I recently played a show where the opening acts were so rude! They acted this way towards the sound man, venue, promoter and to me and the other act…the co-headliners of the show. They were so rude that it was noticeable to my friends and family who had come a long way to see the show. Before the door guy even let any fans inside the venue…the band sent someone to talk to me and asked if they could soundcheck before me, I had already been waiting for my soundcheck for over an hour at this point, the band said “It’ll only take 15 minutes.” I said “sure” and I waited. The band sound checked for over an hour. When they played…it was no better. They didn’t thank any of the openers before them, they didn’t acknowledge that there were two other acts after them, and they didn’t thank the sound man or the venue for letting them play. They didn’t even bring any fans out to the show. They took 20+ minutes to get on stage and 20+ minutes to get off stage which bored the waiting audience. They didn’t stay for any of the openers sets and they left mid-song during my first song, missing my set and the set of the artist after me.
Will I ever play with that opening act again? Probably not…
So you want to act better than that? Good! You should, that’s one way to make connections in this industry. Perhaps that’s one of the keys to success.
Proper Show Etiquette
Here you are! Congrats! You booked a big show! You’re opening for a more well known band in your hometown! You get to play a 30 minute set to a decent sized crowd and maybe you make some of the door tab and get a free meal or drink tickets. Let’s talk about proper show etiquette. Why be nice? It feels better to be a good person. And…the music industry is all about who you know. It’s about the connections that you make. If you want to make connections it’s way easier to make them if you have a good attitude and good show etiquette!
Months or weeks before the show starts, start promoting. Invite all your friends! Invite your family! Invite your peers! Your coworkers! Hell, invite that dude that you met on the train ride home. Know someone that loves going to shows? Invite them! Literally invite every single person you know that is in that town or within a 20 mile radius. [I totally recommend sending personal invitations instead of a copy and paste.] Ask your friends to buy tickets in advance if you can. People are more likely to show up if they buy a pre-sale ticket then a ticket at the door. You can sell pre-sale tickets for a price lower than the door to give people more of an incentive to get the ticket in advance! Make a promo video, a flyer, hang up a flyer at the venue and around town, pass them out, post them on social media. When you post show flyers tag the other bands and the venues socials as well. Maybe they will do the same and you guys can cross promote a little bit! Reach out to the local bands and to the headliner if possible. Make friends with them. Listen to their music. That’s a good start in making a solid connection. You never know who’s going to be successful in the music scene or who you might run into down the line so treat everyone equally and respect every musician, promoter, door person, sound person, venue owner, bartender, reporter, etc.
It’s the day of the big show! Greet everyone who is performing. By now you should know what they look like and sound like from checking out their social media, talking with them, and from listening to their music. Greet the people that are working in the venue as well. Introduce yourself, don’t assume that they know your name or your band name.
Soundcheck quickly. Thank the person doing sound! Remember their name when they introduce you. Call them by name. Say “please.” Thank them at end of the show face to face and give them a CD or sticker to show you are grateful for their existence. You literally probably could have not done this show without them…
Don’t yank out your cable without getting the universal thumbs up sign from the sound person. You don’t want to make an awful noise by yanking it out and you don’t want to damage the PA system or give the audience a headache!
When you set up and breakdown do it quickly. People tend to leave if the changeovers are way too long. Music fans don’t want to wait 30 minutes for you to plug in or get all your stuff off of the stage. Make a plan in advance if you have a lot of stuff to lug on and off stage. Hire a friend to be a roadie for the day!
Even if not many people show up, play your hardest. Maybe there’s an A&R person there, or a reporter, or radio DJ. Or even better…someone that will become a dedicated fan! And have fun! Even if you are having a terrible experience because the other opening band is talking so loudly during your set or they are coming in and out of the venue over and over again distracting everyone, try not to let it get on your nerves. Give the people that are watching a good show. They paid money to see you play. They traveled to see you play. PLAY!
After The Show
You’re off stage. Now what do you do? Hang around your merch table or in the main area. Greet as many of the people that you saw watching you play. Thank them for listening to you and give them a free sticker or a flyer for your next show. When the next band gets on stage, stay for them too. Listen to them play. Stay for the headliners as well. If you have to leave? Try not to walk out in mid-set. Not possible? At least do not walk out mid-song. It’s distracting to people watching and it’s distracting to the performers on stage. It takes a lot of guts to get up on stage…respect that!
It’s all about being mindful. Think about how you want to be treated and treat others the same way. It’s hard to get on a good show, and it’s hard to get a crowd to come see you play when you’re just starting out. Be grateful you got there. Be grateful you get to play live even if it’s just to a handful of people. And if you had a bad experience…learn from it, and go out and try again next time!
All shows have their good moments and bad moments…here’s some of my shows that were fun all the way through…
Written by Ryan Cassata, originally posted on IndieMusicBus on June 21st, 2018
Updated and expanded on January 6th, 2020