I played a gig last weekend with my band. I stayed the whole night at the venue, from soundcheck to the very last band and the bar being cleared out.

But it struck me that that some of the musicians themselves there didn’t actually see the other bands. Why? And how can this be? Shouldn’t you support other bands who are actually in exactly the same boat as you are and need as many people there to create a good vibe and atmosphere?

Sadly, this wasn’t the case and I have seen this happen a few times. The worse sin is when bands play their own set and then head off home! Needless to say that as an unsigned musician, you should go to other unsigned gigs and if you can’t do that than at the very least you should support the other bands who are playing on the same bill as you.

Admittedly this requires going out of your way and sacrificing the opportunity to talk to your own friends at a separate part of the bar. Or making it a long night for you or having a very quick dinner so that you can watch the first band. Sure, on some occasions you do have to go home early and for good reason. And let’s face it, the London scene is such a mish-mash that you don’t know the other bands playing on the same night anyway. As you don’t have any emotional connection with the other bands you have no real reason to stay. But you should overcome that and make an effort to stay.

So if you don’t stay the whole night to support bands, and don’t really have anything else urgent to attend then make sure you stay and support other bands. They will support you too. It is as simple as that.

This is one of those stupidly obvious things that I only realised once I actually started selling downloads and t-shirts for my band online.

Every musician I know including me spend most of their time marketing their gigs to friends and fans. Getting someone down to a gig in London is no easy task by a very long shot. So respect every single person who does actually turn up and don’t take that for granted.

Travelling and living in London is expensive. If you have a full time job then your evening and weekend time is precious. To attend an evening gig for example you would spare 4 or 5 hours of your free time at the very minimum and plan transport to and from the gig.

Midweek that means that you will be going to the gig after work when you are tired from the monotony of work and prospect of more commuting. Many people actually bail out at this point from going out to a friend’s gig.

Say you get paid £10 an hour for your day job. Then spending your precious free time at a gig for 4 or 5 hours actually costs around £50. In fact free time is even more valuable than day time hours. This is a rather rough and somewhat cold way of calculating the cost of free time in London but this gives you an idea of how precious free time here is.

It is way way easier to sell a 99p download or a £10 t-shirt on your website. I’ve found that the people who actually buy 99p downloads outnumber the people who come down to gigs. I don’t even know most of them. A lot of download and t-shirt sales happen outside the UK, i.e to people who won’t be able to make our London gigs.

The cost of clicking a download button on the website is way less than the cost of attending a gig in person, and it is so much easier to do too.

Even the biggest bands only manage to only get their most dedicated fans out of the door and into a venue where they will only play once a year.

The lesson behind all this?

Focus more on selling smaller products online. Sell anything, even if it is a simple t-shirt but do start selling more than just your gig. Selling a gig is the hardest sell of all. You can set up t-shirt sales using Paypal Business and if you join CD Baby they can help you sell downloads and actual CDs all over the world.

I just played a gig on Saturday night and had quite a blast doing it! And as always there were people who couldn’t make it. Two days later I got a message from a musician friend who was originally going to make it and very keen to make it to the gig but couldn’t in the end.

She was actually incredibly considerate when she let me know she can’t make the gig and has inspired me to write this blog post. I’ll get on to exactly how later on.

As gigging musicians we all know this scene:

It’s the day of the big gig, you are nervous and excited in equal measures. If you are also the bandleader, then on top of your own anxieties you are also dealing with motivating and communicating with your own band. The anticipation of the night is building, you have done the final rehearsals, the set list is pretty much sorted and you have done your very best until the last minute to invite your friends to come along. You are now at the venue just before soundcheck and then suddenly..

You get a text from a friend that saying they can’t make it to the gig!

Their dog died, or their pet goldfish had to be fed or they had to wash their hair or they genuinely had a good reason not to make it 🙂

You were already crapping yourself before going on stage, even pysched up! But this just kinda poured water all over that feeling. A few more of these “no show” texts (I get more “no show” texts/messages than “show” texts before a gig) and now you feel depressed. Hardly encouraging is it?

So what am I trying to get at here:

  • If you can’t make a friend’s gig, don’t tell them 2 hours before they are about to get on stage. It is almost better to not show up and then tell them later. My friend did exactly that, and in her own words when she messaged me two days later “I thought I shouldn’t contact you on the night as it doesn’t help when you’re trying to get psyched up and excited, to get a negative text”.
  • If you feel ashamed about not attending the gig (because earlier you said you would definitely come and have now broken your word), the even worse thing is to stay quiet about it later on. It is so much better to tell the truth like “I didn’t feel like it or something else came up”. I am cool with this as when it comes to my turn to attend someone else’s gig and I don’t feel like/too tired/have something better to do I do let people know exactly why I didn’t make it later on.

At the end of the day the way you respond to this is a reflection of the principles you live with in life in general. The way you tell your friends is merely an outward expression of your core principles as a person. In this blog post I have written out explicitly on how to let your friends know you can’t make their gig, but it is who you are that makes all the difference in how you respond to such situations. I may not get this right myself all the time but I do try my very best to be considerate to other musicians and people in general.

Most people don’t have these principles, they will break their own word and then be quiet about it. But you are not most people. As a committed and motivated musician you should aspire to this.

I have been doing these meet-ups for about a year and I am hearing a lot of complaints, namely

  • I can’t find bandmates because everyone is a timewaster
  • My band can’t get anywhere because of the scene in London
  • I can’t get enough of my friends to come to gigs, no one wants to go out
  • There is no money in the music business

And loads of others. And to be honest I have exactly the same problems. How do I deal with all of this?

