Most musicians love to play in front of people. Getting an audience involved with your music is such an addictive exhilarating rush that once we get a taste for it we never want to stop. As a result, bands will usually take just about any gig offered to them. When you’re first starting out, that may be a good strategy so you can get tight playing in front of people, but for the most part, there are a few types of shows that you should avoid playing.
Why should you turn down a gig? As stated above, you shouldn’t when the band is first starting since you need the stage time, but after that initial period you have to be prudent about the types of shows that you’re willing to take. Perhaps the biggest differentiator in gigs comes down to money. We all like to get paid for what we do, and many of us have to since it’s our only income, so that’s a big factor. Exposure in front of thousands of people, or agents or managers might be another reason. That said, here are 3 types of gigs that you might want to consider avoiding.
1. Pay to play shows. This one almost never works in your favor. The venue asks you to buy some tickets that you may resell to make your money back or make a profit. This is almost always a money loser on your part, and worst case, you’ll end up playing to just a few people or an audience that doesn’t have the slightest interest in what you’re doing. The one exception is if you have a following so large that you’re sure you can resell the tickets, but at that point you could rent just about any venue and make it work even better for you.
2. Gigs for exposure. Whenever a club venue offers you a gig to play for free because it will be good exposure, run the other way. This is another case that almost never works out. The exception might be if a popular act is asking you to open up for them, and they have a huge compatible audience to yours, then maybe it will work out. The other would be when you’re sure there are agents or managers in the audience, and you need one, although this one’s a rarity too.
3. A non-festival show with lots of bands on the bill. This one is normally a study in chaos, and the chances that your prime 10PM slot will be changed to 2AM can be pretty high. These types of shows are usually not worth the trouble.
There are a couple of other types of shows to avoid that Patrick McGuire points out in his Reverbnation blog post that you might want to read about as well.