9 things you should never do on stage | Disc Maker’s

by SHAUN LETANG

 

It’s good to know what you should be doing to advance your music career, but it’s also important to be aware of the things you should avoid. Don’t do these things during a music performance.

Music performance no nos

This post on music performance tips was adapted from an article on Music Industry How To. Reprinted with permission.

I’m sure you’ve read guides and posts and advice about how to move your music career forward. While it’s good to know what you should be doing to advance your music career, it’s also important to be aware of the things you should avoid. Unfortunately, doing the wrong things can kill your career a lot quicker than doing the right things can push it forward.

With that in mind, I want to share with you nine mistakes I’ve seen musicians make during a music performance. I’ve tried to leave personal opinion out of it, instead focusing on what will make for a poor show for your audience. After all, it’s them you’re there to entertain, right?

Here are nine things you should never do on stage!

1. Tune your guitar to start the show

Play guitar? Don’t go on stage and spend the first few minutes of your set tuning your guitar. It’s not fun for the crowd, and it just shows how unprepared you are. Practice tuning regularly so you can get it sounding right fast, and plan for time backstage to prepare yourself and your instrument so you’re ready to play when you’re on

2. Argue with the venue staff

Things don’t always go to plan. The show might start later than advertised, there might be a smaller audience than expected, or the sound engineer might not get your levels right. Despite all of this, don’t go on stage and vent your frustration over these issues – or worse, directly argue with staff during your show time.

Believe it or not, I’ve seen this happen multiple times. It’s easy to feel entitled and like you want to get it off your chest, but there’s a time and a place. When you are on stage, you’re there to entertain the crowd and have fun, so be professional and perform to the best of your ability – whatever the circumstances.

3. Make it obvious when you make a mistake

Mistakes happen. What should you do when they do? Simple: carry on with the show! Unless it’s something major, like a part of the stage has fallen down, chances are the audience won’t even notice. And even if they do, if you carry on as normal, it probably won’t bother them. Don’t make a big deal out of mistakes or highlight them, just keep on with your set.

4. Do more talking than performing

Ok, so it’s important that you let people know where they can catch you next or that they can buy your merch during or after your set. That said, no one wants to hear you talking about it for ages between each song. This gets boring and breaks up your show.

Be sure to incorporate short busts of promo across your gig, but keep it entertaining. Mention things in intros while the music is still playing, at the end of songs, and to backing music briefly between tracks. This lets you get out what you have to say without killing the vibe.

5. Disparage other musicians

The last thing you want to do is call out another band. Don’t criticize, mock, or laugh at another artist while you’re on stage. If you’re touring and have been invited to gig at somewhere outside your usual circles, treat the local musicians there with respect. There are so many “scenes” out there currently that are known for bands who just bash each other for no good reason. Chill out and enjoy the music.

6. Let your ego get in the way

On a related note, it’s important to never boast about your act or music while you’re on stage. Keep your ego in check. In fact, get rid of your ego. Keep that all to yourself. As a crowd member, it’s so laughable to see band hype themselves up on stage. If you think you’re great, be great. No one likes musicians who are too full of themselves.

7. Shout into a microphone at close range

As a musician myself, I’m fully aware that it’s easy to get excited by a crowd that is really into your show. If you’re going to raise your voice and interact with your audience, it’s important to be conscious of the volume. Never shout in to a microphone at close range. It’s not always a scream that gets a crowd going.

8. Split up

Never quit your band while you’re on stage! I remember waiting to see a local band for the longest time when I was younger. I finally got an opportunity to see them, and in a really great venue. We got to the show just as the guitarists we’re setting up and tuning.

After catching a late bus, I recall feeling so lucky that we hadn’t missed any of the set. Just as the guitarist on stage had finished tuning, there was a loud banging noise from the other end of the room. As I glanced back, the drummer had left the stage and the guitarists began to pull out the cables. By now the crowd, who had been waiting patiently for a little over twenty minutes, started to panic.

Noise and confusion circulated around the room very quickly. A moment later, the vocalist took to the mic. “Eh, we’ve actually just broken up. Sorry.” And that was it. To this day, I have no idea why. There was no explanation, and from an audience perspective, it has to be one of the worst things I’ve ever witnessed. Leave band differences for after the show your paying audience has come to see.

