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How to find gigs in Rome (and get paid for them)

Welcome to Open Mic Rome!

Having problems finding a venue that hosts live music in Rome? Or are you one of those musicians who has written thousands of emails but never got an answer back? Tired of walking from venue to venue with a CD in your hand, and always getting the same response: “We’ll get back to you”, or “come back tomorrow, our event manager isn’t here today” or, the classic of all classics: “How many people do you bring?”.

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Now, before we review a few strategies to get that gig, you should first define why you really want it. Is your primary scope to promote your original music, build a following, and eventually sell your CD? Do you just want to gather some experience playing in front of a live audience? Or do you simply enjoy a night out with friends and want to have a nice evening together? Are you trying to make a living off live music? First, we need to start by managing expectations.

  • Finding a gig in Rome is possible.
  • Finding a gig where you play for free is easy.
  • Finding a gig where you get paid is not that easy, but not too hard, either.
  • Finding a venue that pays a reasonable amount of money is hard.
  • Finding a venue that pays a reasonable amount of money and takes care of all legal and official paperwork (SIAE, ENPALS) – don’t hold your breath.

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We could spend hours discussing the reasons why it is bad to play for free or at a cheap price (i.e. destroying the market, lowering the expected minimum price in Rome, etc.) vs. why it could actually be a good choice (lowering risk for venue if you’re confident you can make enough money by selling your merchandise and/or with tips). But let’s assume that you are not working on increasing your following, but on making money. You can’t guarantee a crowd, but you’re confident that your music is so good that it will not only keep the people in the venue from leaving the place, but attract passers-by to come in and enjoy an entire evening of your music.

So, what’s the best strategy in Rome? Here are a few tips that we found helpful in recent years, and they always guaranteed gigs. Here we go:

  1. Observe the venue. If possible visit the venue before you contact it, to see if it actually fits your set. See what kind of people are visiting the place. Is the venue empty on a Saturday night? Does it have a sound system? Are many people walking by in the area and could they hear the music from outside? Do you like the vibe of the venue? Could you get along with the staff?
  2. Be polite and professional. Especially if they say no. You’d be surprised how often somebody remembers you because you were acting polite, instead of discussing for half an hour why they should’ve really considered you.
  3. Show them that you really are interested in the venue’s good reputation. Their success is your success. Explain why an evening with you is good for their business. If you know you can entertain people, point out why your act is suited to the venue. If you can engage the audience and you’re confident that they will stay all night, point it out.
  4. In Rome, personal contact is better. Most businesses in Italy start over a coffee or lunch. Get to know the person you’ll be dealing with. Talk with the manager. The music director. Get to know them. Try to engage in a personal conversation, instead of jumping right into business. In Rome, as opposed to other countries, very often a personal connection will help your cause a lot.
  5. Be prepared. Bring CDs, promotional material – but make it look professional and stand out. Don’t hand out handwritten contact information – try to make your DEMO look like a top-notch product. You don’t have to spend a lot of money: there are many services online now that will take care of professional CD labels at a low cost. Consider that people working in a music venue often are busy listening to lots of groups, often while they also have other responsibilities within the venue. Make sure you put all your information together in one place, from your contact info to any selling points that you might like to point out.
  6. Ask for the right price. Weekends are busier, so it’s reasonable that your price is higher on a weekend than on, let’s say, a Monday evening. You may decide for yourself how much your performance is worth. If you think that a big part of your intake is going to be through CD sales or other merchandise, you can take this into account and reduce your fee with the venue. But make sure to clarify this beforehand with the manager, as some venues might not like it if you sell stuff or ask for tips, which they could see as competition for their own tips or merchandise they might sell.
  7. A great way to get to know other musicians is through Open Mics. Knowing other musicians can help you to get a recommendation for a music venue, which will increase your chances of actually getting a gig there.
  8. One last thing- don’t forget that you can also busk in Rome. Depending on the location you choose and the style of your performance, there is a good chance you’ll make good money. All you need to go is get your busker’s licence here, and you’re set!

These are just a few tips and we will continue this series with different ways of presenting yourself to a music venue, as well as alternative ways to monetize your performance.

Did we forget something? Do you think we got something wrong? Or would you like to read more tips like these? Then send us a message to openmicrome@gmail.com – we’ll be glad to have your feedback!

