For a musician, gigging is where you take the songs you have been working on and perform them in front of other people. For a fair number of musicians, it seems to be the primary focus of their craft and the current wisdom of the crowds is that nowadays you record and release music to get people to your gigs whereas previously you did gigs to get people to buy your music.
So what do I love about the gigging experience? It has a lot of positives. On the mercenary side, it sometimes means money. At the level I play at, that isn’t a lot of money – enough to defray some of the expenses but my music hobby still has to be subsidised by my day job. I don’t think I’d be able to make a living even if I did gigs paid at the rates of my most lucrative slots five nights a week for most weeks of the year! So, while something towards the travel and looking after my equipment is welcome, its not all about the money.
Playing songs in front of people is also a buzz, certainly when they are clearly loving it. Even if there isn’t much audience feedback, for example in a jazz group providing backing music to an event, there is a measure of exhilaration from knowing that, unlike practise time or a rehearsal, you can’t stop and go back so you have to make every note count.
Another benefit, when you are on the bill with other performers, is that you often get a ringside seat to watch some special moments and all without having to pay the admission fee. Perhaps that one is less obvious, as is the chance to spend time with your friends both doing things you love doing and hanging out together.
It isn’t an unmitigated joy though. Hanging out can mean a lot of hanging around and not every other act is one you’d go out of your way to see. You can end up playing songs until they feel tired (I wonder whether The Rolling Stones feel fresh or just like a tired covers band that has spent too long treading the same ground, albeit in front of larger crowds than the average pub?) and playing safe rather than discovering new approaches to music. Payment rates would be illegally low if you figured in the time you have to spend on most gigs even apart from the blood, sweat and tears involved in getting everything organised.
Still, while there is clearly more to music than gigging, I’m not ready to give up on gigs just yet!