So you’ve booked a gig. Now you have one mission: To make it so unforgettable that the people who attend can’t stop talking about it. You want them to come to your next show, and bring their friends. So what can you do to make your gig the best it can be?
It doesn’t matter if you’ve played your songs ten thousand times, you still need to rehearse. Practice isn’t just about the technical aspects of music. It’s also about the band being on the same page, creatively and energetically. Don’t let yourself get so busy with promoting the show that you neglect the most important element: rehearsing. Make sure you have a solid practice at least a day or two before the show, and the day of the show, warm up as a group before the gig.
2. Do plenty of PR and generate a big crowd.
Public relations may not be your specialty, but if you’re in an independent band, chances are you’re doing your own PR. There are plenty of ways you can generate a buzz before your show, including flyers and cards, asking your friends and family to spread the word, going to other shows to make connections, and using online networking sites. Don’t hold back—the more people you get to your gig, the more energy you’ll have, and the more unforgettable your show will be. You might feel like you’re repeating yourself over and over and over—and you are! That’s ok. Think about how many times you’ve seen a certain commercial on TV. Clever advertising is only part of the equation—the other part is repetition.
3. Give away CDs or t-shirts.
People love free stuff! By giving away your own promotional items you are not just rewarding your loyal fans, you’re sending them out of there with a piece of the show that they can share with the rest of the world. Don’t feel obligated to spend too much on this. Even giving a way one or two items can be a useful marketing tool.
4. Invite writers to come and write/blog about the show.
Every community has both professional and amateur writers who have a loyal readership. Even if their blog or column isn’t about music, they can drop a couple lines about your show and your name will be out there for thousands of people to read. Even better: develop a relationship with a music writer or blogger. Send them a CD and personally invite them to the show. All you need is a one writer with a substantial audience to generate some serious interest in your show. Not only can they help you get people in there—they can help remind people after the show how great it was and keep the buzz going for weeks.
5. Invite other bands to come and show support.
Chances are you already have some allies in the music community, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to invite them and ask for their support. These are people who know what you’re going through and know what you need at a show. They can bring their crew, keep the energy level high, and give you some honest feedback about the performance.
6. Look good.
Even if your vibe is classic grunge, make sure you put some thought in to how you look on stage. You want to impress and your style is part of the whole package. I don’t mean that you have to wear glitter eye shadow and feather boas (unless, of course, that’s your regular look). What I mean is to make the effort to look memorable.
7. Scope out the venue beforehand.
You may have been there before, but go back and spend some time really taking in the lay of the land. Figure out how you want to set up your equipment, and see if there’s anything you can use to your advantage. Is there something you can incorporate in to the show? Will people be able to see you from every part of the room? If your sound person can’t be with you at this time, by all means make sure you get plenty of time before the show starts for a sound check.
8. Make sure you have a high energy level.
The bottom line is that the quality of your performance depends on your energy level. You need to be able to pour it on and sustain it for the entire duration of the show. The best performances are those that keep people on the edge of sanity from start to finish. That can’t happen if you’ve spent the day mowing your lawn and drinking beer. Take a nap, spend some time getting yourself psyched up, and when you take the stage, and be ready to give it your all. Play every show as if it was your last, and you can be assured that every show will be unforgettable.
9. Interact with the audience.
Performance is a relationship. The performer and the audience are in it together. Don’t discount this dynamic. It’s invaluable for putting on a show that is memorable. You don’t need to pull someone on stage and serenade them—but saying a few words to the audience, thanking them for coming, and asking them to come again is just as important as playing every note flawlessly. You worked hard to get the crowd in the door, and chances are a lot of them are there because they want to show you their support—so let them know you know they are there and that you’re playing for them.
10. Have someone take photos and video – put it on your site.
Remind people about your show and let everyone else see what they missed by putting video and photos of the performance on your website or MySpace page. You don’t need a professional photographer—just get a friend with a good digital camera and have them take some shots. It’s a wonderful way to let people see you in action. Instruct your friend to get shots of the crowd. People love to feel like they are in the right place at the right time, and they will gladly forward your pictures on to their friends and family if there’s a shot of them included. When you get your pictures up, send a bulletin or email out to your “friends” or subscribers and let them know they are there.