I flip the script the other way round, my pint glass is definately half full. Looking from that perspective what I see is:

  • The scene in London is great. It is virtually the live music capital of Europe!
  • There are thousands of musicians gigging in London daily, some want to change bands and join better ones and lots want to just get started
  • There are loads of music lovers, addicted to live music (you and me infact!). They would love to come out and hear you if you find them
  • There’s loads of money in the music business (we spend money on CDs, band merch, expensive festivals and gigs).

Given that it’s the new year I want you to think the other way round for all of January…I call it flipping the script! This will make you think more positive and each roadblock you see will appear as precisely that, a roadblock that can be overcome. All bands and musicians face these challenges, it is the ones that can persistently let the positive cut out the negative that succeed (whichever way you decide to define your own success!).

And if you just can’t do it, i.e flip the script, then come along to one of our meet-ups and we’ll sort you out 🙂

Do you go to other small unsigned band gigs? It is surprising how many musicians who are in fact in unsigned bands don’t actually go out and see other unsigned bands on a regular basis. And then they wonder why there is no one at their own shows!

I love watching bands, and am totally addicted to seeing live music. And indeed I am really grateful that I have met so many musicians through this blog and the meet-ups through this group. On average I go to one unsigned gig every week now, so one night of my 7 nights is spent at a brand new gig where I am in the audience. These can be gigs of other musicians I have met or even promoter friends who are running a night.

You pick up so much by watching other bands, you see the small things that make a performance and performers so memorable or intriguing. There are extrovert performers out there, then there are shy ones, there are technical performers and emotional ones. In the audience you can work out how passionate a certain band is, how they communicate with the audience and between themselves. I have learnt a lot just by watching so many bands. Most importantly you can tell which bands are brave and willing to sell. By sell I mean they give out their web address, flyers, have a backdrop, a CD for sale and some of the very committed ones have their own merch stall.

So yeah, go ahead and check out other bands and do it on a regular basis. If you really don’t have any friends bands then you haven’t yet networked properly. That’s easy to do though, I am sure you have really liked the sound of another band at a gig you played with your own band. Just get in touch with them and ask them when their next gig is. Follow them a bit, be a fan. Failing that London is such a massive scene that you can turn up to see live bands at any day of the week, so pick a venue and a day and just walk in!

Go forth, explore the London scene a bit and learn from every gig 🙂

Organizing musicians is a subtle game of herding cats on cocaine. You need to know instantly if you’re available for a show. However, hunting down 3 or more eclectic musicians to know their schedule is nightmarish. In addition, scheduling rehearsals, meetings, or other tasks can be trying for even a Zen master.

– Chris “Seth” Jackson from How to Run a Band.

I couldn’t agree with this quote more if I tried! I have been organising band rehearsals for about 11 years now and god do I know it can be tough. This is because musicians are cowboys and lost in some sort of alternate ethereal dimension. Every now and then something magical happens and they are actually playing together and sharing roughly the same dimensions of space and time. The unfortunate band leader/manager knows exactly how difficult this can be.

So how is this voodoo magic possible?

I have 3 bandmates and usually only 1 rehearsal studio I regularly book. This means that including my own diary, I have 5 diaries to work around. If I was to book a rehearsal at different days of the week by checking everyone’s availability per week then I would actually go insane.

So here’s how you avoid that chasing the cats on cocaine problem (at least for rehearsals). It is a very very simple trick!

Book your rehearsals at a fixed day and time of the week, every week

My band rehearses every Wednesday between 7pm and 11pm. This means that for me and my bandmates that time is out of bounds for any other social event or party or extra time at work (if your manager does not understand that you have a life outside of your job after work hours then it is time to change jobs!). This means that it is actually a lot easier to book a rehearsal studio. I just tell them to have it booked every Wednesday evening, unless I cancel the booking explicitly. This is the block booking method.

This system always works, luckily being self employed I can organise my life around that Wednesday so that I can free it up. Rather than organising a rehearsal around when I am free (which changes week per week), it is much, much easier to free up my time on Wednesday by refusing anything that turns up on Wednesday. Indeed, my best friends know that I am busy on Wednesday evenings 🙂

Sure, there are exceptions. Out of the 4 of us, 1 may be on holiday, or ill or may just have a geniune outage. Reality just means that it is impossible to make it every single Wednesday of the year. However, we are able to continue as a 3 piece or 2 piece if need be. And every now and then we can even move the rehearsal day to a different day of the week or have more rehearsals if a gig is coming up.

So it is a very simple method that will honestly avoid a lot of scheduling nightmares. Book your band rehearsal a fixed day and time of the week, every week, week after week.

Rock Bands in London started off as an idea. The idea was simple, musicians help each other out. The more experienced help out the less experienced and the less experienced pick themselves up to the extent that they can help each other out and then contribute to the more experienced.

We first started off as a Facebook group, then grew into this regular blog that looks at the marketing angle of music, then the next big step was to meet you for real. When we went real the regular meet-ups were set up. Things really progressed after the meet-ups and we now have enough committed regulars and doers in this group to add yet another level to what we do. And that can only be one thing given the number of musicians involved.

A Rock Bands in London promoted gig!

The first gig that we will be involved with will be the Save The Children charity gig organised by one of our regular meet-up acts “Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate”. It will be on 5 January 2012 and will feature a mixture of acts, ranging from solo artists to full bands.

So keep that date in the old diary for now.

Not only that but we are planning some other gigs and jam nights next year. This will feature members who turn up to our meet-ups. We are really looking forward to this new phase in the evolution of this group and it will be great news for you 🙂