Playing live is one of the perks of being an artist – it’s expressive, exciting and a great way to connect with your fans in-person. In the digital download age, it’s now also an essential way to survive and thrive as a musician. Here are a few things to consider before you make the leap from the living room to the stage:
Getting a support slot
Being the opening act for another band allows you to be seen by a new, broader audience and to perfect performing live.
There are several key ways you can approach getting booked as a support act:
• Get connected through your existing local networks
• Get the attention of a successful band who then vouches for you as an opening act
• Get the attention of a band’s management or agent
• Get booked directly by a promoter to be an opening act on a multi-act bill
When you’re just starting out, getting booked directly by a promoter may be more challenging. However, creating a social media buzz about your music, checking out like-minded acts and sharing your demos, all increases your chances of getting a support slot. But do your research so you’re going to the right gigs and connecting with the right promoters and other people.
Perseverance is key. In addition to linking up with people in-person, also remember to email your demos, relevant online links and interesting news to the management of bands you’re interested in. Regularly updating them about new music, new videos and press mentions is another way to gain their interest.
Finding a band to play with
So you’re ready to perform live. Great! Now you just need to find the right band to play with. Fortunately there are always musicians of all levels and styles looking to collaborate. The web, social media and apps also make it much easier to find one another.
Here are six top ways to find musicians and bands to play with near you:
Use your IRL and social networks
Start with who you know – friends, family, that guy that sold you a guitar – they’re all easy ways to find potential band members. Simply ask around. In addition to approaching people in real life, also use your social networks to broaden your scope rapidly. The average Facebook post, for example, is seen a couple hundred times.
Check out open mic nights for talent
Open mic nights are a great opportunity to both hear and meet the local talent. And you don’t have to perform – just go to check it out. In addition to listening, ensure you mingle with the performers and the audience. You might meet your future bandmate or someone who can connect you to potential interested musicians.
Post on community forums and in classified ads
Online community forums like Craigslist can be good places to find band members. And some, like UK-based Gumtree, have a dedicated section for musicians and bands.
Musolist is one of the longest-running online classifieds and has community of hundreds of thousands of worldwide users.
Bandmix is one of the largest online networks of classifieds for musicians with dedicated sites for the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain and Australia.
The type of forums on offer vary from city-to-city. But a quick Google search should identify options in your area.
Sceptical? Don’t be. Popular American folk/rock band the Lumineers found their cellist Neyla Pekarek after she responded to Jeremiah Fraites and Wesley Shultz’s Criagslist ad. The rest is history.
As the name suggests, meetup.com can help you link up with people with similar interests, including other musicians. The meetup group options are endless, happen every day of the week in most cities, the world over.
There’s probably an app for that
There are several apps, most free, that can help you link up with musicians who could be your perfect bandmate. Flint, Vampr and bandmate are just some of the many apps out there connecting people locally and globally. Many work like popular dating apps in that you both need to say ‘yes’ to begin sending messages. Others offer categories you can tag yourself in or allow you to search through a directory of talent.
Stick up an ad at your local music shop or rehearsal space
In addition to using your online networks, also put up an ad at your local music shop or rehearsal space. When you write your notice, keep it short but ensure you’re clear about what you’re looking for, so you attract the best people. To help find the right fit, also mention your style and provide a few examples of the genres and bands you’re into.
Getting merch made
In addition to your actual music and gigging, merch is an important part of promoting yourself. From the ubiquitous t-shirts to the exclusive autographed drumstick, it’s a versatile way to make money as an artist.
When you’re deciding what merch to go with, you’ll need to consider the cost of:
- what you’re going to produce
- the minimum print-run or order required
- the complexity and colour of the design
Tailor your merchandise to your fans’ taste – it must appeal to them. While you don’t want to break the bank, don’t cheap out either. T-shirts that dissolve after one wash will only disappoint and annoy people.
If you don’t already have a design, you’ll also need to pay a designer or a get a highly-skilled friend to create your artwork. Always ensure you get the files in the correct format required by the printer or manufacturer.
Check out our FAQs for more advice about promoting yourself.
Finding someone to make your merch
One of the best and easiest ways to find a reputable printer or manufacturer is to use your existing music networks. If you like the merchandise of another fellow band, ask them where they got their stuff made. Before you turn to Google, reach out to your social networks for recommendations too.
Get out there
After you’ve wowed them on stage, connect with fans at your merch stand. Fans also love to meet artist and it’s a great way to directly link up with the people that love what you’re doing.