RULES FOR THE STAGE by Jordan Tishler
- Know your material. Don’t start and stop. Be prepared to fall down, be heckled, have equipment fall over. Be sure you can sing on key without the monitors. Know what to do if the monitor mix is bad or cuts out entirely.
- Know how long you have to play. Don’t run over. That’s amateurish. Don’t tell the audience “we have three more for you” only to be told “only two more” by the soundman. Play too little and the fans will be thrilled when you announce an extra song, kind of like an encore.
- Make sure the room knows who you are. Introduce the band name before you start, or immediately after the first song. You have to mention the name seven times before you’re off. Similarly, use the CD name with the band name. Mention song titles as you go. Point out which are on the CD for sale. Mention the web site. Mention the mailing list. Mention the mailing list again. Each time use the band name.
- Getting names on your mailing is the key mission of the evening. Playing a great show and selling CDs or T-shirt are just part of the process. In the end, gaining the new fan and their contact info is the bottom line.
- Know the names of the acts you are playing with that night. Mention them by name, and the order or times they’ll play. Remind your fans to stay. (This should be reinforced in your email newsletter too – stay and build a scene…). Don’t just say “stick around” or flub the other band’s name. Thank the other band for sharing the bill. Promote them from the stage and they’ll want to share the bill with you again, and they’ll remind their fans how wonderful you just were.
- Don’t bitch about the sound or soundman. Most are brain-dead. Accept it and work with them. Above all, leave your egos at home. Be professional. Tip the bar folk well and, while onstage, remind your fans to do so too.
- Set up – you should never let more than five minutes elapse between the end of the act before you and starting yourself. If that means you have to help them load out, so be it. Don’t lose the energy in the room while you set up.
- Load out – Divide and Conquer. Just after you play is a crucial time. Your fans and potential new fans need you. Don’t get mired in moving equipment or talking to the other bands. Send your frontman and chief sideman (lead guitar, for example) into the crowd to meet fans, shake hands, point out the mailing list, mention CDs or T-shirts. Have the backline guys do the rapid load out. Once the gear is out of the way, it can be gotten later.
- Have a visible presence. You must have two banners with your name and logo on it. One should be visible behind the band as you play. Be sure it is not obscured by your heads. Don’t use a kick head for this reason. The other should be over your merchandise table to attract buyers/fans.
- Know your fans. Get to know their personal details. Go beyond names to significant others, children, jobs, personal problems. The more you know, the more they will feel bonded to your band.
- If you’re lucky enough to have an industry insiders come to one of your shows. Don’t rush up to them before you play. If they introduce themselves, thank them for coming, tell them you hope they enjoy the show, offer them a drink (say, “can I get you something to drink?” NOT “wanna beer?” You never know who is a recovering alcoholic). After the show, send a band member to them immediately. Don’t wait for them to approach you, they’ll feel neglected. Thank them for coming, tell them you hope they enjoyed the show, offer them a drink.
- Guest list. Never let an industry person pay the cover. That’s what the guest list is for (Okay, you can use it for your parents too, on occasion). If there is no list, prepay the venue the cover charge for that guest.