Quantazelle PR shot

From publicity kit to adoring fans: Quantazelle’s press kit is her first step. From there, she walks us through getting successful gigs.

Taking steps from the studio to live performance can often be challenging, even for experienced musicians. Playing electronic and computer-based music often doesn’t make it any easier. It can be even harder to find the right venues, figure out how to present your performance persona, and keep the technology working, compared to someone grabbing an acoustic guitar and showing up at singer-songwriter night. But regardless of genre, the toughest part for musicians is often just getting started.

With that in mind, CDM contributor Liz McLean Knight, aka Quantazelle, has compiled some of what she’s learned both from booking acts and getting herself booked as a laptop-based musician, working the scene in Chicago, Illinois. She’s got a lot of tips specific to electronic and digital music, as well as some general strategies for successfully promoting yourself. See if this helps get you going, and feel free to ask questions or add some comments and experience of your own. -PK

1. Get a mini-press kit together specifically for getting booked. Include a brief musical and personal history, a few terse sound bites on the music itself (quotes you can cull from reviews other people have written, or you write a few descriptive lines yourself), and other information that shows why people will or need to come out to see you perform live. Find something interesting about yourself or your process and talk briefly about it. Press people love interesting aspects about their potential stories, so if you’re a neurosurgeon who’s dabbling in digital audio and donating a percentage of your gig revenue to a charity you should highlight it. If you’ve had some significant press exposure or have played in a well-regarded club or with a higher-profile artist, you should definitely mention it. Keep it short though—no more than a single page printed or PDF-ified. Here’s my single-sheet bio from subVariant that you can use as an example.

Ed. note: I’ll reinforce what Liz is saying; since I write regularly for Keyboard Magazine I get an absurd number of press kits. (I can’t imagine what it’d be like if I actually wrote artist coverage most of the time.) Press kits are pretty much all awful: too long, over-hyped and impossible to read, and that’s often from big PR firms. As an artist yourself, you can probably do better: skip straight to what’s really important in the music, and anything unusual and personal about you. -PK

quantazelle-live_at_sonotheque.JPG

2. Let them know what you sound like live. The key word is live. A pure demo CD with a few representative tracks is good, but promoters looking for people to book are often aiming for a cohesive night with a certain “sound” and want to see if you can fit into their vision. If you’ve recorded a previous live performance, burn it to a CDR and post it online. It’s not necessary to record the sounds of the crowd (unless they’re consistently, vocally freaking out and showing up in large numbers). If you haven’t got a live recording, do a mock performance in the safety of your bedroom similar to what you’d do live. Put your best track first to catch the listener’s attention quickly. Make sure your contact info is on the CD itself in case the promoter loses the other material.

3. Make sure that you will avoid dead air. Few things make a promoter’s stomach kick into panic mode like the sudden absence of music. It’s particularly relevant with laptop-based performance since no one can tell if you’re having potentially catastrophic technical difficulties or just being slow in loading up the next track. If the venue you’re considering is very casual, you can likely get away with it, but you should at least try to engage the audience to make everyone feel comfortable. Aim to make a cohesive set so you’ll be ready for playing bigger clubs.

If you think it’s impossible to to have a cohesive set with all your DSP-ing, I would mention here that Akufen played a two hour set in Detroit for the Movement festival using only one file in Ableton Live—he just slowly worked from the left side to the right, selectively turning on and off clips as he went. In one of my own early sets I dragged my entire desktop system (so heavy, but I was thankful for the help of muscular men) along with my laptop and a 4-channel Gemini DJ mixer to a show so I could run some custom ambient patches on Reaktor and while I loaded up the next file on my laptop. Then I found a sound card with multiple channels (The Echo Indigo DJ PCMCIA card) and had no need to drag along an additional 150 pounds of geriatric computing power. You’ve got to figure out your own solution along these lines to avoid dead air. Trust me, you’ll have a much easier time. Ed.: We could easily fill another article with ways to do this in Ableton alone, and probably should do just that. -PK

