Solo gigs

Posted by: zuki

Solo gigs - 11/01/02 08:06 PM

I recently spent a great deal of time putting together a solo act. Had 5 sets, all backup harmonies on my vs and a great system. Booked a coffee shop and played 4 hours to ONE person (my wife!). Discouraged, I sold all my stuff. I didn't give a chance to determine the solo job availability. Given the notion that I have talent, are there any jobs that are money makers - devode of the coffee shop $50 stuff. . Advice appreciated. Looking to gig in MI/OH.
Posted by: brickboo

Re: Solo gigs - 11/02/02 08:50 AM

I put out some flyers I did on the computer at supermarkets and different places around town. I also told the small local news paper and the larger newspaper in the next town and they put us in for free in the annoucements about local entertainment. I played the coffee shop to maybe 40 people. Most stayed and complimented me. I just made $30 in tips.

I don't think you will walk in any place tell them $150 and they will say OK you're hired. You will have to put time in it get to be known and you might pick up some high paying weddings. Uncle Dave, Donny, Scott Don and others didn't start yesterday.

I played in night clubs in the New Orleans area in the 50's with a no pictured Draft Card that beonged to my Uncle for $10 a night when I was 16.

If you need money quick this is not going to happen. I just retired and I'm going at it slowly. If it happens great. If not, I'll go fishing more and continue getting up early and going to the coffee shop. At my age no teenie boppers are going to flock the place and demand my autograph. It will take time, time and more time.

You'll probably have to play for peanuts for some time. This won't happen over night. But of course there is a chance that something great could happen. I just don't expect it and that way I won't be too disappointed.

"Sometimes life is cruel," as my sister-in-law says, "live it." I'm not trying to discourage anyone. I'm just trying to say stay cool. Maybe it will happen.
Hope things work out for you. Keep plugging away. Just try to enjoy entertaining.
Posted by: trtjazz

Re: Solo gigs - 11/02/02 11:08 AM

Brick has some great truthful advice in there from my perspective too. The other thing you may consider is look in your local phone beek for entertainment agencies that spealize in parties weddings and the like. Bring them a demo tape or video for them to see.

Another thought about the no or low payin' gigs, that is the place to hone your skills as an entertainer, so you are ready when the crowds start to get bigger you're ready.

100 years ago when I started on the folk circuit in Chicago, they used to have open mic nights....and what it was ...was free entertainment for the clubs on their slow nights. Very few every got hired to do the Friday Saturday gigs at the club from it, but it was a great training ground to get rid of the onstage jitters and see what worked and what didn't.

I will tell you this though and no offense intended if after 1 lousy gig you were so discouraged you sold your equipment you'll never make it even to good part time money gigging. There at this end of the biz is going to be plenty more lousy ones then great ones on the journey.

The other thing to as an unknown....if you do get hired in a public place you need to hit the pavement and promote yourself. Newspapers in the entertainment section will usually print for free that you will be appearing somewhere if you just call them and tell them the particulars. Flyers all around like Brick suggested etc. Others will promote you only when you have a money making value to them, in the meantime you need to promote yourself.
jam on and hang tuff we need more good performers not less,
Posted by: Big Red

Re: Solo gigs - 11/02/02 04:56 PM

Hi Zuki,
There's not a lot I can add to what these guys are saying, the simple fact is that in this biz, you gotta pay your dues. That's the simple cliche, but it's as true now as it ever was.
Yes, you have talent . . . but you gotta let everyone see and hear it - they're not going to come to you.
Put yourself together a simple but professional looking presentation package. It doesn't have to cost a fortune, just a folder with a letter of introduction, your song list, a bio. (keep it short, they don't want to read a book), a good clear photo of yourself and do a short tape of two or three songs of varying styles to show your stuff.
Call people and ask if you can give them your package and then go meet them in person at their convenience. Be on time and be courteous (they're under no obligation to book you). Your own appearance is part of the presentation package - look the part and they'll take you seriously, not as some fly-by-night character.
Give them a week to go over your package, then call them and don't be afraid to ask for the date. This, as I'm sure the other fellas will agree, is no surefire method, but stick at it and you will get through eventually - it's a slow process.
Please, don't give up at the first hurdle. Learn from it and jump over the next one, the next one and the one after that. Jumping hurdles is like anything else - the more you do it, the better you get at it.
Okay, Zuki - now go get 'em!