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Memorize songs with these 10 tips

Open-Mic-Rome-Memorize-A-Song

10 Tips that will help you memorize songs

Let’s face it – it’s hard to memorize songs with all those lyrics, hundreds of songs, all those chord progressions – even Bruce Springsteen uses a teleprompter these days.

But how would you memorize songs with all those words? The Verses? Here are some tips that might help you achieve that goal:

  1. Listen, re-listen, and listen again. As simple as it sounds, you need to listen to the song as often as possible. On your way to work. In the car. On your bicycle (lower the volume, you don’t want to end up in an accident, do you?)
  2. Sing/play the song as often as you can. Under the shower, when you’re in your car, when you’re going for a walk. As with learning languages repeating things out loud will help you to memorize things.
  3. Use visual aids, such as mind-mapping-techniques. If you’re a visual person, then mind-maps work also great if you need to learn for an exam or need to organize and memorize lots of information within a short time.
  4. Connect the lyrics to objects in your apartment. If you need to, put little stickies next to objects that you use every day.
  5. Try to sing them without any help and see how far you can get. Only read the lyrics if you really get stuck.
  6. Visualize the story. Don’t just sing the words. If you really understand what is going on in the song and understanding what it tries to transmit will help a lot to memorize the song.
  7. If you have troubles at certain parts of the song, just write down a few keywords that you can use as a hint, in case you get stuck.
  8. Get enough sleep. Your memory suffers if you don’t get enough rest and even kills your brain cells, so make sure you sleep enough!
  9. Keep learning new songs on a regular basis.It might be tougher in the beginning, but actually stimulating your brain will improve your memory, which will improve the ability to learn new songs much faster!
  10. Rather learn a bit every day, than for hours on one day.
How to memorize songs

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Of course, the best it to write and play your own songs, but if you are planning to perform a cover song, the tips above will make it easier to memorize that song. Got any other tips? Leave us a comment below! Or if you like to perform at one of our Open Mic Nights in Rome, you can contact us here!

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Musician, here is one reason why the music club never called back

Ever wondered why the music club never called back?

A few months back, I received the following message: why the music club never called back

If you don’t speak Italian, here’s what they’ve written:

HELLO I’M AN EVENT ORGANIZER OUR COMPANY ORGANIZES : parties, conventions, meetings, seminars, performances (KARAOKE PIANO BAR DJ APERITIVES DANCE OF ANY KIND WEDDING SERENATES) .. charity EVENTS, festivals, product presentations, concerts, sport events, fashion shows, literature prize. IN OUR COMPANY ONLY PROFESSIONALS AND ABSOLUTELY SERIOUS PEOPLE ARE AT WORK  I SHOW YOU SOME VIDEOS FROM SOME COLLABORATORS LIVE MUSIC (PIANO BAR) (followed by link list, see screenshot above) DJ (followed by link list, see screenshot above) VOCALIST CHIARA. SARA AS YOU ALREADY UNDERSTOOD WE ARE AN AGENCY THAT COVERS EVERYTHING 360 DEGREES WITH REDUCED PRICES (ANTI-CRISIS) WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR CONTACT ME IF YOU WANT TO HAVE FUN SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR

At first glance this seemed nothing else but typical spam in my mailbox. Unfortunately  (since I organize live music for a few venues) I receive many of these mails by many (too many) musicians on a regular basis. If you are not shocked as I am by this message above, then you are in good company.

If you walk around the city of Rome you’ll notice how little do people care about the presentation of information – from the handwritten note outside the post office, the chaotic and often misleading street signs to the ads in newspapers. But I would never hire anyone who writes me a presentation letter like the one above. And nor will anyone else, who is at least halfway serious about their business.

Applying for a concert is like applying for a new job. Yes, it is often more informal. Often, especially if you focus on performing in pubs, you can get a gig in-between two pints, or during an Open Mic Night. But if you’re writing me a message, there is no personal connection and therefore, like during a first date or a job interview, the first impression is very important. If you’re sending me a message in your native language, I expect you to at least use a dot every now and then to divide the sentences. I expect you to be serious, and this should extend to your presentation – you should present yourself in a modern, fresh design – considering that you’re appearantly an event organizer (the same goes for musicians, BTW).

