Seven Ways to Make Your Gig a Success
There has been an incredible run of really great gigs lately, and a few that only held my attention long enough to finish the plastic up of beer in my hand and muscle my way out of there. Obviously each act was interesting enough to get me through the door. So what happened between that promising first impression and the awkward second date?
Today I stumbled across 7 Ways To Make Money Singing Christmas Carols. It’s not too far removed from what makes a great gig. Here’s my reinterpretation:
- Dress up
Common sense warning… first impressions count. If your brand’s first impression was a record release, complete with artwork worthy of a gallery wall, don’t ruin it because Mum refused to do your washing or you couldn’t afford an airfare for your stylist. It doesn’t have to be flashy – continuity and authenticity are key. If dressing yourself really is an unmanagable daily battle, plan to dress the stage: as simple as interesting lighting or as involved as custom made sets and props. The Grates do it very well.
- Don’t knock on doors
Don’t over-commit on venue size. Tour Managers and Publicists aren’t fooling anyone when they call all local media two weeks from the show sweating down the phoneline like someone with a gambling problem, pushing 2-4-1 ticket offers.
- Pick your space
Suss out the venue before you book it. I don’t want to get all shanty on you, but pick a space that has a vibe and a clear view of your performance for the audience. Elementary right? So boycott any venues that have more concrete pillars than walls.
- Don’t lie
Publish set times, get organised and stick to the runsheet. It’s all about momentum. Thirty minutes between the appetiser and the main-meal should be plenty of time for everyone involved.
- Engage with hecklers
Let’s assume the hecklers stayed home though. Engage with your audience! Reward the audience for turning up with short anecdotes between songs or (if you’re not much of a storyteller) some personal insights. CW Stoneking told friends at his recent Metro Theatre show in Sydney, to listen out for the large “chord solo” gap in the song he was about to play. It was intended for a harmonica solo, but written before he had secured a suitable harmonicist. At the arrival of said chord solo, a blusey, heart-bending harmonica rose out of the standing-room about halfway back. Gradually people craned around to discover the young, unassuming lad, head bowed and hands cupped over the silver comb on this chest. When the verse kicked in, the entire audience erupted in appreciation. It’s extra special and unexpected moments like this that make a performance memorable – a unique experience for those lucky enough to be in the room for the hour you’re on stage. It’s social currency for fans and you can guarantee they’ll tell their friends.
- Choose your material
Remember one thing. It’s not about you. Give people what they want to hear. There’ll always be opportunity to indulge in your new, under-appreciated 10-minute epic. Bloc Party did it perfectly. They kicked-off their set with a few favourites that immediately lifted the crowd and had everyone singing along. This energy carried through the entire set and made the new material more pallatable. The theory fits in with research discussed in a great book called Made To Stick, that explains what makes people respond positively to new ideas.
- Enjoy yourself
We all understand long tours are tiring. But when you’re on stage, you’re at work. Leave your baggage and bad mood side-stage. That’s right, you will enjoy yourself! Be professional about it or 500 people are going to take your bad mood home with them – and you can guarantee they’ll bitch about it with their friends.