Best regards,
Big Red
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Solo gigs - 11/02/02 06:02 PM


I have been practicing for a solo gig myself! I have a Casio keyboard but it rocks and I know most of my cords already. I might check out the local nursing homes in the area for some experience before I would be able to play in coffee shops. Good luck to you and maybe we'll run into each other some day!

Posted by: zuki

Re: Solo gigs - 11/02/02 06:27 PM

Lite Beer Man,
LOL...See ya in a couple of weeks.....
Posted by: rolandfan

Re: Solo gigs - 11/03/02 12:47 AM

I have a friend here in SA who's a one man band. He uses a Roland G1000 and XP 60.
Things must be good here cos he charges $1000
per gig. Man I wish I could sing...i can only play the keyboard...and I hate the idea of being part of a band
Posted by: trtjazz

Re: Solo gigs - 11/03/02 05:36 AM

There is a call for instrumentals too in the nicer dinner houses as backrounf music..

I don't about in other areas....but in Califronia, the Borders bookstores hire in acts and there are several of them, so one could stay busy with a MELLOW backround sort of act if that fits into your genre. The other place to get after that pays well is corporate events....grand openings, biz parties. So a nice flyer to all the corporations in your area (an endless list I'm sure)may yield some results. Nordstrom's uses piano players every day.

Another thing I did early on was to play anywhere they would let me including street corners with my instrument case open collecting tips.....I did pretty good at times in Chicago and San Francisco. However much you may feel this lowers you, I gained alot of experience and exposure. Again have flyers and biz cards ready for people to take. A battery powered amp can work pretty well for this.

[This message has been edited by trtjazz (edited 11-03-2002).]
Posted by: The Pro

Re: Solo gigs - 11/04/02 07:13 AM

Actually I love to see people give up on their first attempt at gigging - leaves the job market open for people who really want to play very badly. If you gave up this easily, you didn't put the hard work in that you should have in the first place. Like any competitive business you have to be aggressive and hungry to be in pro music. If you have the talent, desire and gonads then go take some gigs from less-deserving musos. If not, consider the benefits of home entertainment.
Posted by: trtjazz

Re: Solo gigs - 11/04/02 07:19 AM

A couple of other outlets and is where I built a huge mailing list. One can take a booth in arts and crafts show to promote themselves. Some of the larger shows especially at this time of year also book acts to perform on stage.

One could also approach the show promoters and offer to provide free entertainment for the 2/3 days the show is running in exchange for the space and being able to pass out portfolios with booking info. Some of the larger shows can have 40/50,000 people come through in a weekend.
jam on,
Posted by: tony mads usa

Re: Solo gigs - 11/04/02 12:25 PM

Zuki ... One bad gig and you sold your gear?!?!? ... supposedly, Elvis was laughed out of the Grand Ol' Oprey!!! .... now what are you going to play on if you COULD get a good paying gig ??? ... Along with the advice and comments above, depending on the type of music you play, you should also check with local newspapers, catering halls, bridal shops, tuxedo rental stores, full service wedding coordinators, etc. for schedules of 'Bridal/Wedding Showcases', and get a space to 'show your stuff', live and perhaps by video ... Maybe you could pick up some small gigs, cocktail receptions, whatever..... BUT ... if you're not ready for some hard knocks, don't go into the entertainment biz ... partime, fulltime .. NO TIME !!!
Posted by: zuki

