Last week I wrote about performing live because it was on my mind. I was preparing for a performance on October 23rd, and writing helped me to stay focused on getting myself together. Performing in front of people is always a little nerve-racking, but there are all kinds of untold benefits before and after your set that people don’t talk about. If you do everything right, you can make a good impression with the promoter/booker, the venue owner, other performing artists, and of course, fans. I was surprised to get a headline spot so soon after my album release party in September, but I had built a good relationship with the venue owner so he invited me back. In its simplest form, it’s just networking.
Just a reminder, none of us are famous. I don’t expect the other artists to recognize me before I go on stage, and likewise I probably won’t recognize them. Whether I’m on the top of the bill or not, I make it a point to identify every other act for the night and introduce myself to them before they perform. After they leave the stage it’s a good idea to amble back over and have another chat about how the show is going. They might have a larger fan base or tons of experience performing, and if they do I’m going to see how I can improve the show on the next go-round. See a trend? You’re at work. Every night on the bill means a long night of talking to almost everyone you see to build relationships in the community. You won’t like everyone you meet, and that’s perfectly fine. Just remember to take the high road. There are plenty of artists acting like children and ruining their own names, you can benefit over the long term by acting like an adult.
The first and last person I will talk to on show night is the venue owner if they are available. You can think of them as your boss for the night. Don’t expect them to give you the materials to set up your merch table; instead ask them where you can find a table and their preferred location for you to set up your stuff. Just like any good boss, the venue owner will be watching you all night, whether you notice or not. Even after your set, stumbling around drunk is probably not the best idea. It isn’t just about how great your 30 minutes on stage is. The venue owner will be more inclined to invite you back if they see you working all night. At the end of the night, CLEAN UP YOUR OWN GOD DAMN MESS.
Remember how I said you have a boss on show night? Well, I have good news. You have TWO bosses! You are also working for the promoter and booking agent (in my case they are the same person). The venue owner can ban you from their venue, but if you screw up with the booking agent, they can cut you out of the entire community. I live a life of de ja vu, watching artists shoot themselves in the foot by standing up the promoter. If you commit to a show, it is a good idea to actually show up at the show. If you don’t know what you’re doing the promoter will be a wealth of advice and information. Just like the venue owner, I stop and see them at the beginning and end of the night. They will inform you of your set time and any other information you will need for the night. If you are struck by the good idea fairy, talk to the promoter before you start going off on your own. Utilize their flyers before you make yours, as well as their social media events and promotion tools. Going all rogue looks high-speed at first, but can actually be a nasty show of arrogance. Why? Because the promoter may change information on social media intended for the public to see. If you are promoting on your own, you may not see the change of information, in which case you fail to pass it on. NOT GOOD. Your well-intended promo materials might confuse the public, and if they are confused they are obviously less inclined to show up. Always check with the promoter about making your own materials. I work exclusively with Midwest Mayhem at the moment, and they are fantastic about letting you do your own thing so long as everybody involved are on the same page.
Oh yeah, the DJ. Make nice with the DJ. They don’t work for you, they work with you. Make sure you have your beats in whatever format they request, and set up your set in linear order. That means if you are performing eight songs, put them on CD or playlist in the order they will be performed. Your DJ will be less than pleased if he has to skip around a CD during your set. Treat them with respect, because if you don’t a DJ might be tempted to embarrass you on stage, and they are very capable of doing so.
Performing multiple shows, you will notice that the community is small. All the people I just wrote about will be at every show, so build strong relationships with them. Your set will improve from it, as well as your fan base, and of course your bottom line. This is one of the only groups of people you can directly influence, and they are the conduit between you and new fans. Make sense???
Cold Country, Out.