Last week we covered Dealing with Sound Engineers and Dealing with Promoters/Venue Operators.
This is our last part of the series: During the Performance and After the Performance
9. During the Performance
- Do avoid “dead air”. (moments of silence where no music or between song banter is being projected from the stage.) Audiences lose interest quickly in quiet moments. If the band isn’t playing, the singer should be talking to the audience otherwise it’s awkward. If you’ve heard this phenomena on radio before, it’s very weird and considered the worst thing in the industry. It’s pretty much the same on stage. Nothing worse than a deadly silence.
- Do engage your audience and show them appreciation for coming to see you.
- Don’t mumble when addressing the audience. Speak slowly and clearly so that they can understand you. It also doesn’t hurt to be funny but “in jokes” that only the band will get will always fall flat. Trust me.
- Do mention your band name at least three times during your performance so those who don’t know you have the opportunity to remember who you are. Three times is usually the key amount of repetition for something to stick in people’s heads and you want your name to be remembered.
- Do make mention of your online presence if you have one (and you should have one! If you don’t, then get one!) The audience should be made aware of where they can find you and your products once the show is over.
- Do let the audience know if you have CDs or merchandise to sell. Tell them that it is available and where they can get it from. Most bands make more money out of selling this sort of stuff than they do from what the venue will pay them to perform. It’s all well and good to have the stuff for sale but you also need to sell it. Telling people to go buy it during your show is the best advertising you can do.
- Do prepare your set list so that your songs flow. Try to avoid having songs bunched together that are in the same key or tempo. A good set is like a good album and a good album is like a good movie. It follows a story. There are highs and lows and changes in direction. There is also a climax near to the end. This is a formula that works.
- Do encourage your audience to get up close to you (but not to cross the line.) It is your job to whip them up and get them to enjoy themselves.
- Don’t encourage your audience to behave badly. Every venue has safety rules in regards to what the audience is allowed to do. These rules are there for a reason and are not to be broken.
- Don’t give concert security guards a hard time for doing their job, especially through a microphone. If an audience member is doing the wrong thing it is their job to deal with it according to the rules of the venue and inciting the crowd against them by mouthing off from your position on stage is not productive. In fact it is an awful thing to do to anyone who is trying to do a job. He’s most likely not coming up to the stage and telling you and your audience that you suck at what you do. Show them the same respect. They often put themselves in grave danger and it’s usually to protect others. It’s mostly a thankless task and most of the guys I’ve met that do it a lovely people who always try to do the right thing. Sometimes that can be really hard in their position. Cut them some slack.
- Do make sure your set runs exactly to time or is a little shorter (no more than 5 minutes short). Never run over your allotted stage time. Be aware that the adrenalin you experience at a gig might make you play songs a little faster than in the rehearsal studio. Take this into consideration when forming your set list.
- Do leave your ego at home. It doesn’t matter how good you are and how much you know it. Be humble and appreciative of those who have come to see you.
- Do get into your music, be passionate in your performance. The audience won’t be excited about it if you’re not.
- Don’t apologise if you make a mistake when playing or even totally screw up a song. Just move on to the next thing. Preferably with a laugh.
- Don’t get bogged down in “the past” or “the future” when playing. Be in the moment. If you make a mistake, let it go and get back on track. It’s no use worrying about the wrong note you played in the last bar or the one you have to hit in the next chorus. Be present on the note you are on.
- Don’t give your fellow band members grief if they stuff something up. Bad energy between band members on stage not only leads to more mistakes and poor performance but the audience can sense when things aren’t right between the band and it reduces their enjoyment of the show.
- Don’t over-contrive your on stage show. Be spontaneous. Be yourselves. Don’t try to conform to the look of a performance that you have seen another band do. Be original.
- Do take a moment to thank the venue and the staff and the other bands on the bill with you publicly during your set. A show of appreciation from a band on stage goes a long way. Partly because it’s just nice to recognized and thanked for the work you do but partly because it creates a good sentiment amongst the crowd towards the venue and that generally adds to the likelihood of their return custom.
- Don’t cross the punter barrier (if there is one) into the audience during a performance.
- Do announce to the audience when you are about to play your last song. This serves as a cue to the engineer and stage staff that they should prepare for the changeover.
10. After the Performance
- Do move your equipment off stage before packing it down and do so quickly and efficiently.
- Don’t hang around on stage talking to fans or each other about your show. Make way for the next act. If you are the last band on the bill, the same rule applies. Clear the way for staff to pack down the stage equipment.
- Do remove your equipment quickly from the venue. Venue staff will wish to pack things away, clean up and go home. They do not want to hang around while you bask in the success of your show. If you want or need to debrief, do it in the car park after you’ve loaded the van or better yet, go somewhere else. It’s likely that hanging out in the carpark is not going to be looked on as a suitable place to be after closing either.
- Don’t leave rubbish on stage or around the venue. Absolutely don’t leave empty beer bottles in the carpark!! Bins are usually provided. Use them or take your rubbish with you.
- Do double check before you leave that you have everything that you brought with you. The venue will take no responsibility for equipment that is left behind.
- Do check in with the venue operator before you leave to make sure they were happy with your show and the amount of people who came to see you. Tell them that you enjoyed playing there and use the opportunity to sound them out about playing there again somewhere down the track. Briefly mention what ideas you might have for bringing a bigger crowd the next time you play there. But don’t waste their time or keep them talking for too long. They’ll want to get out of there and there are probably dozens of things they need to do before they go. They won’t want you distracting them from that so this can backfire on you if you are not careful.
- Do thank the staff on your way out.
These guidelines apply to all venues you perform in. At least I imagine they would. I’ve worked in a lot of venues and spoken to a lot of other engineers/venue operators and they seem to be the same across the board. They are part of presenting yourselves as professional musicians and they are important to adhere to if you intend to pursue a career in the music industry. Not doing them might be the difference between you getting another show and not. As I said, most of them are common sense or fall under the category of good manners but not one of them is something I haven’t come across being done wrong at some point. Most of them get ignored on a weekly basis at a venue near you.
Hopefully you’ll already be doing all of these things correctly or have picked up something from this series that you’ll recognize that you’ve been guilty of doing or not doing and you’ll remedy it at your next show. You might even be surprised just how much better your sound is, your show is and the mood of those working at the venue you’re performing in has improved.