When a new band starts getting asked to play shows, it can be really exciting. But as established artists know, not every show is worth playing. If you’re on the fence about committing to a show or not, here are five reasons to say no:
1. You know no one will be there
Playing just for the chance to perform on stage is totally fine for new artists to do at the dawn of their careers, but if you’ve already paid your dues in that regard, crowd-less shows are usually nothing more than frustrating time-sucks. There are exceptions here—helping out an out-of-state band coming through town on tour or playing with under appreciated musicians you really respect—but if you know playing to an empty room isn’t worth it, don’t be afraid to say no. Chances are, the venue or other bands on the bill want you to bring your crowd, which is fine, but what’s in it for you?
2. Too much is being asked of you
“Excited to have you guys play. Think you can bring out 350 people even though it’s a Sunday night during NFL playoffs?”
Sometimes music venues have unrealistic expectations for the bands they work with. If you have any sense that you’re being asked of too much when it comes to committing to a show, it’s much better to be honest, even if in doing so you’ll lose the show.
3. The bill is already full
Unless you’re being asked to play some sort of all-day festival, committing to a show that already has four or more bands on it is a recipe for a long, frustrating night. More bands rarely means a better night for everyone involved––unless there’s a greedy venue throwing a show together last minute to make as much money as possible involved. Again, for new bands, every opportunity to play is an important one, but if you’re already established, avoid joining an already packed bill.
4. The venue is bad
If there’s word going around your music scene that one of your local venues is bad, it’s probably for good reason. Canceling shows last minute, not paying artists, hiring a rude, aggressive staff—these things can earn a venue a bad reputation. If you have any doubts about the venue in question, don’t commit to playing.
5. Playing the show won’t improve your music career in any way
And finally, our last reason not to take a show is if by doing so your career won’t be benefited in any way. If you’ve been playing out too much and need to write new music or just aren’t into the other bands on the bill, going with your instinct and turning down the show is probably the best move. At the start of an artist’s career, all shows are important and beneficial, but as time goes on and experience piles up, playing for the sake of it isn’t usually worth it. To avoid burnout or devaluing your live show, being selective about the shows you commit to is essential.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.