The 25 Band Commandments
As a band building a professional relationship with venues, talent buyers, promoters and other bands is extremely important. The reality is that anyone who has been the industry for any period of time knows and comes in contact with a great number of people that will affect your future bookings and career. Now, you might think that burning a venue in some small city will not come back to haunt you but the reality is that often that venue, the promoter or the bands will have a relationship with others in the business in the regional area and in some cases nationwide.
I mean what do you think we all talk about when we get together? The weather? Regardless of the type of relationship, at some point, the subject of people and bands we worked with will come up. One thing all bands should know is that most of the people in the live music industry have developed a long memory and a large network. So, regardless of where they show is, you never know who you are really dealing with.
That said chances are that in the future you are going to want to play this venue again. Otherwise, why are you playing there in the first place? Personally, I'm not one to blackball a band but there have been a number of bands or maybe more precisely band members that have caused me to stop doing any business with them.
So, here's a few things that you don't want to do and don't worry I'm planning on doing one for venues too. If you are in a band and would like to contribute to that, please contact me.
- Thou Shall Not Arrive Late. This is a huge one and often sets the tone of the whole event. I know there are a lot of flakey sound engineers and venues that do not run on time but that isn't the norm. If the load in is 3pm, it means that staff will be at the venue waiting for you to show up. If a mechanical or uncontrollable event is keeping you from getting to the venue on time, contact the venue, promoter or whoever is the showrunner and let them know. Part of being in a band, touring with a band or being in showbiz, is rushing somewhere just to sit and wait. Your time is not any more valuable than anyone else's.
- Thou Shall Not Leave Until the Show is Over. Oh, man is this a huge one. Along with #6. If you want people to support you, why would you leave as soon as you play? I know there are family obligations, jobs, rough tour schedules but I have had bands leave so they could go drinking at another bar. Really? Not only is that unfair to other bands but if you are local and you want a venue to play, shouldn't want to support it to make sure it stays open?
- Thou Shall Promote Your Shows. I wrote a whole blog on how to Promote Shows that can be found here. I know many are slapping their foreheads on this one but it is increasingly surprising how many bands will not even bother to mention the show on their Social Network Pages. Now I'm not saying just make a post on the day the show is announced but the day it's announced, the day before and the day of ithe show n the least. Also, the members should post on their own newsfeeds. Then there is word of mouth, handbills, blackmail, guilt, selling tickets, and networking by going out to see other bands.
- Thou Shall Not Tag or Vandalize the Venue's Walls Without Permission. Most venues have a wall or somewhere that they allow bands to tag or put up stickers. When in doubt, ask. Chances are they are going to be honored that you want to let people you played there. Now, this doesn't include art pieces, empty walls, bathroom stalls and anywhere else that seems free of stickers and tags. Also, don't trash the dressing room or other areas of the venue. This doesn't make you a rock star, it makes you a douchebag. Most venues are a home to the local music scene and should be treated with respect.
- Thou Shall Not Set Up On Stage. Believe it or not, I have had local and touring acts carry one drum piece up on a stage and set up the drums on stage. Then when they got done, start tearing down their drums. The same thing has happened with guitar peddles. Always stage your equipment and then load on stage. Usually, the change over time is limited and during that time, not only does the band need to clear the stage but the other band needs to load on equipment and the sound engineer needs to set up mics and make adjustments. You taking 10 minutes to unscrew each nut and bolt and carry a piece off stage is a waste of everyone else's time.
- Thou Shall Watch Other Bands. Yes, venues, promoters, talent buyers, and other bands pay attention to this and I have to say the bands that I saw going on to bigger success where the ones that watched every single band that played. Part of it is respect but a lot of it is if you aren't a fan of live music than why are you in a band in the first place. If I have to choose one band over another, I'm going to pick the one that every member was up front enjoying themselves when the other bands were playing.
- Thou Shall Not Bring In Outside Booze. I understand that booze can be costly and most venues are unwilling to give bands all the free drinks they want. However, if you can't afford to buy drinks and need to bring in outside alcohol, then maybe you have a drinking problem. Add to that the fact that in most states it is legal to allow outside alcohol on the property, you bringing that bottle into the venue could be the reason it gets shut down. If booze is important to you, mention it and work out a deal when you book the show.
