The gigging thereminist...

Posted: 9/12/2006 1:37:17 PM

Joined: 4/28/2005

Assume a person, with good musical sensibilities and reasonable musical talent, learns to play a theremin well enough to play in public, either along with pre-recorded back-up, or with another musician (say, a piano or guitar player).

Are there really many opportunities for such an individual (or duo) to get gigs (even non-paying gigs)? In my town (120,000 population), there are open microphone nights at bars, several coffeehouses that have folk singers do 1-hour sets, etc. Are these the types of venues where such an "act" would work?

I don't mean the thread to be negative in the least, but I am just wondering, where do thereminists (either solo or in very small groups) get gigs? Obviously, playing at home just for the love of it, is the most important aspect of playing any musical instrument. But are there really opportunities for someone who aspires to be a gigging thereminist??



Posted: 9/12/2006 2:45:27 PM

From: Morrisville, PA

Joined: 10/19/2005

You've arrived at the FUN PART. It's the part where the thereminist must learn self-marketing, simply because there's no one else to do it. It's the part that many people ( thereminists or otherwise ) find the most time consuming and difficult.

Once you're ready to play in public, you put on your walking shoes and pound the pavement. You write letters. You work up a press kit and create a demo CD. You hand your "I'm a Thereminist" business cards around to everyone like they were bowls of mixed nuts. You make phone calls. You research venues and organizations that might be interested. How far outside your own town you go is up to you.

To think of this stage as a negative is to doom oneself to the occasional fluke opportunity. The old saying "good things come to those who wait" was written by someone who never played the theremin -- if you sit and wait for the phone to ring, you'll usually wait a long time. Truth is, and most musicians are in the same boat -- you MAKE your own opportunities.

Every theremin player I know gets the gigs by sheer persistence and doggedly pursuing every avenue to find bookings.

Short-cuts, if they ever happen, are luck ( right place right time) -- the rest of it is just doing the work.
Posted: 9/13/2006 7:32:21 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

A few extra comments to schielenkrahe's good advice.

For every old saying there is another, saying just the opposite. So for "good things come to those who wait" there is "fortune favours the bold." While I was undoubtedly lucky in getting my first contract, it wasn't dumb luck - it was being out there and getting myself noticed that did the trick.

That thereminists are rare can work to your advantage. I have noticed that a lot of players are members of more than one band. That's a smart move - every time one of the bands gets a gig, you get a gig. So get involved in the local music scene - go to gigs, buy the band a drink afterwards.

Offer a quality product. A persistent advertising campaign may get your foot in the door, but a weak gig will make sure you don't get a second performance.

There's an opportunity coming up in about three weeks time - Halloween. (I'll be playing to an audience of five year olds. That's cool - my friend Liz does the best kid's parties, she really goes the whole nine yards with decorations and costumes. How could she resist someone who plays the original spooky woo-woo box? I'll be devising an appropriate set, and it'll be a blast.)

Perhaps next year I'll be more confident and approach some local clubs and pubs for their All Hallows Ball. And I have a couple of friends in the local Am-Drams, so I could make sure they think of me when they do A Christmas Carol, or something in the sci-fi genre. Hmm. The more I think about it, the more opportunities there are. Maybe you could throw a party for all your new-found music-biz friends and let them persuade you to play.

Here's a neat one. Give people the opportunity to discover you! Record labels and event organisers are plagued with bands telling them how great they are. And most of them aren't. So they all get tarred with the same bush. Maybe one or two get listened to. But that's just dumb luck.

I wish I could claim it was intentional and carefully planned, but this was how I got my first gig. I emailed the organiser and asked her directions to an up-coming show. I think mentioning that I was looking at a satellite photo of the venue on Google Earth and was the car park across the road on the other side of the wall public or private? kind of caught her attention first, but it probably didn't hurt that I was using my email address and had a link to my mySpace site in my sig.

Bless her, she followed the link and "discovered" me. I wonder how many emails from bands claiming to be the best thing ever got completely ignored that day.

Oh, and don't forget that that the theremin is interesting from an educational point of view, both historically as the original electronic instrument and from it's hands-free mode of playing. Talk to your local schools and colleges.

Posted: 9/13/2006 8:56:23 AM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

All of the above is good advice.

Here are some of the places I have gotten gigs, both paid and non-paid:

Open mic nights. I have done this with other players and solo. Once I also read some of my strange poetry accompanied by a loop of my theremin playing.

Bars/Clubs. I play theremin in one of my bands and I will be introducing it to the others as time and gigs permit.

Events. My city has amonthly event where many of the art galleries and other venues downtown showcase visual art. Many of these places have live music as well.

Art show openings. I haven't actually done one of these with my theremin but it is on my list for future gigs. I have played a few with various bands and they can be a lot of fun. Pretty lucrative too. A friend of mine recently had a show at his house and sold $11,000.00 worth of his work. He is pretty well established in the art scene in his city and has been working on his craft for many years.

He had a guitarist playing but I remember thinking it just as well could have been a thereminist. (and it could have been me!)

Parties/Corporate Events. Often there are bands at these things. Usually they want dance music but you never know.

When we hosted the Superbowl a couple of years ago I got some gigs then. It seemed as if everyone wanted a band.

Festivals. I used to play the Florida Folk Festival every year (guitar and percussion) as well as some hippy/jam band types of festivals around the state. They are everywhere and I bet they would have a slot for you.

If you have a local weekly newspaper (the lind that has left-leaning stories and features on the local art scene) they are often full of concert announcements and event ads.

Spread out a copy and start circling anything that sounds interesting. Then make some phone calls and visits.

Halloween is a great time for thereminists. Ask around about parties and events and I will bet you can be playing at one (or more) of these things and walking away with some extra cash in your pocket.

Good luck and let me know if I missed anything.
Posted: 9/13/2006 11:54:01 AM

From: UK

Joined: 2/15/2005

1. Join a band There are many opportunities for a thereminist in all kinds of bands. I've been in various bands since i got my first theremin years ago, and haven't looked back. If you can play other instruments too, you've got it made.

2. Musician's night. Team up with a singer-guitarist type person (beforehand or on the night) and just do it. Or! Make backing tracks and do it solo.

I alway frame it as: "I'm in control and can do this any way I like, particuarly as the instrument is so 'unusual'."

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