It's tempting, especially as a new band, to say yes to every show you're offered.
You want to take advantage of every opportunity you get to make a mark in your
local scene. But even groups just starting out can't or shouldn't accept every
gig they're extended. Sometimes a show can actually be detrimental to your efforts.
With the exception of opening for another band or artist with a significant
following, which is a blessing you should always enthusiastically respond to
with a resounding yes, here are a handful of situations in which it's totally
reasonable to turn down a gig.
1. A member can't be there
Unless it's a recurring issue, which
is another thing altogether, don't temporarily replace a band
member because he or she can't perform at a particular gig.
There are times in which this might be appropriate, but generally,
it's not. The member in question might feel jilted, which
could cause internal problems, and the stand-in won't know
the music as well as your bandmate does. If you must have
an outsider fill in, be sure that person has plenty of time
to rehearse alone and with the group, and check with the person
who can't make it to be sure that he or she isn't going to
resent everyone else for taking the gig.
2. It's a last-minute gig
When a band cancels just before a show,
you could be called upon to perform in their stead. That's
great that the booking agent or venue owner thought of you,
right? If you haven't rehearsed properly, though, think twice
about accepting the gig. Preparation is paramount to a successful
set. Consider that against the opportunity before making a
3. The show is at a problematic venue
Not every venue is right for every band,
and if you've already learned that a certain spot is wrong
for you, avoid playing there again. You should definitely
be cautious about writing off particular venues, of course,
but once you've decided one doesn't work for you – whether
it's because of bad sound, the wrong regular crowd, or something
else – don't go back.
4. It's too close to another show you've already scheduled
Two shows too close together is not ideal,
especially if you're a band with a smaller following. It's
very likely that your crowd will be split between the two
dates, so you'll probably get two mediocore turnouts instead
of a single, sizable one. Don't just check that the date you're
asked about is open, make sure you aren't already slated for
another night nearby, too.
5. There's no money involved, and you've
already played for free
Playing for zero pay is something most
fledgling bands do. Venue owners and booking agents often
want to be sure you can bring out a crowd before they commit
to paying a band or artist. Not only can you gain their trust
this way, but also you'll probably play for a bigger crowd
if there's no door charge.
You can only do this for so long, though. If you believe you've already proven
your pull, don't continue performing for free. Negotiate some degree of payment
based on the turnouts you've garnered thus far.