Guide to getting and playing better gigs


   

Gig Kit

     
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Take promo kits, business cards, and a diary to book more gigs--you do want to go back, don't you?

Have plenty of copies of your set list, IN LARGE TYPE! Make sure everyone in the band has one--don't forget the soundman too.

Have a gig kit that contains: pens & markers, plenty of tape (gaffa, masking, scotch). A staple gun could be handy, together with glue & tacks. This way you can make posters or signs if you need to, and stick them up around the gig.

Sell your merchandise (CDs, T-shirts, pens, whatever) from a well presented & attended stall. Remind people they can get your CD from the table at the back. Get a mailing list together--don't forget to collect their email addresses--cheaper than snailmail!

Get some B&W pictures of the band printed for giveaways and autographing. Make sure your band name features prominently.

Have a medical kit: band-aids, headache tablets, throat lozenges, antiseptic, maybe even vitamin tablets, ginseng, caffeine or whatever gets you through! Don't forget sweat towels.

Take spare batteries, strings and fuses.


Music biz legend has it that James sold more t-shirts than records at a particularly low point in their career. (They also participated in drug trials to make some desperately needed cash, but that's another story.) While it's an amusing tale to tell, whether true or not, it nevertheless shows good business sense. Buy a t-shirt for two pounds and sell it for seven. Sell 10 in a night and you've covered your petrol costs. You've also paid a cheap price for what are effectively walking billboards advertising you.

All fairly elementary stuff, admittedly, but it still works wonders. In their heyday, the now sadly defunct Carter USM were masters of highly collectible (and profitable) T-shirts emblazoned with one of their mandatory puns. "Come On Baby, Light My Fag" brought much hilarity to 1991's Reading Festival.

More fun (and money) was to be had when Carter did a pastiche of that other legendary T-shirt, the Inspiral Carpets' "Cool As Fuck" number. Carter responded to the then BSE crisis with the witty riposte of "Mad As Fuck", featuring the Inspiral Carpets' distinctive Cow Records logo. They even gave a boost to Therapy?'s profile by adapting their logo and adding Jim-Bob's distinctive fringe. Needless to say, Therapy? were dead chuffed about the free advertising.

The Inspiral Carpets also benefitted from press stories about people reportedly being stopped by the police for wearing supposedly offensive material. A slightly more expensive idea was to have their "Moo" logo put onto milk bottles. God knows what housewives made of that first thing in the morning.

Cleverness is all very amusing, but the Inspiral Carpets, Carter and James hit on a fundamental point of successful marketing: the distinctive design. Businesses pay major fortunes for their "branding", ie the logo that everyone wants plastered across numerous chests. Come up with a good one and you're halfway there.


Find a mate who's a recent graphic design graduate to help out. (You can sort out the financial arrangements later if you get hugely famous, heh-heh.) Even people who aren't into the band can be suckers for a good design. And the many music snobs out there like to get their hands on a cool t-shirt from a little-known band who could, one day, be very famous.

The promotional value of merchandising can be limitless. The Sweeney have built up a reputation for quirky promotional ideas that, thankfully, don't rely on Ford Granadas and beige polyester. They've been using a running theme based on old 1950s cartoons and pulp romance novels.

With merchandising, everyone wants to get their hands on the cash. If you've moved up a few rungs and start playing in larger venues, beware because a lot of bigger venues charge you a site fee for selling merchandise which can be up to 40 per cent. The good old T-shirt is still a mainstay and reasonably priced if you order a minimum of about 50 shirts which, on a reasonably sized tour, you should be able to sell. And you plough that back into buying more.If you've yet to release an album, selling decent quality tapes/CDs at gigs is worth the effort. It's worth putting some thought into the art work so it doesn't look too cheesy and instantly disposable.

If you decide to sell properly released CDs, keep in mind that they won't register in overall album sales figures, although the money would certainly come in handy.With the craze for collecting just about anything in the hope that it might be of value in the future, coming up with an innovative idea could put your product in the Millers Antiques Guide of 2020. Well, maybe not, but think of how much merchandise the Beatles came up with in the '60s and how much it's worth now. Beatle-stamped tea towels and table lamps are fetching a fortune nowadays.

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