I will admit that I have had my share of gigs in which I think I wasn't prepared enough. I think many are in that same boat. Music gigs are interesting because they generally are quite different than a 9-to-5 in my experience anyway. Sometimes you're called the week of the gig and sometimes it gets booked a year in advance. That being said there is no substitute for being properly prepared.
Memorize all covers and originals.
If you're a songwriter then chances are good that on the day of the gig the clouds part and the creative juices start flowing. You write another great song and you think that you could perform it at the evening gig. In my experience let that new song sit on the pages and gather feeling. In fact, it is best to not practice much the day of the gig. Maybe run over your set list, but all practicing is best done the day previous and this includes memorizing covers! Somewhere I read that Frank Sinatra had the habit of writing his lyrics over and over on a pad of paper he had near his bed the night before. We all memorize songs in our own way, but do it the night before at least.
Contact the venue and show up early.
I have found it to be a good thing when I could show up to the venue early. Showing up at least an hour before the gig is a good rule of thumb if HR doesn't specify otherwise. Then again this depends on the venue. More intimate shows rather than bar gigs or dinner events require an earlier check in. There could be other artists playing with you or they could require that you have an early sound check. Contact the venue a couple days in advance, much like confirming an international flight. There's been countless times that I've done this and the talent HR has immediately exclaimed something to the chime of "Wow I'm so glad you contacted us!" It's good to be in contact over email as well to discuss equipment setup and such and touch base in the weeks up to the event.
Furniture, Batteries, Extension
Ask the venue if it'll be okay if you use their stools or tables for sound setup. This usually isn't an issue at a larger and more intimate venue, but at smaller dinner events they may not be able to give you a bar stool. If you don't have one yourself, let the venue know that you'll need a chair or buy one at a thrift shop. Next, make sure that you have extra batteries. It's kind of akin to having duck tape in the backcountry. You're a hero of your band if you have a pack stashed away. Seven volt batteries are the standard for most guitars and live tuners and such, but triple A's like to sneak themselves in there too. Find out what batteries you need and have them. Lastly, make sure you have ways to plug into your venue's power source. You can buy a good length of extension cord at stores such as Home Depot and if you don't need the extra cable then at least you have it. Your venue will be impressed that you're prepared in that way.
Social Media, Tip Jar, Merch, Mailing List
Get your word out out before the event starts. As my friend Jack says "If you're selling anything then you're working in marketing". Make friends with the business side of life. Never think that you're crossing to the dark side by advertising your event. Check out Jack's excellent book on the subject. He's actually an excellent performer and musician himself. Next, establish an actual tip jar. Don't reason that you'll be able to borrow one from the venue or think of one last minute. Find something that will be pleasing to the eye and that will interest your customers. This is a simple way I've found to come across more professional. Moving on, if you have merchandise then have a proper carrying case for that as well and bring it. Have a prior prepared small sentence that you can use to talk about your merchandise. Finally, Have a way to keep track of customers! Something I've found to be hugely beneficial is to send a potential fan you met in a break an email right then and there. Open your email instead of having them write it on a random piece of paper. In my experience, if you distribute an email list at an event it rarely gets much attention. I have found my contacts come from person to person contact. They want to meet you!
Sound Check, Sound Check, Sound Check
This is something I am still improving on myself and something that I feel is vital to a good performance. Recently, I found I was able to get on Youtube and find a lot informative information on the subject. It can be great if one of your band members has knowledge in sound engineering. I'd say really consider this when looking for extra members in your band. If you have no one though in your existing group or you went for the opposite sex, we're not blaming you, but then at least get on the web and learn about sound boards. If there is a sound guy at the venue he will silently thank you for your knowledge and if you are the sound guy, which happens a lot usually, then you'll thank yourself silently.
Having a Setlist
There is something that sets apart an artist that has a story plan to their performance rather than the artist that thinks up songs on the fly. Then again set lists are much like the pirates code in my opinion in that they can be broken. More and more we are getting into story mode with our songs I do believe. The setup is turning out to be equally important to the song itself. I think "Tallest Man On Earth" really gets this as he describes a simple writing place or puts perfect sound to an ordinary bedroom. I've never watched him play live, but I bet his set is dialed in exactly. It's something to aspire to!
Eating and Extra's
Deciding what to eat on the day of a gig is important. I have found it similar to preparing for a meditation event. Eat sparingly and eat light foods. Also make sure to drink lots of water. Bring your own water bottle if you can, but don't not eat..unless that works for you. Finally, bring extras of everything. Bring enough cords to deal with any mishaps and extra mic stands if you have them. This becomes a practice of balance. It can be costly to have a proper setup of your own equipment. You can't buy the entire music store as much as you'd like to, believe me, I understand. Have nice bags to organize everything. This will make staging your equipment easier as well. Having ties for your cords is also a plus!
If you have any suggestions that help you gig happily then don't hesitate to let me know. If you want to check out what we're creating then dig here! If you found something particularly helpful, well then I'd love to hear about it too! Of course if you want to leave a tip below then I am in deep gratitude. I am still reading and learning and experiencing and aren't we all? Happy Gigging!
About the Creator
Hello and welcome. Creativity shows itself in a myriad of different ways for me. I intend to get out of my comfort zone on this page, be vulnerable and create. Follow me @soundandthemessenger