Re: Solo gigs - 11/04/02 06:57 PM

Thanks all for your replies. I think The Pro hit it badly do I want to play? I've played off and on for years, but not for many until the debacle at the vacant coffee house. Deep down, I know it is very difficult work and I find myself torn between writing or playing out. Besides all this, I have a demanding 'other' job. So, advice taken and I'll continue the self evaluation.
Posted by: MacAllcock

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 02:27 AM

In this business you get good gigs and bad gigs. Nevertheless, good can come of almost any situation. Me + my mate played a restauraunt once, for a serious fee (for the area and time). We played to the staff. Thats it. No punters. We played staff requests all evening and attempted to play as if the place was packed. I even ad-libbed a duet with the owners wife!

However... we picked up 2 private parties and the local annual dance because the owner was impressed with our music and attitude and broadcast our name.

All you can ever do at a gig is play your best. If no-one turns up thats a publicity or marketing problem (unless you really are terrible!). My sole measure of success is "the rebook factor". If places re-book you on a regular basis, you are getting somewhere.

remember - in this business there are no instant successes, even if it looks like it. The Britneys of this world paid their dues as kids.
Posted by: Uncle Dave

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 05:04 AM

Britney never paid a due ever. Her people are selling a cute smile and a killer body. ANYone can sell that. Music is NOT a part of the equation. Kids buy anything new and pretty ..... much like beer drinkers.

As for selling art - that's a tough order. There is no way to fairly price the value of art because it is not worth the same to everyone. As an artist, you must FIRST be satisfied with the creation of your work. If it sells, then that's a bonus, but the true joy comes from the creation itself. Performing arts are a rare and unique gift that need to be shared, but they are not always a source of financial gain.

In order to market a successful career in music - your own needs and wants are SECOND to the needs and wants of the client. maybe you were playing for yourself?
(not a bad thing ...... just maybe not what people in that shop are willing to listen to)

Don't give up ....... search your soul to find the center of your desire, and then see if it can fit into the harsh, cruel world of the entertainment industry. Even at the coffee house level - it's still show BUSINESS, not Show "art". It's a beautiful thing when art is appreciated, but it's MORE important that someone actually CREATE the beauty. What people buy, will change so fast - your head will spin, but the creation of beauty will last forever.
Good luck, my friend .... it gets easier with time.
Posted by: The Pro

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 05:46 AM

Uncle Dave said: "In order to market a successful career in music - your own needs and wants are SECOND to the needs and wants of the client. maybe you were playing for yourself?
(not a bad thing ...... just maybe not what people in that shop are willing to listen to)".

We've had a similar discussion before, and UD's view on this is what the majority of people believe - but I don't. If you can produce something truly unique and beautiful, you just have to find the right venue for it. And that takes going out to nearly every place that has live music in your area and scoping the market out. If you can do your own thing within the context of your market, lucky you. If not but you believe in what you do then change markets. But again, this all assumes that you really want to play.
Posted by: tony mads usa

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 06:51 AM

The Pro... "If you can do your own thing within the context of your market, lucky you." .... I fully agree with that ... BUT if you are going to make a living in this business, you can't do your own thing unless you are satisfying the client ... If 'your own thing' is so diverse from what the market is calling for, even working 'one shot gigs' will run out in time ... AND if you are lucky enough to find the right market, aren't you then satisfying the client, which is what most of us believe is the key to making that living... even if we have to sacrifice some artistic desires in doing so ... I have done some gigs which musically I thought were crap, but the client loved it, so I consider it a successful gig ... Usually after a gig like that I'll spend the next day with headphones on, playing just for myself.. .. I've played in real nice piano lounges, providing music from the 'Great American Songbook', middle of the road pop, light jazz, bossas, etc. ... I've enjoyed high compliments, requests for a CD, good tips, etc. .... Come St. Pat's night and my joyfull pastime becomes WORK !!! ... I sweat out the night, and what do people say for weeks later? "Great music on St. Patty's nite... thanks ..." ???
and UD... We all know you've been getting by on that cute smile and killer body for years!!!

