Musicians are traditionally lazy. That’s where all the statistics that you’ll never ‘make it’ come from. It’s all the lazy musicians who say they want it but will never put in the work necessary to make it, so they won’t. You will absolutely make it (at least as successful as making a living on your music) if you put the work in and don’t give up. Don’t be lazy in any respect of what you do. Don’t cut corners in your songwriting, rehearsal schedule, personal practicing, scheduling, promo or getting to the venue on time.
Pimp Out Your CD Release Show
I meet (and play with) too many musicians who don’t want to get to the venue early enough. Some like to arrive shortly before they need to play, others slightly before doors and others feel they’re being responsible by allowing the bare minimum amount of time they believe they’ll need to load in, setup and sound check before start time or doors.
I always schedule my load in time as early as the venue is comfortable with. Typically 2 hours before doors if there are just solo acts on the bill or 3 hours before doors if there is a band on the bill. And always 3 hours before start time for my solo show at colleges. Colleges are a different beast and a different section.
Most musicians don’t understand everything that needs to get done before the doors open. The obvious necessities of loading your gear in and setting it up is understood. Many bands don’t fret over sound checks with an “it’ll be fine” attitude.
Fret over soundcheck! It’s incredibly important. Sure there will be shows with venues that are so put together that everything runs smoothly and sound check takes 5 minutes or the engineer mixes you on the fly with no major issues, but you can’t plan for that. Always plan that something will go wrong: A faulty DI box, a shoddy mic cable, your tuner mysteriously stops operating, and the list is endless. Even if the equipment all works flawlessly, every room is different and responds differently to your sound. The room wasn’t built for your band so you have to allow time to let the engineer feel out your sound in the room. You don’t want the first three songs of your set to sound like butt, cluttered with feedback, because the engineer is attempting to mix you on the fly (giving the audience an unsettling opening feeling about you).
You want time to feel it out on stage and get comfortable with the space. I’ve played too many shows where a sound check wasn’t possible or was cut too short and I hated performing because it felt awful on stage and I couldn’t settle in to my performance and therefore put on a bad show. This can be overcome by setting enough time aside for the sound check.
Once the sound check is finished your night has just begun. Setting up your merch is the next step and almost equally important as getting a good sound check. Once the merch is setup, you may need to teach your merch seller for the evening how to run it.
Many venues will allow you to load in near the stage door, but won’t have a spot for you to park and you will need you to move your car from the load in door. This can be huge hassle if there isn’t a free, dedicated parking spot. I’ve had to spend up to 30 minutes finding parking and walking back to venue. Be mindful of this and plan accordingly.
Setup the Room
This is typically very overlooked by most artists. It’s your night at the club and you want your fans to have a good show, so look out for them. Many venues (and especially colleges) will be able to setup their room multiple ways. Sometimes the way a room is setup needs to be changed for your show. Like for instance, if you want people to dance, but the room is full of chairs, all it takes is asking your point person at the club (or sound guy) if you can get rid of the chairs or shift them around to clear a dance floor.
Some venues are set as is and you will not be able to change anything ever, so be aware of that too.
Nearly every college I’ve played (over 70) I’ve had to rearrange the room to make sure people would be comfortable. No one knows your show experience better than you. Take initiative and work with your point people to rearrange the room to fit what’s best for your show and your sound.
Colleges (coming soon)
A Few Other Things Before Doors Open
You then need to make sure the door guy has your guest list. You should also find out who you are settling up with at the end of the night. Hopefully that person is the same person you advanced the show with. Go over the other agreed upon details that are in your email confirmation and that you advanced: drink deal, food deal, lodging, door cut, set length, curfew, etc.