9. Forget why you’re there

Probably the most important part of your attitude on stage is to never forget why you’re there in the first place. The stage is the number one way to showcase your music and increase your fan base. If you have ambition and goals as a band, then never forget why you’re there when you’re on stage.

Bonus! Don’t leave your ears unprotected

As a musician, your ears are one of your most important assets (they’re pretty useful in day-to-day life too). While it may not affect your relationship to your audience, what many musicians don’t realize is loud music can damage your ear drums and cause tinnitus; a constant ringing in the ear. Unfortunately, I’ve got this. It’s not fun. While I’ve learned to live with it, for over a year it caused me serious sleeping problems and other issues.

Don’t make the same mistake I did, protect your ears. Don’t have music unnecessarily loud, and when you’re gigging and rehearsing, wear ear plugs. You need your ears, so take good care of them.

Conclusion

Gigging is a top form of promotion and one of the truly fun things about being a musician. If you want more advice on effectively promoting your music, have a look at my free marketing eBook for musicians. It’s one that’s already helped thousands start doing the right things in their music career. Hopefully it’ll help you too.

Read more: 9 things you should never do on stage – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/06/9-things-you-should-never-do-on-stage/#ixzz36HDtRTnp

It’s called the music business for a reason | Disc Makers

Here are 12 pieces of advice from a CPA/business manager to help you manage the business side of your music career

music business advice

It’s called the music business for a reason — yet for many indie artists, organizing and maintaining the business end of a music career can rank just above dental surgery when it comes to activities of choice.

It doesn’t have to be that way, says Errol Wander, a veteran CPA, business manager, and partner at Citrin Cooperman who works with artists like Gavin DeGraw and Dirty Projectors (and who also plays a mean guitar in his spare time). Following just a handful of straightforward suggestions will streamline your music business existence and help you avoid common financial pitfalls that can eat up precious hours and energy. The result? More time, creativity, and money to make your art the best it can be.

Here are some of Wander’s top tips, strategies, and philosophies to help you get on the right track:

Understand that better business leads to better music

“Having a career in music is an amazing thing,” says Wander, “but it’s not pre-ordained and it’s not a birthright. It’s hard work, but it can be done, and being responsible with your business will help you reach your goals.”

As much as you might not enjoy integrating things like diligent record-keeping into your daily musical existence, Wander affirms that any time invested to such ends will pay you back in dividends, and good business practices are equally important for major touring acts and indie up-and-comers alike.

“No matter what level you’re at, you’re going to be able to spend the most time on your art if you treat your art like a business,” he says. “I hope that’s not distasteful to hear, because it’s necessary. Otherwise, it’s a hobby. If music is a career you want, it needs to be treated like a career.”

File your taxes – always

Regardless of how much money you may have earned or lost in any given calendar year, you must file your taxes, says Wander. And even if you only earned enough from your music in 2013 to buy yourself a cup of coffee, failing to file at all can have unexpected consequences.

“I had one guy come in with six years of returns to file,” says Wander. “He thought it was going to be this big crisis and he was going to owe lots of money, but in fact, he had refunds owed to him.” The problem? After three years, your refunds go away, regardless of how much money may be owed to you. “Because he’d waited so long, he lost those first three years’ worth of refunds, which is money he really could have used. That was pretty awful to see.”

Wander also points out that many self-employed musicians, as opposed to people who work in salaried, forty-hour workweek jobs, need to pay estimated taxes four times a year. “Unless you’re on payroll from an artist, a school, a Broadway show, or something like that, taxes need to be paid quarterly to avoid penalties,” says Wander.

For an overview of estimated quarterly taxes, check out this article. Requirements can vary quite a bit from musician to musician, so Wander also recommends checking in with a music-friendly accountant or business manager to hone in on your own quarterly reporting needs.

Make it easy to look back

Wander recommends keeping consistent records of the money you spend and earn making music — both for your own records, and in case you ever get audited by the IRS.