[This message has been edited by tony mads usa (edited 11-05-2002).]
Posted by: trtjazz

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 07:22 AM

Uncle Dave,
I couldn't agree with you more....good post.

First of all the Britney's and dare I say the "boy bands" are merely created products for a market. Perhaps there is a bit of talent amongest them, but they are created and marketed goods like a can of Campbell's soup is.

My support of this point...Menudo, really the 1st boy band that I recall. One guy (Ricky Martin)in all those years of personnel changes as they got too old for a boy band made it.

IMO talent in many cases has very little to do with "making it" whatever that may be for each of us. In the traditonal meaning though, it is more about right place right time, luck and someone who's in the biz to say to themselves...."I think I can make a buck off this act."

I don't know how many of you recall Mark Kastabe (sp)....that's what he was all about in the fine arts, canvas painting. He set out to prove the point of what a sham the art world was built on BS as opposed to talented artists. Anyway he was a master at promoting himself and went from selling no paintings to selling the same work that everyone said was junk to celebrties for up to $100,000.00 or more.

Well, after he made his fortune, then he went on the talk show circuit and basically said what a bunch of idiots everyone was for buying these paintings for so much money as he got to the point where he was not even painting them anymore, but had art students painting them and the buyer was lucky if he even signed them.

Well people like S Stallone hating to be called a dope for spending $30k on one of these sham paintings demanded his money back, which Kastabe gladly gave him and resold for $50k because Stallone had owned it.

So his point was to appreciate art and the artist for who they are and their work rather then the hype and marketing.

I thought him a very arrogant guy but brought to light the plight of those of us in the arts for the right reason...IMO to create art, be it performing or fine, to share with the world.
jam on,
Posted by: The Pro

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 08:01 AM

Tony: There are some fundamental differences in my performance philosophy and most other musos I know both in reality and on-line: I honestly believe in satisfying my own artistic values first and I prioritize that within a realm of acceptance. It's my belief that the audience, for the most part, is not the best judge of what represents quality in music. Much of what they request is what has been marketed to them by mass media or is stereotypical of what they expect solo keyboardists to play. If I based my performance solely on that, my best music would never be heard. None the less, I have found that with care I can balance my art needs with audience acceptance. The result is that I can deliver an eclectic mix of quality material that is unique, enjoyable, and even familiar but never cliche'. This is what seperates and identifies me from my competition, all of whom follow the safest and often the most predictable musical course. My greatest compliment isn't the "good job" or "we really enjoyed your music" (I get those too BTW) - it came from the girl in the front row one night who waited until a moment of dead silence to simply say "you're different...". And so far in the past year, I've only had one week off and that was by my own choice.
Posted by: MacAllcock

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 09:10 AM

Maybe Britney was a bad example!

The point I was trying to make was that even the "manufactured" bands/acts usually have people in them who've been "out there" before - Micky Dolenz was a child actor before the Monkees were created (it was him, wasn't it?)
Posted by: tony mads usa

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 10:09 AM

Pro ..... Based on your latest post, perhaps weare not THAT far apart in philosophy, but moreso in actual practise .... I have never hesitated to play something 'for myself' during a gig, perhaps you just do it more often ..... and isn't it great when you get a comment or compliment that lets you know that someone is really listening .... not too long ago a young lady was sitting at the piano bar for about an hour and a half ... as I finished the night she asked me if I did 'Taking You Home' by Don Henley, because she though it would fit my voice very well ... That was worth more than any tip in the jar and packing up the gear seemed a bit easier that night ....
Posted by: The Pro

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 11:12 AM

Tony: Hey, did you do "Taking You Home" ? Fabulous song - I do it as an instrumental - it's a very challenging song to sequence and really get right, especially the drums. I had a girl singer perform it with me at one point also. Wish I had a voice that fit that song... lucky you!

