Yes, you’re only there to play music and that’s what you and your band have been working towards. However, that’s never the whole story, is it? There’s so much more that one must do in order ‘to just do that’.
It’s not uncommon to reach the venue and find you’re the only one there. Sure, the service staff is there but they aren’t the ones you were hoping to find. The stage is not set up, there’s no sound engineer, and guess what – later on you find no one knew about the gig so no one turned up (except a few unsuspecting folks). Certainly not what will keep your spirits up and get the best out of you.
So, how to avoid such things from happening at your gig? Prepare like the devil does. Here’s how:
Get enough rehearsal time: From your end, you should be completely ready for the gig. That starts a week or a month in advance, depending on what all you’ve planned. New songs? That’ll take longer. Made some changes to the arrangements? Make sure everyone in the band knows about them. An ill-prepared set list is hard for anyone to enjoy, least of all your band. Don’t assume. Practice.
Am I doing that?: You can’t do everything and must delegate. Make sure everyone knows what he or she is doing and get his or her consent. Even if you have a manager or an agent, there’s must be a checklist and all tasks assigned so there’re no surprises. Follow up with the person and make sure it’s getting done as planned. With a manager or an agent, these things must be part of the contract or as an annexure.
Make it known: One of the reasons you play gigs is so that people know you and your music. Thus, it’s very important that there’s enough promotion around the show. If there’s a promoter involved or if the venue has taken on that responsibility, make an effort to know what all is being done. If you’re doing it yourself, there are certain things to keep in mind.
Give it enough time and use different mediums. A month is ideal for a small gig but for a festival for which people will have to plan their travel, you need to start three months (or more) in advance. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and, closer to the event, Whatsapp come in handy to spread the word.
Want the media to be there? Personal calls are the way to go as follow-up to the emails you’ve sent out.
Don’t underestimate the power of offline. Use posters in places where your tribe gathers. Make sure the venue also has posters put up in key places. Ticketed shows require special attention when it comes to promotions.
God’s in the details: Confirm all the specifics related to the show.
What time should you get there with enough time to set up before the sound check? Get the number of the sound engineer so you can discuss the time and the details of your tech rider. Share the stage plot with her.
Know the length of the set, the start time, the number of breaks you will have and if there’s an opening act.
Ask about the food and beverage allowances, the travel and accommodation details and get them all on email. Yes, insist that a verbal commitment is followed up with an email. Always insist on being told of the changes as they happen, if they happen.
The day of the show: Call up and ask if everything is going as planned. Plans often go awry, so stay on top of things so that there’s less for you to worry about when you’re getting ready to perform.
Always speak up and be as respectful as possible in ensuring that all your requirements are met.
A few pointers to help you keep your composure:
One could state Murphy’s Law here but the important thing is that when things do go wrong, you take an objective view of it and look for the solutions. Even the most celebrated bands are respected all around if they know when not to throw the book at the promoter, the venue or the organizer. Instead, they see what must be done because – in the spirit of the best performers – the show must go on. It may take a saint to stay calm in such situations but we’d encourage you to be that saint.
Your travel and accommodation bookings can be easily checked independently. So, call up the airline, the hotel or check the PNR to make sure you’ll be getting a smooth ride all the way through.
Checklists are god’s way of making it easier for us mere mortals to survive the travails of an uncertain world. Use them so you can free your brain for more worthwhile things.
Small and insignificant as it might seem, get the directions to the venue, town or out-in-the-wilderness festival so you reach on time.
While keeping a handle on all of the above, you must have your bit figured out. Be ready to play in your best form even while keeping track of all of this.
Did we miss something? Do you have suggestions on preparing for a gig or more innovative ways of managing all that you need to? Please share your creative and constructive feedback in the comments below.