4. Do some research on venues, and start small. Coffee shops are generally a good bet if you’re just getting started since they’re very casual and the audience will be more forgiving of mistakes or gear failures. In one of my very early performances I was using a little modular synth / tracker program called Buzz and was playing around with it while my track was running when suddenly my laptop froze and started looping an ear-splitting screech. I had to physically remove the battery before I could force it to shutdown, and I was playing to a full room of about 50 who all became quiet and stared at me expectantly. Fortunately I had a CD to hand to the sound guy to play, but I hid in the bathroom for a while. Performing in a more casual coffee house instead (until I found a better tool than Buzz) would have saved me some embarrassment. You might also consider neighborhood-type bars, or restaurants that already have a pre-existing audience that regularly attends. This puts less pressure on you to bring out a crowd, but still lets you perform in front of live people as well as get more exposure.

5. Find your contact person, and respond quickly. If you’re ready to move beyond coffee shops and the low-key places, go and visit some clubs that you think you will be a good fit with. Try and find the booker or the promoter in charge of the night, introduce yourself, and give them your mini press kit and demo CD. If they’re not around or you can’t figure it out, ask the bartender or bouncer who books the club who to contact and what time they accept phone calls for booking. When you’ve got that information, call within those hours and pitch yourself and your act. If they seem interested, ask if you can send them a demo. Then do it right away—preferably so it gets there the next day. American readers, if the club is in the same area as you, USPS Priority Mail usually gets it there by the following day, affordably. Otherwise, check out DHL Next Day Air Saver (3:00pm). It’s usually the least expensive option for next day delivery. [International readers may have good local next-day options; I haven't sent next-day within other countries, only between different countries. -Ed.] If you haven’t heard back from them within a few weeks, call or email once to see what they thought of your demo.

At Ramp Chicago we get tons of emails and MySpace messages from people who want to play at our nights at Sonotheque, so we have a policy that if a local act wants to play (or provide video) they have to come to one of our nights and physically hand us a CD or DVD demo. This lets us know who’s serious about playing and makes our jobs a bit easier. Some people prefer this and others would rather use the phone / email method above, so find out before you submit something.

6. Agree on details before the gig. When you’ve found someone who wants to book you, make sure you and the promoter understand what you need from each other. Get the load-in time, your estimated performance time slot, and set duration. While more established artists have a formal contract and a guarantee (their minimum payment) along with either a percentage of the door (ticket sales / cover charges) or a percentage of the till (the revenue from drink sales during the night), you will likely be making these arrangements informally over email, the phone, or in person. Often a new performer will be playing for free or for drinks, but you might get lucky. You will probably need a table, access to a power strip, and maybe even a chair. Ask for these things in advance, because strangely enough, some people don’t realize you need a horizontal surface to put your laptop on that’s not the floor—especially places that primarily book bands.

7. Invite everyone you know. This part is really key. A promoter or booker is hoping you will bring lots of people who need alcohol, and that their business will be the one who sells it to them. If you can show the promoter or booker that you can draw a crowd, he or she will definitely keep you in mind for future gigs. You do have a mailing list, don’t you? If not, get started, but make sure you have a link at the bottom of every email message where the recipient can unsubscribe if they so desire. Ask the promoter for fliers if there are any so you can help get the word out—this will also demonstrate to them that you’re committed to bringing crowds out.

8. Bring some light. Bring a little flashlight to help you crawl around in the dark to plug in cables. If you’re twisting knobs on gear you should consider bringing a small battery-powered table lamp (since you will probably already have enough cables to deal with already). I’ve got a few silver lightweight LED lamps that are only about US$10.

adapters.jpg

9. Bring audio adapters. You never know what you’re going to have to deal with in terms of the house sound system or how the venue expects you to feed into it. I designed the Electronic Musician’s Emergency Adapter kit ($65) to be a Swiss army knife of audio adapters, modeled after the one I carried around to shows for many years. Another good tool is a ground loop isolator ($12-$18) to prevent that nasty buzzing that often happens with a laptop not running on its battery. If you have a lot of gear, you should make a checklist and look it over before you walk out the door–you’ll be far less stressed when you’re confident you have everything you’ll need.

