Gig Etiquette

This is a guest post for Pierless Music. Written by Aimee of ‘The Mix Tape Sessions’ and used with her full permission. Thanks to Aimee for allowing us to use her work.

For a link to her blog, see the bottom of the page.

“This blog is essentially about the common mistakes I see artists make at gigs. Without realising it, you can actually hurt your reputation very easily. First off it is really easy to get the crew that work that night off side. Everyone you meet at a gig has some reason for being there.

The sound engineer will either be the house engineer or one of the very few circuit engineers who usually work in and around other venues. And yes the engineers do give feedback to the promoter or bookings manager depending on the night and the venue. If you’re rude to an engineer you can find it really difficult to book in gigs. I’ve seen it myself where a band have deliberately bitched about an engineer on stage and now can’t find either management or gig slots.

The host of the night: That is the person who either is promoting the night themselves or the house compare. However good, bad or indifferent their stage presence might be, DO NOT be rude to them or about them, EVER. I have had the situation where I have been working as a stage manager and heard artists bitch about the host and subsequently I’ve never seen them again in any of the handful of venues I work at…

I’ve worked for years on high profile shows as a stage manager or production manager. My skills are such that I can retain a huge amount of information required for two complex band set ups in my head for change over. If I look grumpy while I am working it’s because I am concentrating on remembering up to 32 channels worth of information for 2 bands and where everyone wants to stand and what gear needs moving around the stage.

If I am in the middle of teching up, it not usually a good idea to interrupt me, unless you are the artist performing. I am not being moody or rude, but I have a job to do and you need to let me do it. Some of the venues I work in have between five and nine artists performing on stage during a show. Other venues will web stream their shows and require the gig to run like live TV. This means I need to get change-overs done often in under a minute.

Soundcheck: There is a reason we have one and why you are required to be there to attend it. If you are running late – let them know and do not assume then that a) You will be able to have a proper soundcheck or b) That you’ll sound good when you play without having being checked. If you are told that you missed the soundcheck, don’t bitch. You were given plenty of notice in advance of times etc.

If you are told that you can line check before you play, that is for the engineers benefit to check volume and signal quality – not tone or monitor checks. Otherwise you and the engineer are going to be in for an interesting first half of the first song. No matter how experienced the engineer is (and some have been working for more than twenty five years in their role), you will not sound your best. That’s why we have a soundcheck.

During soundcheck, listen to the engineer. If they ask you questions or to do something then do as you are asked. They are there to make you sound great and you need to remember that you don’t work night after night at that venue and you don’t know the room as well as they do.

There is an old adage that engineers use – often the better the musician, the shorter the soundcheck. They will tell you the volume and mix they need on stage and will do maybe three or four lines of a song to give the engineer the opportunity to edit the EQ on the front of house and that’s done.

If there are more than five performers, again, wait your turn for a check and don’t play across your fellow musician on stage when their levels are being adjusted. It’s rude and it will take longer to check when the engineer yells at you to be quiet. Be professional and you’ll be treated as such.

Some venues will offer you the use of their house guitar if they have one. (Or even a house drum kit etc) Don’t assume that all venues have one or that even if they do that you can play it. Like driving a hire car, you will not be familiar with that instrument which may knock the confidence of new musicians who are playing their first few gigs.

A little tip for you.

If you DO borrow a house guitar, treat it with the utmost respect. Firstly, it’s not yours and if it’s a Gibson it is probably a little out of most people’s range to go buy one to replace it. Secondly, these guitars have been played by numerous artists before you and some are probably on your iTunes playlist. Thirdly, if you want to go on the artist blacklist, trash the equipment. You will find that one of the fastest ways of ending your career before it’s even begun.

And yes. There is a blacklist.

Finally, the one which all artists need to be aware of. You and your fans represent you as a professional. Your reputation can easily be tarnished by a few errors which are easily rectified. First off, I don’t care which venue you’re in or who is on the bill. If you are there you should be there to listen to the other artists performing.

You can use their performance to gauge how well you yourself performed and indeed how you were perceived by the audience. Learn from their successes and their mistakes. Take what you can from each performance and change how you do your work. Don’t be arrogant to assume that you’re performance was flawless, if there are any videos of the night, it might surprise you to watch them back.

Secondly your fans should respect not only the other artists performing on stage but also other fans in the room. Talking through someone’s set is rude, END OF STORY. If it’s a small intimate venue – which in all honesty, ALL the venues you are going to perform in when you start off in are classed as such. Not only that some venues or nights have a policy of being respectful and will ask that you don’t talk throughout the performance.

If you go to the theatre, to the opera or see an orchestra perform – the audience have often spent five to ten times what they’d ever pay to see you perform in a venue. They also wouldn’t talk during your songs or anyone else’s. It’s something to think about.

The last one might surprise you and actually it could go either way for you. If you have a large crowd down for your show, keep the audience in the room as long as you can. It’s a night out and very demoralising for the other artists when half the room walks out.

Some acts who will come down to the night are sometimes on secret gigs – the artist your fans walked out of the gig from could have actually been a famous name from another country or even an act performing under a pseudonym – both of which I can attest to happens, okay infrequently but I have had the pleasure of working with and hearing brand new material first from musicians who rule the airwaves.

However, if you have disruptive drunk fans, the crew will absolutely love you to take them into the main bar. If you find that your conversation is being interrupted by music and you have to yell over it to make yourself heard – you probably should be in a bar not in a music venue.”


January 31st 2013.



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