“Keep a simple diary, either on your phone or laptop or in a journal, particularly of things like gratuities, expenditures where you don’t get a receipt, and even non-cash items as well,” says Wander. “It’s always helpful to be able to look back and say that on a certain day two months ago, you had lunch with these two people for this reason. In the case of an audit, if you’re asked why a certain bill is so big, you can point to your diary and say that you were taking out people from the label, or having a meeting with a new manager. With the IRS during an audit, the more details like that that you can give, the better.”

As far as paper receipts, Wander recommends holding on to any that might have a relationship to the business-side of your music. “Even if you’re saving them in a haphazard way, just tossing them in an envelope, which is pretty painless, at least you have them,” says Wander. “When looking at your business expenses during an audit, the IRS does want backup and is okay with credit card statements, but they may want more details — so yes, save your receipts, or at least scan them.”

Separate your finances

Especially early in your music career, it can be easy to pay for your groceries and guitar strings, Mother’s Day gifts and instrument cables, all from the same credit card or bank account. But when you start to get serious about the business side of your music, Wander advises, make sure to separate your professional finances from your personal ones.

“A good first step is to have separate bank accounts, so it’s easy for you to look back and see what you earned and spent on business, rather than having to go through, item by item,” says Wander.

Wander also recommends putting as many of your music business expenses on a dedicated business credit card as possible, especially when you’re on tour. “It’s much better than using a personal card,” he says. “It makes your bookkeeping so much easier, especially if you ever get audited. Also, make sure that you request a year-end statement or annual report from your card company, so you can have all of your expenses in the same place in front of you.”

Avoid IRS triggers

Whether you’re doing your own taxes or working with an accountant or business manager, be sure to avoid certain practices that will make you a target for an audit.

“One major no-no is clothes,” says Wander. “To someone who isn’t really looking into details, that seems unfair, because many musicians buy special outfits to wear onstage. But the IRS is very strict on this. To them, professional clothing is a nurse’s outfit or an industrial worker’s protective gear. If you just bought an outfit that you feel is outrageous, or even if you buy a $3,000 tuxedo to go to the Grammys, those aren’t tax deductions.”

Another area where indie musicians often end up in trouble is home office deductions. “The IRS has very specific guidelines about this,” says Wander. “You need to have a specific workspace in your home that qualifies, and then you take the square footage based on that workspace as compared to your whole home.” What if you write most of your music at your kitchen table? “Shared space doesn’t count,” says Wander. “I see people often make that mistake and claim sixty-percent of their apartments as home office on their taxes, and that’s no good.”

One final pitfall to be aware of: underpayment. “The IRS assumes a certain amount of money that you need to live and survive in a given city or area,” says Wander. “They have a list of what you roughly should be spending on rent, groceries, and other things, depending on where you live. If you’re not claiming enough income on your taxes to cover those amounts, they’re going to ask, where’d you get the money? Did you borrow it or spend it out of savings? Their suspicion in asking all of this is that you made money as cash and are not reporting it as income.”

Look into worker’s comp and other insurance

“There’s a common misunderstanding amongst a lot of artists when it comes to paying people who work for you,” says Wander. “A lot of people consider hired musicians to be independent contractors, but by definition, they’re really not. Even if they only work for you for a short period of time and don’t earn a lot of money, they’re employees.”

So what? If you have employees, Wander continues, you may be legally obligated to pay payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers comp. “Workers comp is the worst by far,” says Wander, pointing out that problems generally occur when a musician you’ve hired files for unemployment benefits and lists you as a former employer — which can lead to the apparent conclusion that you’ve been employing people without paying for proper coverage. “We’ve seen notices up to forty or fifty thousand dollars delivered to artists who definitely can’t afford it,” Wander says.

Even if you’ve hired tons of musicians and this is the first you’ve ever thought about things like payroll taxes and workers comp, don’t worry. Laws can vary state to state and band situations can be vastly different from artist to artist — so make sure to check in with a qualified music lawyer, accountant, or business manager and find out what sort of coverage is best for your situation.

