Level Up Your Band Part Eight: Get on the Scene

Because networking + contributing = getting gigs.

Ultimate Guitar
Level Up Your Band Part Eight: Get on the Scene

Welcome to Level Up Your Band (previous editions), the series that teaches you how to build a successful band from the ground up, and to avoid the common pitfalls to which lesser bands succumb.

You’ve got a band that works, you’ve got a set of songs and you’ve got a demo to show the world what you’re capable of. So what next? Well, now it’s time to get out there, to take your music to the masses by gigging.

For many bands, getting as first gig usually means endlessly barraging promoters and venues with a stream of blanket emails until someone eventually offers them a slot. But, there’s a much better way to get good gigs for your band, and to make all kinds of useful musical contacts to boot. Before you start booking shows, you need to& get out of your bedroom and get on the scene.

Go to A LOT of local gigs

If you’re thinking about getting gigs for your band, then you need to do your research. That means going to plenty of shows in your town or city to work out exactly what’s going on.

Being a regular at local gigs has plenty of advantages. You work out what sorts of gigs different venues and promoters put on, you familiarize yourself with different local bands and you get to know the movers and shakers in your scene.

This is great for two reasons. Firstly, understanding how your local scene operates means that you can target relevant people when looking for gigs, rather than blanket emailing everyone. Knowing what promoters you can work with, which nights your band will work on and other bands that you’ll fit on a bill with is really useful and is going to help you get better gigs quicker.

The other benefit to going to a lot of local gigs is that you get to meet promoters, musicians and scenesters face to face. But, to do that, you need to make sure you…

Talk to the relevant people

Getting on the scene does not mean standing at the back of a venue while looking like a lemon. For you, this is all about networking. You need to be able to identify the relevant people on your scene – be it promoters, bands, photographers, sound people - and to strike up a conversation with them.

At this stage, you do not want to put in the hard sell for your band. You just want to make yourself known. When it comes to getting gigs, being a familiar presence is very important because it differentiates you from the myriad other bands out there that aren’t. If a promoter can put a face to the name when they get that email asking for a gig, that’s going to make you stick out and is much more likely to land you a slot than any number of faceless applicants. This, of course, assumes that you’re not a complete wanker, but we’ll come onto that in a sec…

Make Yourself Useful

Getting on the scene means being a part of the scene. And that means putting your back into it. Work out ways that you can help out and offer your services. This could be something as simple as helping bands load in before gigs, or it can be providing graphics for flyers or photography for local groups if you’ve got a specific skill to use.

What’s the advantage of doing this? Well, as the old saying goes, you put in what you get out. Getting involved and helping out shows that you’re not just in it for yourself and that you care about your local scene. That goes a long way towards generating good favour for your band when gigging time comes and is likely to create more opportunities for you. On top of that, being involved in a scene is rewarding and a lot of fun – there’s really no reason not to.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Just a warning on that last point about offering services like photography, videography, art for free. This is ok once or twice maybe - but if you ever want to make money from your skill outside of music, you tread a thin line in that scene. As a videographer I find it hard to make much if any money on my local scene as it's saturated with people doing (usually awful) free videos for venues/bands that don't know better. It's a separate topic really as it's not full on band related, but thought I'd just throw it out there that it's a problem I've personally come up against.
    agreed. I did videography for a lot of friends bands, nothing came from it and ultimately I lost interest in doing it.
    And don't wait to be booked even if you know all the right people. Book your own shows. Contact bands you've seen live, contact the venues (sometimes they are cheap and can be free), backline every instruments, make the flyer and split the door money to every band. Do that not only in your city but in other cities near or far. You will meet a lot of people and get your name spread everywhere and quick. But when you go out of town make sure to book 1 or 2 local bands if you want to have people at the show
    You are all required to read these level up your band articles while this plays in the background.