A showcase gig is an introduction to an audience for a new act. It also sometimes serves as an opportunity for an established act or band to present new material.
Showcase gigs (also called showcase concerts, music showcases, or simply showcases) sometimes represent great opportunities for you to get your music in front of people who can help you get ahead in the industry. But they're not always advisable.
Here are some details on showcase gigs and how they're used in the music industry.
Who Uses Showcase Gigs?
There are several different ways that showcase gigs are offered.
In some cases, labels organize showcase gigs in an effort to get their new signees some press exposure. If your label offers this, it may be mandatory (or all but mandatory) for you to participate. However, it shouldn't cost you anything to participate, either, and it will give you a chance to impress the press. All in all, these types of showcase gigs are mostly win-win for labels and bands.
In other cases, unsigned acts play showcases in the hopes of impressing someone in the industry enough to get a deal. These shows may be arranged by music industry magazines or other media outlets, or at music conventions, and may be attended by music industry contacts whom you would like to impress.
Showcases can be handy for labels or others who have enough pull to get the right people out to see musicians. Obviously, being chosen to play at one of these showcase shows indicates someone thinks enough of your band to put you in front of their industry contacts, and that's a good thing, as long as you're not being asked to pay for the chance to play.
Don't Ever Pay for a Showcase Gig
If you're offered the chance to play a showcase gig in exchange for paying a fee, run the other way—fast. These outlets are taking advantage of unsigned musicians and their desire to advance in the music industry by promising them a chance to get in front of important industry people, in exchange for money (in some cases, lots of money).
In fact, some of these showcases charge thousands of dollars for minutes on stage, and there is absolutely no guarantee that anyone who can do your music career any good will be in the audience. Sadly, chances are, they won't be. These types of pay-top-play gigs often attract other types of industry lowlifes who will be just as eager to prey on eager, unsigned musicians and the organizers of the showcase gig themselves.
If you are tempted by a paid showcase opportunity, do your homework and find out who attended past events and whether anyone has ever had success finding a deal at that particular event. Most worthwhile showcases, like showcases at music industry trade shows, do not charge musicians to play and will be honest about who they expect to attend.
The Bottom Line
Music industry showcase gigs potentially can help you advance your music career. But beware of gigs that require you to pay in order to play.