Booking gigs is the ever looming (and often challenging) task for most musicians or bands looking to put their music out there and/or make money. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know that and/or have already dealt with it at least a few times. Once a gig (or tour) is booked, there are a number of things that need to be determined afterwards that will help ensure success day-of. Now, this is where there seems to be a rub with some folks that handle the booking for their band or artist. Some don’t see it as a high priority to know the parking or load-in situation, for example. Let me be perfectly clear: if you booked the gig, it is your responsibility to ascertain all of the necessary info for yourself and your band mates (unless you have another specific person to whom you pass off that responsibility). This is something for which there is really no excuse. Now, if you forgot to ask something prior to the gig, no big deal. Just go get the info and disseminate as needed. But, it is still your responsibility. Having the dubious honor of delivering a booked gig doesn’t stop with the booking itself, it stops when everyone is in their cars on the way home or back on the bus (and hopefully with their paychecks). So, here are 6 things to always ask for/about when booking a gig to take care of your bandmates:
- Backline: Provided or Bring-your-own? – Asking about this will determine how much gear you/your band needs to bring. Some places will have it available if desired, some places will require that you use their backline because they have back-to-back bands, and other places will require that you bring your own. Whatever the situation is, this is always a necessary question to ask so as to inform your band what they need bring.
- How do you want us to load-in? – Does the venue have a dedicated stage door or do you load-in from another door? Front? Rear? You get the idea. Ask if there are stairs, an equipment lift/elevator, or ramp. All of these things will have an effect on how you get in the venue and will definitely determine how and where you park. Speaking of parking . . .
- What is the parking situation? – This is right after the load-in question for a reason. If you’re in Los Angeles like me (or any other large city), then this is especially important as parking is generally at a premium and can have a huge effect on your load-in. You will want to ask if the venue itself has dedicated parking. If they don’t, then I would ask about recommended parking. Frequently, there will be paid lots around. If it is paid parking, ask (don’t demand) if they will validate parking.
- Line-check only or soundcheck? – Every venue is different. Some venues have back-to-back entertainment and subscribe more to the “throw-n-go” method of doing things. Others will have a dedicated soundcheck earlier in the day. Whatever the case is, ask the question so your band knows what to expect.
- Is food provided? – Some venues will give the band individual food vouchers (usually at a specific dollar amount) or they will have a band tab that has a cap. On occasion, you will find venues that don’t offer the band anything and you will have to get your own food. The reason this is important revolves around an individual cost savings for your bandmates. If food is provided, they can take advantage of it if they choose and don’t have to spend their own money on other food. If food isn’t provided, they can make whatever necessary arrangements needed to ensure they have food as needed.
- Is there a place to change? – I saved this for last because unless you’re playing bigger venues with a green room, a changing area is more often than not, no more than a small bathroom of questionable cleanliness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten into my stage clothes in the back of my car. Less than glamorous for sure, but certainly cleaner than many of the bathrooms at venues at which I’ve played. Everyone’s comfort level/stage prep routine is different and so I would go so far as to say that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario aside from having a green room/changing room available that can serve anyone. Worst case, the band can come to the gig stage-ready and so it eliminates the need for changing altogether. At the end of the day, knowing what to prepare for (and letting your bandmates know as well) is the key.
Now that you’ve read this little list, don’t think that I’m suggesting that you just instantly demand these things. I’m simply (and strongly) recommending that you ask about them when booking a gig. While all of these things are great to have (parking at the venue, stage door load, green room, provided food, peeled grapes, etc.), a venue isn’t required to have them. That being said, venues that take care of their entertainment do get a much better reputation (that could be a whole different blog post). At some point along the way, you may put one or more of these in a band rider and that is at your discretion based on what you and your band need/want. These are simply a list of questions to help set you and your band up for success (and fewer headaches) at your next gig. This list is certainly not all-inclusive and I could come up with a whole other list of questions to ask. Going on tour? The list of questions gets way longer. This is just scratching the surface but the initial sentiment remains the same regardless of question: take care of your people (band) and they will tend to hang around.
Do you have questions that you would add to this list? If so, please share in the comments!
Aaron Kusterer is a musician, tour manager, and composer based out of Long Beach, CA. He has performed with artists such as Eddie Money, Juanes, and Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson) to name a few. He has also performed across the globe during a 10-year stint with the United States Air Force Band, 6 years of which was spent as a music director and tour manager. In addition, he owns and operates Advantage Tour Management. For more information on him, check out: AaronKusterer.com.