Get a gig already…
As I have been adding to this blog, emails have been coming in from around the globe. Apparently musicians actually read this thing.
We are so lucky to live in a time were information can be shared so easily at the click of a button. Plus, who likes licking stamps.
I have written about equipment, getting a cd together, blah, blah, blah….but never about actually landing the gig.
Woke up this morning and I received an email from Matthew Dorhauer in Australia asking advice on landing a gig in Sydney.
Matthew is a finger-style guitarist looking to get a gig, and had a few questions regarding the negotiation.
Here is what Matthew wrote:
Hope you’re well! I came across your blog today and thought that some of the tips you offered were really smart. I myself am just starting out playing fingerstyle guitar arrangements like those of Tommy Emmanuel and Andy McKee in restaurants here in Sydney.
I was hoping to get a quick opinion from you if you don’t mind. I simply love playing but the income helps support me. I have approached a few intimate venues and offered to play for 2 to 2.5 hours a night for $150 (AUS) a night which is around $138 (US) for your comparison. On the proviso that I get a regular booking once a fortnight. I am a solid player and play some nice arrangements, but I don’t know what anyone else charges, is that high or low?
I would very much appreciate your opinion. You’re half way across the world but I’m sure you’d be able to offer some advise based on your great blog.
Thanks in advance Vincent,
My advice for you would be to take any gig you can get. Don’t fret (pun intended!) about the amount of money right now – this can be addressed later. Restaurants are a great launching pad to bigger and better things.
Not only is it a great live environment to rehearse your material in a low stress environment ( not a stage with lights and big sound), you have the ability to meet people that could potentially hire you for far more lucrative events.
There are a few qualifications and considerations for the job. Style is probably more important than repertoire – how you play it more than what you play. Jazz standards, folk tunes, classical pieces, pop-rock songs, Brazilian and South American stuff, I play mostly my own tunes – they’ll all work if you play them in a style that works with the venue. Throttle back a bit and create an ambiance conducive to dining and talking. Like it or not, basically you are musical wallpaper.
There are the basic requisites:
Dress the part (remember, you are on stage – albeit a tiny one, you represent the restaurant!) and not creating a disturbance when you’re setting up or tearing down (people are probably eating).
Keep the equipment to a minimum – I don’t bring my extension speaker cabinet that I use for bigger gigs. Most of these owners have put a lot of thought into the look and feel of their establishment, and they don’t want a bunch of electronic gear cluttering up the joint.
The volume is critical. Get a few steady customers to complain about you being too loud, and you’ll need to have one of those uncomfortable discussions with the owner (like being called to the principal’s office). A restaurant owner has never asked me to turn it up. A club owner, yes, a restaurant owner, no.
For me, the restaurant is marketing heaven for musicians. The potential client already hears your playing ( the audition), obviously likes it enough to inquire, and you can develop a personal relationship with this person – give them a business card, cd, whatever it takes.
The majority of my income is from private parties and events that come from my weekly restaurant gigs. Once you become a regular feature, it quickly becomes a void when the live music is not there.
I would find a few places that I think my music would be a perfect match. Approach them with the opportunity to have you perform in their restaurant. It is even better if you do this as a customer – ask for the manager, tell them your having lunch and you think that your music is the perfect fit for the place.
Before you even talk, make sure you have a website,business card, and music on CD or online all set up prior. CD is better as you can ask them to play it in the venue right then.
Offer a free night -( I know, sounds crazy) in exchange for tips and a meal. At the end, if it feels right, then approach with the money talk and a weekly performance schedule.
My first gig in a restaurant, the owners came in as patrons. I played for four hours solid – without a break – and landed the gig.
The next week, I not only had a weekly gig, but played a private party at their home. Yes, I was stressed. Yes, I repeated some songs. Best of all, I still have the gig and a personal relationship with the owners. They own two other bistros in town, and that one gig turned to three.
Small things matter – be smart.
Be friends with the establishment – including the staff.
Play well and have a great time. Nobody wants a frowning musician.
Best of all – get paid!!
* Portions of this were taken from an excellent article by Dan Lambert : The Solo Restaurant Gig – Guitar A La Carte *
Vincent Zorn is a professional recording artist/flamenco guitarist that makes a living performing at restaurants and private events in Santa Barbara, California.
To learn more about Vincent and his music, please visit his website at: http://www.vincentzorn.com