You’ve got your goals, you’ve found your band (or are flying solo), you have some songs, maybe you have some songs recorded (or in the works and ready to test the new material with a audience) and now wondering what is the next step. Live shows! Once you have your first show booked this is something you’ll really need to prepare for and some of these steps you’ll continue to use to prep for in the future as you continue to play more live shows.
So how does one go about bringing their material onto the stage and into these venues? How does one begin in a market, promote and start to make a name for themselves?
Let’s focus on the music and Preparing around that!First you have to make sure that what you’re bringing to the stage is a good representation of how you want to sound and how you want to be received by your audience.
Music: You’re going to want to rehearse with your band, going through all your songs one by one and making sure they sound good. Are all the instruments lining up? Is everyone singing in pitch? Are you getting the right tones out of your amps?
- When rehearsing try breaking down the songs instrumentally or just vocals & harmonies or just bass & guitar. Any wrong notes or off parts will stand out! Also this will help tighten everything.
- Practice running the set, time it & make sure it works for the time slot allotted.
- Practice optional transitions into songs if you’re planning not to talk.
- Practice moving and try video taping you or your band rehearsing so you can see how you look.
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse! Until it sounds good. If it doesn’t sound the way you want it to, then you’re probably not ready for the live show yet. You will know when this moment is!
Stage clothes: (*Refer to what we mentioned in our ‘Intro to Imaging’ entry). The biggest question should be image-wise, does my image / look and represent my music? Does it represent me? Or us? Wear something that sets you apart from the audience. Show that you’re IN the band. Be a unit! Or stand out as an artist. Be and look more than a person who plays on stage with jeans and a t-shirt. What inspires you? Have fun! You could even go to thrift / vintage stores with your bandmates and find some cool, cheap outfits together! Or maybe you have some friends who are clothing designers? Whatever it is - think about it and plan it out.
Tips: Look at magazines, old records, YouTube videos of your favorite artists, look at art! Anything to inspire image.
Banter on stage: Whether you’re a talkative artist or not, and even it if it’s not part of your image to say much, that is fine; but do at least acknowledge and say hello to the crowd and thank them for coming/being there. Your audience, the venue staff, bands, bookers etc., just like you, all took their time to come out and be there. If it’s a new market or new venue, know that your representing yourself and these people are taking their time to listen to you.
Without being too rehearsed - so it doesn’t feel unnatural, think of some things to say to the crowd that you can fit between songs. Funny things that happened that day, brief stories behind the songs, ask the crowd how they’re doing, thank them for coming, tell them about the merch you have for sale, tell them about your next show, what you have in the works, thanking the other bands and the promoter who booked you, thanking the venue, be creative! (*Also you don’t have to talk after every song either - this will get tiresome for both you and the crowd. Find a natural flow and read the room!)
Product: You’re going to want to prepare to give your audience something to remember you by. They will want to take home something if they liked your performance. Before you play your show get some stickers made, buttons, wristbands, lighters, or even something small along these lines that are cheap to produce and cheap to sell with your name on it.
- If you’re first starting out try a small run of t-shirts to see how they do! You can always print more. You can also try painting them yourself with a print screener or fabric paint.
- If you don’t have a recording finished yet, make sure all your social media sites are up so people can find you in the meantime and you’ll be able to tell them the url at the show.
- You could make a small home demo tape or even just one acoustic song single on a CD that you could give out or make into a free download to give to your new fans. You could also put a couple acoustic videos of songs up online and give out music business cards with your social media links and a link to the videos as well.
Website Tips & Social Media site suggestions:
- Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, SoundCloud, Squarespace (custom websites), Wix, GoDaddy & Register.com
- Merch & Duplicating Sites: Halfpriced Buttons, Sticker Guy, Hollywood Disc, CD Baby
Prep before show tips: Do all the guitars and pedals have charged batteries? Find out what the backline is at venue (do they already have a house drum kit or amps). Make sure to pack your tuner, extra strings, your capo, extra cables that you know work, and that your stage clothes are clean in time for the gig!
Before you step on stage for the first time Ask yourself these questions:
⁃ Are the songs sounding good and is our gear sounding good?
⁃ Have we rehearsed recently? Is the band all on the same page?
⁃ Do we have a setlist that is cohesive and flows nicely?
⁃ Are our instruments in working order and comfortable to play?
⁃Do we look like a band?
⁃ Do we have stage banter/things to say to the audience?
⁃ Do we have a thing or two that is cheap to sell or give away at our march table?
There’s nothing more magical than playing music live and sharing that with people - so put your heart into the process - you probably did when you wrote your first song! Also recall the first time you saw your favorite band or artist live. It was probably a night you’ll never forget - give YOUR crowd that same feeling!