10. Bring CDs to give away or ones to sell in case people ask for one. Make sure your project name is on the CD itself, along with your contact information and a URL of your website, Myspace page, or whatever you’ve got. It’ll help you make new friends and fans and you might even get a recording offer or an invitation to play your next gig.

Good luck!

Previously:
Getting Publicity: Start With a Good Name for Your Project

quantazelle-6.jpg

  • Chris

    <blockquote cite="pk">

    Ed.: We could easily fill another article with ways to do this in Ableton alone, and probably should do just that. -PK

    Sounds good to me.

    You might want to check out the link for the ground loop isolator: it's redirecting to a nice little spacer gif.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Nice writeup! Many good points …

    In between setting up the next song, I always play a sample or 2 … something that's a little exciting, so it still captures their attention while I'm staring at the monitor loading up stuff. It sucks to have that 30 second window of dead space … but there's no way to get around it really, other than just playing some samples in-between songs.

    Also make sure in sound check that you get everything you want in the monitors! I can't stress that enough. Nothing sucks more than you being out of synch with the music coming out of your laptop.

    It's kind of a bitch for us, as we play with guitars, keys, and a bass live. So that's the only sound being generated on stage. So we have to hear what's coming out of those monitors, and that mix needs to be cranked up. But I did something recently at our last show, which seemed to help out a bit. I took the main mix (synths, samples, whatnot) and ran a stereo mix out of my 1 & 2 outputs on my iO/26. Then I took the percussion mix (bass & drums) and separated them, and ran them out of outputs 3 & 4. I let the soundguy know that I had everything leveled out, so both faders should be aligned with each other … as they're mixed just right. I told him that maybe the instrument mix might get louder, because of the guitars and whatnot on stage … so he could turn the percussion up a bit if he needs to.

    The main reason behind the separation was for monitor mix. That way we could get more percussion in the mix, than the rest of the stuff … to ensure that we're staying on time and such.

    He seemed to really enjoy the fact that I separated it out for him. Which is cool. Let's face it, sound guys can be tricky to work with. Now I wonder if I should just separate the bass from the percussion ….

    Being laptop based is definitely a pain in the ass … and I can only imagine what most sound guys think when they're working with a laptop based band. I've noticed that (here in Portland at least) it's very hard for most people to get into a laptop based band. Seems that people just can't dig you unless you have a drummer.

    That's why we started bringing lights to our shows, haha. Give them something else to look at I guess. It's another reason why I think that having live visuals is a must for laptop based bands.

    I remember when I saw Ulrich Schnauss opening up for M83 here in Portland, it was an awesome show … Ulrich just sat behind his laptop and a keyboard and that was it. It was plenty enough for me as I was there for the music … but many people looked bored, as they were clearly wanting some rock performance.

    Ugh.

  • http://geradorzero.com Fabio FZero

    About non-stop Ableton sets: from what I've seen, there are basically two types of people using Live – draggers and set-freaks (choose a better name if you will).

    Draggers usually start with an (almost) empty set with clever effect and triggering arrangements. The tracks and sounds are scattered in several smaller sets with few channels and insert effects that are dragged into the main set during the performance. It's not ususual to use two or three mini-sets at once while throwing in a weird acapella to catch the audience off-base. When a mini-set is no longer needed, the dragger simply deletes the channels to save CPU cycles and thinks about what to do next. Everything runs seemless and everybody keeps dancing.

    I'm a dragger myself. To make this work right, all of your mini-sets must be as lean as possible – preferrably using only Live's own effects and instruments.

