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.
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!