20 Things You Should Know Before You Take The Gig

© 2012 Vinny Ribas

One of the most uncomfortable and embarrassing situations that artists find themselves in is being booked for a gig that they are not appropriate for. Some booking agents are guilty of this. But the biggest reasons for this are that the artist simply hasn’t done his homework, he is lying just to get the gig, or he doesn’t have an accurate assessment of his act. There are many different criteria that you should know about a gig before you book it in order to insure that you and the venue are going to be a perfect match.

  1. What type of music works best? It is important that the music you play is consistent with the style of music the venue usually hires. A mismatch in this area could be fatal to your reputation.
  2.  Do they prefer original songs or covers? Some gigs do not want you to play original music, preferring music that the audience is familiar with. Other venues are designed specifically for original artists.
  3. What is the typical audience demographic? It helps to know the average age, gender and musical tastes of the venue’s patrons. This is to insure that they are going to accept and enjoy your shows.
  4. What does the audience expect? For example, if the audience is used to dancing in the venue, you need to be able to deliver strong dance music. If they are used to easy listening music, you need to be able to accommodate them as well.
  5. What is the nature of the venue and the room that you’ll be performing in? Is it a restaurant? A bookstore? The more you know about the venue, the more prepared you can be.
  6. What is the compensation? This may seem obvious, but if your pay is based on the door, or on the total take at the bar, your compensation may not end up being anywhere near what you expected.
  7. What size stage will you be on? A 5-piece band on a stage big enough for 3 can cause big problems. The same is true if your gear takes up more room than usual.
  8. What size is the room you’ll be performing in? This includes the square footage and occupancy. This is important so that you know what size PA system to bring. It’s also a clue as to how many CDs and how much merchandise you should bring.
  9. Who is providing the sound system, and who is running it? It may seem obvious that you need to know if you need to bring your own sound system. However, I have seen gigs where the house system was either completely inadequate or it was up to the band to bring their own soundman. In both cases, the band had no idea until they got there!
  10. Is there lighting provided? If so, who is running it (or is it stationary)? The same challenge can arise with the lighting that might occur with sound. Find out up front what you’re dealing with so there are no surprises.
  11. Is the venue counting on you to fill the room with your fans, or do they have a ‘house crowd?’ If you are expected to draw fans to the venue but you don’t have a fan base in that area, you may want to pass on the gig.
  12. What are the management’s expectations? Every venue hires their entertainment for a different reason. Some expect you to put on a show, while others expect you to provide background music. Some expect you to get and keep the people dancing, while others don’t have the right license to allow dancing. Some restaurants need you to pull their diners into the lounge. Some like comedy and interaction with the audience, while others prefer more straightforward music. Learn what the management expects from you and you can plan how you can deliver it!
  13. What is length of the chow and the individual sets? Again, venues vary greatly. Many casinos expect 5 sets over 6 hours, whereas other venues might expect a one hour show. Know what to expect so you arrive prepared.
  14. What is the quality and nature of the other acts that play the venue? This may require some homework online or visiting the venue before you book your gig there. Be certain that you can match or surpass what the venue is used to. The last thing you want is to embarrass yourself by not meeting their expectations.
  15. Does the venue provide meals and drinks? This helps you budget your money as well as set your price.
  16. If the venue is away from home, so they provide sleeping arrangements? If so, what are they? Don’t get caught off guard by not having a play to sleep, or not having adequate accommodations (e.g. 2 rooms for your 7 pc. Band). Of course, providing your own accommodations needs to be added to your budget and to what you charge.
  17. What are the set-up and breakdown times? Some venues expect you to set up mid afternoon so you aren’t making noise during the dinner hour. Some venues want you to wait until the morning after your gig to break down your equipment. Be sure you know ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.
  18. Is any equipment provided? If so, what brands and models are they? Some venues have a house drum set or amplifiers. Find out if the gear will be adequate before you get there just in case you need to make any adaptations.
  19. How much commission is the booking agent expecting, and who pays him (or her)? All agents are different. Some agents get paid by the club directly. Some agents get the money from the venue and then pay you (sometimes without you ever knowing what the total amount was).
  20. What is the travel time from your home or from your previous gig? Knowing the mileage is one thing. But it is also important to know if it is mostly highway or a lot of back roads. Will you have to deal with construction or really hellacious rush hour traffic?

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, a global business club for serious independent artists, songwriters, musicians and music professionals. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, an artist manager, a booking agent, songwriter and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He is a published author and popular speaker at music industry conferences.

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.