Jazz Guitar Lesson with Tim Berens: Playing Restaurant Gigs
I have had amazingly good luck lately with a restaurant gig. I play a steady Thursday night gig at the Blue Moon Bistro in Dayton, Ohio. I’ve played there every Thursday since April, 2003. It took a long time and a lot of work, but it has become a great, steady gig.
Perhaps the biggest thing I have going for me is that the owner, Greg, is a reasonable restaurant owner — which is practically an oxymoron — and that makes a big difference. And I have worked with him to build a steady Thursday night following by marketing the gig myself.
I approach the gig from the point of view of making it self
sustainable. I take it upon myself to turn out enough people each week to cover the band’s salary.
The gig started as a trio gig, then was reduced to a duo to make it more affordable for Greg. We play jazz, as pure as we can play it. I never feel like I have dumbed down the music to play this gig. I do steer the repertoire toward tunes that people will enjoy, and I make an effort to play at least some music each set that people will recognize.
There were times in the early weeks when I thought for sure that I would lose the gig, because we weren’t generating enough extra business to pay for the band. After all, why would any business owner spend money on music if the music isn’t creating new business. During that period, I got on the phone each week to different people and asked them to come down and listen just so we would have people there.
One thing that has made a big difference is our aggressive PR work. The gig makes it into the local paper’s Going Out Guide every week, and from time to time we get larger mentions. This helps the restaurant, which helps justify the money that Greg lays out for the gig.
I have used the gig as an opportunity to meet and play with all sorts of musicians. I had one period where there were 13 different players in 13 weeks. (I’m a very faithful husband, but a very promiscuous musician….I like to gig with lots of different musicians.)
One major advantage of bringing in new players all the time is that it is much easier to get publicity for something new than something old. “Tim Berens plays at Blue Moon Again” is a very boring headline. “Virtuoso Jazz Violinist Christian Howes debuts at Blue Moon” is a much more interesting headline for a press release and is much more likely to land in the paper.
There have been nights when I have given my salary to a third player, just because I knew that performing with that person would be musically exciting. It’s not all about the money.
Thursday is now my favorite night of the week.
I think that working “with” a restaurant instead of “for” a restaurant is the trick to making a steady gig work over the long haul.
For more great info check out Tim’s site at http://timberens.com
Filed Under: Jazz Guitar Lessons
About the Author: Lyle Robinson is the owner/creator/editor of Jazz Guitar Life, a popular web based publication focusing on the Jazz Guitar Community and related news.