Recent Wisdoms

MANAGING A SHOW

It used to be, going as far back as the beginning of when clubs started having live music, a band was not told how long or short of a set you'd be expected to play or what gear you could or couldn't bring. You were given a block of time, and what you did with it was your own business. You had the stage from, say, 10 until 11 -- setup, sound check, set length, and tear down were all on the bands shoulders. If you could set up all your own gear in 5 minutes, sound check for 2 or 3, play a 40-45 minute set and strike your gear with the remaining time, then you'd get to play 45 minutes. But you had to be off the stage completely by 11. If you couldn't, well, you'd quickly learn to do so because if you blew it, and could only pull off a short set, you'd have a hard time booking with that booker/venue again until you proved you could do it. And that's the way it should be. Being in a live act requires that you learn to be a professional, and behave as such not just in engaging with people, but in managing your time and gear.

Somewhere along the way promoters started micromanaging acts. I'd like to ask you to stop it. You may think you're making things better and easier, but you're not. I get that crowds lose interest when there's downtime, and you are tasked with providing entertainment, and trying to manage that dead space, but IMO you're making things worse.

Let the bands that can't cut it, fail. Let them fail, and explain to them that you are putting them on a moratorium for say 6-9 months before you'll give them a 2nd chance. If every booker around did this, (like they used to) bands would be forced to get their shit together. But the things I see going on in the scene are just sabotaging the live acts, and resulting in a lesser quality product.

The goal, as I understand it, is to fill the space, entertain the crowd, keep them in the club, keep them buying drinks, and make money for yourself and the venue. But the way you're doing it is reducing quality. So I have some suggestions/requests.

First off: No backline, no set length, just go back to you have the stage from x until y...what you do with it is up to you, and let the band figure it out. If they fail epically.... let them, give them a hard time about it, and penalize them. Let them know ahead of time what the penalty is and that there are no exceptions. That to fail to get on and off on time is disrespectful of your time, the venue's, the audience's, and the other bands'. What you'll do is force bands to learn how to get setup quickly, how to strike quickly, and how to manage their set length accordingly. And as a result you'll eventually end up with a better show. Bands will learn to be professional, they will come ready to do business. They'll have learned to respect both you, your time, the opportunity they're being given, and you will help to improve the scene.

Don't play music so loud in between sets that you force people to step outside somewhere to have a conversation. I don't see a lot of dancing, or rocking out in between sets anyway, so what's the point. People who are into what's happening on stage will likely purchase their drinks in between sets, so create an atmosphere conducive to bar conversation.

People leave the club for a multitude of reasons, to have a smoke, have a conversation, get some air, get high, and finally out of boredom. So perhaps a little entertainment between sets is in order. Maybe book some comedians, or have some sort of audience participation in between. Don't just rely on the acts themselves to hold your alcohol and food buying clientele.

Raffles that you have to be present for to win have always worked for audience retention. I'm sure there are tons of other methods. Be creative. Be a trend setter. Maximize your profits.

If your sound person is lazy (Or if you're not paying him/her enough to care) and you absolutely must backline a drum kit, use a high quality 5 piece kit, not just whichever kit you can get a band to volunteer. And unless all the bands utilize a 4 piece, kit, don't use a 4 piece... All top notch venues that WANT to book live music, and cram as much of that as they can into one evening should have a high quality 5 piece kit on hand. (The drummers can then just bring their cymbals, snare, pedals and/or hardware.) The 4 bangers can simply ignore one of the rack toms, or take one tom off, and/or move the other one over, if that's their preference, but don't hamstring drummers by taking away a tom. You wouldn't hand the guitar player just whatever guitar you could get someone from another band to volunteer for community use, and it just happens to only have 5 strings on it, and say, "Here, have a great show. I know you're used to playing with 6, and the music you play uses all 6, but you'll figure it out." ​ So, please stop disrespecting drummers with a less than ample backline.

If you can't do all of this booking 5-6 bands a night, then only book 4. Live music is a quality game, not quantity.

Bands themselves have to do their part as well...

Bands -- get the fuck off stage after your set. Pull everything off to a place where you can be out of the way, so the next band can set up. Don't wrap cables, or bag drums, or break down stands, or put your pedal board in it's case on stage. Get everything out of the way, and do all the organizing and packing off stage.

Before your set, when you can, pre-stage your gear. Take your pedal board out of it's case, and wire it up if need be. If you have any special gear get it out, and pre-set so you can just plug it all in and go. Assemble and stage as much of your drum kit as you can beforehand.

On your own time, find out which speaker you want miked and where you like the mic placement to be, and mark it with some tape, so setting up a mic is simple for the FOH person. Try to work out everything you see happening with your gear at the gig and how to make it easiest for yourselves and for the person or persons helping deliver a great sounding show.

If you want your band's name on the kick drum, and the backlined kit has the same size head, bring your head and change it out. Or better yet, get multiple drum heads made in 22", 24" 26" and bring those. And budget the time needed to change it and then change it back. If that means bringing your little brother along to do that...... Just be prepared. Sit down as a band and talk about these things. I'm sure you'll come up with even better ways to make sure you have a great show.

Practice getting setup, and tearing down quickly. When you have rehearsal after you've played a gig or any time you've torn down, time yourself setting up. Get it under 5 minutes. No wasted motion. You can do it. You don't want to overlook something by rushing. And if you're not used to doing quick setups, you will miss shit when you rush, so you need to get in the habit of doing it quickly all the time, and it becoming a routine. --

We played a gig once where they only allotted us 10 minutes for setup and they wanted us to use the backlined 4 piece kit, and we wanted to use our own 5 piece. The promoter was afraid that it would take us 15 minutes to get setup and level checked which would screw up the whole schedule. -- We were set up, dialed in, finished with level check, and ready to play in 8 minutes. And we have a ton of gear plus 3 part harmony. But we learned early to get up and running fast, so we have more time to dial stuff in, get a good stage mix, assist FOH in getting the best sound we can in the house and onstage, and then try to put on the best show we can in the remaining time and get our gear the fuck off stage super fast for whoever is next. Or, if we play last, get out of there ASAP, so that the venue personnel can finish their night and go home. None of us in this band are superhuman. We're all a bunch of idiots. If we can do it, so can you.

The music scene is a family of sorts, we are not each other's enemies. We all have to work together as a team. Venues, bookers, and bands need to respect each other, and work towards making a scene that everyone wants to be a part of, participate in, and to help it grow. But it's hard for things to not devolve into resentment and contempt when either party feels disrespected.

Bands need to respect everyone's time. The venue, the talent buyer, the other bands, the sound personnel, and the audience.

Talent buyers need to respect the bands, and help train them to be professionals that can show up and deliver their act in the allotted time. (teach a man to fish...blah blah blah) It will make your life easier. Like I said, be creative. You want to make money and the best way to do that, is to be creative in how you retain your crowds and incentivize them to stay and keep spending cash.