    Set-freaks do exactly the opposite, preparing one Live set – or two, but rarely more than three – with EVERYTHING they plan to use. All samples, all effects, all instruments, everything. They generally have better machines with tons of memory and fast harddrives (a must). This approach also works and, as before, the end result is a seamless set.

    When I started using Live (v1!) this was really the only way to do it – and it's still a good solution if your samples are not very organised. I just opted for a more modular approach and a huge reorganizazion of my files, which also helped in many other ways.

  • http://www.quantazelle.com/ Liz McLean Knight

    Thanks, Chris–I fixed it.

    Thanks for the insight on Live, Fabio.

  • bliss

    Bands who don't understand maintaining a mood suffer from drop outs, too. In my old band we practiced a continuous set. Shouldn't have been a problem, but it was. The lead singer wanted to stop everything so he could thank his friends in the audience for coming. He even searched, "Hmm, is there anybody else out there that I missed?" LOL! Man, those were nights where I was ready to strangle something. What about my friends? Seriously, sets should be performed as practiced because to maintain mood is to maintain attention. If you break it with silly comments or silence it should be a part of the act. Otherwise, play a scratchy cassette of old music, or some other useful filler that helps to sustain the mood while you get your next song cued up.

  • Gustin

    Excellent article Liz! It's a great read. I can't tell you how many times I've recommended your other article to friends, and I'm sure this will be just the same.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I only recently became a Set-freak in Live, thanks to Racks. My goal is to be reasonably happy with how this is working within the next month or so. So stay tuned on that for some tutorials. :)

    And, of course, it's not just how to do this in Live — I'd be interested to know what people using FL Studio's live performance features do, for instance (especially as I've seen a couple of people combining FL + Ableton).

  • http://www.quantazelle.com/ Liz McLean Knight

    skab from em411 added this, which I thought was neat:

    bring 2 vhs cassettes or books of the same thinkness. laptops never sit on top of 1210 [turntable] lids because of the bumps, so you can dump them straight onto the turntable and put your lappie on top. plus you get to spin it round during the funky bits.

  • Fatlimey

    Every tutorial I've read on "How To DJ With Ableton Live" always show you how to cross fade and add effects to a channel, but none of them has any advice on how to play more than two tracks. How do you keep your setup from getting mashed as you drag'n'drop files? How do you sequence 2+ hours of tracks in a single set? How do you react to the crowd if they demand a rewind or more of that style? With Traktor you have the library and current playlist to mess with. With Ableton and a fixed setlist of set pieces, you're screwed unless you're organized and disciplined. We need more tutorials on this subject.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Fatlimey: Not quite sure what you mean. Was there a specific frustration you had had? I think the idea was, you can drag and drop files all over the place if you like in Ableton, and you can have as many tracks as you like. (Not too hard to turn off tracks, either, by muting channels, etc.)

    Lots of *potential* ways to look at what you're saying, so I'm just curious what you mean specifically.

    @Liz: I love that videotape idea! I usually play with a keyboard, etc., though, so I always try to request more space. :)

  • http://www.proemland.com proem

    interesting article.

    I've actually been considering putting together a minipress kit. Just to see if it helps get a little more press/gigs. Not that I'll be releasing anything or playing out in the next few years…. I find that because of the niche im in,… people either know what I do or not. I have VERY reasonable performance fees. So it makes it relatively easy to setup shows once people can actually get ahold of me [im slippery as of late]

    as a side note:

    now that i actually stand to play…

    [which keeps my mind off of the usual non-smoking policy GRRRRR ] i always think that i should bring "elevation" with me but never remember.

    "Bring me the hoverlaptop I must play!"

    excellent observation on the two basic types of live sets.

    I fall under the set-freaks category. i use a ton of auto triggered samples and odd loop timings. efx triggers etc. once i work through everything ive got on the stage [around the 25 minute mark], i quickly become a dragger.

