So you wanna be in a rock band?: Making the most of your gig
Selecting the date
Obviously setting the date may not entirely be your decision if you are putting together a show on behalf of a non-for-profit organization. However, if they have left the details up to you, you will likely have some influence. Before agreeing to any specific date, do your research. Know which club you have in mind, and when their crowds are usually the strongest.
For example, I have found that crowds at Call the Office are often larger on Friday nights then Saturdays, even if the bills for each night are equally strong. As a consequence, when hosting my own shows there, I always request Fridays.
Of course there are strong clubs, such as The Bovine Sex Club (Toronto), that seem to have a built in following for every night on the week. Therefore, selecting a weekday will not necessarily put your show at a disadvantage. However, selecting the date of your event based on your chosen venue’s crowd alone is not enough. You need to know your competition.
When my band was touring the States this past summer, we had so many shows going on month to month that keeping track of holidays and other events that fell on the same night as our appearances became overwhelming. As a consequence, we unknowingly booked an appearance in St. Louis at a local bar just down the street from where a Rancid concert was taking place. Luckily for us, the support acts with whom we were booked were very strong, so we manage to play to a decent-sized crowd. However, we can only imagine how much the larger the turnout would have been if Rancid were not playing that night. Therefore, being aware of shows offered by other popular venues that may compete with yours is of the utmost importance.
Realize that the regular bookers/promoters of clubs will have a stronger means of promoting their events. So, if you are scheduled to put together your event on the same day that the Taste of Chaos tour is coming to the JLC, again, suck up your pride, and choose a different date or else your show will suffer the consequences.
Make it quick, easy and painless
There is nothing worse than an unorganized show that requires fans to have to wait around for long periods of time while each band tears down and sets up their equipment, and runs through a sound check. For the benefit of your soundman (he’ll appreciate it, trust me) and your fans, stick to one backline (drum-kit, minus breakables and a bass amp).
Obviously selecting equipment that is compatible with each band’s requirements is important, but usually the standard practice is that the headlining band will provide the gear for each act to share. Some liability issues can come into effect here, so make sure it’s crystal clear that if any of the support acts damage the headlining act’s gear, that support act will be held responsible for the replacement charges.
Another suggestion I offer you in terms of making your show run as smoothly as possible is sticking to the club’s already defined parameters. If on average, the venue at which you are hosting your event runs all ages shows with five-dollar covers, your event should follow the same format. Regular club audiences often do not bring more money with them outside of covering the cover charge and/or their drinking expenses. If suddenly, the cover charge is raised unexpectedly to even seven-dollars, it may cause people to become frustrated, and worse, denied entrance because they didn’t plan for such. This situation can be avoided if your show’s cover is advertised well on all promotional materials, however, I still recommend sticking to the club’s typical practices as a means to avoid potential angry customers.
Give them plenty of notice
Last, but not least, give everyone involved plenty of notice. I recommend drawing up a schedule of the night, and notifying everyone involved at least two to three weeks in advance. Be as detailed as possible. Make sure you mention which act will be providing the backline (outlining the make and style of the equipment), what the cover charge is, each band’s set time, when doors open, how many people are allowed on the guest list (if applicable), how much time will be allowed for changeovers, where bands will be allowed to set up their merchandise, band payment etc.
Try and answer all the questions that you anticipate arising. Not only will this help to avoid last minute conflicts, but as well, it gives each band, and the venue plenty of time to advertise your event. Make sure to provide all those involved with a method to contact you if there is a problem.
Along with outlining how you would like the night to go, tell everyone involved what you expect of him or her. If ticket sales are required, each band needs to do their part. Remember it’s your reputation on the line, and your show’s success is a reflection of how hard your band works. Tell each support act what’s required of them, and keep on their asses to make sure they keep their promises.