"PUBLIC OR PRIVATE GIGS?"
With the nice weather now here, people are going out more for live music. This might be at their favourite cafés, restaurants, pubs, breweries/cideries/distilleries/wineries, and music festivals large and small. Musicians call these public gigs. They are shows that are open to everyone and they may or may not require an admission fee. Conversely, in generally smaller numbers, they are also partaking in the privacy of their own homes as they gather for backyard BBQs, birthdays, anniversaries, graduation parties, house concerts, etc. We call these private gigs because someone hires you to play privately for them. They usually have a predetermined guestlist that is by invitation only and are not open to the general public. My point here is that folks are enjoying the live music experience both publicly and privately. This led to me thinking about both types of gigs, what their differences are, and which one is better...or at least more preferable. To learn my thoughts, please continue reading.
Public gigs can be super fun! One can potentially reach a larger audience to gain more exposure because the advertising responsibilities are generally shared among more people (venue/organizer, artist, guests, etc) and the venues are usually bigger. In some cases, you might not need to bring all of your equipment because a soundperson and a PA is provided. Not having to carry all of your gear, and having someone help set-up/tear down can be good things, especially during inclement weather, or seasons like winter, that make moving gear more of a logistical challenge. There's something to be said for your art being the catalyst for small pockets of people bonding into newer and larger communities. As a performer, observing the communally shared experience of music uniting people in a positive way is very gratifying.
As fun as they are though, public gigs generally pay less to compensate for overhead. Poor advertising might result in low numbers. Another main detractor is that you risk sounding only as good as your soundperson can make you. A bad mix, tech problems, and/or abounding feedback might be unfairly seen as the artist's fault, which could lead to bad press meaning less interest in you. This might result in reduced future bookings, lower-quality venues, decreased pay, and/or a decline in social media attention,
Private gigs generally pay more. If people want you specifically, they'll usually pay what you charge. People should know exactly what they're getting if they pick you to perform for them. There should be no surprises when it comes to genre, song selection, and quality. Also, most people usually know each other at private gigs so there is already a sense of community. Familiarity breeds a sense of warmth and comfort in the space. When people are relaxed and at ease, they can be themselves. The sense of shared experience and community comes more naturally. These more intimate and interactive experiences can be far more enjoyable for some. Not surprisingly though, a private gig might yield a smaller audience due to venue size and subsequently less social media exposure.
Personally, I think the two are symbiotic. I've played public gigs that led to private ones and private ones that resulted in public ones. They are two sides of the same coin, the best of both worlds, and I enjoy them both for different reasons depending on the day. As gigging musicians, do you prefer public or private gigs and why? Rep your act in the comments below.