- Thou Shall Not Sneak Your Friends in Or Abuse The Guest list. Everyone likes getting into shows for free and let's face it, it's a bit of an ego boost to put your buddy on the guestlist. However, just about every show has a backend and it will affect one or all of the band's payment. So, in a way, it's basically stealing. Over the years, I've learned to limit the guestlist and began to notice that many local bands suddenly started showing up with 4 or 5 band members and about 10 other people that are somehow working for the band. Too often those 10 people are pretty much the only people that would, in fact, pay to see that band. I'm sorry no local needs 3 "techs", 2 Mech sale persons, a lighting engineer and 2 people that are supposedly management.
- Thou Shall Not Demand Unbudgeted Hospitality. As a band, your pay is often based on ticket sales minus the production and hospitality costs. If there is a hospitality budget, it is a set amount. Yes, your rider may state that you get $6,000 worth of crap to stock your bus but if the budget is $50 that you are only going to get $50 worth of stuff. If there is no hospitality budget that means no hospitality, The venue doesn't have a magic booze fountain in the basement where all the free beer, whiskey, vodka, and soda flows freely, everything costs money. If you look at your deal, you might notice that most of the cash money coming in at the door is going to the bands and to pay staff needed to host the show. So, don't pester the bartenders for more booze or refuse to play because you didn't get your artisan bacon flavored chips and onion dip. If you have an issue with hospitality, you need to talk to your agent or who set up the show.
- Thou Shall Not Leave Equipment at the Venue. Believe it or not, this happens almost weekly. You would think that each member of a band would make sure that everything got back in the trailer or van but often with different people loading equipment, dealing with selling merch or talking to fans, people forget stuff. Surprisingly they are often expensive and rather large items that should have been noticed. Every band should have one or two members that are assigned as the Idiot Check Person(s). They armed with a good flashlight will check the venue for forgotten items. Also, it is a good idea to have a checklist. I say all this because it sucks to get to the next date and realize that you left an important item at the last venue but because it sucks to ship musical equipment.
- Thou Shall Not Disrespect the Venue/Promoter Staff. A band came be made or burnt in a market by the staff of a venue. You may never play that venue again but I can guarantee that everyone who works at that venue is contacted to the local scene and if you are an asshole, they will tell everyone. It doesn't matter how great you are, if you're a jerk it will turn people off to your music. The venue's sound engineer wants to get the best sound out of the system, listen to him, he knows the room better than you or your sound engineer. Be nice to the engineer, learn the proper way to signal him if you need something adjusted. If you don't know how, spend 5 minutes with him and learn them. Also, if any of the staff seems busy doing something important don't yell at them over and over. They all have a job to do and will be happy to help you when they are free.
- Thou Shall Not Play Longer Than Scheduled. If there is a schedule for a show there is a reason. It is either because time needs to be allowed for other time for the bands on the bill. Yes, they may be getting 45 minutes and you only 30 but chances are they are a larger draw and/or earned the right to that longer set. The other reason could be that there is a curfew that has to be kept. If you pay over your time, the headliner may not be able to play their full set and often a majority of the people that paid to see they show are their fans. How, do you think their reaction will be when their favorite band's set it cut short because you were in the "zone". Often a short set with the crowd fully into for 30 minutes is much better than a 45 minute set where the crowd bored and thinned out towards the end. If you consider how tight you can get a shorter set and how much the crowd will be wanting more when you are done. I have to say that I have heard more people say, "That band played too long." than I do, "That band should have played for another hour."
- Thou Shall Not Ask to Get Paid Before the Show is Over. Unless there is something that is going to require you to leave before a show is over, there is no reason not to stick it out to the end. The reality is that tickets are on sale until the end of the show and the totals have not been counted until then. You should never expect payment until at least 30 minutes after a show ends.
- Thou Shall Advance the Event. 100% of misunderstanding and screw-ups can be solved by simply advancing the show a week before the date. Cover load in, sound check, door times, set time, hospitality and special needs. Don't show up an hour after load in and start arguing over where your chips and towels are when you didn't even bother to find out when you were supposed to arrive at the venue.
- Thou Shall Not Disrespect Fans or Customers of the Venue. This is a given. For all the reasons that you don't disrespect staff, you shouldn't disrespect the customers of the venue regardless of whether or not they are your fans. You as a performing artist are in fact a contracted employee of the venue. It might be for only one night but treat people the same way you would at any service industry job you may have had. Fans are in a way repeat customers and if you want them to come back treat them well and go out of your way to give them the best experience possible. As a member of a band, you should make a point of trying to talk to anyone that showed interest in your band. That is building a fan base 101. If they feel a personal connection to you, they will be fans for life.
