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The Truth about Corporate Gigs and How to Get Them.

The Essential James Bond Themed Band 13

Many bands dream about getting on the corporate gig circuit, performing an easy short set in swanky venues for a suitcase load of cash.  No bridezilla’s to worry about and no dodgy pub venues to fight your way out of.

So are the rumours of Green Rooms filled with bottles of continental lager and hot tasty food true? Do bands really get flown to Monte Carlo to perform for eager to party F1 teams? Can you really rub shoulders with and perform for celebrity guests?  Surely someone has to play these gigs?

Well, yes they do, but the bad news is it’s extremely unlikely to be you.  Don’t get pissed off, your chances of getting gigs at this level have absolutely nothing to do with your qualities as musicians or even your level of professionalism.  I’ll explain why later.

In the meantime, let’s be realistic. The really high end stuff may be out of reach for most bands but there is still a vibrant corporate circuit that you can access if you know how.

First of all, let’s define what a corporate booking actually is. They include charity gigs, dinner dances, awards ceremonies, product launches, even Christmas party nights and a huge range of other company do’s.

It would take too long to list the blue chip clients we’ve booked bands and entertainers for over the years. Some, like the FA, Deutsche Bank, Microsoft, Red Bull, Jaguar Land Rover have been very high profile and well paid, but the vast majority of these so called corporate gigs are for local branches of national brands and those, dear fellow musos, are where you can get some results.

So what’s the secret to getting these gigs and are they all they’re cracked up to be in the first place?

Generally speaking, you’ll be booked for dancing after the main event is over.  There will probably be a meal, some awards and or speeches which will inevitably take longer than scheduled and then, if you’re lucky, you’ll walk on stage, give it a great big ‘Hello Glasgow, Leeds, London’ (wherever) and hit them hard with your best opener.

More likely, you’ll have to load drums, amps etc. on stage, plug everything back in and hope that it all works.  That’s because you’re the hired help (and if you’re daft enough to do charity gigs for free, you’re not even the hired help) and are only there to allow the already sozzled audience to let their hair down.  At most corporate events, the stage must be kept clear to allow the audience to see the sponsor’s names on the screen at the back and to leave room for the lecterns used by the host etc. You and your gear are essentially a nuisance.

Bear in mind that it’s likely you’ll have been on site for hours, having set up and sound checked well before they seat the guests for the main event.  You’ll then have to hang around in the hotel foyer paying for overpriced drinks until it’s time to get on and do your thing.

There’s every chance that at the end of your spot you’ll have been on site for 9 or 10 hours just to play for an hour to folk who are so far gone they’d dance to feedback.  That my friends is the reality of corporate gigs.

‘But hang on Del’, I hear you growl, ‘the extra money makes it all worthwhile right’? Wrong. What extra money? You need to remember that corporate event organisers are working to a budget. In fact a lot of these events are designed to turn a profit for the organiser so the more you make, the less they make. That means the entertainment budget gets squeezed and you pay the price.

Weddings are a long shift and carry a huge responsibility, but they still pay better than most corporate gigs. Unless ….

There is a way to be the band of choice, year in and year out for the best corporate gigs out there.  It’s not about perfecting your scales or even which songs you play.  I’m going to list the top ten things you need to do or be prepared to do in order to get a foot in the corporate event door and keep it there.

  1. Be easy to work with.  Say yes to every daft request and never be a diva
  2. Be able to set up and strip down your gear in record time and be able to sound check in no time at all.
  3. Put on a proper show.  Don’t just stand and play, no matter how good you are. Inject energy and movement, know how to interact with your audience and sell the hell out when it comes to music choices.
  4. Don’t make unreasonable hospitality demands – they don’t really care about you and every penny spent feeding and watering you is money off the corporate bottom line
  5. Don’t make unreasonable technical demands. Be prepared to work with whatever production is available and if you can provide your own, even for a big room, you’ll be saving the organiser money and therefore be on their speed dial
  6. Be early, not punctual. Punctual isn’t good enough.  Be at the venue before you have to be, be back stage well before you’re due on. Event organisers get ulcers worrying where people are. Never be hard to find in a venue
  7. Be prepared to play and wear whatever the client wants – if she wants you to wear Santa hats at Christmas, get them on. If they want to dance to some crappy song, learn it.
  8. Be flexible with your time (within reason). If the event is running late and they need you on at 11pm not 10:30pm don’t moan.  If they want you to play till 1am instead of 12:30 am – agree.  You don’t have to, but if you don’t you won’t be able to build a reputation as being indispensable.
  9. Behave perfectly off stage.  Don’t let anyone see you drink alcohol, even one beer. Event organisers think all musos are mad hedonists.  They’ll see you with one drink and think it’s your tenth.  Water only and they’ll think you’re all gods.
  10. Get a good agent.  Corporate clients don’t find their bands by surfing the net.  They make a call to a trusted agent, tell them what they want and leave the rest to them. Our regular corporate clients call their nearest Hireaband office, ask for their usual contact, describe the event and wait for recommendations from us.  If you want to be re-booked for next year, apply points one to nine and you’ll be on your way to carving a rep as the go to band for your agent.  It’s that simple.

Hopefully this short blog will have shed some light on the murky world of corporate events and will have equipped you with some useful tips. 

You’ll recall at the start I promised to tell you why you won’t be getting flown to Seattle to play for Google any time soon. Here’s why.  There are some bands who have already applied all the tips I’ve given you here and as such they’re so in with the bricks and mortar on the really high end corporate circuit you’ll have to wait for them to die or retire before you can get in.

Oh and the annoying fact that if a corporate client wants to guarantee to sell tickets or peak interest in his or her event, he’ll book the latest X-Factor or BGT finalist to get voted off the show. They’ll do a twenty minute spot to tracks and make more money than you’d get for playing at ten weddings. 

So brothers and sisters, don’t worry about how good you sound. That should be a given. It’s the other stuff that wins those corporate gigs.

Hireaband Ltd is the go to provider of the UK’s best bands for many of the UK’s best clients. If you’re looking for an agency that’s well connected, staffed by a team who are trusted by the nation’s leading event organisers, drop me a line – Del@hireaband.co.uk

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