someone to record and/or photograph your show somehow. The more online content you have, the better your chances are of being found.

  • Plan how to connect with people after your set. Hand out demos, stickers, you name it – but make sure you’re driving everyone to your homebase for potential sales or follow-up interactions.

This list may be long, but you shouldn’t leave any stone unturned when you’re trying to make it as a new band. Every show has the potential to either drive people to more shows or cause you to fizzle out with the rest of the local acts. Remember, luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so make sure you’re prepared to rock the house and capitalize on your next gig!

Find Gigs To Play