Stay On The Scene – Why Networking Should Come Before Gigging

IIt’s taken you a few months, but your band finally feels like they are ready to start gigging. You’ve been rehearsing really hard, you’re starting to get your sound down and you’ve got a good quality demo. Wide eyed and full of boundless optimism, you blanket e-mail all the local promoters in your area. You check your inbox everyday, waiting for a response, preferably something to the effect of “oh my god, you guys are the next Led Zeppelin! How does a Saturday night headliner next week sound?” You keep waiting. A month goes by and you’ve still heard nothing.

Sound familiar? To some of you out there, it will. Certainly, it’s an experience that I went through when I started out playing music, and it’s one that frustrated me for a long time. Having put all that leg work in, only to put your stuff out there to the seeming indifference of the world is pretty disheartening. For many bands, that initial negative experience is enough to make them pack it in altogether, before they’ve even really started. Yet, as I’ve come to realize in recent years, the crushing sting of apparent disinterest can be avoided through a simple rule. In the words of Mr. James Brown, you need to stay on the scene (whether or not you do it like a sex machine is entirely up to you).

What I mean by this is that you have to get out there and actually start engaging and interacting with your local music scene if you want to get anything out of it. The rewards are there for those who are willing to get involved. And, if you’re stumped as to how exactly you get involved with your local scene, here are three suggestions to get you started.

1. Leave Your House And Go To A Gig

U2 gig by boldorak2208

Image credit: boldorak2208 on Flickr

That one seems pretty obvious, but I’m still baffled by the number of musicians out there who don’t do it. Whether they’re introverts who would rather stay home than go to a show or just not that impressed with the local music on offer, a large number of would-be rock stars will try to get a gig at a venue without having actually been there. My advice, if there is a venue that you think you might be interested in playing, is to go there a few times so that you can see what that venue is really like. Get a feeling for the sort of music that gets played, the kind of clientele who hangs out there and the atmosphere of the place. By knowing the venues in your scene that are best for you to play at, you do away with the need for sending out blanket e-mails. Instead, you can point out to the appropriate promoters the specific reasons why your band would be a good addition to one of their gig nights. And, for a promoter who is inundated with blanket emails from various bands, that level of specificity might be enough to get you the gig. Of course, you might also help your chances of getting in with a promoter by…

2. Talking To Promoters When You’re At Gigs

The People Band by fabiolug

Image credit: fabiolug on Flickr

Or talking to anyone who is involved with the local scene, for that matter. I mentioned in a blog article that I wrote last year about the importance of networking when you’re playing a gig. But making the right contacts is something that you can start doing, even before you take to the stage. If you’re at a gig that you’re enjoying then find the promoter and tell them so. Promoters are never hard people to spot. If they’re doing their job properly, then you’ll see them liaising between the bands on the bill, the sound guy and the people on the doors, making sure that everything is running smoothly. Keep an eye on them, and when you see that they’ve got a quiet moment, introduce yourself and strike up a conversation.

And when I say conversation, I mean conversation. This isn’t an opportunity for you to hard sell your band to them. That comes later. What you’re doing here is building up a rapport with this person so that, when it comes to you asking them for a gig somewhere down the line, they already know who you are. When that promoter is trawling through the aforementioned reams of unsolicited e-mails from bands, your familiarity to them is going to pay off in dividends. And, as I mentioned earlier, this doesn’t just apply to promoters. Photographers, bloggers and dedicated scene followers are all good people to know on your quest to musical success, and they’re all much easier to find if you’re getting out there and regularly going to shows.

3. Make Friends With Other Bands

Friends band by

Image credit: on Flickr

For some reason, there is an attitude that pervades in many of the music scenes that I’ve been involved with, that bands should be in constant competition with one another. Sure, a bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone, but the best examples of thriving music scenes that I’ve come across are built on a sense of community and co-operation. And that sense of community tends to be built, as much as anything, by bands working together. So get to know some of the other groups in your scene, particularly those who you share some traits and influences with. As with promoters, you shouldn’t be afraid to approach them at gigs, introduce who you are, and congratulate them on a job well done. See if you can swap demos with them and show that you are interested in their music. Maybe even get on the internet and recommend their music to your friends and fans. By building good relations with other bands, you put yourself in a much stronger position when it comes to getting gigs. There have been several occasions in the past where my band has gotten a gig because we were recommended to a promoter by a friend’s band, or where we have been able to suggest line-ups to promoters based on bands that we know. Those scenarios only came about because we’d introduced ourselves to those bands in the first place.

Alec Plowman is writing a PhD thesis on liveness in rock music at the University of East Anglia. He is also a freelance media journalist, musician, and collector of Star Wars memorabilia. Check out his blog at