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2 Reasons to Take a Gig

There are two main reasons to take any gig.

1.  Exposure - By definition exposure means “the act of subjecting someone to an influencing experience.”  No matter what development stage your artist business is in, it will always be important to take gigs for exposure to grow awareness of your artist (or “brand”) in untouched markets. Exposing your band to the right audiences can be worth more than upfront money sometimes. It’s all about building the nucleus of your fan base, one person at a time. And you can’t do that if you don’t get out there and expose yourself (oww)! There are lots of different scenarios for what this could mean. Some examples include:

  • Playing the right venue for your kind of music.
  • Playing with another artist that will have similar fans.
  • Playing in a new market.
  • Playing in front of an audience with similar lifestyle interests.

2. Money -  Money has an obvious place in our society and an obvious role in your business.  High paying gigs can come from the strangest places.  Some examples of traditionally high paying gigs include municipal festivals, weddings, corporate events.

For every gig you are offered measure how it stacks up on these two factors.  As you do so, apply the following two principles to help see the decision more clearly.

  • Both of these factors are relative to the size of the artist. In other words what is a lot of money to a baby band would be nothing to a band at the upper echelon (defined here).  But at either level there is an amount that is considered on the high end of the scale and an amount on the low end of the scale.  Exposure is also relative.  Once you have completely conquered the United States maybe your next market is Europe or Africa.  You might take a gig in one of these places just for the exposure to the new market.
  • Consider these factors together like an equation. The equation is Money x Exposure = Gig Rating.  Let’s arbitrarily assign a scale of 1-3 for each factor.  1 is the lowest, 3 is the greatest.  For example let’s say you work with a rock band that plays clubs; If you were offered a wedding gig with big money but minimal or undesirable exposure then I’d say the Money Factor is a 3 and the Exposure Factor is a 1.  In the equation this would be 3 x 1 = 3.  But if it were a wedding where lots of rock promoters will be in attendance then all of the sudden we have an Exposure Factor of 3, or 3x3 = 9!

    Obviously getting a schedule full of gigs rated at 9 (the highest combination possible on this scale) would be great but that is an indication of a fully developed band.  In any transition point (either in the beginning or with a developed band breaking into new areas of their career) you will get some 3’s (1 x 3) which I think is healthy.  I’ve seen many bands get to the point where they can consistently pull the 9’s and they purposely shake things up to keep the career interesting.

Post gig, make note of what worked and what didn’t in relation to your expectations going in.  Possibly, what you thought would be a good exposure gig wasn’t.  Why not?  Think about it and take notes and adjust your formula for next time.  In the beginning of your career if you can find a way to anchor your passion with high paying gigs that can be helpful.

Even if you don’t apply the exact formula to every gig, thinking of gigs in this way will certainly bring a greater awareness to your decision making.  Being fully aware of why you are taking gigs can be as important as playing them.

Ben Coe

The Artist Farm


Reader Comments (6)

Another good rubric is calculating everyone's hourly wage. I've done that in a number of bands and groups now, and it's a good way to keep everyone grounded on 1) how little most gigs are worth and 2) how much time we sacrifice for those drunken parasites. I mean, fans. I totally meant fans.

(It's also a great way to shore up support for "We Should Put This Money Into Merch Instead of Beer, Huh?")

March 6 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Hi Justin. Yes, it can be frustrating to look at the hourly wage and see how little you get "paid" in the beginning. Like any start-up business, I look at the early days as an investment rather than a direct time=money compensation.

March 7 | Unregistered CommenterBen Coe

I'd add a 3rd reason to play the gig too and that would be for the experience. No band ever got to be a great and tight live act by playing too few gigs...

March 7 | Unregistered CommenterGarethB

Hi GarethB~ I agree. Implicit in every gig is the experience. I'd still ask the question, if the gig is a 1 on the exposure scale and 1 on the money scale is it worth the experience?

March 8 | Unregistered CommenterBen Coe

If it's for a small party of midget Satanists, or a fraternity hazing ritual, then definitely, Yes. Circumstances can make worthless gigs into lifelong memories. Some of my favorite shows were a total disaster at the time...years later I can see how insanely fun it really was.

March 8 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Does the exposure factor have more pull than the pay factor? More exposure can lead to more pay outside of the show as well as future shows. I'd take exposure over pay any day.

March 25 | Unregistered CommenterDerek Jordan

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