Taking the leap from making and sharing music to performing it live in front of an audience is crucial for musicians intent on building their careers. But going from practicing in your band’s rehearsal space or your bedroom to the stage isn’t easy. From performance anxiety to not knowing how to start booking real shows, transitioning to the world of live music performance takes a good amount of trial and error. If you’re not sure where to begin building your live performance skills, here are five low-pressure options to consider:
Open mic nights
Many musicians balk at the thought of playing open mic nights, but they shouldn’t. We’ve all got to start somewhere, and, for many musicians that somewhere takes place inside local bars, restaurants, and coffeeshops through open mic nights. At the very least, these performance opportunities offer the chance to play music on stage in a laid back environment in the company of local musicians.
Weekday evening shows at local venues
Out of the gate, it’s not likely you’re going to land an opening spot for a sold out local weekend show. Asking for something more modest, like opening for a local band on a Sunday, is more likely to garner results. These shows are typically sparsely attended, but if you bring a decent crowd and an enthusiastic performance, you’ll probably be invited back and considered to open bigger shows.
Believe it or not, house shows are often more lucrative and creatively rewarding than venue shows for artists [click here to learn why], even if they’re established and successful. Between attentive audiences and minimal stage set-ups, house shows are incredible opportunities for new artists to hone in their performance chops and connect with fans.
Your local community needs musicians and you need performance experience. It might not always be a match made in heaven, but it can be a decent fit, nonetheless. Whether it’s through cheering up the residents of an old folks home or entertaining kids at your local library, volunteering locally can help build a solid musical performance foundation.
Playing music on the street can be challenging, but it delivers rewards like performance experience, and, potentially, a little cash. If you’re able to win over strangers on the street in public places with your music, you’ll probably do just fine in an actual venue setting. It should be noted that you can’t just set up shop and perform in any public place. Depending on where you live, you’ll need permits or permission from local business owners. Also, make sure not to accidentally play near another busking musician. It might be just another opportunity to perform for you, but busking pays the bills for some musicians.
If each of these suggestions scares you, that’s okay. Playing music in front of people takes courage, and that can take time to develop. But if you want to be a serious musician, you should be taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way to perform.
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.