Gigs and Performing

Battle of the Bands: What You Should Know About Contests

Battle of Bands: What You Should Know About Contests

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

In a time when grabbing a fan’s attention gets harder each day, when people’s attachment to their smart phones, tablets and computers makes it simultaneously easier and harder to connect with them, when you’re competing against a flood of content and noise from other artists, how is a band supposed to stand out and get actual attention? One way to gain increased exposure and recognition is by entering band contests, which are becoming increasingly common.

Battle of the Bands—Contest Formats

There are a few different ways a contest can be held. The most common are web-based or live. In a web-based contest, you’ll be asked to upload a song (or more commonly, a video) and promote yourself, in effect promoting the contest. In a live contest setting, the setup is very similar to a live show. You’ll be asked to perform a shorter set, and there will be judges that will be watching for the best performance, crowd interaction, song quality, and so on.

Benefits of Band Contests

In addition to reaching new fans, contests can have other benefits. Winning or placing in a contest looks good on your band’s bio. Quite often, the judges are people from the industry with proven track records and lots of pull. Sometimes, contests award recording sessions, the chance to play a big show or on a big tour, or just a substantial amount of cash. All of these things are helpful and useful and good… so why wouldn’t someone want to participate in a contest?

Drawbacks to Band Contests

Contests can have their downfalls as well. If you spent a lot of money on the contest and don’t win, you may feel like you have wasted money that could have been spent on recording a new song, buying newer equipment, or getting better gigs. Additionally, not all contests are as legitimate as they seem; triple check the contest to be sure you’re not walking into a scam.

Where To Find Contests

The Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands is one of the most popular ways to get involved in contests. Their current opportunities including playing at Warped Tour, Epiccenter, Aftershock, Uproar Festival, Crossroads, and Showdown at Cedar Street. The Hard Rock Cafe also hosts a battle of the bands. On a smaller scale, look for local battle of the bands at cities and venues near you. Even if you lose, these can help you gain a  local following.

The ball is in your court; keep an open mind about contests when moving forward.

Have you entered a Battle of the Bands or other contest before? How did it affect your fan base? How did  you do?

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Find an Open Mic

Finding an Open Mic

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Are you on the prowl for new gigs? You might consider open mic nights near you. They are an excellent way to test out new music or test your sound with a new crowd at a specific venue. There are many resources you can use to find open mic events, but you should do some research before deciding which opportunity is best for you.

Know Your Act and Your Venue

It goes without saying that death-metal bands and folk bands attract different crowds. The same goes with your local music venues. Don’t show up to a comedy venue ready to perform your rendition of the new Miley Cyrus song unless your goal is to knock the crowd off their bar stools in fits of laughter.

You know your music better than anybody else. The more you can scout the possible venues in the area, the better. Which venue has the right demographics? Where would you like your band to gig in the future?

Find Open Mic Nights

Start by picking up one of those free newspaper/magazines that your city might have sitting out at restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, or music venues. Scour the listings for upcoming open mic nights. Or, visit websites like and search by your city or zip code. Contact the venues of interest to ensure the listings on this website are valid before you pack up your van.

Make a Good Impression

If you have a demo recorded, you can drop this off with the person who books the music at the venue. Do this a few days before the open mic, and let the music manager know that you will come to perform on open mic night.

Ask about the event. Clarify the types of acts the venue is looking for and who generally shows up to perform. Some open mic nights provide a drum kit or allow you to plug your guitar/bass into the overhead P.A. system. Coffee shops aren’t usually too keen on you turning your rig up to 11, but acoustic tunes are acceptable.

The night of, bring people that will help increase the drink sales at the venue while cheering and dancing (or moshing, if that’s your genre) for your band. Your friends are money in the bar manager’s pocket and is the first test to the marketability of your band at this venue.

Have you done open mic nights? How did you find out about the event? How did it go?

See also: 4 Steps to Getting Better Gigs.

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Get Better Gigs

4 Steps to Getting Better Gigs

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Raise your hand if you aren’t getting the gigs you want, or aren’t getting enough gigs. Raise your hand if you know a way (cliche or not) to fix it?

