Playing live gigs: how to make an impact

Our Careers Day saw some leading music industry experts give their advice on how acts can cut it live - check out their advice...


Playing live can be key to the success of emerging artists but how can they make sure they make the highest (positive) impact when playing live?

As part of their Career’s Day, the Hub welcomed a whole host of industry experts to discuss and explore ways in which new acts can make the biggest impression when it comes to performing on stage. In our third blog article from the day, check out essential advice from a panel of experts including Communion's Maz Tappuni, Jess Kinn from the Coda Agency and Public Service Broadcasting manager David Manders…

Songs are all important

Maz Tappuni (MT): The quality of your performance and whether we will be interested in you as industry will ultimately come down to the quality of the songs. If an artist has good songs and can perform them well, then we’ll want to work with them. It’s that simple. It’s only then that we’ll start looking at management or social numbers.

Jess Kinn (JK): Songs are all important. But creating your own scene also helps make you more attractive to the wider industry. So be proactive on your own doorstep and get the music, the songs and musicianship right too. It all adds up.

Play the right shows

David Manders (DM): There is no point in playing a crappy show in a pub where no one is listening without good reason - you need to think about why you’re doing it. So working with a good team whether that be an agent, promoter or manager, is important to ensure you get to do the right shows at the right time.

It’s often a good idea to try and do a little tour around a release so when you’re sending a song to radio and press you’ve got some live dates under your belt and more things to shout about.  

JK: Playing the right gigs depends on what kind of act you are. If you’re a guitar band, then it might make sense for you to try and tour around the country. If you’re an electronic act or pop act, then it might not be so important to tour around the country, but just to play certain shows. Remember to be selective.

And play them at the right time

JK: If you’re a new band, then you might be put into an early slot on a small stage at a festival which won’t be too helpful for you. Festivals can be great for developing as an artist, but as a completely new act, it can be tough. Try and get some other releases or gigs going on around your appearance. It’s all about timing when it comes to playing a festival.

Use gigs to enhance your networks

DM: Building relationships with other bands is important. They often decide who goes on tour and supports an act so it can help you get better gigs and better slots at festivals.

MT: It’s a lot to do with relationships - you need to go out there and meet people - there are opportunities out there if you make a good impression.

Do your local live scene first

DM: Grow your scene locally, get to know promoters and venues. Once they know you (and hopefully like you), then they will start to give you slots with touring acts playing to 200-400 people. You need to keep your focus on the small things initially and making an impact wherever you are. So for example, if you live in Hackney, go to Paper Dress or the Sebright Arms, get in there and start something.

Get in contact with the right people

DM: Make sure you’ve done some research on who you’re getting in contact with. So for me, if I get an unsolicited email that mentions an act I manage (for instance, Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)), then I’m more likely to read further. It shows that someone has done their research.  

Don’t make yourself too visible - sometimes less is more…

DM: You need to be careful to not over-gig in one place. So don’t spread your audience too thinly over your gigs by playing too many shows too close together. It takes a while to build up a good head of steam when it comes to your live audiences. It took almost six years for PSB to go from the smaller venues like the Bull and Gate to Hammersmith Apollo. 

Use your analytics to inform gig decisions

JK: If your Instagram, Facebook and Spotify profiles are growing, then this is the time to think about playing more gigs and organising a tour. Use analytics from these platforms to help you make these decisions. 

Our Careers Day saw a whole host of music industry experts visit ICMP. Read our previous blog posts from the day on how to communicate your identity and to find your sound

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If you're an ICMP student or graduate then please keep in touch and let us know what you're up to Also, don't forget that our careers and industry liaison team at The Hub continue to be available to you after graduation, providing advice and connections to help further your career.

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by ICMP staff writer
February 15, 2018
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