Best venues for solo gigs?

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by thrash_jazz, Oct 26, 2006.

  1. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Hi Steve, Michael and all,

    I was wondering what you think the best type of venue for a solo bass gig is. Being now at the stage where I have to consider which venues to approach for gigs, I find myself at a loss which ones to target first.

    The ones I have had so far have been at "regular" bars or events - in all cases, with other acts that didn't really fit stylistically at all. They went well and the response was good, but I can't help but wonder if it would be easier to make a push to go after gigs that are a better fit in atmosphere as well as musically...

    Which type of venue would you say has been more successful for solo material? The club or bar type of atmosphere, or a more laid-back one such as a coffee shop?

    Also, would you have any particular suggestions as to how to approach booking agents or managers, given that solo bass is generally considered as an eclectic, "off the beaten path" type of act? Is it common for venues such as coffee shops, who don't necessarily have a lot of live acts, to go for a more "mainstream" act such as an acoustic guitarist? Obviously, this depends on the specific venue - but I am curious about what the average manager's opinion is.

    Any and all pointers welcome and thanks in advance!
  2. Hey,
    From my experience I've played many solo gigs and you are right it is hard to approach a venue in which you might want to play. I've played gigs from coffee shops to bars to House of Blues. I'll tell you what, it's much easier to play at smaller places because they will and have let bassist like ourself do a solo act. Now when I was at the HoB it was much harder because not many people has ever heard of a solo bassist. I also jammed with some of the guys and they were a little hard on taking my suggestions as far as style of music we could play next. It may take sometime before some people decide to let us(soloists) play without question. And my advice to you would be to just approach a venue like you would any other one. But use the smaller venues as practice and the larger ones to exploit yourself. It took me a while to have some managers/owners of bars to even let me play. Hope this helps.
  3. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Thanks man, appreciate the input!

    When you play smaller venues, are they always ones that usually have live music, or have you also approached those that typically don't?

    When you say that it took a while to have bar owners let you play, what was it that you think changed their mind?

    I haven't had any venues turn me down yet... but that's because I haven't really gone after very many. I'm trying to do my homework before I do :)
  4. Burg


    Nov 29, 2001
    Some good advice that pops up on this board quite regularly is to avoid selling yourself as a solo bassist. Promote yourself as a solo musician instead and this will help avoid stigma and help you get your foot in the door. You can mention that you play bass once the gigs booked. ;)
  5. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Non-pop music of any kind is a bit of an uphill battle in this business, especially music that doesn’t fit into a pre-established genre. Bars are the default venue for emerging artists, but in most cases they offer a less than ideal setting for music that requires careful listening. Thank God there are promoters out there who are interested in supporting new and creative artists, often without even making a profit. These unsung heroes are largely responsible for the progress of creative music in our culture and it’s a shame that many of them get precious little support from their communities. If there’s someone like that in your area I hope you’ll support them in any way you can. Perhaps they’ll repay the favor by giving you a chance to play. I think most venues are interested in someone who will bring folks in, so it’s smart to work hard at building an audience on your own. I don’t feel qualified to offer advice on self-promotion because I suck at it!
  6. One of the reasons why I was allowed to play at some of these venues was because I was allow the chance to show what I had or I had a friend give word to the owner that I was worth checking out and playing. It's very hard to play your own music and have someone enjoy it because they don't know anything about you. Usually when I do play out most ask if I need back up or I get turned down even If I do say I am a solo musician but they ask what I play so Ihave to be honest and that's when the cat's out of the bag. In my old hometown in Charlotte, NC there isn't much for jazz/funk/R&B let alone solo bass so I had to be careful where and what I played. I know country and rock is a big thing in the carolinas so after I play a tune I usually throw in a hoedown type of twist at the end of a few of my songs. This way I feel that for whatever reason no one was listening I'll grab their attention. But usually that's rare because no one has ever seen a bassist play with two hands on the fretboard or play melody and groove at the same time or loop over a progression and solo. It's very new to some people and it's becoming more accepted in our society. Just this past Wednesday I was more than welcome to show up on a whim and play solo at a local bar I've been playing at for a while. I was gone in the Navy for 10 months and it was great I'll post pics when I get them, but everyone was surprised to see and hear something other than Grateful Dead tunes and johnny Cash classics. If you make yourself sellable you will be able to play anywhere. They key to playing is talking and shaking hands with others(not litterally). You want to interact and get your name out there so that way when you go somewhere else those that you meant prior to the gig will mention you or help you get a gig. Hope this helped out a litle. I'm not a professional like Manring but it's helped me.
  7. I've thought about going to coffe shops before. Solo bass wouldn't be too loud and maybe the artsy folks could appreciate it.
  8. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I think the important aspect here is to realise that most venues couldn't really give a toss about whether the show is solo bass or not - they want to hear good music. If what you do is good, it'll ride roughshod over any prejudices the booker might have...

    So a lot depends on what style of music you do - my stuff tends to sit well on electronica nights and singer/songwriter gigs (even without any singing) - but it wouldn't work so well at an indie band night. Whereas someone like Trip Wamsley or Seth Horan would go down great as a wildcard act between guitar bands - what they do would I'm sure just click...

    If you're approaching venues in your area, coffee shops are a great place to start. A lot of the coffee shops that do music have open mic nights, so so long as you have a simple enough set up to be able to play something like that, it's an ideal place to get some stuff together. After that, it's worth finding local promoters and offering to open for other acts. That's just about the best way to expand your audience...

    Just don't get fooled into thinking that the gimmick of playing solo bass will mean you don't have to write great music. :)


  9. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Thanks for the replies all! :)

    Armed with this information, time to start pounding the pavement!

    Everything has gone well thus far, just a bit slower than I had imagined. My own fault more than anything - but now my efforts will have more focus.
  10. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 23, 2021

Share This Page