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Monday, April 12, 2010

3 Considerations Before Taking A Gig For The Exposure

The longer you're in the music business, the more times you're approached to do a gig for "the exposure." This usually means that either you won't get paid at all or you'll be paid a discounted rate for the privilege of doing a gig.

I've found that whenever "exposure" is brought up by the party offering the gig, that usually means that they're just trying to get something for nothing, so the exposure doesn't amount to much. On the other hand, if the concept of exposure isn't brought up or given a soft-sell, it occasionally can turn into just the thing you need to help your career advance.

So just what is this "exposure" thing and what can it do for you? Exposure is building awareness of either your personal brand or that of your band. This extended awareness will hopefully result in additional gigs or additional sales for your products. So how do you determine whether you'll gain enough exposure to make the gig worthwhile? Here's the formula I've come up with after years of getting burned:

1) Don't believe what anybody tells you. If you're told that agents, managers, record labels or a possible new audience might see you, take it with a grain of salt. Do some research and find out for yourself before you make a commitment. The gig is going to cost you time and probably money, so try to make sure up front that you'll be getting what's actually promised.

2) Try to match any potential exposure to your needs. Assuming that you've verified that you'll actually be playing in front of a crowd, try to find out:
  • Is this a crowd that wants to be entertained in the first place? No use playing to a thousand people who just want some background music instead of the real thing. It's like playing a wedding because a manager that you want to meet will be there. It's the bride's day and she'll control what you play and how you'll play. You'll never be at your best no matter what you do so it's a no-win situation. Avoid at all costs.
  • Is this a compatible audience? Don't take the gig to try to open up a new market segment. It hardly ever happens. If you're a great ska band but asked to open up for a hard rock band, chances are the crowd won't like you no matter how great a show you put on. It's an incompatible audience so don't waste your time.
3) Never play for a convention or conference crowd. You may have 5,000 people in the audience, but there won't be enough of them to like your type of music to make a difference. I once saw The Cult absolutely bomb playing to a NAMM crowd. Thousands of musos, but they were there for the party, not the band.

Don't let that exposure gig go the wrong way. Think really hard about it and do your homework before you commit.
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