On the topic of coverage, Wander further recommends insuring your gear whenever you hit the road. “Bands can go to events like SXSW and, with so much going on, suddenly find out that their van and all of their equipment was stolen. Insuring your gear is important, and also making sure that everyone listed on your car insurance as an authorized driver is a good idea. If you’re driving for hours between gigs in the middle of nowhere, you may not think about it, but if something like an accident happens and the driver is not listed on your car insurance, you could have problems.”

Maintain (or resuscitate) your credit

Whether you’re heading out on tour or getting ready to purchase that handcrafted bass you’ve been dreaming of, having robust credit can be a big help in your music career.

“Credit is important for musicians to have, especially when you’re on the road, because there will be some things that you have to pay up front,” says Wander. “If you’re doing everything on a cash basis, things like booking hotel rooms, renting equipment, and car rentals can be hard or impossible.”

A lot of musicians suffer from lack of or bad credit, Wander says, but there are ways to repair it. “Some banks offer secure credit cards, which can help you in the right direction. It’s a really good thing to do.” (For some basics on secure credit cards, check out this article.)

Get help when you need it

Though it’s perfectly reasonable to do your taxes yourself using software packages like TurboTax, there may come a point in your career when you need help.

“When it’s financially feasible, I highly recommend getting a business manager, and not just an accountant to help you prepare your taxes,” says Wander. “A preparer who isn’t experienced in the music business may not think to ask about management or agent fees or how much you’ve spent on supplies like cables, batteries for your pedals, drum heads, or equipment repairs. You really benefit from working with someone experienced in the business.”

Hourly rates for such services can run high, so when is it right to make the jump and swallow the expense? “You need a business manager when you no longer have time to do everything yourself. When you need that very valuable time to write, practice, or do whatever it is that you do, having a business manager can take that worry off of your mind and free you to better practice your art.”

Stay on the books

At the end of a club date, the manager hands you a wad of twenties or, when everyone’s packing up to go home, your hired horn player asks to be paid in cash, rather than the check you’re trying to hand him. What do you do?

“Sometimes you’ll work with cash, but remember that it’s never okay to not declare income,” says Wander. “Income is always taxable, unless it’s a very specific case, like a municipal bond, where it’s stated otherwise.” In other words, if you are paid in cash, Wander advises noting the income in your diary and not just tucking it away with a wink and a nod. “With income, it’s always better to have a trail,” he says.

And if an employee of yours requests cash payment? “We hear this all the time,” says Wander. “Crew members, side musicians, they don’t want to declare the income because they don’t want to pay taxes on it, but as the artist, you need to be able to write off any money you pay as an expense.”

If you do end up paying someone in cash, Wander recommends having him or her sign a voucher, affirming that a cash payment of a given amount was made. And if someone pushes back, saying that her or she wants an under-the-table payment? “Your answer is, ‘I’m sorry, but I need to claim this as an expense on my taxes,’” Wander says.

Be patient and use common sense

No matter how wild your creativity and huge your musical ambitions, don’t forget that applying a healthy dose of down-to-earth sanity to your business activities now will lay the groundwork for any stratospheric successes that come your way. Just keep the long game in mind.

“Pay your bills and avoid debt by living within your means,” advises Wander. “You can dream big, but keep your feet planted on solid ground. Don’t spend money you haven’t made yet. That money will come, but things take time in this business. Success, or what we call success, will likely come before the money does.”

“Let’s preserve and nurture the beautiful career you’re building,” he continues. “This is all part of that.”

Disc Makers’ regular contributor Michael Gallant’s debut trio album Completely received a four-star review from DownBeat magazine and a five-star review from Critical Jazz, which stated: “This, my friends, is the future of jazz. Fresh, invigorating, progressive – there are simply not enough positive adjectives to list here.” Learn more, download now through iTunes, jam along with the new JamBandit app, or purchase through CD Baby. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Gallant or on Facebook.

The one thing you have to understand to get more gigs | Disc Makers

By 

mic2 The one thing you have to understand to get more gigsNot all gigs are created equal: how to get the right gig for you

So you want to play more gigs.

It seems like other artists you know are performing all the time, so surely there must be a secret formula to getting gigs. That, or all the other musicians up on stage are friends with the venue owner or have a manager getting the gigs for them, right?