  • Fatlimey

    @PeterK: I used to use VirtualTurntables (VTT) BITD and became a virtuoso of using the keymaps to load, start, mix and sync (in that order – only having a single audio out forces you to get damn good at syncing fast!). I've been trying to do the same with Traktor and it mainly works, but there's still a lot more mousing than I'd like. My attempts at Ableton DJing were sonically amazing, loop mashing and FX tweaking, but it was all mouse based. I want to drag'n'drop tracks on Ableton and still have my keyboard/MIDI control surface mappings to work out.

    I'm getting there with Traktor, moving more and more operations to keybaord/XSession Pro/MPD24 mappings (selecting cue points, jumping back/forward 4 bars, syncing, kill/enable FX, etc) but Ableton just loses me. I get that you can save groups of loops and FX as a single unit, but the control mappings too? I like the idea of dropping a new column on the right and deleting the first on the left…

    I'm working hard on removing the feeling of "using software" and getting back to being musical – even in the digital age it still comes down to the holy rule: *Know Thy Vinyl*. How many bars of intro, where the breakdown is and when to mix out. Traktor gives you cue points and direct control, Ableton wants you to annotate and extract everything removing a little serendipity on the way, but it feeds you amazing new sounds and potentials if you do.

  • Fatlimey

    Anyway, great article Liz. Had many funny stories about relying on other people's PA systems. ("What's a stereo input? We'll need to use the announcement mic right up until your bit, but you can unplug it before you start and the volume control is somewhere behind the bar"). This is why you invite your friends – to work as your roadies. Gaah!

  • http://www.vocode.com mad wax | vocode pro

    you forgot step 11:

    dont take a corporate job that drains you so much you dont have time for steps 1-10 LOL

  • http://geradorzero.com Fabio FZero

    @Fatlimey: I will expand this comment on my blog and will add a tutorial on how to do a set "the dragger way".

    @Liz: I finally did it! I created a jargon! Now I'll be rich and famous!!! Yay!!1! :-D

  • http://www.emulsionmusic.com emulsion

    Liz this is great! I would only add that if you're in a town with primarily rock venues, or going on tour, add a couple DI (direct) boxes to your toolbox.

    The $80 or whatever it costs to pick these up will be well worth it when you play a show and the sound guy has two DI's to split among two or three electronic acts!

    I think in general also, don't be afraid to actually meet people in person or talk on the phone. My experience is that a lot more gets decided much more quickly in person.

    Also scope out and get the vibe of venues and club nights before you attempt to play them – this is no different than watching the labels you send demos to, there's no reason to waste anyone's time trying to get crazy breakcore stuff booked at a loungey/downtempo night for instance.

    I'm definitely a set-freak. I pre-organize my live set to the point that it's absolutely anal-retentive, and if I wanted to I could step through the scenes and (almost) perfectly recreate songs from the last record!

  • http://www.emulsionmusic.com emulsion

    @Liz: Oh and the dual VHS tape idea is brilliant. I'll bring them to the Machinedrum show :)

  • Michael Una

    Thanks for this article, Liz. I'm sure a lot of us have figured these things out through trial and error, looking like an incompetent spazz every step of the way.

    To save another from the same painful experience is true compassion.

  • http://indiedanceparty.com DJ McManus

    College radio stations need people for fill-ins during the summer when the students have left.

    If you do death metal glitch on your laptop then don't expect anyone else to want to hear you except for that one systems programmer with the mullet. No offense to the death metal glitch community. Just don't waste your time hassling Mike down at the Regal Beagle for a gig.

  • http://myles.debastion.com Myles

    Phantastic article, I'm trying to find resources that gear their advice towards how to 'jam and improvise' with other musicians, both traditional acoustic performers and other electro/laptop musicians..

    The main topic here is of course syncro of tempos, arrangements rhythms, beats as well as crafting sounds that mix/gel with the other instruments, say to improving chops on your MIDI controller of choice.

