At times during my
completely penniless illustrious DIY career, I would’ve taken just about every gig thrown my way. Sometimes that choice made sense, like when my band was trying to get our name out as much as we could the summer before we released our debut album, or when we were brand new and still building our list of venue contacts. Being in an independent band takes a lot of hard work, and waiting around gets you basically nowhere.
That said, you’re always going to be offered gigs that don’t make sense to pursue. Being pickier about the gigs you take is beneficial both in terms of draw and creative resources. Playing too often, or playing shows you’ve grown past, will only devalue your worth as an artist.
Below are four reasons to turn down a gig and what you’ll gain as a result.
It’s too close to another gig date.
As much as I hate following the “no-other-shows-within-two-weeks” rule so often seen in booking emails — a rule made to ensure the club makes its bottom line — I started spreading my shows out a lot more. And you know what? It pays off.
People, your fans and your friends get fatigued by seeing your Facebook event invites stream in constantly. Also, if you’re playing more often than you’re rehearsing, they’ll have to sit through the same exact set week after week.
By spreading out shows to about once a month, I’ve seen a nearly 400% increase in attendance at shows and more money from the door.
It takes up too much time.
Promoting a show on social media, flyering, and bugging friends to make it out takes immense amounts of time and energy — time and energy that I could be putting towards writing and rehearsing new songs.
Besides spending time marketing the event, rehearsals are often spent tightening up our older, “safe” tunes, rather than working on new ones. If the time cost is too high, I won’t take the gig.
Bassist and bandleader Carter Lee discusses when and why his band decides to take each gig, and what prevents them from taking a gig in Building a Better Band. Check it out below, and sign up for the free course to learn more about running a successful DIY band.
The lineup just ain’t a good fit.
I can’t count the times we’ve ended up on a garage or punk-scene show only to see the audience’s eyes glaze over as we launch into odd time signatures and funky bass grooves.
There’s nothing wrong with performing with artists across varying genres — in fact, I would argue exposure to different styles is a key aspect of a musician’s creative development — but only if your audiences intersect somewhere.
In extreme cases (like when we were booked between an Insane Clown Posse clone and a rapcore act), the room empties out between each set with no audience overlap, which doesn’t help anyone. Lugging amps up and down the stairs for nothing, well, sucks.
The booker is spamming you.
My spam filter can’t seem to stop the five bookers who send me show offers incessantly. That’s probably because they have a million pseudonyms and are constantly changing their email addresses. They may as well be rock-show spam bots.
I can tell it’s the same clowns because each email lists about 50 dates at three of the worst places to play. If bookers don’t care enough to set up a full bill or give you a specific date, you shouldn’t bother. They’re just trying to fill slots and couldn’t care less about quality programming or helping you promote the show.
Take a show with these guys and you’ll end up sandwiched between Pitbull soundalikes and Creed wannabes, mark my words.
You probably have a vague idea of what a bad gig smells like from a mile away. It’s okay to turn them down from time to time. Keep a healthy mailing list and take care of your social media following during the times when your band is playing less frequently. Try to use that engagement to ramp up excitement for the gigs you do have coming up. You’ll soon notice a difference in turnout and how much people start to look forward to you seeing you perform.