you've been there: a freezing January night, 1:00
a.m. As the last drunk dancer knocks the vocal mic
perilously close to your teeth for the third time
that evening, the barman mercifully draws the
proceedings to a close with a loud "Last
Orders!" warning. Forty five minutes later
you're loading amps and PA speakers into the back of
the van, smelling like a beer-soaked ashtray and
hoping that the invisible patch of black ice on the
way home doesn't turn you and your vehicle into the
perfect lead story on tomorrow's local news. All of
this for £30, after you pay the clown who booked the
gig. Sound familiar?
there are those who might consider the above scenario
a whole a lot of fun--after all, it is a night out,
and maybe you got try out your new Fuzz Face on
"Back In Black." And maybe the money isn't
everything. On the other hand, if there was a way to
play a good gig and get paid well (and not risk
emergency dental work from a
microphone-turned-projectile), you'd do it,
wouldn't you? There are quite a few attractive
alternatives. Deciding which ones are right for you
largely depends on your particular situation,
including the style of music you play, your location,
and where you feel comfortable performing your music.
Following are some proven, financially lucrative gigs
you may want explore.
Gigs That Pay
Believe it or not, this is the mother of all
excellent gigs. Universities must find creative ways
to entertain their sometimes very large and often
hyperactive student body every single weekend, and
most have created a staffed Student Activities
department for that purpose. Students very often make
a receptive, enthusiastic audience--in fact, many
"known" bands got blasted into the
mainstream as a result of working this market.
Because Uni populations are diverse by nature,
Student Activities heads are constantly in need of
all different kinds of music--which is where you come
in. A Uni gig is shorter and generally gets started
earlier than club gigs. Best of all, the pay can be
quite generous. Payment is often presented before the
performance; if you're lucky, refreshments and
accommodations may be thrown in as well.
No, you don't have to get into a tuxedo and announce
the first father-daughter dance. Smaller weddings are
often considerably more tasteful, requiring material
that's far more accessible and flexible than the
garden-variety schlock often heard at a large
wedding. Many are daytime gigs, often held at smaller
restaurant function rooms or even private backyards.
Though the pay may not be in the stratospheric levels
of a major-league wedding, a small combo can still
fetch between £200 and £400, depending on location
and type of wedding. And you won't have to play
"Love Shack" during the third set.
or not your band gets the wedding reception gig, note
that guitarists are often needed for wedding
ceremonies. If you have a repertoire of solo
instrumental numbers, for instance, you may want to
make yourself available to play while people are
getting seated, for numbers during the ceremony, for
the processional (when the wedding party walks
down the aisle), and for exit music. Knowing one
or two classical numbers may help get your foot in
the door, but even arrangements of popular tunes and
jazz standards go over well in most settings. You
might want to contact churches in your area to let
them know you're available, and keep an ear out for
those backyard weddings.
Tolerable Gigs That Pay
This is where you start to realize that you might
really be in it for the money. The pay is mega (£600
and up--sometimes way up), but anyone who has to
go out each weekend and do everything from "Play
That Funky Music" to "Livin' La Vida
Loca" while wearing totally outrageous attire is
probably earning every penny. But if your goal is to
cut out a living as a gigging guitarist, take the
gigs that pay and get your artistic rocks off in your
The clientele can be tough and the money not
typically as good as the aforementioned great gigs.
Still, pay can run at least twice that of a
small-club gig in the right location.
Depending on the customer, these can either be a lot
of fun or your worst nightmare. A party for a
smaller, hip company will pay well, and no one will
mind when you go into your Ramones tribute medley. On
the other hand, make sure you know the chords to
"Takin' Care of Business" if hired to play
for a gathering of Office Sales reps. Talk to your
suit-and-tie friends to see if you can get contacts
for the Personnel, Promotional, and/or Activities
departments in their companies. You'll be surprised
how many opportunities are there.
Gigs to Avoid
play any venue that offers only a percentage of the
bar. First of all, you have no way to gauge whether
you're getting your fair share of the money they make
at the bar. Second, they want you there because
you're increasing their draw at the door--and you
should be paid for that regardlesss of how much money
people spend once they're inside.
pay to play. Several venues have "deals"
where bands actually pay the club to get a gig there.
If you're good enough to be playing in front of a
crowd, you should be paid for your time and effort.
Getting the Good Gig
it comes to handling the business
arrangements--booking, publicity, cold calls-- you
can do all of it yourself, in the early stages of
your career. Unless you're booking big venues in
several cities, you probably don't need an agent, and
you certainly don't need to be giving up a piece of
the action. It's true that in some cases a
professional agent can be very helpful--they may have
friends and contacts in high places, and can protect
you from getting ripped off. But anyone anyone with
access to basic desktop-publishing software and an
Internet data-base of information already has the
means to keep the weekends booked. A trustworthy
friend might do it right out of the goodness of his
or her heart, or for a dinner out. Taking care of it
yourself, however, will give you an education--and
book full of phone numbers--that will serve you well
for years to come.
this part's important, always have business cards and
demo tapes on hand when you play a gig. Once you
start, you'll find that 90% of your work comes from
people who happen to catch a show. There's no better
way to promote yourself than a successful gig.