    Such resources seem to be thin on the ground, I'm searching the Brooklyn area for opportunities and open events where I could practise this sort of thing, crucially it's also about meeting people on similar wavelengths as well.

    Mmmm food for thought.

  • http://www.quantazelle.com/ Liz McLean Knight

    That is so funny how Fabio has coined two terms for abelton live performance techniques.. :-)

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  • anon

    All up I think this is a great guide, but a few things jumped out at me…

    Did it stand out to anyone else that having good music wasn't anywhere on the list? I know it seems to be obvious, but then so is avoiding dead air and that's on there… I see a lot of people trying to get gigs when they're no competition for the existing acts, and instead of spending some time in the lab and improving their music, they start running a popularity contest to try and get gigs. When that happens it's just fame-lust and not love for music, and that sucks. Sometimes the best advice someone can get, on how to get gigs, is to tell them they aren't up to par yet, and suggest they get some training or practice..

    As for dead air, The LivePA blog made the good point that electronic music need not be dance music, and that nonstop music is not always a good thing – but you don't need to be playing music the whole time to be avoiding dead air… Nobody seems to have mentioned having a mic handy for quiet spots – does this phrase sound familiar: "Is everyone having a good time out there?!?!?!"

    Also missing was the one thing that got 95% of the gigs I've ever seen anyone get, the old 'it's not what you know but who you know'. IE, suck up to the promoters. This works especially well if you're a cute girl.. I don't approve of it, but it is a reality in our industry.

    "Put your best track first to catch the listener’s attention quickly." Don't entirely agree there… It leaves it nowhere to go. On the off chance that they like it enough to listen on, you don't want them getting that "it started out nice but then it kinda went downhill" feeling… Maybe 2nd best track, or track with the best intro, could go first…

    Number 8 and 9 should be covered by number 6. No need to encourage a lazy venue ;) If they're gonna provide gear they should provide everything. If you have to whip out your adapter kit on the night because they didn't supply the correct equipment, then I say bill them. Maybe a bar tab? ;) Of course if you trust them to get it right, you're nuts, so carrying the adapters can't hurt.

    And for number 7 I draw your attention to my first point: Your great tunes should take care of attendance all by themselves, and the promoter should fill in the blanks. When your success is influenced by how many friends you have, you're no longer a musician, you're a marketing exercise.

    While I was typing this, the LivePA blog added it and made the same comment I was typing: The success you will have is largely influenced by the city you're in… I'll leave that subject to that blog :)

  • http://www.quantazelle.com/ Liz McLean Knight

    @emulsion: very good point about the DI boxes. The Emergency Adapters have two 1/4" to XLR adapters already, but they don't have that neat little ground switch that the DI boxes do.

    @DJ McManus: Thanks for the tip about college radio stations!

    @anon: i figured there'd be a fence in regards to the seamlessness issue. I chose to reccommend it assuming that you're playing off your laptop–and people aren't aware of what's going on. We had Hecanjog at our Ramp night who had guest instrumentalists on stage with him and he did really beautiful ambient stuff. the crowd was really into it and stuck around for it, but I've also seen cases other times of people leaving in groups when there's too much silence and nothing else going on.

    The best non-seamless set I saw was by this Swedish Gameboy artist (Covox? I think. he toured with the 8bitpeoples crew). He told little stories and jokes and good-naturedly insulted Americans while he switched cartidges. the place was roaring with laughter and a good time was had by all.

    In the end it's going to be your call, but in my opinion you should aim for seamless when you start out. If you need silence you can just turn down the sound at any point.

    As for good music being a requirement,you're absolutely correct. You're going to have a seriously uphill battle trying to get booked anywhere if you don't have decent music. And you'll start to accumulate fans when you have people who will want to see you play live again and again.

