The situation: you have a live gig or concert coming up and you want to be prepared. Here’s some tips to make the best out of it. How do you prepare for your live gig? What to do on the gig itself?
01 Rehearse as much as needed. Make sure that you have the music completely prepared up front. Rehearse sequences of tunes in batches of 3-5, where each song in the batch starts immediately after the previous ends, so there is not downtime for the audience.
To really play relaxed on the gig you have to be ‘above the material’ as they say. If you or your band are not sure about a newer song/tune, stick to the older, tried-and-tested tracks! If you have replacement players in the band, send them the music/scores early on and plan extra rehearsal time.
02 Make a setlist.
Make a setlist, describing which songs you’ll play and in which order. Discuss this list with ALL band members. Give everyone in the band the setlist right before the gig starts. This can make everyone feel more assured.
Make sure the first two songs, and the last one, are kick-ass and/or faster tempo. Include 1-2 (rehearsed!) songs on the list as an encore.
It helps keep things fresh if you change up your setlist periodically. Continually work on new songs, have a lot of music under your belt.
03 Get all the details far in advance.
Try to get as many gig details as possible from the programmer/organizer, far in advance of the gig. This can really help logistics on the day itself and reduces stress. What is the exact location? Parking? What time is your band expected, when does the concert start and how long does it last? What equipment is there and what do you need to bring yourself? Is dinner included? How much is the gig paid and how and when will it be paid? You should also “advance” the gig the week before. Check in with the club, confirm all the details, make sure the PA is still there (or working).
04 Promote your gig.
There are two basic ways to promote your gig yourself: physically through posters and flyers (costly but helps building image), and virtually over the internet (time-consuming but no costs involved). Posters and flyers: place these at public places where your ‘target audience’ hangs out. Ask whether it’s permitted. Place posters and flyers at least 3 weeks before the gig date. Internet: use social bookmarking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to promote your gig. Make sure that either way, you always include the most important gig info: What, Who, When and Where.
05 Bring the right equipment.
Make sure you pack everything that can possibly be needed on the gig: stage clothing, guitar(s)/cables/fx/amp(s), power extension cords, guitar stand, picks, strings, tuner, sheet music/music stand (if needed). PA? Monitors? Having everything packed up in time is relaxing!
Lighting. You should always bring a minimum of two spotlights that can be clamped onto speaker stands or walls or chairs or anything to light up the stage. Nothing’s worse than being on stage and the audience can’t even see you. It’s especially tough trying to communicate with band mates during a song when you can’t see them.
06 Bring back-up equipment.
Bring as much back-up equipment as is reasonable. Have a “plan b” for equipment failures, string breaks, bad mic cables. Don’t bring two spare guitars that you will never use to every gig. Find out if the stage have their own backup equipment.
Any piece of gear, that you can’t live without, that requires a special cable or power supply… Get a spare NOW and bring it to every gig.
07 Try to look like a band.
Establish a style for the band. Way too many bands look like a bunch of guys at a back yard barbecue instead of dressing the part. Be sure to announce the band name (or have a banner with an easy to read logo) from the stage as well as mention the band’s website. Pass around a mailing list so you can keep fans up to date on upcoming gigs by email.
08 On the gig: be kind.
On most gigs, you will have to deal with sound technicians, lighting engineers and organizors. Be very kind and patient, treat them with respect! They will give you a great sounding, perfectly lighted live concert situation in return.
09 On the gig: the sound check.
Tell the singer to take it easy on the soundcheck, no need to test the limits there. Try to be effective during soundcheck. Learn to read a room. Depending on the size, stage and floor material quite a bit of adjustment can been needed to volume, ambience settings (reverb/delay) and your amps EQ. It is always better to start at a low volume and increase as necessary. Start too loud and you never get it back. Get a reliable pair of ears to stand in the middle of the room and tell you what they can hear out there. Then trust them. Get your amp into a position where it points towards your ear rather than through your feet.
10 On the gig: relax.
Some people suffer from stage fright (a.k.a. performance anxiety). If you do, take a couple of deep breaths two minutes before going onstage and joke around with your band members. As soon as you come on stage, however challenging, overlook the whole audience and try to look as many people in the eyes as possible in the first minutes of the concert. This helps you put any perceived ‘audience pressure’ into perspective, and gives the audience the idea that you are there for them, and that you want to communicate something.
11 On the gig: start on time.
Start on time. That’s what professionals do. The crowd won’t care either way, but you will impress and help the organizers, and distinguish yourself from the myriad of bands who are trying to be ‘cool’ by starting late.
12 On the gig: have fun.
Try to concentrate on both playing the music and on the audience. Have fun with it! Nobody likes to see a grumpy, unhappy, self-absorbed musician on stage. Smile… It may feel fake at first but after a minute or two, it becomes real, and it eases things. Look like you are glad to be there. Have a sense of humor. Things will go wrong, hang with it professionally. Have a huge laugh with the audience and don’t start pointing fingers. Don’t sweat the little stuff. Mistakes happen. Enjoy the moment.
13 It is ALWAYS about the audience.
Entertain them. You don’t have to shake your butt and beat on a tambourine, but you have to..magic them. With your voice, your talent, your story… your ability to sweep them up. And if you can’t do that then shake your butt and beat on a tambourine.
People paid money, through cover or drinks, to see you play. Make eye contact with them repeatedly throughout the show and make them connect to you as much as possible.
14 Know your crowd/audience. Don’t force what you believe is the greatest music of all time on people and then feel superior to them if they don’t like your country punk band in a top 40 club.
15 Listen to what the other band members are playing and give them a chance to shine. It’s not all about you.
16 On the gig: save drinking and drugs for later.
Stay sober and unclouded until the gig is over. Being drunk and snorting onstage might be fine for Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse, but leave it to them. You owe it to your audience to give them all of your musicianship and concentration. Don’t let any substance mess that up, even if you feel a little anxious.
17 After the gig: sell your cd’s/merchandise.
After your gig don’t lock yourself up in the dressing room. People want to talk to you in person so go out there! Sign cd’s/merchandise when asked. Don’t say you didn’t like how the gig went if the other person is enthousiastic about it.
Merchandise: s@x sells. Recruit good-looking wives/daughters/girlfriends/
sisters/mothers to walk in the audience with merchandise or to man the merch booth. Men would usually find it hard to resist a $10 CD when it is sold by a hottie or even a cutie.
18 After the gig: packing up.
Pack up all your stuff, take your time to really pack everything you brought. Leave the stage and the dressing room in an acceptable state. Personnel and engineers should not be cleaning up your mess!
19 After the gig: chatting up.
When everything is packed up, before you leave the venue, talk to the programmer/organizor/stage owner and thank him/her. They will give you valuable feedback on your performance. They will also be able to remember you later on, so you could get a repeat gig!
It’s important to chat up with other bands on the bill as well…it not only promotes comradery but you build business contacts as well as opportunities for more gigs with the bands that match well with you.