I have been lucky enough to be a performer of music for over six years. In this time, I have seen a number of musicians, both experienced and amateur act in ways that are not professional and courteous in a live music setting. I have compiled a list of some of the most important rules of etiquette for gigging musicians.
- Move Your Gear Quickly – Musicians of every caliber seem to struggle with this rule. Be it the drummer disassembling their entire set on stage, or guitar players waiting until the band before them has finished before moving their amps out of their cars, I have seen countless musicians spend longer moving equipment than they spend performing. When this happens, not only does the crowd lose interest in your band, but they lose interest in all of the other bands. It also causes frustration for the other musicians, the sound person, and the owner of the venue. Simply put, move your gear inside as soon as you arrive at the venue, assemble it before you move it on stage, and move it off stage as quickly as possible. You’ll have time to disassemble and pack your gear once you’re out of the way of the next band.
- Be On Time – This falls in the same area of courtesy as the first rule. When you’re not on time, everybody else at the show has to wait for you to catch up. Arrive when told to by the venue. If they do not tell you a time, ask. If the venue seems casual, get there when the doors open or at least an hour before your set time.
- Meet The Sound Person – Here’s a piece of advice that was given to me by an early music mentor, Tony DeLaRosa. “The Sound guy is your best friend.” Any time that a venue has a sound person, make sure to introduce yourself and thank him for doing his job. He will often also take this chance to ask you about the specifications of your band. While more professional venues will require a stage plot, at the basic level, you should at least know how many mics you’ll need, if your band has backing tracks, the genre of your group, and what instruments everyone plays. By meeting with the sound person, you can not only establish a good connection, but also make sure that the venue knows all of your technical requirements.
- Keep Your Gear In One Spot – As a band, it is to your personal benefit to keep your gear in a tight and small area of the venue. Check with the venue to see where you should store your equipment and make sure everyone in your band keeps their gear together in a way that uses up little floor space. This not only helps keep you from forgetting and losing gear, but gives the other bands room to store their equipment as well.
- Thank The Venue – Both on stage and in person, it’s important to let the venue know that you appreciate them letting you play. This applies regardless if you’re getting paid or you have played the venue before. Not only does this increase the likelihood of the venue calling you to play again, but also gives you a chance to tell people to get a drink, tip the servers, etc.
- Ask About Merchandise – Once your band has merch, it’s always a good idea to check with the venue to see where you can set up a merch table. It’s an even better idea to bring your own table and merch person instead of having to rely on the venue for these things. Once you get to high-level shows, some venues will start taking a percentage of your merch sales. Be sure this is discussed and settled before you arrive at the venue.
- Stay For The Other Bands – It should be noted that I do not stay for every single band that plays with me. However, I always make an effort to watch a couple of the bands. I can say from experience that when bands see you in the crowd enjoying their music, they are far more likely to stay and enjoy your music. This is even more true when you take the time to go see a band when you’re not performing with them. The general rule of thumb is that you should stick around for as many bands as you will enjoy seeing. It never hurts to build connections.
- Ask The Venue – Always take the time to talk to people who own the venue. Before the show, discuss payment, tips, merchandise, load-in, soundcheck and anything else you can think of. The day of the show, ask where to load gear, where to place merch, and other details that might be important the day of the show. It is better to make sure every question is answered before you get on stage. Anything that is left up in the air is going to come back to hurt you.
For beginner musicians, check out the video below for information on how to get your band ready for the stage.