    And you're also right that networking is a reality in this business but it's also true in ANY business. If you want to start taking your music to the next level you have to be aware of what it takes to "run a business" as well. The same sort of things apply. If or when you get extremely successful you'll be able to hire people who can run the business side of your act so you can focus on your music, but until then it's going to be DIY.

    While networking is useful and common, it's not the only thing that will get you gigs. Yes, you have to have quality music and you have to, at some point, be able to bring many people to your gigs. I have a lot of friends who make music, but I won't simply shoe them in to our night because we care about 1) quality and 2) the "vibe" or purpose of the night 3) getting people to come out and drink while enjoying the music.

    At these early stages, it's unrealistic to expect anyone but you to take care of 6, 7, 8, and 9. It's not because the venue is lazy, it's because in order to stay in business they have to focus on the things that generate revenue for them. While it would be GREAT to expect and have all these things to be provided for you, you're going to have to either wait many many years to get a high level of recognition to where you could command these things, or have something happen to you that makes you an overnight star. And building a fan base only begins to happen when you begin to get people hearing your music (both live and recorded). It's better to start out small just to play in front of people, then you should start collecting their email addresses and getting CDs to them and then have them turn out again for your next performance.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Hey anon — good comments. Come out of anonymity. Own what you're saying, even if via a made-up avatar. We hope you'll stick around. :)

    Good music — to me, a lot of us believe we have good music and don't know how to get it out to the world, which is what to me this story was about. In terms of improving live music, though, the other comments are great, and I think this is an issue we'll revisit. We may not have a tutorial on making great music, but we might have a tutorial on making sure Ableton or Reason support what you want to do rather than get in the way.

    Dead air: it means different things in different genres, but I think it's still an issue. If you have a guy with a guitar and there are big empty pauses between songs, whether that's dance music or not, it's awkward. If you think about it, there rarely is dead air in anything but classical music. (And even there, there are more informal classical settings, and times where I've been ready to hit a pianist because they created a giant silence that killed the audience.) So this could be anything, some sort of sonic interlude, warming up a little to check you've got the right piano sound, talking to the audience. With computers, we don't have the advantage of being able to tune our instrument between songs to let people know that we're going on, but even then, good performers tend to establish some connection with an audience. And if people think you're waiting for a file to load or your machine crashed, that's pretty uncool.

    I only bring this up because I think it's *not* obvious how to do this with computer music. It's just worth exploring.

    Networking / who you know / what city you're in: well, I tend to agree with what you're saying. But we know it's important to have these kind of connections. Figuring out how to do that is the best way to avoid frustration. I'm sure we've all had the experience of seeing someone who's music we, ahem, dislike get a great gig because they're great at networking. (And as for the "cute girl" thing, I see a lot more boys getting gigs than girls — I think it's ultimately tough gigging regardless of gender.)

    Each city poses its own challenges. Chicago and New York have lots of venues, but also lots of competition, and in NYC, at least, enormous financial pressures on venue owners. And since a lot of us want to tour, that may mean figuring out how to work very different scenes.

    There's lots to discuss here. I hope this will be the beginning of this discussion, not the end. It's something CDM should definitely follow up on from a variety of perspectives. And we're looking at some restructuring of the forums coming soon, so we'll look at how we can support musicians with that, too, in terms of sharing advice for everything from booking to being happier with your live sets.

    Thanks again to Liz for getting this rolling.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I've added a CDNoise message thread — for those of you asking questions that can't be easily answered here or aren't directly feedback on this story, feel free to ask again over on the forums.

  • http://geradorzero.com Fabio FZero

    As promised: the expanded comment. The tutorial is coming soon!

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  • Benn

    Hmm. I think the tried and true method for Live PA stuff is just putting out good records. Interesting because rock bands usually play a bunch of gigs to sell their records, whereas in this realm you make 10x more in a year of gigs than you do on an album.

