First Show Preparedness Guide

First Show Preparedness Guide. The Blogging Musician @ Photo Credit: Pexels

First Show Preparedness Guide. The Blogging Musician @ Photo Credit: Pexels

You’ve worked your butt off to get to here; been writing songs like crazy, found a way to record a demo, reached out to a venue, and got that sweet, sweet message back that you’re on the bill. Now what do you do? Unless you were an emergency add-on and the gig is tomorrow, you’ve got time to prepare.

For your first show, you can’t be prepared enough. You’ve got people to impress, fun to be had, your ex to make jealous, and possibly even lives to save — so you want to make sure everything goes smoothly. Below are a few tips on how you can prepare to make your first gig go as smoothly as possible.

Assessment of Venue & Show

Some musicians play in venues where a look over and some questions don’t really matter. However, you’ll want to check out the venue for multiple things. Take some time to get to know the venue before you even book the show, some gigs just aren’t a good fit for certain people.

Will you use your equipment or the house’s? This will be good to know in case of sound issues. If you are using house equipment, it would be nice to know if the effects pedal you use for the bridge of your third song is going to have any problems.

Does your music fit the venue and go along with the other musician’s? As stated above, some musicians just aren’t a good fit for certain lineups or venues. It should be the job of whoever is putting the show together, but you should also know when to accept a gig or not as music, talent level, and just plain lifestyle clashes can occur.

How will you dress? Normally not an issue and probably would be addressed when you decide if you’re a good fit or not. However, you probably wouldn’t want to be dressed as Gwar playing at your cousin’s wedding. All of the above are good questions to ask yourself before accepting a gig.


Unless you plan to sing acapella, chances are you’ll need to bring your instruments, and with your instruments can come a sea of moving parts. Those moving parts increase fourfold if you are in a band. You don’t want to be left shorthanded when you get up on stage and realize you’ve left your tuner at home, or have to cut a show short because you’ve broken a string on your guitar, so it’s extremely helpful to have an equipment bag with spare parts in these instances.


Strings, sticks, tuners, your drum key; any little thing you can think of that you might need should be packed away and taken with you to the show. Even if you’ve never broken a string or stick, Murphy’s Law says you will at your gig. I’ve even brought an extra pair of pants because I ripped a pair 20 minutes before a show. In this case, it can’t hurt to be over prepared.

Practice, Practice, Practice

A no-brainer on the list, but needs to be stated nonetheless. Practicing for your gig is paramount for a couple of reasons. One big reason is so you can work on your stage presence. To some people this is not an issue, but if you’re like me and kind of shy at first, it can help to practice being presentable on stage before you actually are on stage. No one wants to come see a musician or band where the members just stand, barely acknowledging the audience.  

Another reason to practice is to design a set list and get used to playing it. The more you practice your set list the more prepared your songs will be. Also, you’ll know how much time you’ll need to fill between songs to set up the next one. Knowing the time it takes to set up the next song’s effect pedal, finding your brushes instead of sticks, etc., lets you know how much time you have to engage the audience as well. Practising, at least for this musician, not only reduces my mistakes, but reduces my on stage nerves as well as real life anxiety. A great way to relieve stress and get your mind off of things.


Chances are that you’ll want to play a show again, and networking at your show is a great way to land that next gig. Let the promoter, owner, and anyone else who has clout know that you’re available for other gigs. However, you’ll want to do this organically; it won’t look good to pressure or beg for another show. Just be yourself, show what you can do, and keep in touch.

If you’ve read my last two posts, you should know that I’d at least mention social media. Social media is a great way to keep in touch with venues to see what shows they have coming up and if you think you’re a good fit for the bill, ask to be on it. Keep in touch with other musicians you gel with to play another show together. If you aren’t networking, you’re bound to come to a standstill in your gig efforts.


If you have merchandise, bring it. It is a great way to advertise your band while earning a bit of cash as well. Stickers, buttons, t-shirts, and albums are all great merchandise, and if you’ve done a good job, people will be asking for your merch. Pro tip: Have some form of mobile payment. Cash is great, but sometimes it can be hard to break a $20 or give correct change back, and some people might not have even brought money, which can discourage fans away from your merch. Mobile payments are quicker and will make transactions much easier.

There you have it; take the above into consideration for your first gig and you’ll be prepared. As you start gigging more, you’ll learn to fine tune this information into a system that works specifically for you and your music. It can also serve as a checklist for all of your future shows!

Courtesy of Desmond Rhodes.

More from Desmond @ The Blogging Musician

Non-Musician Skills for a Successful Music Career

Social Media Strategies to Get You Noticed

1 Response

  1. Stephen says:

    What a great guide! Live shows can be absolutely terrifying for new musicians but I think you’ve covered everything here. Practice is so so important as you definitely don’t want to leave it up to chance. And equipment is really important too – even the things you might forget! I always say to make sure that you have a really good quality leather guitar strap – not only will you look super cool but you’ll also feel comfortable and relaxed if it’s well made.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: