a) Your guests
Your guests are just that. These people you perform for each night have worked at a real job. They spend the extra money they have on entertainment, where you are working. It is their hard earned money that pays everyone’s bills. Without their presents there would be no place to play. If you do not play for them, the club does not need your band. The people are your guests so treat them as such. Thank them for their time and ask them what they liked and didn’t. Remember their names and call upon them during your performance and they won’t forget yours. Encourage them to join your band Facebook page or fan club. Get their email address so you can keep them well informed of you up and coming events. This pool of fans are the people that will buy your T-shirts and CD’s.
b) Controlling volume
Controlling volume and playing together is everybody’s responsibility. It is this simple. Listen to the live mix if you can hear yourself well your probably playing too loud. Keep in mind when you take a lead, step into the spot light. But don’t forget to step back again in the mix. If volume wars are going on, everybody is a causality. Remember, play the room. In some clubs the first part of the night is a dinner crowd. So keep it in line with what is happening at that moment. In all clubs you are expected to hit the stage running, do so.
c) No breaks between songs
No breaks between songs unless planned is a quick and easy way to tighten up any show. Sets should run smoothly but continuously. Don’t waste time between songs. Seconds are really worth dollars. Your boss will notice even if your band does not. The last beat of a song is the first beat of the next one.
d) Lights and special effects
Lights and special effects must be coordinated with the music. If you don’t have a light man, who ever in the band is doing the least, is a good person for this extra job. The light show must be rehearsed with the same precision, dedicated to the arrangement of the music. An inexpensive light system that is tight with the music will do more for you than thousands of dollars worth disco flash and trash.
e) Remember the bar staff
Remember the bar staff can make or break you with the boss. Don’t forget which side your bread is buttered on. The cocktail waitress and other staff have already been badgered by other low class musicians you can be sure. Threat them with respect. Thank them for their time. Don’t date the bar staff this only causes problems. Your job starts the first minute when you walk into their club to set up. So surprise them and be ladies and gentlemen. Too many bands over look the people that can put in a good word for you to the person doing the hiring. Make them happy to see you come back.
Tip your bar tender and cocktail waitress but don’t expect them to wait on you. Keep close contact with them with the volume. If they can’t hear to take food or drink orders then your playing too loud. They are an important measuring stick for what the people like to hear in that club. Asking them is a good way to find out what your listeners and dancers say about your performance. If you tipped and treated them right, they will gladly pass on what they have heard.
f) Arrival time
Arrival time must be early enough to get everything ready, and have a little time left over to relax and talk to your guest before you start. To be on time to play is to be thirty minuets early. Nothing less is acceptable behavior. When someone is late, it shows poor respect for your fellow players. Arriving early lets the other members of your band know in advance, you are here and ready to perform. Far worse than playing out of tune is starting late. Remember drink prices probably go up when your supposed to start. So if you are late you have ripped off everyone there including yourself.
g) Character acting
Character acting by projecting a certain personality can strength your performance. Decide what works for you as an individual and do it. Dress the part of you character. If you are not a sex symbol don’t dress and act like one. Clothes and personality are a very important part of your stage presents. Don’t be a stand out, dress with your band. Keep in mind the total picture or image the group is trying to project. I started working in the Casinos in Reno and Lake Tahoe while I still lived in the bay area of San Francisco. It was about a 3 hour drive to work. The first band that I got work with was the Robin Turley Show. Robin wanted me to invent a stage name because my last name was so hard to pronounce. I did not want to be a phony character. Then Robin ask me what was my middle name which was Lee. So he christened me from that day as Ronnie Lee. Over time the character Ronnie Lee developed into a comfort zone for me on stage. I could perform and do my best. Then leave him there and go home and sleep well. No one could be a better me that me. It was kind of like “the me I see is the me I’ll be”. Feel comfortable wearing you character’s hat but don’t forget to leave in on stage.
h) Costumes or matching uniforms
Costumes or matching uniforms are very nice but you can save your money and get what you can afford. Playing on stage is not the time to try out your MTV fanatics in over dressed attire. Don’t look like a bum but dress the room. Try not to over dress but at least look as good as your guests. Color coordinated or style matched, clean and neat clothes work just fine.
The image you project from stage is one part appearance and two parts attitude. Remember you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So look your best and act like there is no other place you would rather be. You should play each job as if it were the last time you would ever play. With that attitude you will play your heart out. The image should be a group effort. Discuss with your band what they think works best for them. Try not to ask anyone to play a role that is not comfortable for them. Some people are not relaxed enough in front of a mike to be the Master Of Ceremonies. Don’t ask someone to do something they can not feel comfortable doing.
- Stage clothes are for performance times only. Save your image for when you are on stage. Lounging around dressed like a star only strokes your ego, it does nothing for anybody else. Besides you spent too much time if not money for them so don’t wear them out. Take care of your stage clothes and save your image for the stage.
