In the last four months I’ve played three gigs. All of them have been solo gigs, all of them a hell of a lot of fun, and all of them have happened because of lovely people I met on the internet.

Comrade Robot have been gigging on and off for about six years. We’ve played mostly on the London acoustic circuit and in that time we got used to being one of the few good things on the bill, not because we were amazing (all right, I think we are amazing. But I’m biased) but because a lot of promoters on the London acoustic circuit are just plain lazy.

There are plenty of promoters in London who hire a cheap room, but on whatever five acts they can get their hands on, charge a fiver and only pay the acts once they’re past a certain of audience members who have come to see that particular act. Band X gets 20 people in? Five quid. Band Y gets ten people in? Nothing.

That’s a crap deal. Crap for the performer yes, but more importantly it’s bad for both the audience and the promoter. I got to the point where I was embarrassed to ask friends and family to come and see us, because I couldn’t guarantee the rest of the night would be worth watching. They might have to sit through three or four awful acts before it came to us. Why would I want them to do that?

And why would the promoter? These guys never build up regular audiences for their night because they don’t see it as their mission to always put on amazing acts. This is London. With a reasonable amount of effort you can find four or five world-class musicians who will be happy to play an interesting gig for a reasonable share of the door money. It shouldn’t be difficult. Instead there are countless promoters who put on any old crap because the ten mates each band pulls along is enough to make a bit of a profit. But it’s a different set of punters every night, cos no-one ever wants to come back.

In short, I wasn’t enjoying these gigs, and stopped doing them.

Then in March I took part in the London FAWM Over Party – a lovely little gig in which London based songwriters who took part in February Album Writing Month met up and took turns to play songs to each other.

(It included this impromptu band – a wonderful, pick up your instrument, grab a chord sheet, launch into a song you’ve never heard with no discussion sort situation. Raucus, silly and wonderful.)

Was it a business venture? No. Did it make money? Yes, it did. Performers were happy to donate for the hire of the room and any surplus was donated to the FAWM.org website.

In the last month I’ve also done my first Ustream gig, and played at a great new comedy and music venture called ‘Date horse’. The Ustream gig was easily the most fun I’ve had at a gig in ages. I played about 50 minutes of solo stuff, and was greatly entertained by the lovely people in the chat room while doing so. Date Horse was even more fun, as it contained a mixture of comedy and music all on the theme of horror (the theme changes every week).

There are decent gigs out there, even for musicians who can’t yet draw large audiences. I’ve had some truly lovely people say some truly lovely things about my last three gigs, and i get the impression that people had genuinely enjoyed themselves, and I would much rather that than try to get people to a dingy pub on a wet weekday in the middle of London to see one good act and maybe three okay-to-mediocre acts.

All of these recent gigs, needless to say, have happened because of lovely people I’ve met through the internet. Yay for new technology.

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