True story: a few years back my wife and I were cruising in Clearwater Florida, which has a strip of clubs just off the Gulf. We passed a bar with the doors open and heard a guy singing "Brown Eyed Girl". We went about four blocks and coming from another bar was another guy doing BEG. Four more block later, sure enough we heard another singer belting out BEG. Three different clubs with three different acts and the song remains the same. My wife named it "The WalMart Syndrome".
Posted by: tony mads usa

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 11:35 AM

Pro ..... No, I've not yet done the song ... and I'm not sure I totally agree with the young lady .... while I'm 61 yrs of age, I been told I have a 'young' voice ... I've not been able to find the music for it, nor have I been able to find a midi ... someday..

I hear what you're saying about BEG, but in some venues, if you DON"T play it people question you ... when I play it, I will often play the 1st verse a la Van, but then "take it down to the islands" and do the rest of it in a Samba Rock rhythm using the steel drum voice instead of guitar to change it up .... my son (age 36) has that at the top of his 'don't play/listen' list ... anytime we are at a club or a party and the band or DJ ( )plays BEG, Ol Time RnR, etc we just look at each other and 'smile knowingly' ... but, as I said, if you DON'T do those tunes ??? .....

When you talk about playing 'your' music what are you talking about? .... Originals, or more standard tunes in a different style?
Posted by: Scottyee

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 12:31 PM

Hi guys, I agree with Tony's approach re: BEG. The general public (clubs, public venues, weddings, parties, etc) expect to hear recognizable tunes. I frequently will begin a tune in the familiar associated (cover?) style, but then transition into a fresh new groove later on in the song. I might also do a medley of familiar tunes, but throw in a more obsure song (or even an original) in the middle of a medley or in a show set. Now my audiences are asking for MY renditions , not the so-called cover versions.

If you can satisfy the audience with what they expect FIRST, you'll then have them in the palm of your hands, and then they'll be more than receptive to hearing originals & more obsure material as well. Performance success requires BOTH musicianship AND showmanship. The problem seems to be that many so called musicians have one but not the other. Worse yet, Some have neither.
Posted by: The Pro

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 02:19 PM

When I say "my music" I am refering to off-the-beaten-path popular songs done my way, and no vocals. I guess the best examples would be things like the Dave Brubeck standard "Take Five" but I do the modern version by Dancing Fantasy that is in 4/4. I have my own version of "Summer Breeze" by Seals & Croft that is very fast and modern. I do Bob James' "Angela", aka the theme from "Taxi". Movie themes including The Love Theme from St. Elmo's Fire, David Bowie's This Is Not America, My Heart Will Go On from Titanic, Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman, Kiss From A Rose, an upbeat jazz rendition of Pure Imagination from Willie Wonka and my own version of the Theme from Forrest Gump. I do a hip-hop dance version of Fly Like An Eagle, a rich piano version of Jimi Hendrix' Little Wing, I Want It That Way by The Backstreet Boys, Just The Two of Us by Grover Washington, Caught Up In The Rapture Of Love by Anita Baker, Broken Wings by Mister Mister, a funky Get Up Stand Up by Bob Marley, Rise by Herb Albert, Pick Up The Pieces by AWB, my own versions of Killing Me Softly and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and lots of Sting. Plenty of oldies too with my own twists. I doubt I would go more than two songs without you recognizing something.
Posted by: KN_Fan

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 02:59 PM

Britney sings?

btw, Terry..good story about Mark Kastabe.
Posted by: Scottyee

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 03:51 PM

Pro: Excellent song list! I definitely undertand what you are saying. All your listed tunes are indeed recognizably popular standards but thankfully not the worn out overplayed songs ones which have reached the overexposure level as BEG.

I include some of the same songs in your list in my repetoire too. The KEY is to find good quality songs which are still recognizable (but not necessarily the biggest hits) , yet interesting enough(melodically, harmonically and/or rhythmically) to give us the opportunity to present something of ourself creatively to the song.

