Getting gigs, playing solo or with a band in front of a large crowd, getting paid, getting recommendations and generally living the ‘big musician life’ has at some point or the other been a part of the dream of every 8 out of 10 guitarists who are learning the guitar in order to have a career from making music. Most times these dreams get stifled, trod upon and completely die because, truth be told, it is not very easy to get gigs that play as a guitarist because the music industry is tight and has some very fierce competition. Luckily, no matter how difficult it seems, there is always a way around these things. In this article, we will uncover some helpful tips on how to get gigs as a guitarist and get paid for it.
Promote yourself/your band
With the growth of social media, this is one of the most important moves to make when looking for gigs that pay. You have to get out there for the world to see you, market yourself and make yourself available to be found. Make videos of your solo works like covers, original songs, BTS videos of yourself and your band and even organized band rehearsals and post them all out there. Post snippets on your stories: Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, everywhere; get a presence on social media. The purpose of this is to let people see what you can do, even if they do not call you up for a gig immediately, they can tag you or refer you to people who need your music or that of your band.
Join a platform that books gigs for musicians
Another way to get a sure gig that would pay is by becoming a member of an online community that books gigs for you and your band while you’re at the comfort of your home. When you sign up, some details like your name/band name, website, genre of music etc. is required and after having filled all of that, you get notified when a show that matches the description of what you do comes up. There are so many communities like this, you just have to search the right way; some of them I know are: GigSalad, ACE Music Booking Agency, Indie on the move, ReverbNation, Festival Net, SonicBids etc. You could join more than one and when multiple opportunities come, you’ll be the one on top of the game to make the choices; just make sure you do not accept gigs that would clash on the same day or the same time, you would definitely end up disappointing one or both of them and set a bad record for you and/or your band.
Look for small shows around you
Start off with bars, restaurants, wineries, open mic nights, and birthday party halls around you. Talk to the managers of these places and see if there can be a slot for you to perform even if it is once every week (an hour on Friday night for instance). Make acquaintances and get friendly with them so that any party or show that comes up, you would be the first to get notified. Don’t forget to exchange contact and follow up on them, but in the process of following up via text messages, calls or emails, be careful not to wear them out or bug them else you may just ruin your chances of ever getting any gig from them.
Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming events
As you promote yourself on social media, also follow other musicians, artistes and event managers especially those in the same line or genre of music as you are. Go to their websites and pages and see what upcoming events they have; you can send a message asking if there can be a slot for you or your band to perform, go the extra mile by offering to send them a link or a short video of your work, and if they would need a support act, you can be called upon.
This is an amazing way to get gigs and it is not totally a bad idea, but it has its positive and negative sides. The positive side is that as a solo guitarist, busking helps to develop your confidence and charisma as you will be playing in front of strangers and maybe a small crowd and it will not be too difficult to face larger crowds. Another positive side about busking as relates getting gigs is that someone out there that likes what you do, your genre of music and your overall aura may just connect you to a gig immediately. Busking is another way of promoting yourself. Now, the negative part about it is that busking is tagged ‘local’ or for ‘desperate’ musicians and when you are seen in this category, it may be difficult to charge serious or professional fees for performing anywhere other than the streets. But if you feel like you can navigate your way and demand professional payment regardless of whether or not you were seen in the streets, then go for it.
Be affordable but know your worth
If you just started out your gigging career as a guitarist or band, chances are that many restauranteurs, bar or club owners may tell you that you will get paid with ‘publicity’ or ‘exposure’. In my opinion, never agree to this! Consider the amount of time, effort, promotion and publicity strategies, hours of rehearsals and financial commitment that has been put into your music and tell me you do not deserve to be paid for your efforts. I’m not saying you should get greedy or ask for way more than you should, that is bad; but agreeing to accept nothing at all is just as bad. Your affordability will enhance referrals from one person to another, but while being affordable, know your worth, never perform for free; it is a bad habit and can get worse over time – performing for free that is.
Don’t be discouraged
Not everyone may like your kind of music; you may be a rock guitarist while majority of the audience you’re performing in front of may flow better with blues. You may experience blank expressions, expressions of mockery, or nonchalant expressions on the faces of your audience. Try to ignore them and try not get discouraged, however, in trying so hard to ignore the jests or setbacks you may be experiencing while on stage, do not let the disappointment or lack of confidence show on your face or in your performance; even if you’re playing as good as Hendrix, you may discourage a potential client by your change in demeanor. Instead, go pro! If you feel like the crowd is not ‘feeling’ your music, switch it up, do song covers of popularly loved songs and ask that your audience wave their hands to the rhythm or join you in singing, ask for song requests from them and do a little chit-chat with your audience in the midst of your performance. Everyone wants an interesting performer on their show. I have been a gigging guitarist for years and have experienced lots of ups and downs. I remember playing in a show and one of my strings snapped, I had to quickly improvise into playing songs that would be most convenient for me to play without that broken string and then I made my audience sing along with me for the most part of it, I’ll strum a little and give them back the opportunity to fill in the lyrics. They enjoyed themselves and probably thought, “oh, this is her style”. Lol. That was just my own way of getting out of my mess.
Always go for shows with an auxiliary band member specifically for recording your performances or if you are a solo guitarist, go with a tripod stand and make sure it is set at a major spot on the stage where you can be captured clearly. Recording yourself helps you to listen back and see where you made mistakes, it helps you get better and avoid the mistakes you made before. Recording yourself is also another way of promoting yourself for future gigs and collaborations.
In this music business, it is important not only to get gigs but to keep them too. Some events or shows happen quarterly, biannually or annually. Will you or your band be called every time the show is about to happen? Maybe or maybe not. Attitude determines it. Have a positive attitude and relationship with people particularly with those in charge of the event and other musicians. It may be tempting to get rude or get ugly with words especially if you are not coming along on the same page (regarding payment or any other issue) but fight the urge to ‘attack’. Your attitude may just be a test of character to put you on the next big stage or not. Watch it.
I hope this article has shed some light on what to do to get gigs as a guitarist.
Do you regularly get gigs? Or is it a ‘once-in-a-while’ affair? What else do you do to get gigs as a guitarist? Send in your contributions via the comment box below and share with us.