Gig Business

10 Essential Gig Items for Musicians

By Matt Holland

A great performance is founded in preparation. Practice is obviously the first and most important way to prepare for a performance but bringing along the right gear can help you perform at your best. These 10 essential gig items will ensure you’re ready for a performance that’ll make a lasting impression.

1. Booking agreement

You should never book a gig without a booking agreement to protect yourself. Even though most clients aren’t out to take advantage of you, it’s important to have the details in writing in case of a miscommunication or dispute. Come prepared with a physical copy of the agreement or one that’s easily accessible on your phone. Start and end times, as well as any additional requirements (performance breaks, access to electricity, etc.), should be clear within your agreement.

2. Tuner

Because tuners are so essential and easy to pack, there’s no excuse for an instrument out of tune. Guitarists: invest in a pedal, or at the very least, a clip-on tuner so you can quickly adjust your instrument throughout the performance. You don’t want to keep your audience waiting while you fiddle with a handheld tuner.

3. Pen and paper

Paper and something to write with should be added to every gig bag. For song lists, changes are common and sometimes necessary. Be prepared to jot down special requests or write more info on a business card. Making notes on your phone is convenient, but it can be risky with the battery life. Nothing is as reliable as pen and paper.

4. Music stand

Portable music stands are cheap and easy to compact. Even if you don’t use sheet music, a music stand can be convenient for holding set lists, drumsticks, or anything else you might need to see or easily grab during a show.

*Extra tip: For outdoor performances, clothespins are a great way to keep your music attached to your stand. Read more about the challenges of outdoor gigs.

5. Tool kit

A small tool kit can save the day in a number of situations. Along with the standard tools, you should also include a few extras like a string winder and cutter, as well as a drum key. At the very least, bring along something small like a multitool or Swiss Army knife to make minor adjustments if necessary.

6. Business cards

Don’t forget to pack business cards with your website and contact information. Even the smallest gig or house show can lead to more opportunities! You can display a few cards for audience members to grab as they listen (perhaps on your portable music stand!). Some restaurants and businesses may even have a place for your business card at the entrance. As an alternative to business cards, print your website on your CDs and hand them out to those special fans.

7. Digital “tip jar”

With fewer than 25% of people using cash these days, you may be missing out on tips if you’re not prepared to take a credit or debit card. Card payments can be taken with a Square reader or you can utilize apps like Venmo and Squarecash to collect payments at the gig. If you’re a member of GigSalad, accepting payments is easy. Clients pay your total fee (deposit and remaining balance) online with one secure payment and even tip you via PayPal for a job well done! Read more about the benefits of a GigSalad membership.

8. Backup gear

Gear or instrument issues can happen when you least expect it, and an unexpected a capella show will probably not result in a positive review from your client. Be prepared with extra instruments or gear. Naturally, this isn’t possible for all instruments (carrying two double-basses would be absurd). Bring along some extra strings, reeds, microphones or other small gear that’s easy to pack. Pack extras of what you use the most in a small bag that you can pick up quickly on the go.

9. Power source

Particularly for outdoor gigs, a power source can be hard to find. Come prepared with backup options, and pack additional extension cords and power strips. When purchasing these items, make sure they’re made for outdoor use so you can be ready for any gig.

10. First aid kit

Standard first aid kits come with a lot of stuff you may never use, but it’s good to have it just in case. A few treatable ailments could really hurt your performance! Make sure you’ve packed medicine for a cold or headache, and if you’re a singer, don’t forget the cough drops.

Do you have other gig items that you can’t go without? Tell us about it in the comments below!


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  1. Mike August 11, 2017

    Hadn’t thought of a first aid kit but it makes sense.

    I would also add a 9v battery if you’re using a passive pickup. You never want to lose power due to a dead battery. Extra picks and maybe even an extra capo.
    An extra 1/4″ or XLR cable would probably be prudent as well.

    Great checklist. Have a great weekend.

  2. Paula January 18, 2018

    Great checklist. I’d also add having a way to collect email addresses. I always ask from the stage and put a notebook and pen out so I can add new fans to our mailing list.

    • Tessie Barnett January 18, 2018

      Great idea, Paula!

  3. Les Howard August 19, 2018

    That’s a good list. Everyone has their own particular needs. Here are a few items I carry that others might find useful:
    1. At least one backup of every type of cable I carry and a backup vocal mic.
    2. I use rechargeable batteries and always put in freshly charged ones. I also carry backups and the recharger.
    3. A couple of bottles of water including one with a saltwater gargle.
    4. A few small snacks like granola bars in case there is no food available.
    5. Portable Zoom H4NPro recorder.
    6. A small collapsable guitar stand and a 24-30″ folding stool.
    7. Complete backup change of stage clothes.

    Some stuff stays in the car until I actually need it. I picked up a couple of those rolling suitcases at the Thrift Store to carry everything. Cheap & works great!


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