Manchester

A guide inside Manchester's new music: Gigs

Wu Lyf
Image caption Wu Lyf have made a name by making their gigs special

The live gig is one half of the beautiful duality in a musician' s life; it's the public unsheathing of the other half, the songs.

Beauty, however, may be a long way from the minds of a band on the way up.

Spending three hours lodged in the back of a van probably never featured prominently in anyone's dreams.

But gigs are vital - the bands can gauge the reaction to new songs and the audience can gauge the band.

You may not get any money for the gig - you might even have to pay to play - but if you get the crowd eating out of your hand, or even tempted to nibble, you can flog CDs, T-shirts and stickers to them afterwards.

An expert opinion

Jay Taylor has seen both sides, as the lead singer of Bone-Box and manager of Manchester's Ruby Lounge.

Jay's views on the worth of gigs are blunt and articulate: "Gigs are the easiest thing for a band to get".

"Getting a record deal, publishing or management is much harder - bands can be their own worst enemy by playing too much."

I'm surprised - I always imagined that more was better. What is the right approach?

"The shows which industry people come to that are likely to help bands along and create a career are 'events' - people don't get signed from local showcases, battle of the bands, those things where you put your video online and people vote.

"People get signed from events that feel special.

"I think bands should not do those things at all - cut them out of your diary."

'The crazy gigs'

So the scarcity of Band X's gigs is actually beneficial - give the crowd a taste and leave them wanting more?

"Yes, Wu Lyf [are a good example who] do the exact opposite.

"Their shows feel special, in venues that people can't get into.

"And it's worked, plainly - and A&R love a gig they can't get into."

Image caption As a promoter and a performer, Jay Taylor has seen both sides of gigs

But if Wu Lyf are going to get bigger, surely they can't keep playing small, bespoke shows?

"At one point, they're going to have to start playing bigger venues as the label will want a return on their investment.

"But you can still do the crazy gigs when you're bigger - like when Spiritualized played on the top of the World Trade Center.

"It becomes a huge deal [in terms of press coverage] but is still a tiny gig - so you can do both."

So the the most important thing for the crowd to take away from a gig the urge to tell other people about that band?

It's funny, I say, because bands will agonise over the nuances of a recording, but perform gigs with less care.

"They should be paying more attention to gigs.

"When you do get a gig, start learning things.

"You're starting out, learning how to write songs, how to hire a van; so be kind to the sound engineer, ask about what he's doing, start to get information - that stuff will really help."

'Loss leaders'

The music industry is looking at live shows as where money can be made - but at the lower end of the scale, you won't make anything, right?

"There's going to be a series of shows that will probably be loss leaders - consciousness-raising exercises.

"Lessons can be learnt from the Americans; when the bands come over, it's like a military operation - they collect email addresses, their merchandise is all in really good shape.

"They know full-well that there are other things outside of that thing on stage."

So if Jay had one piece of take-away gig advice, what would it be?

"Rehearse like there's no tomorrow, and then take total control.

"Put something on yourself that seems like an event."

He smiles wryly.

"Of course there's always the bands that do nothing at all and get big anyway."

I wonder how many of those bands really are idle and how many just pretend to be?

Perhaps it's all part of the act, part of taking control.

It seems the best approach is never apologise, never explain - and we all come back for more.

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