Bob Craypoe (also known as R. L. Crepeau) is a musician, writer, webmaster, 3D artist, and creator of the Punksters comic strip series.
When I first went out to play as a solo acoustic performer, I had to go out and score some gigs. I had already had the benefit of some experience in playing out live because I had been in full bands before and have also been part of a music duo as well. I had even done a lot of open mics where I had played solo.
Since I sing and play acoustic guitar, I can pretty much play anywhere without the reliance upon a sound system. So if I am asked to perform right there on the spot, I can, as long as I have my trusty guitar in my car. So I went out shopping for gigs. I would have a demo CD with me, business cards and my guitar in the car.
I had stopped one day at a bar during the day and went in to ask about the possibility of playing there as an acoustic solo act. I asked who did the bookings and the guy tending the bar said that he did. That was great because, often, the person that actually handles the bookings might not be there. Then the guy asked me if I had my guitar in my car and I said that I did. Then he told me that if I went out and got it, he would give me a listen. Well, I went out and got it.
After I got my guitar out of my car, I came back in, took it out of the case and started singing and playing right there at the bar. There were a couple of customers there and they had made some requests and I played them. The bartender booked me for a gig and told me that if it worked out, he would book me for some more. It went well and I ended up getting a lot more gigs there.
I had done this at a few other establishments as well. It really expedited the process of finding places to play. Each time I just went out, got my guitar out of the car, sat at the bar and played and sang. Each time I was given that opportunity, I was able to score a gig. After scoring those initial gigs, they were satisfied to the point where they booked me for some more. So just a few on-the-spot auditions actually led to a good number of paying gigs.
Don’t Be Shy
Look, if you want to be out there playing, you just can’t be shy about it at all. Shyness gets you nowhere. If you have a problem performing in front of people, do open mics to get some experience playing in front of an audience. It will help you to be more relaxed when trying the approach I just mentioned.
I do mostly solo performances myself and so when it comes to doing a quick audition, it’s going to be just me anyway. That leaves me with no excuses if someone asks me to play right there on the spot. If you hesitate when they ask you to go out and get your guitar so that you could play right then and there, they will have reservations about hiring you. They want to see some level of confidence on your part. Just think if you were someone that handles the bookings for an establishment. What would you think if you asked a guy to do an audition right there on the spot and he was hesitant? You’d think there might be something wrong with the guy or that he was inexperienced.
Have a Good Idea What to Play
The first thing I thought, when asked to play, was what songs I was going to play. It’s good to do something that shows your abilities but you could easily pull off without a high likelihood of making a mistake. You will probably do at least a few songs, so make sure they are not all by the same artist. Show that you can do a variety. That’s what I would do each time I got the opportunity.
Another thing that could work to your benefit is knowing what the person who is doing the booking likes. For example, I knew the one owner of an establishment really liked the Beatles. He had pictures of them on the walls all over the place. So I started out with a Beatles song. Then he asked if I knew more songs from them and I played them. I got the gig. If you can find out in advance what kind of music is generally played at an establishment, you might want to learn some of it and use it for audition purposes. You could go there one night and see what songs get played on the jukebox. That will tell you the kind of music the regulars like.
Being prepared also means that you may just want to make sure that you have decent strings on your guitar. Old strings that are hard to tune won’t work to your benefit. Have a new set on the guitar and make sure they are well stretched and ready to go. You should really want to make the best first impression that you possibly can.
Always Try to Be Polite
I would always go into the establishment and order a drink and sit at the bar for a few minutes before I would approach the subject of playing at the establishment. If there was a conversation going on, I would try to take part in it. I would try to get myself at ease with the people at the bar because that always made it easier to approach the subject of playing there. Also, it helps them to be at ease with you and would make them more inclined to give you that break. After all, who wants to give a break to someone they think is a jerk? So politeness matters.
If they don’t ask you if you have a guitar with you, don’t be afraid to mention it. Just don’t be too pushy. They may say that they are too busy at the time. So ask them when would be a good time. If you are too pushy, you could blow your chances of getting a gig there. If they request a certain song that you don’t know, apologize and say that you don’t know it but try to offer an alternative that you think would be as close a substitute as you can. Never tell them that you don’t do a certain band’s songs because you hate their music. You may offend the person asking you to play one of their songs.
Being polite is even helpful if they don’t decide to give you a gig right away. They may say that they are booked solid for the next couple of months and to give them a call in a month or so. If they say that, be sure to call in a month because they might forget you. Remember, there are a lot more musicians than there are establishments to play at. There will always be someone that you will be competing against for gigs. That’s why you don’t want to pull an attitude if they don’t book you right away. Don’t burn any bridges.
Getting Booked Again
Okay, so maybe you scored that first gig at an establishment. You most likely will want to return. So make sure that you act professionally when you do that first gig. That’s how you will get more. Don’t go thinking that since you are doing one gig there, you are a shoe-in to get more. It doesn’t quite work that way. You have to provide a positive experience for the people at the establishment. Don’t take it for granted that they will ask you back again.
So Give It a Try
What are you waiting for? Give it a try and see how it works for you. Between using open mics as an audition and just going around wnd doing on-the-spot aucitions, I scored more gigs than by handing out my demo CD. In fact, there were only a few places that I had gone to that asked for a demo instead of me doing a live audition. So maybe you should give it a try.
© 2021 Bob Craypoe