I do. In one word? Networking.

Still with me? Good. The right types of networking can really help you to get better gigs.

The Fine Line of Friend/Fan

There will naturally be some crossover between your friends and fans. Ideally, your friends will be supportive, coming to shows and buying your products. Make time for them outside of rehearsals and gigs. At gigs, though, focus on the fans. Fans will buy your CDs, come to all your shows, pay their own way, bring their friends, and ask for more of what you’re dishing out. Fans are the reason you’re there and your ticket to coming back, so appreciate your fans; be friendly, genuine and down-to-earth when interacting with them… and do interact with them! Get their names and email, thank them for coming, and follow up later.

Promote Like It’s Your Job

As an independent artist or band, you might feel like it’s the job of the promoter to promote or market your event. Thus, their title. Take it from someone who has been both promoter and promoted: it is true that promoters are a really important part of the process, but this isn’t their career and passion on the line. It’s yours. I always recommend bring your own crowd, and that means networking: build a fan base, connect with them, and communicate.

Be Where You Want to Be

You want fans to drive to a venue, pay for a ticket, hang out, and pay attention to you at a show? You need to do the same… but do it to genuinely meet people. Go to venues that you want to play. Don’t talk through performances. Introduce yourself to other bands; let them know you like their sound (only if you really do like it). Introduce yourself to the bartender; he might influence who the venue books. Go again, and again. And hey—being nice to everyone isn’t going to hurt your chances to get gigs, so get out there and get mingling.

Make Friends, Not Competition

If you’re performing, you will have to interact with other bands and artists. These people can be seen as your friends or your competition, but it will make things a lot easier if you are friends. Friends ask you to play shows with them; competition trashes you to venues. Friends will share gear when yours breaks and tips on upcoming opportunities; competition won’t.

Are you getting the types of gigs you want? Have you tried the above steps to get better gigs? What has helped you achieve that goal?

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Creating Your Set List

Create Your Set List

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

For a second, picture yourself as a chef. You wouldn’t stick a filet mignon on a paper plate and expect your critics to give rave reviews. Nor would you pull out the platinum-plated china for a sloppy joe. The better the product, the more time you would spend on presentation, on showcasing what you have to offer in its best possible light.

Where are we going with this? Designing a good set list is key to presenting your band’s talents in a way that is attractive, inviting, palatable, and easily digested. When done right, it results in better reviews and more business. Here are a few tips on designing a good set list:

The first song is all about first impressions

Think of this like a first date or a first interview. The audience is getting to know you, looking at how you present yourself, how you interact with each other and them, what your sound is like. Choose a strong, energetic first impression. You want to catch their interest so that, as your set plays on, you can showcase the full range of your talent to an engaged audience.

Alternate covers with originals.

No matter how good the original songs might be, bombarding a new audience with stuff they’ve never heard can cause them to tune out. Keep things fresh by bringing the audience back to their safe zones with a few cover songs.

Change up keys, tempos, and moods.

Your average concert-goer couldn’t identify a key to save their life. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t feel the effect of a bunch of songs in D Minor, the saddest of all keys. Varying the key, tempo, and mood can achieve a powerful effect on an unsuspecting audience. Which brings us to…

Play it out like a drama.

Think of the best concept albums out there—Dark Side of the Moon, Sgt. Pepper, etc. Think of how they start, how they progress, just where they climax, and how they end. Like an album or movie, a good set list should have a rise and a fall, with your biggest, all-out extravaganza happening toward the end.

Leave ’em wanting more.

It’s the rare band that can get away with the thirty-minute jams and have the audience clamoring for thirty minutes more. Punch them up, get them revved, and give them a proper ending that leaves them satisfied but still a little bit hungry. Sorry, we just can’t stay away from the food metaphors.

Anyway, bon appetit!

How did you determine your set list? Does it change for every gig, or is it pretty set in stone?

See also: Know Your Niche To Get The Right Gigs, Don’t Fake It To Succeed as a Musician, 5 Important Tips to Help You Get Gigs

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Get Gigs Online

Get Gigs: The Best of Online Booking

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Need help finding your next show? Do you want a bar? A festival? A house party? Don’t know where to start?

