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Tips for Bands

Rules of Thumb: 8 Truths for Winning as a Support Band

1. Don’t expect proper soundchecks and be ready to play the moment you finish linechecking.

Apparently in Melbourne we are spoiled since our opening acts get 15 minute linechecks – in Sydney it’s more like 2 minutes.  So unless you are Matt Sorum who has the luxury of soundchecking (just drums!) for 2 hours, you’d better be ready to go with the flow and play when the soundie tells you to.  And don’t chuck a hissyfit either – it’s both unprofessional and immature, even for a rockstar.  Wait til you start selling out shows before you make demands for “proper soundchecks”.

2. Be observant of opportunities to network at every show you play.

The word networking sounds overly formal cos in the music industry, that really just means a few slaps on the back over pints of beer.  Do not be afraid to approach someone and introduce yourself (and your band). Not just the fans, but managers of other bands, the promoter’s friends. Just like speed-dating, there is a genuine chance that whoever you’re talking to could change your life.

3. Don’t over-exaggerate your estimated audience attendance.

Exaggerate a little to get your foot in, sure.  But be sure that when you say “yeah 100 people will come see us, easy!”, you at least pull 70-80 of these friends in.  It doesn’t matter how talented your band is, if you break that trust, you go straight onto the Do-Not-Book list.  We once booked a band who said they could do 60, they pulled 7 people – 4 of them were guestlisted. Needless to say, we never booked them again and advise other promoters to do the same.

4. Stick to the schedule, arrive on time and start on time.

So when the bill says your band starts at 9pm, you play at 9pm. Just because there are only 3 people milling around doesn’t mean you can “wait a little” until more people show up. There are strict time curfews for most venues and each minute over that curfew is a fine that you’re not ready to cover. And add overtime for bar staff and security personnel, not to mention delaying the rest of the lineup, you do not want to cross that line.

5. Never play an encore… unless the organiser specifically okays it.

One of the biggest faux pas any support bands can make apparently. As the opening act, your duty is to warm the crowd up, get them stoked for the headliner and at the same time bow them over with your awesome set.  It is not the time nor place to stroke your own ego.  There are exceptions but proceed cautiously so you don’t unintentionally step on any important toes.  The rule is the moment you’re done, clear out the stage quickly and efficiently.

6. Make sure there is at least one of you greeting fans and selling merch at the table after your set.

All your fans and friends would have most likely bought your merch from past shows.  So they’d want to say hi and chitchat after your set so make it easy for them by sending an ambassador to the merch table.  The new fans you just wowed with your impressive performance on the other hand, need a rockstar to gush over.  Where better than by the rows of CDs and Tshirts so you can sign them while they tell you that it was the best show they’d ever seen?

7. Even when faced with a tough, booing crowd, never let that bring down your show.

One of the elements to playing a great live show is the vibe you feed off the audience.  So what to do when the crowd is shitty and unresponsive?  For one, don’t let them affect your performance.  Excite them, interact with them, make them feel special for being there that night, get them to like you as people even if they hate your music, but never chastise them or use them as an excuse for a bad show.  Tough crowds happen to the best of us, even famous bands, so start practising.

8. Always endeavour to stick around for the headlining act.

It doesn’t matter if you all have an early morning the next day, you should always see it as a privilege to support the headliner and stay back to show support, regardless of whether you like their music or not.  I’m sure you’d want the other bands to stick around for your set too when you’re the headliner so show some professional courtesy and start building camaraderie.

Have you got more rules to add?  Comment below and let us know!



One thought on “Rules of Thumb: 8 Truths for Winning as a Support Band

  1. 5. Never play an encore… unless the organiser specifically okays it.

    I hate it when any band, even headline bands play encores, unless it’s something massively special – such as the Ash / We Are Scientists gig where both bands encored together playing a song from each band and a couple of covers (one impromptu to cover a tech issue) they put together over the tour.

    I say don’t ever play an encore unless it’s a one-of-a-kind event such as an album launch, or a special collaboration as exampled above.

    The rest of the post is good common sense, and something too many bands fail at.

    Posted by jon | April 27, 2011, 1:03 pm

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