Thanks to Laurence Malpass from Music Gateway for this article.
Jon Skinner (Music Gateway’s CEO) will be speaking at the Conference in June.
Despite the digital age creeping into every area of our lives, A&R scouts still have a large presence at live gigs, and the art of appealing to them is a subtle but important one. It can mean the difference between a few shows one summer, or that summer you signed your dream deal. So we’ve pulled our heads together and come up with a few things you can do to make sure you’re turning heads.
This is more than just technical ability and having good music, but the ability to express these things by actually enjoying yourself on stage and playing the crowd. Hyping them up and drawing them in close when it’s appropriate, getting them to follow your energy, and giving them a dynamic and exciting show!
Beyond the music, being on stage is about having presence. Your body language speaks volumes, and if it’s in sync with your music and vibe the performance is that much stronger.
This is a big part of your image and branding and is a tool for sticking out from the crowd. You can get away with jeans and a hoodie sure, but that’s not memorable. Ultimately it’s the music that’s important, but if your style is in sync with your music and performance it just leaves that much more of a mental impression on someone who goes to gigs for a living.
Bring A Crowd
Obviously a large part of what an A&R scout is looking for is your ability to pack out a venue. If you’re a small band, try and go for smaller venues, it looks much better to have a small room jam-packed with twenty to thirty people, than a large venue with the same amount spread out. Know how many people you can get to your shows, and go for the venues that relate to that number. You will grow as you keep playing, and as you do, the more likely it is that you’ll play a gig where you’ve got a scout hanging about, and when it happens you’ll want to make sure the room is full of die-hard fans that are there to see you play.
After Show Engagement
The show isn’t over until you’ve left the venue, at least not in the eyes of an A&R Scout. They’ll be watching how you conduct yourselves and manage every aspect of your music, from before you get on stage to how you meet and greet the fans afterwards. If you’re selling stuff that’s great, scouts love a band that takes charge of their affairs, it shows that they’re serious about their music and are thinking of the future. I’ll always remember what my music business tutor told me about merch though, “Don’t ask them to buy your stuff at the end of a set, just say ‘We’ll be over by the bar if anyone wants to chat’, and when they come over, don’t ask them to buy it, if you’re holding it casually in your hand they’re much more likely to ask you about it and buy it as if it’s their own idea. You’re musicians, not salesmen.”
This is a tactic that is tried and tested. People don’t go to gigs to buy merch. But they do go to see their favourite bands, and if you invite them to have a chat, and they’re wondering what to talk to you about, and see your CD in your hands, they’re much more likely to offer to buy it, than if you’re shoving it down their throats.
If an A&R scout sees you selling loads of CD’s, bingo.
Memorable Part of the Set
I had a friend who was in a hard rock band, and he always ended his sets by jumping into the crowd, more often than not he got them hyped up enough to be able to surf them. But even on the nights when the crowd weren’t up to the challenge, finishing a song lyric lying in the middle of the floor with the wireless mic (very important part of this technique) was a hugely memorable moment of the night, and will stick in an A&R scouts head long after the gig, and he’s forgotten about all the music and clothes and flourishing touches. I’m not saying you need to literally break a leg every time you ‘jump’ on stage. But having something imaginative, or extreme or clever, or whatever little thing it is that suits your style to capture the attention and hook your scout it’s going to work in your favour. (As long as you don’t actually break your leg, I want to stress that, as that can go pretty wrong, and you probably won’t be hearing from the scout if you can’t stand up afterwards.)
Live gigs are a very important part of any musicians career and the shows should always leave fans desperate for more. Make sure every gig is better than the last, constantly up your game and who knows... you may even find yourself turning the head of your ideal A&R scout.