Maybe. But nine times out of ten the singer up there on stage has no insider information, no manager, and no friendship with the venue owner whatsoever.

So the burning question is….what is the Secret Formula to booking gigs?

I could reel off a few quick bullet points to whet your appetite, but to be honest that wouldn’t help you very much and here’s why: if you came up to me tomorrow and asked me how to get gigs, the first thing I’d say is, “What type of gig do you want?”

You see, not all gigs are created equal. Some gigs will pay well but won’t help you build a following; some gigs will pay next to nothing but will be massive fan builders; and some gigs… well they don’t get you fans or money but can still be valuable if used properly.

Confused?  I don’t blame you.

You see, before you can get gigs you need to understand the type of gigs that are out there and what each one can do for you. Once you understand this, it makes going after gigs a whole lot easier because you can look for a gig that is going to help you with your business (yes, you are a business) and is suitable for where you’re at in this phase of your career.

Have a look at the Gig Matrix below. These are examples of just some of the types of gigs, placed into a matrix that works on a scale of high versus low pay and high versus low fan building.

Gig Matrix 620x650 The one thing you have to understand to get more gigs

Note: This works for any musical genre; you just have to rename the gig slightly. For example, the musical theatre  equivalent of an ‘Open Mic Night’ is doing a community theatre show for free.

Bear in mind that this is not an exact science. The music industry is highly unregulated and I know that some musicians have done very well with ‘low pay/low fans’ gigs like busking if they go on a regular basis, however this is not always the case. To make things even clearer, let’s take a look at each of the areas of the Gig Matrix and find out what the benefits of each category can be for you.

Low Pay/ Low Fan Gigs

If after looking at the Matrix you thought that you would scratch Low Pay/ Low Fan gigs off your list straight away… well, think again. Every gig in the Matrix has its purpose and each is more accessible to you depending on what stage you are at in your music career.

For example, busking and open mic nights are a great way to test out new material or to gain performance practice when you are just starting out, and they are the easiest gigs to obtain; you can busk in most places by obtaining a simple busking licence and open mic nights take pretty much anyone.

In fact, I personally use both of these types of  gigs for this very purpose.  I’m currently working on some new folk material and am playing guitar for the first time (I’m usually a jazz performer and play piano and sing) so when I’ve got my material ready, I’ll hit up an open mic night to take my new songs and skills for a test drive.

Similarly, if you are in musical theatre, the best way to grow your resume is by doing free community shows. You’ll meet people in the industry and can work on your performance skills while you hunt around for new opportunities.

High Pay/ Low Fan Gigs

On the flip side of the Matrix  there are High Pay/ Low Fan gigs. These are what I call ‘Bread and Butter’ gigs because basically, they pay the rent. For contemporary singers, these might be bar/ club cover gigs where the venue pays you to play music their clientele will like, which usually means well known covers.

For me as a jazz musician, these are corporate gigs at some stuffy legal firm’s cocktail client night and I’m there to provide background music and look pretty. Yep seriously. Why else would they hire a band if they just want background music? It’s all for show. This is definitely not the place to pull out my massive ‘Nicola Milan’ banner, set up my merch stand complete with flashing lights and plug my CDs at the end of every set. You’ll be lucky if you get to hand out a few business cards during the break and get a quick thank you from the head honcho.

Use these gigs to fund the Low Pay/High Fan building gigs that we’ll have a look at next… and make the most of the free canapés while you’re there. icon wink The one thing you have to understand to get more gigs

Note: Some musos only want these types of gigs. This is when it’s not so much about building a name for themselves than it is making money as a musician without having to leave their local area (Which is totally fine by the way. I know plenty of very good musicians who make their living this way) — but for those of you who want to make a mark, raise your profile, and reach for what can happen when you do start becoming known (i.e. a higher charge rate, better gigs, a deeper connection with fans, getting your message out there, and all the possibilities that come with being a person of interest) then read on.

Low Pay/ High Fan Gigs

I love/ hate these gigs. I know they are going to be good for my profile but I also know I’m going to run at a loss and as someone who relies solely on income derived from music, the costs involved can bite.