- Personal grooming should not have be to mentioned. The reality is this. You are only as good looking as your sloppiest person. Be ready to perform ahead of time. Don’t show up on the job with wet hair or half dressed. Bad appearance will offend someone as quick as bad language, or passing gas.
i) Off stage
Off stage or on break is not a time out period. What is usually over looked by most bands is your most important job, working the audience. The best way to break the ice with them is to talk to them on your break. Know their names and they won’t forget yours. Have a personal and friendly relationship with them. Knowing everyone’s name, you can talk to them directly from stage. This lets everyone know that you have a room full of your friends here. Don’t just set at the “band table”.
It should be a requirement that each member of the band fraternize with the audience. These people pay your bills so get to know them and where you money comes from. Remember the “U” comes before the “I” in business so be sincerely interested in what they have to say. You make the first move and they will follow you everywhere.
Mailing Lists are still a good way to stay in contact with your fans. With a little organization a fan club can support you when you need it the most, like opening night. Printed fan club forms is an easy way for you to collect email addresses and phone numbers.
The bar staff are members of your family, don’t forget them or use them. Let them know if there is anything you can do for them, like play quieter, that you gladly will. Remind your guests to tip them and check and see if they are. By showing an interest in their income they will care about yours. Add their names to your fan club list. Then when you return you will give them great respect just by remembering them.
There are too many fish in the sea so do not hustle the staff. NO! NO! NO! There are a lot of singles out there, without bugging your best allies with the boss and your guests. So leave them alone.
No unrehearsed player will ever improve the nights performance. If some amateur trips over and breaks something you can bet they wont pay to have it fixed. And that little boo boo could put you out of business for the rest of the night or worse. Make it a band policy that no one sets in without rehearsing with the band first. That will eliminate the local drunk and the friend of a friend from embarrassing you. And no one person has to be the bad dog. It is a good policy to allow, nobody on stage but the band. No matter what reason you want to give, just remember if they break it, will they really replace it?
Sex on stage is not appropriate anywhere. When some hot little thing is making eyes at you don’t turn into an animal. If you act like a pro on stage the opposite sex will still be there waiting for you when your done. Have some class, don’t act like wolves in heat. Be ladies and gentlemen. Everybody you meet will like you better and you wallet wont suffer from being too arrogant for the boss. They might even have you back because you are better behaved than the rest. I have seen too many good relationships go bad because someone thought “the grass was greener on the other side of the fence”. If you are going with someone, don’t blow it for “the thrill of the conquest”. If that person coming on to you now is that loose, how loose do you think they will be with someone else.
Concerts are a whole different concept than playing in a club or bar. Whether you are one of the warm up acts or the headliner you usually perform only one set. So you must do your best material. This is the time to do your original show. And it must be just that, a show. You have everyone’s attention so use it to your advantage. Start strong and build up to a climax that will demand an encore. Take your audience on a musical tour of your talents. Everything you do must be so well rehearsed that it just flows and holds the attention of everyone watching. The songs you play and how you look and move on stage, has to be tuned like a fine racing engine. So you can make it to the finish line without running out of gas or losing anybody along the way.
When I had my first the opportunity to be a warm up act in San Francisco, this is what the promoter had the band do. He divided our rehearsals into separate groups. The first thing we did was to have a vocal session. The only instrument that we used was an acoustic guitar or piano to stay on key. We learned without microphones what we sounded like singing together. You can really feel your harmony parts singing acappella. It gave us confidence that we not only knew the parts but we could sing like birds together.
Then the instruments were divided. The drummer and the base player practiced all the material by them selves. Every time the kick drum played a beat, the base had to play a note also. The kick and base became the heart beat of the music. When the drummer played a tom tom fill, the base notes would follow. They worked out a “note for note” arrangement for every measure of the songs. They had to know the songs so well that they could play them without the rest of the band. This approach took the performance to a new level of perfection.
Next the guitar and keyboard section would do the same thing but take it a little farther. The music was broken down into rhythm and lead parts. They had to know when the singer was singing they did not play any fills over the vocals. All lead fills were divided up so no one was playing on top of anyone. When some was playing a fill, you played rhythm. The only time two or more lead lines were heard was when it was a harmony or answer part. Sometimes we broke it down to half measure parts of rhythm and lead.
Even the time we all played together as a full band was in two separate parts. The first part of the session we played the songs and recorded everything we did. We just left the recorder running so we could hear what we sounded like between songs. This will show you how tight your show is or expose how much time is wasted. If we had a four hour session, the first two hours we played and recorded. The last two hours we put down our instruments and listened to the recording while it was still fresh in our minds. You sure can make progress fast when you hear your mistakes right after you commit them.