3 Things To Make Playing Live Worth It 

Playing live might be something you love to do, but that doesn’t make it easy. We sometimes only think about the work it takes to pull off individual shows without considering everything we’ve done to get where we are. Even if you’re an unestablished musician early in your career, you’ve probably spent thousands of dollars on instruments and equipment and have devoted countless hours to your craft. This is all to say that you and your music are valuable, and what you do with your work should be rewarding in some way.

Playing live takes significant planning and preparation to pull off. For most unestablished bands, live performances mean coordinating with venues, weeks of rehearsing, and promotion––and this all happens long before musicians get up on stage. No matter what your goals and experience level are in music, performing needs to be rewarding in some way for it to be worth it. When considering whether to play live or not, ask yourself if you’re likely to get one of these three things:

Connection with listeners

If a performance opportunity is likely to deepen or expand your connection with listeners, then you should consider saying yes. Our digitally driven world continues to change music in profound ways, but nothing substitutes how it sounds and feels for a person to hear music live in a venue. This means that everyone from established artists to young musicians making music in their bedrooms miss out on massive opportunities to develop their careers when they don’t pursue live shows seriously. 

However, this doesn’t mean that each and every show is bound to give your music meaningful exposure. As a general rule, if someone is asking to play for free with the promise that lots of people will show up and become fans of your music, that’s most likely not going to happen. If a show seems like it will actually bring new fans to your music, then go for it. But if not, you’ll need something else to make it worth your time. 


Some musicians should take every performance opportunity for their music they can get. These include new projects, bands that haven’t performed in a long time, and unestablished acts that want to road-test new material. If you’re looking to gain experience playing live, you can definitely find it all over your region, if not right in your own hometown. If your band is new and unproven locally, don’t expect the shows you land to take place at great venues on weekend nights. The performance opportunities you’ll most likely get will be open mic nights, modest shows at coffee shops and other unconventional venues, and off nights opening for bands you’ve never heard of at small clubs. Think of this as paying your dues. With the right attitude and tenacity, you’ll eventually develop your live performance experience and move on to better opportunities.

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Many musicians should be thinking and talking about money more, not less. There’s a destructive idea floating around some segments of the music industry that money is toxic and ruins the purity of music. While making superficial music designed only to earn money will hurt most of us as musicians, ignoring money in music completely will end up hurting all of us. It takes lots of money to be able to be a serious musician. From music lessons to expensive equipment and instruments, a serious music career demands huge financial investment. If a performance opportunity promises to pay you for your time and effort, it’s worth considering. Serious musicians need to find income for their work anywhere they can find it––without compromising their values, that is. If a venue or music festival is offering to pay you but there’s not much else in it for you, it’s worth considering if the money you’ll earn can pay for your life and help you invest further in your career. 

Asking yourself if a show will either pay, connect you with fans, or give you a meaningful experience is a good way to help you decide whether to take it or not, but it still won’t always be easy to decide. If you have a bad feeling about a performance opportunity, don’t take it. Ones that better fit your needs will come your way eventually. 

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.

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Join the conversation
  • Continuo Musique - December 22, 2021 reply

    Thank you for sharing this musical informational blog. Got so much information and learn new things about music from here. Keep sharing. Get Hire Continuo Classics Musician in France.

  • Abrown - December 22, 2021 reply

    Thank you 💪🏻 for these…

  • John - December 23, 2021 reply

    This is really good info. We have found it is important to go into whatever opportunity you have with eyes wide open. We love to get paid and get experience and connect with new music lovers. If you know what your going into set your own expectations you can have a great time performing. We have found if you go in thinking it will go a certain way you may be disappointed. Say for example, you get a paying gig. Well you could quite possibly meet each of the three goals! You must think about making those connections the experience will come with the performance.

  • Arturo Vazquez Jr. - December 23, 2021 reply

    These are great ideas for all musicians and artists who are also independent music business managers of their owned bands and contracts. Since some times you are the only one who knows howmuch you’re worth, thanks in advance for the reminder and positive thoughts about our worth and what we should all be talking about our money 💰 😊

  • Melissa Lee - December 24, 2021 reply

    Unfortunately with Covid and all these ridiculous restrictions, the last two years have virtually killed the live entertainment circuit almost everywhere. Venues either don’t have the funds to pay performers or they simply refuse to pay musicians what they’re worth. The value and respect for musicians and singers has dropped considerably, and it appears we’re more of a burden than benefit when confronting venues to book a gig. With economic constraints and an overall doom and gloom atmosphere in our society, the music scene just isn’t appreciated for what it is or what it used to be years ago. After 15 years of performing either solo or with bands, I look forward to ‘retiring’ at the end of this year and just focusing on my songwriting, which affords me more satisfaction than any live gig has.

  • Pride Nhokwara - December 31, 2021 reply

    Wow i needed to hear this…..

  • Sellve - January 18, 2022 reply

    Thanks for this amazing article. keep writing.

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