Many support gigs with better known artists will fall under this category (initially at least.) As anything in the music industry, there will be exceptions but when you have no fans apart from your rent-a-crowd mates then you don’t really have much value (in terms of business dollars) to add to a gig and the opportunity to perform with a band that does pull a crowd is a good opportunity for you, because it means you get to play for fans of a similar sounding band. If they like that band, then they may become your fan too. However, it’s not such a good deal for the venue or the band with the bigger name.

The reason is because these type of gigs usually operate on a pay by door sales basis. If you have no fans then your ability to help with the door sales intake is going to be minimal and therefore you shouldn’t expect to be paid for something you didn’t provide. The catch here however, is this: if you are a singer who uses an accompanist or session musicians in your band, then you still have to pay your musicians and you will have to fork out of your own pocket to pay them. It is easier if you have a band dedicated to doing any gig they can to ‘break in’ but for singers, this is frequently not the case.

The good news is that if you make the most of these gigs, you should start building fans from the first gig and it does get easier. That, or you can do a heap of advertising to get people through the door… but that is a topic for another blog post.

The bad news is that every time you want to break into a new market (location) you will have to repeat the support gig process, unless of course you have a major radio hit and venues are clambering over each other to book you… and we all know this is definitely not the norm.

However, playing support gigs is the fastest way to go from zero to fans and get you one step closer to the juicy gigs we’ll have a look at next.

High Fans/ High Pay Gigs

Ah yes, now we reach the realm of the Rich and Somewhat Famous and I can hear you thinking ‘Now we’re talking. Ok Nicola, just tell me how to get heaps of these gigs, really well paying and in front of heaps of fans.’

My answer? “Patience, Grasshopper. They are not YOUR fans… yet.”

I’m not saying this to hold you back by any means because on average, festivals and promoted shows with advertising dollars behind them are hands-down the best way to get your name out there as an artist. The gig in itself would be enough, however most Festivals are accompanied by advertising dollars to spread your name further and have media salivating over the opportunity to get you on their interview list. Yes these are the best gigs to get, but they are also by far the most competitive.

Festivals are expensive to put on and so the Festival Promoter needs to ensure they will attract an excellent turnout each year. They do this by booking artists that they know will draw a crowd, which means that you need to be doing pretty well and have a solid following  to get one of these gigs (that, or be good friends with whoever is in charge.)

Don’t worry, there’s a catch to Festivals which is your secret way in. Create a list of the Festivals that support your type of music in your local area (and beyond if you can afford the travel costs). Most bigger Festivals don’t even accept artist applications so scratch those off initially. Your best bet is to target smaller festivals and then build up from there.

Keep an eye out for contests to play at bigger Festivals but realise the competition is going to be fierce. Some Festivals do offer busking opportunities which you can snap up if you perform solo and acoustic, then make the most of it; get your banner out, play loud and promote, promote, promote!

The other type of show that can sit either under this category in the Gig Matrix or under the Low Pay/Low Fans category is a show that you put on yourself. You hire a venue or agree to a split of the door sales and then it’s your job to book the support acts and get people through the door (this is where that rent-a-crowd friend base comes in handy).

These gigs are great for a reason to promote yourself in the local media and can be decent earners if your door numbers are solid. Do a good job and your rent-a-crowd might actually become true fans and bring more friends along next time.

So let’s go back to the start and revisit our original question: how to get gigs. Now that you can have a think about the type of gig that you want, doesn’t that make it easier to know where to start looking?

My advice is to pick the gig according to what your needs are as an artist. If you are just starting out, go for the Low Pay/Low Fan gigs where you can get some performance practice singing in front of a crowd. That way, if you stuff up, it’s not going to be such a big deal. If you’re past this stage, then have a look at the bands gigging in your local area that sound similar to you and reach out for a support gig.

Whatever the stage you are at in your music career, go for the gig that will benefit you the most… and once you have it, make the most of it.

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Author bio: Nicola Milan is a professional singer, songwriter, recording artist and vocal coach. On her website Singer’s Secret, she shares tips on how to improve your singing, gain confidence, and get gigs when you’re just starting out.