Do You Know What It Takes to Play Gigs?

May 08, 2024

By Anne Sullivan 

Just because you can play the harp doesn’t mean you know how to play gigs.

What is a gig? It’s musician slang for playing for pay. It’s what professional musicians do. It could be playing fro a wedding or a party, playing in a pit orchestra for a musical or even playing a recital. If you’re getting paid, it’s a gig, and that means you need to know how to play and act professionally.

When my students start playing for pay, they are usually unsure how to value themselves and price their services. They know they are students and they need to represent themselves honestly. But at the same time, they often undervalue their work, and fail to set up a solid business-like approach.

Here are some basic guidelines to get you off on the right foot.

  • Communicate clearly and promptly. Return messages within 24 hours. That’s not only good business, but it’s polite.
  • Be clear about what the client expects. Ask lots of questions. Don’t assume that they want the wedding march or that popular music will be okay; always ask.
  • Be upfront with the client about what you can and can’t do. Perhaps you don’t play pop music or you have a specific list of music you can offer them. Perhaps you don’t play outside or you don’t plan to play outside unless there is a firm backup plan. Discussing all this ahead of time will prevent misunderstandings later.
  • Give yourself plenty of setup time on the day of the event. Arriving an hour early is not too early. Arriving 10 minutes before your start time is too late.
  • Dress one degree more formally than the people who will be attending the event. You want your clients to be proud of your appearance as well as proud of your playing.

There are lots of other things to consider too, from marketing yourself wisely to packing your gig bag. (Yes, you need a gig bag.) 

Stay tuned and I’ll have more bits of gigging wisdom in upcoming newsletters.  


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