#145: Roundtable – How do you decide to turn down a gig?

MicrophoneIt’s pretty much a universal experience that every artist has had; the drive home from a so-so gig where you can’t help but think it would have been better to pass on that one. But how do you decide? What are good indicators that a gig is better off left to someone else? In this episode, Kevin and Chris discuss some key indicators they use to determine the value of a gig. How do you decide whether or not to turn down a questionable gig? Weigh in below in the comments section, or call our listener line at 360-524-2209.

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  • Ronnie

    Sign that you may be headed to a bad gig.

    You ask a local for directions and they respond with “Boy you don’t want to go there… Bad things happen there” Then you hear banjos in the background..

  • Robert Lee King

    You know it’s going to be an interesting gig, not necessarily bad or good. When the venue has chicken wire or plexi-glass in front of the stage. Though I can honestly say, in most cases, despite the danger those shows present they are also generally the most fun.

    It’s funny to me to hear so often about “bad” shows where no-one was there… Everyone has had those shows, here’s the thing, when a performer or band makes that one person’s experience the same as a huge crowd, both sides win. Play every show as if it were the Garden or the Coliseum and eventually you might just be playing those places. Play a small show like a small show and you may as well stay home.

    I am reminded of several bands dating back many decades and as recent as the last 10 years. All of those bands played every show as if it were the biggest show in the world. All of those bands or performers, went on to become household names.

    I am often given grief for some of the bands I single out for mention so, I’ll go bigger here. A lot of no-names who played hundreds of crap venues for little or no money. Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, The Doors, The Beatles, Kiss, Queen, Nazareth, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, AC/DC, U2, Cold Play, Greenday, Five Finger Death Punch, Styx, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Edgar Winter Group, Ohio Players, Parliament, Montrose, Van Halen, Bad Company, Cream, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Heart, Warrant, Poison, Yes, Genesis, Electric Light Orchestra, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Rush, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, The Plasmatics, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, Black Sabbath… I could go on but the point is pretty clear. Every one of those artists and many more got to be big by acting as if they were already big. They all virally and not through the freakin’ internet either, grew larger than life and in every one of those mentioned, they wound up being huge parts of music history.

    To the neigh sayers, I’ll offer this, check out what your kids or the kids of your friends are listening to. Outside of the pop culture crap, the vast majority are listening to classic rock, classic pop and classic country. Ask them who Blue Oyster Cult is. Then ask them who plays in Lady Gaga’s band…

  • Allysen Callery

    I’m a folk /singer-songwriter on the quiet side, I’m not playing Feel Good music for party people . I’ve learned to never take gigs from Sports Bars no matter how much they want to pay! Not worth it.
    Ps: Write down every gig you play on a list in Notes , what you got for door & merch. It’s handy to refer to down the line . As in , was it really worth it to drive 2 hours for $40?

  • kbreuner

    That’s good advice.


    Hi – I may have missed something, but I haven’t been able to download the latest podcast via iTunes – all of my other casts update fine. ??

  • Johnny Don’t!

    Wow, I’d *really* like to listen to this, but it won’t play. Any ideas for how to remedy this situation?

  • Johnny Don’t!

    Just checked the scripting/code for this page and the link the player points to is no longer valid, and the archives don’t seem to be working either. What gives?? I need my CDBaby Podcast fix!!!

  • Anne

    Just a gut feeling. I’ve learned to trust my intuition over the years. If something doesn’t seem quite right about the gig or the client, I dig deeper to figure out why. Some strong indicators are: A client who can’t make decisions or changes his/her mind all the time; a client who is asking me to do the impossible, a client who keeps trying to knock the fee that I’ve quoted down even after I’ve quoted it.

    But I’ll rarely turn down gigs, because it’s just a gig. I’m not sitting at a desk doing this thing 9-5. The gig is over when it’s over. I’ll do it and learn from it. Sometimes, a gig that seems like a terrible gig initially can be pretty sweet, simply because the clients are fantastic or the pay is generous. Again, I listen to my gut feelings about the whole thing.

    By the way, I couldn’t get the audio on this page to play…So I’m not sure if you mentioned these points in the podcast 🙁

  • Linda Vee Sado

    Wish this was in printed format. I can speed read the whole thing in probably 15 minutes. I don’t have the attention span. Whine Whine Whine lol

  • Adam_B_Harris

    New background music in this podcast?

  • Kirby

    I’ve started the same thing in a spreadsheet with Google Drive. Money earned, merch sold, venue, date, and a short summary of the evening.

    I’m a singer/songwriter myself but do those sports bar cover gigs for the cash. Its my main source of revenue so even when touring I’ll have to throw in a cover gig or two to make up for that $40 all original show that was great to make $500 slinging covers for drunks. Ups with the downs I suppose.

    All depends on what your goals are as a musician.