How many bands are there in London? In the country? In the world? How many of these think they'll be the next Arctic Monkeys or the next U2? Every gig I do (myself being part of the problem), I wonder this and I wonder, in a city of hundreds of thousands of bands, how do you get noticed? What makes you stand out from the rest? You do endless gigs to audiences of one-two-three of your mates and three of the other bands mates and expect to sell CD's to people who are there to support their mates in their own vanity project, let alone in your own vanity project.
Here are some helpful hints I've picked up along the way:
- Don't play venues that give host to 1000's of bands every year, where they tell you you'll get paid the more people you bring. Your friends are sick of seeing you, they're just being nice about it. These gigs aren't special, no one new notices you and that's what you want, one-two-three strangers to see you and big you up to one-two-three of their friends.
- Play a promoted night. Find a night that actively has a brand and an audience. Ask to play there. A roomful of strangers who you can't preen to cos you sat in maths with them helps you get better.
- Don't soundcheck your entire set in soundcheck. Just get on with it. Soundchecks always run late cos the part-timer bands have all the equipment like drums and they're always the last to arrive cos work let them out late, and they're the ones who are too precious about hearing the entire song soundchecked. Play a chorus and a verse of something where all the instruments are heard, or play a cheeky cover version. If you're running late in your soundcheck, and you will be, there will be paying punters in the room. Do you want to spoil the surprise by letting them hear all your songs now, interspersed with arguments with the soundman.
- Don't have a go at the soundman, especially midset. It's like insulting a waiter while waiting for your food. He will fuck with your sound. He goes through 100s of you a week and doesn't think you're a genius and he has heard it all before and so will know better. Fair enough he's an arrogant cunt by and large, but for the set, he is your harbourmaster leading you safely ashore.
- Don't preen to the mates you were in maths with...
- Don't do banter with the audience they don't understand... 'Yo, Barry... you're here!' I once did a gig and the band before me kept shouting out 'P-I-C' much to the giggles of their mates in the audience. The alienated rest of us didn't have a clue.
- Hustle your CD. Don't disappear to cry in the toilets, or catch up with Barry who you did maths with... get out there and actively try and sell it.
- Watch the other bands. Hey, you might even learn something you fuckers. I hate it when I make the effort to watch the other bands, who are usually shit, and then when I'm on, they disappear. Or they disappear with their mates after begging you to watch them, and then reappear with their mates to do their set. Usually, one band has succeeded in bringing the majority of the crowd, cos it's their mates... it's only fair you share these people with the other fuckers doing their vanity projects on stage.
- If after 4 years, you're still playing venues where it's expected of you to bring the audience cos the only promotion is a big A1 poster with a list of band names on it (which means nothing to anyone considering the volume of bands in London), you're probably not gonna get on Jools Holland. I know this from bitter painful experience.
- Have fun... you're never gonna be the next Alex Turner. You probably won't even be the next Mark Morrison. You're doing this to forget about the ennui of working in sales or recruitment, so enjoy it, don't get arsey, especially with your audience or the soundman, and get out there and have some fun.
I'm not being bitter... I'm being realistic cos my band is as painfully mediocre as yours... If I wasn't, I wouldn't have time to write this blog. I'd be finishing up the festival season like a proper pro.
Brain Drain #3 - Photos
7 years ago