For the first installment of this series, I want to get right to the point: how to progress from a bedroom recording artist to getting live gigs. When I started out, I thought that chiptune musicians were limited to performing at specifically chiptune shows. Many people, chiptuners included, don’t realise how the novel way we make our music can influence securing all kinds of gigs! Chiptune music production from old video game consoles is a great tool for setting yourself apart from the crowd and grabbing attention.
Disclaimer: The following comes from my personal perspective as a solo artist making EDM with LSDj, arguably the most accessible way to produce and present chipmusic. I’ll try to make my points as broad as possible, but your mileage may vary. If you have any questions about developing yourself in your specific situation, please comment! I’ll try to help, and your question might help other people in the same place. So let’s begin!
Let’s start from the beginning. You’ve been making music for a while, you’ve got a little Soundcloud following, and it’s time to get yourself out there.
My first advice to anybody interested in live performance is to attend some open mic nights. They’re common enough that most people shouldn’t struggle to find one within travelling distance, and everybody there is attending with an open mind. Most places let musicians just turn up and plug in. Go as a listener a few times and check the place out, then if you think the crowd will respond well, give it a shot! Here’s a great tool for finding local open-mic venues.
Something to remember is that while you may have been living and breathing chipmusic, in these environments it’s unlikely that anyone there will have heard of it before. It’s beneficial to give just a brief explanation of what’s happening before you start because as far as Joe Casual is concerned, you’re just playing a videogame with the headphone jack plugged into an amp. I tend to go with something like this:
‘I’m Auracle, and I make music using a synthesizer and sequencer program on my modified Nintendo Game Boys. All my music comes straight from the Game Boy’s sound chip with no extra processing; if you want to see how it works, come up and take a look while I’m playing!’
It’s only natural that people will be curious, the same way you were when you first discovered chiptune! I find that it really helps to let people come and check out what you’re doing. Once people understand, they’re more able to relax and enjoy, and they can explain it better to their friends.
PRO TIP: Promote yourself! If you’re nervous, it’s easy to just say thanks then slip back to your friends, but then nobody knows who you are or where to find more. While you’ve got the mic, encourage people to come up and say hi if they’re interested. A little effort can go a long way, whether it’s making a new fan or meeting someone who knows someone who runs a club.
When you promote yourself, you’re advertising to the audience’s social circles as well. This is a social scene, so when you’re putting yourself out there as a performer, people need to know how to find you and what to tell their friends!
Small performances like these are ideal for building confidence and contacts, then once you’re ready it’s time to find a real show! Progressing to small bar/club performances lets you develop a new skill: contacting promoters. But first, are you ready for it? Take a look at this handy checklist to make sure you’re as well-prepared as possible.
- Do you have enough music? Around 15-30 minutes is probably the most you’ll need for small sets, but for gigs like DJ booths at bars, I often bring a tablet or laptop with Virtual DJ and a bunch of VGM in case I’m needed to keep playing! Be prepared for all possibilities. (Spoilers: I don’t know how to DJ! Nobody seems to have noticed yet.)
- Do you know your songs inside-out? Practise makes perfect, so be sure you have a planned order and run through it plenty so you have a firm structure to rely on when the you’re on stage.
- Social media pages: Are they up-to-date? Got links to your music? If you don’t have a Facebook musician page, now’s probably the time.
Honestly, making contact is one of the easiest parts of the process. If you spot a club, convention or college party that could use some music, drop the organiser a message! Just let them know who you are, what you do (be sure to mention how you make your music!) and that you want to play. Be sure to include some links to your music and you’re set!
There’s no guarantee that you’ll be right for every opportunity, but try to put yourself out there as much as possible. Short and sweet is key when messaging busy promoters! Just keep playing that numbers game until you get a hit. That open-mic experience should have given you almost of the tools you need to play a show; same situation, just in front of a few more people. Now get out there and rock!
Let me finish up with the story of how I landed performance number 2, just after Superbyte 2014. A musician that I’m a huge fan of was coming to play in my town but just a couple of days before the show I saw him post that one of the support acts had to drop out! I immediately wanted to step up, despite still being new to performing and with only a few songs on Soundcloud to prove myself. Since The Algorithm has several thousand followers, it felt quite daunting typing out what felt like a job application. I made sure to play up the ‘modified Game Boys’ angle and included a link to the tune I was most proud of at the time. After the first message to the artist, I was emboldened enough to message the venue and the promoter too, just to be sure it was seen. There must have been plenty of other acts going for the opening, but eventually the promoter got back to me; success! I was a little shaky and nervous, but I’ll always remember that show.
Looking back this afternoon, the messages to the artist and the promoter weren’t even read, so it must have been the venue that relayed my message to the right person. It just goes to show, use every means of contact available when there’s an opportunity to be taken! Opportunities really are everywhere, but when you’re properly prepared you can jump at every chance, and create them for yourself!
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this useful! Please let me know in the comments what you think, and if you have any questions I’ll be happy to help! Stay tuned for the next installment coming next month: Preparing an effective live set. Peace, and WIN!