- Thou Shall Not Disrespect Local and Support Bands and Their Equipment. You may have the big bus and all the perks but all too often the people that got the word out and made sure there were people at the show, was the local band. Check them out when they are playing. Make a point of meeting them. Hang out with them and talk about music, life, etc... Chances are they are fans and it will make the experience all that better. Treat them terribly and they will go out of their way to make sure that every fan you have in that area knows that you were an asshole. I know it might not seem like that big of a deal but most smaller band members invest every extra dime they have in their equipment, just because it might seem like a pile of junk to you, it doesn't mean that you can just throw it out of your way. I have witnessed a tech at the instruction of the guitarist he worked for to toss some poor kids amp off a stage because it was in the way. When I asked why he thought that was OK to do, he didn't have an answer.
- Thou Shall Not Creep Out Every Female in the Venue. Yes, you may think that you are rocks gift to women but I highly doubt that most of the female population feel that way. Just because they seem extremely interested in you doesn't me they want to have sex with you, it means that they are a fan. As a fan, they should be treated with the same respect that you would any other fan. As women, you should treat them with the same respect. Same goes for men.
- Thou Shall Clean Up After Yourself Yes this means that you shouldn't just leave the stage cluttered with beer bottles, used towels and wrappers. Same goes for the dressing room. Yes, the venue staff are used to cleaning this up but they shouldn't have too. They are not your mother. Also, don't just throw the garbage from your van or bus into the parking lot or street.
- Thou Shall Not Over Value Yourself. I come across this from time to time where a band has a meeting and decides that even though they can't seem to draw 5 people on a Saturday night, they should get $100 each to play. Here's the deal your value as a band is the number of butts you can put in seats. If you have 5 members and draw less than 50 people, you have to ask your fellow band members why they can't get 10 people each out to a gig.
- Thou Shall Not Cancel Unless It Isn't Humanly Posible Proform. Unless you are deathly ill, can't physically get to the show or there has been a tragedy in your family, you play the gig. Cancelling shows not only puts the venue in a situation where they are losing money but it also tends to anger fans. It makes you look like you are not reliable and they will avoid going to shows in the future because you might cancel at the last minute. I don't care if your name is wrong on the poster or there only seems to be 5 RSVPs, you never know how many people will show up or how important that show will be until you walk on to the stage.
- Thou Shall Not Argue Over Order. I know your ego says that you are the greatest band ever and that you should always play last, the turth maybe that you are playing a new market and no one knows who you are yet or that the fans of the other bands on the bill have never seen you. So maybe playing second is a better option.
- Thou Shall Not Tell Your Fans When You are Playing. This also seems like an ego thing and I know that sometimes fans have schedule conflicts and may not show up if the show doesn't fit their schedule. The thing is that if you are a support band and the venue/promoter and touring band is relying on your band to bring your fans to the show and you tell them all that you are playing from 7:30 to 8pm. They show up at 7:15 and start leaving as soon as you're done. Meaning the venue loses out on drink and food sales they would have had if your fans were there longer and the touring band plays to you and the two guys that came from out of town.
- Thou Shall Not Promote Shows At Other Venues From Stage. This is a respect issue, if you are playing a show at another venue on the same night that they are having an event, it's kind of disrespectable. It would be like going to a restaurant and yelling at the top of your lungs the menu for another restaurant. Ask the venue if it's OK to do or ask if you can hand out handbills for the other show.
- Thou Shall Not Schedule Shows In the Same Market Too Close Together. No fan, no matter how much they love you is really interested in seeing you 5 times a month. If you notice that your draw is getting smaller, consider that you are playing out too much. Let's say your fan base is 100 fans. If you play 3 shows in a month one is $5, one is Free and one is opening for a huge act and the tickets are $15. You are going to get 30 fans at the $5 show. 60 fans at the free one. Then one that really counts, you're lucky to get 10 through the door and out of that 10, 9 of them would have been there even if you weren't on the bill.
- Thou Shall Not Play Your Guitar or Instrument Unless You Are On Stage. There is no reason that you need to set up your amp and play it non-stop while other bands are loading on to the stage or waiting for the doors to open. If you need to warm up gets some headphones. Drummers buy some drum pads. No one except you wants to hear your guitar ramblings or your worn up exercises at full volume. If you are having equipment issues, I can see strumming and I can see tuning but 25 minutes straight of guitar solos? No one, especially the staff that deals with loud music all day long or the other bands wants to hear it.
I know that I'm only scratching the surface but please consider these in as the basics.