If I do an Elvis or Sinatra tune, I avoid songs like 'Love Me Tender' and 'My Way', which have attained karaoke parody fame, but instead (like you) look for those more 'off the beaten path' songs which are still recognizable and more easily allow you to present your own rendition. In contrast, I've found that audiences expect you to do 'My Way' & 'Love Me Tender' just the way Sinatra & Elvis did it. I'll leave these songs to the Elvis impersonators.

Posted by: Tom Cavanaugh

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 05:32 PM

Uncle Dave,
I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are glad you are NOT selling your body.

Posted by: tony mads usa

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 05:44 PM

Pro .... that's a pretty eclectic mix ... and a good one !! .... I also do a number of them... I've recently added some Sting to the repetoire, and would like to do more... I took a look at your profile and saw that you are in Hilton Head ... that was pretty amazing because your song list reminded me of a guy I saw down there by the name of John Brackett ... I've been to HH twice, and both times I just happened to go into a club he was working ... also coincidently, both times were on Halloween night! ... he puts on a good show .... do you know him? time I'm down there I'll to hook up with you ....

As for Scott's take on doing songs differently, I heard something interesting the other day ... I don't know if it was a commercial or what, but it was My Way being sung by a whole group of different people, in all different musical tempos and styles was almost as if someone sequenced the song on an arranger and while it was playing just kept changing the styles ... which is just about what I do sometimes to find a new style for an oft played tune! .....
Posted by: Dnj

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 05:50 PM

I hate that MY WAY COMMERCIAL!!!!!
its so annoying to listen to... Rock to Punk to Country :>)

Big Dissrespect to the Chairman of the Board!!!
Posted by: trtjazz

Re: Solo gigs - 11/05/02 06:29 PM

Originally posted by KN_Fan:
Britney sings?

btw, Terry..good story about Mark Kastabe.

LOL....I didn't even know she had a mouth.

The Kastabe thing is pretty interesting. Point being buy the art because you like it not for the signature on it, same for music, buy because you like the artists work not for the hype.

[This message has been edited by trtjazz (edited 11-05-2002).]
Posted by: The Pro

Re: Solo gigs - 11/07/02 10:32 AM

Tony: Sorry for the late reply: I was on the road all day yesterday and only able to get back on the web today. Yes, I know Johnny Brackett - he's a great pianist and vocalist. He still hosts a popular Monday night jazz jam at The Jazz Corner. He left The Blue Night some time ago, which is now closed.

Glad you and Scott agree with my popular-but-not-burnt motif. I too do some Elvis (Memories, with just piano/bass/guitar and very rarely I'll do Blue Hawaii with ocean effects for sport) and Sinatra (my own versions of Fly Me To The Moon, The Way You Look Tonight). I'm on a crusade to figure out a new way to play "New York, New York" instead of the same old tired version. Haven't solved that one yet. Right now I do the stereotypical "NY,NY" when requested, not as part of my normal routine, and segue into "NY State of Mind".
Posted by: tony mads usa

Re: Solo gigs - 11/07/02 12:28 PM

Pro ... As much as we may like innovation, and taking new roads with tunes (isn't that what Jazz is all about?), I think that in the venues most of us play there are some tunes that we just about HAVE to do in the stock way ... otherwise the audience may not know we just played their request
.. as for JB, I saw him first about 5 years ago when he was at that restaurant - Big Rocco's or something?!? ... that Halloween he was 'The Mad TV Repairman' with a box around his head like a TV ... saw him 3 years later, I believe at the Jazz Corner, when he had 2 extra 'arms' sewn onto his shirt ... sometimes he played like he had 4 hands!!! ... both times I just happened into the place he was working ... would have seen him again last year, but my wife didn't want to fly that soon after 9/11 ... next time I'm there I would love to try to catch YOUR act .....