  • http://sidechainmusic.com Dave Dri

    Nice article… i gave a few lectures on this very topic in the past. In our live act in previous ones with larger profiles we got asked about this a lot and my advice hasnt changed much over the years. Please excuse the rushed typing but in my humble opinion and experience, i think the below is rather useful reading for those not yet immersed in this wonderful world of music performance…

    1) Press kit and stage plot. How to guides are all over the net but lock them in. Stage plot should be clear, bio should be realistic, press pics should be print worthy and contact details should scream at the promoter. Never delay on getting these to venues/promoters. This is BASIC business so follow through as if your life depended on it.

    2) Bio. Get SOMEONE ELSE to write your bio so you dont sound like almost every single myspace artist. NEVER say "from the ripe age of 6, insert artist name played guitar and blah blah blah". NO ONE CARES about your childhood. Its a cliche that the industry hates. Dont lie. Promoters and other acts further up in the industry can see though fake net labels and non-existent gigs with ease. Dont try to be too funny or obscure. Wit is good in small doses. Get the basics up the top… who are you, what do you play, why are you awesome? If you arent sure if your bio is rocking then email your local street press and ask their advice. I can tell you from experience that no one in the world gets as many bad and occasionally amazing bio's as a street press writer!

    3) Press photo… theres some hilarious topics along these lines and it might not apply to you but have a range of pics to use. Dont use the same image for the same event more then once and change it up often. Even variants of the same shoot will suffice. The current backlash is against boring shots in front of brick walls or in front of graffiti. Sometimes a simple headshot is the best… flyer designers love to work with portrait shots.

    4) Be self sufficient. Have your own cables, power, light, gaff tape, etc. Have backups if you need. You want to look slick and let the venue staff worry about things like… making money. If you do require anything, it should have been dealt with in your stageplot requirements and earlier conversations with venue/promoter.

    5) Dont EVER be late for soundcheck or bump in times. Never just rock up to play and leave. This is not only missing the chance to impress the venue and promoter by missing out networking time. Again on a personal tip ive watched a successful act paint themselves into early retirement through these antics.

    6) Practice setting up! This one used to get the most "aaaaaaaahs" during lectures id give. Practice setting up in your house. If you are new to performing…. pack up the studio and set up in the lounge room. Play a short set and then pack down. Now do it again. And again. And again. Seriously. Think of it like those scenes in war movies where the soliders in training are crawling under barbed wire as bombs go off around them, or pulling apart their weapons. Practice until you can, literally, do it with your eyes closed.

    7) Be a professional. Even the "raaaawk stars" in real life are by and large polite, charismatic and organised (or else have amazing handlers). Its a small scene no matter where you are! I've seem flavours of the month rise and fall with their antics. Doesnt take much to be a professional and people remember good business.

    8) Where possible… actually attend the venues and events you want to play locally. Again, its community/participating!

    9) Promise nothing you cant deliver.

    10) Play nothing youre unsuitable for. It wont win you fans and more importantly will knock your own confidence in ways you probably wont know about if youre new to the game. Small successes build character and the culture of your act… but stoney silent will have you second guessing yourself for no reason. Target your demographics well. Again ive seen amazing acts crumble from poor bookings… more then i would care to mention in Australia alone!

    11) Enjoy the good and the bad :) What better thing in the world then to play your music to people?

  • http://www.quantazelle.com/ Liz McLean Knight

    @ Dave Dri: Couldn't agree more–great tips!

  • Greg Freeman

    I just found this blog, article, and discussion and I now have a lot of studying to do! Thank you all!

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  • http://www.quantazelle.com Liz McLean Knight

    Hi, friends

    @Dave: brilliant. I completely agree with the practice setting up thing. Bands used to practice, I think the new thing is getting your shit in order, wherever that may be.

    Also, please put a short description of what you play on your card. I went to a Soundcloud meetup recently and am a bit flummoxed: I forget who plays what (besides googling your ass and whatnot). I shouldn't have to do that. I've found so many amazing people: just make it easy for me. Please. Please.