Online booking sites can be a great resource for your band, but finding the right site and knowing what to look for can make a huge difference. Below, we highlight several sites for you to consider.


Sonicbids is a streamlined way for your band to apply for opportunities including music festivals, magazines, and gigs. The registration fee is $12.99 for a monthly subscription or $9.99 a month with an annual subscription. When you sign up, you will create an electronic press kit (EPK) that includes photos, streaming music, and video. When you find an opportunity that interests you and your bandmates, you simply pay the application fee, which ranges from a couple bucks up to $50 for larger festivals.


GigMasters has the most positive online reviews and best reputation for showing you how to book gigs. Paying the membership fee of $79 for three months does not mean you won’t have to do some work. This requires a professional EPK or resume that showcases why your band is worth the money you are asking for. Including a live music video is a must to demonstrate to promoters that you can play in front of a crowd. Edited music clips are not a good sales tool for live gigging.


ReverbNation allows fans, bands, venues, and record labels to create profiles. The basic artist profile, which includes their gig finder service, is advertised as free. However, ReverbNation requires that you have a Reverb Press Kit to submit booking requests, and it charges $5.95 per month for this service (not considering a free trial period). They also offer three different subscription levels (free, $19.95, and $41.67 a month), with a good handful of other services a la carte.

Gig Salad

For good results with Gig Salad, you’ll probably want at least the semi-pro membership, which costs $9.99 a month but provides access to gigs within a 120-mile radius. Adding music or video to your profile will require upgrading to the pro membership for $19.99 a month, but this also includes an unlimited radius. Gig Salad is also geared toward magicians and other entertainers, but it can be useful for musicians, too. Booking one gig from the site will pay for six months of membership.

Overall, be wary of postings that are vague about the requirements and details or, worse yet, don’t have any listed. Also, be sure that you’re going after gigs that you are ready for. Maybe save that Carnegie Hall gig for when you have a few more shows under your belt…

Want more tips on getting the gigs you want? Here’s 5 Important Tips to Help You Get Gigs.

Have you used an online booking site? How did it work out for you? If you haven’t, what’s holding you back from trying one?

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Tips for Getting Gigs

5 Important Tips to Help You Get Gigs

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Getting started in entertainment is tough. Just because your mother tells you to become a band teacher* doesn’t mean you can’t still become a successful performer. But, you’ve got to get gigs. Here are 5 things you can do to get there:

Know Your Niche

If you’re a Joni-Mitchell-listening folk singer, you probably don’t want to be trying to sell yourself to a hot dance club. Figure out where you fit in the musical lexicon and introduce yourself to these venues. Go out, see shows, see if you can see yourself on that stage… even if the stage is just a folding chair in the corner of a coffee shop. More: Know Your Niche

Follow Your Muse

Whose album is running on repeat? Whose lyrics do you find yourself injecting into conversations? Whose songs can you not help singing along to? If your sound is like theirs, these are the names you should be dropping when you’re trying to get gigs. “A hypnotic mix of early Michael Stipe earnestness, heartbreaking John Legend piano, and Ray LaMontagne ramshackle backing band,” paints a vivid picture for music venues. More: Follow Your Muse

Social Media

One thing your mother, sister, best friend, people you didn’t really like but went to school with, and everyone else in your virtual-sphere can help you is with social media. Building a virtual following is essential. If you don’t have a following on social media, is there even a following at all? Venues can and do take this into consideration. More: Music and Social Media

Don’t Fake It

You don’t get anywhere being anything less than earnest. Even those who do slip by–ahem, Milli Vanilli–wind up in the dumps. More: Don’t Fake It

Embrace Struggle

If this business wasn’t hard, everyone would be doing it. You’re going to get the door slammed in your face, you’re going to not hear back, you’re going to be told “no.” If you can’t pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going… maybe you should teach band after all. More: Embrace Struggle

*No offense to band teachers. We love you guys. But if you’re heart isn’t in it, should you do it?

What methods have you tried to get more gigs? Which worked and which didn’t?

See also: 4 Steps to Getting Better Gigs, Get Gigs: The Best of Online Booking

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