You might be the best musician/organizer in the world. You might be a great human being. But if you’re writing a letter like the one above, this is the first impression you (might be) creating:

  1. You’re not a serious business partner. If you’re approaching me via facebook, don’t use the photo of a child as your profile picture. It’s very ironic to say “only professionals and very serious people at work” next to the photo of a child.
  2. STOP YELLING AT ME. You might not be aware of this, but on the internet writing all UPPERCASE, the so-called caps lock disease, equals yelling,  The Internet is a big place and most people will consider you being rude if you’re writing in caps lock, so stop it.
  3. You don’t even know how to format a simple text, you’re sure you can organize an event? You know that dots, carriage returns and commas exist, do you?
  4. Are you as old as the person on your profile picture? Random spaces, random changes from upper- to lowercase. Are you sure you’re an adult, serious business partner that I can rely on to organize an event in a venue?
  5. VAT Nr.?

This are just some examples (i could go on and on) and you could say, hey, this is just spam so what’s all the fuss about? The problem here is that I receive loads of messages like these, from real musicians. The problem is that they don’t even think this could be one reason that they never get called back.

Writing messages is just another annoying thing that distracts from their “real job”. After all, their job is to play music, right? Well, that’ partly true. But times have changed. Nowadays everything is more accessable, digital, connected. You have access to so many possibilities and at the same time you’re competing with so many more musicians.

It might seems superficial at first, but it’s not just like you’re showing up to a job interview for a bank with holes in your jeans and smelling like beer. It’s like you arrive to that job interview on a horse, ignoring willfully any traffic lights and street signs along the way. It shows you don’t know or don’t care about the rules. But typography isn’t there just to make your letter written in Word look beautiful.

It serves a purpose.

Fonts with serifs don’t exist just to look cute. They are there to make a large texts like in a book easier to read. There are some interesting studies about typography (via Thomas Phinney):

In short, they found two ways to measure the impact of good versus bad typography. One was “reduced activation in the corrugator muscle” (people frowned less), and the other was “improved performance on creative cognitive tasks” tackled after reading. Again, this was with documents that did not produce differences in reading speed or comprehension.

So besides the positive effects of good typography (yes, you can’t change font type and size on facebook, but you can use commas, seperators, carriage returns etc, can’t you?) on performance, as you’ve seen above, you also prevent to create a negative first impression. Otherwise you might already be seen as an unreliable, chaotic, disorganized person who is unpleasant or risky to work with.

While one can argue that this might be superficial and judgemental, don’t forget that if you’re being a musician you’re also a business person. And while you might get a chance to re-introduce yourself personally at the venue and get yourself in the position of sharing a drink with the event organizer of the venue, the more professional and the more important the venues you’ll approach – the more they will judge you by your first impression and presentation.

Often you only get one chance. If you blow it, it’s over.

So next time you’re writing a presentation of your band, try to avoid grammatical mistakes, include a nice photo and a one-sheet. If your presentation is professional, you’ll be surprised how many doors will open for you that used to be closed before.

Got any other examples of why the venue never calls you back? Disagree with what has been said here? Leave us a comment below!

by Salvatore Benintende

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Does alcohol improve your voice?

There are many excuses for a singer to drink alcohol. Ever heard any of these?

“I’m just warming up my voice.”

“It’s just to calm down a bit.”

“I feel nervous, so I drink.”

“I’ve been playing in Irish pubs for years, this does nothing to me.”

“I’ve got a cold. This hot whiskey helps me get better.”

“Of course I drink. It helps to get that blues voice.”

While first these explanations (kind of) seem to make sense, there are many good reasons a singer shouldn’t drink too much alcohol, especially before a performance.

  1. Actually, the muscles of your throat will constrict with the consumption of alcohol. In order to hit the high and the low notes you’ll need your full vocal range, though, and keep those muscles relaxed and smooth. Unless you’re a professional, drinking a bit is okay, but if you drink too much you’ll damage your vocal cords sooner or later (besides the fact that of course your entire body will react to alcohol at one point).Does alcohol improve your voice? 
  2. Also, alcohol will dry you out faster, which means that during a performance you can easily dehydrate. While this might not seem to be an issue during an Open Mic performance that lasts 10 Minutes, it will be noticed if you’re on stage for a longer time.
  3. Plus, alcohol will actually slow you down. You may not notice, but you might activate your vocal muscles too late or too early due to a lack of coordination.

Of course, often it is simply fun to drink, especially if you’re having a good time with friends in a pub. Just remember to warm up your voice before the performance and if still keep drinking alcohol don’t forget to also drink lots of water.

If you noticed any good or bad changes in your voice due to drinking alcohol, tell us your story in the comments below! If you like to participate at one of our great Open Mic Night, you can contact us here.

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