So you wanna play some shows, eh?

[Originally written and published in VF Magazine issue #1 for my monthly DETOX column.  Just realized I had it, but who knows how many people actually read it.]

If you scour the internets and listen to discussions in the clubs a prevailing comment I hear is that “There are so many damn bands in X-genre nowadays!”

Well, yes.  Yes there are.  It seems that every town in every city across the U.S. has an industrial/emo/metal/Gaelic mouth flute trio.  Depending on where you are gigs can be few and far between, especially in a genre that isn’t selling millions right now, like industrial.

So here’s a few helpful hints on getting shows and show etiquette from a guy who not only plays a bunch of shows but also has booked dozens of them as well.  It ain’t gospel, but it won’t hurt to know either.  In no particular order:

1) Don’t suck. 

This may seem a rather broad statement, so I’ll narrow down the scope by saying that I specifically mean your music.  If you think your music is awesome but even your friends won’t compliment you on it and your girl/boyfriend quickly changes the subject whenever you bring up Cyb0rp0rk’s hot new track, well, then keep working on it.  It’s true that you’ll need to pop your live show cherry eventually, but make sure that you’ve got at least 2-3 non-ass tracks…and then pad the audience judiciously with all the friends you can bribe and beg out to the gig.

And by the way, the reverse is also true for live shows, as people have to know when to stop hiding in their studios and mom’s basement and get out and rock a crowd.  It won’t be an ideal show, so remember that you’ve got nowhere to go but up.  If you really suck then at least really suck with STYLE.  My first Caustic gig wasn’t anything to write home about, but I did my thing, had a great time, and chipped my tooth on the mic, so at least I got a story out of it.  You most likely won’t be getting paid outside of a few drink tickets, so make the show itself as memorable as you can.

2)  Don’t be an idiot.

When you’re contacting a booking agent, especially one you don’t know or haven’t had someone introduce you to yet, use your real name and be professional.    Personally, unless it’s Voltaire or Rogue or somebody established, I immediately delete any email signed “DARK GREETZ, COUNT BATMINISTER OV THE COVEN OV LONELY PYRATES.” You aren’t Marilyn fucking Manson yet, okay?  Your name is PAUL.  PAUL.  Sure, put an “AKA Count Batminister” after it if that’s important to you, but if I’m going to put time and money behind bringing you out I don’t give a shit about your secret identity/WoW character name, so take off the mask because you aren’t on stage yet– it’s still on the business side of stuff and we’re all busy so the less horseshit the better.

3) Don’t be a dick…publicly.

Watch what you say about ANYBODY INVOLVED with the show online, or even at a club.  Sure, you may be joking or you may completely mean it, but if it’s said some person you don’t want to hear it, i.e. the promoter, venue, label, booking agent, friend of the band, or the artist him/herself, will.  And they’ll fuck you for it every single time.  I’ve seen artists lose huge tour opportunities for what they’ve said publicly about other bands.  I’ve seen artists lose booking agents, shows, and their labels for their big mouths.  Having the right to express your opinion is one thing, having the brains to know when to express it is another.  Acting professionally carries respect, so don’t lose opportunities when you could have been smart and shut yer piehole.  Believe me, it’s the smart choice. 

4) Don’t be a pest. 

Sending out 20 emails because you didn’t get a response to your opening for the Front Line Assembly show generally means that the promoter wasn’t interested OR that they’ve been really busy and  haven’t had a chance to check out your Vampirefreaks profile or demo disc yet.  99% of the promoters in the metal/punk/industrial scene have “real” lives and day jobs, so life stuff sometimes gets in the way of a prompt response.  Definitely send a follow-up email, but if the promoter doesn’t get back to you after that just leave it alone and get back to practicing for the big break, promising yourself in a non-bitter fashion that you’ll show them once they give you that chance. 

5) Be professional.

When you get the show, make sure to be prompt and ready to go when the sound person needs you.  This may take hours, as soundchecks typically go headliners first and THEN everyone else.  You may not get a soundcheck depending on how long the headliner takes and what time everyone has to load in, so plan accordingly and for the love of all that is holy and mildly intelligent DO NOT PISS OFF THE SOUND PERSON.  Giving attitude to the sound person is about the stupidest thing you can do, as that sound  person generally doesn’t giving a damn about the opening band and can easily…EASILY…make you sound like complete ass.  So play nice, even if the sound person is a dick.  This also means soundchecking fast, as not only is time an issue, they don’t need you checking your whole set to make sure the last track’s bassline sounds loud enough.

Sound people can hurt you a lot more easily than they can help you, so chill out and know your place.  Paying dues isn’t fun, but everyone has to do it.

6) Be cool.

Be extremely nice to the promoter and venue.  This includes doing the set length you agreed on, even if it gets cut to due shortage of time (know what you’ll cut beforehand too).   People may be there to see you, but I can pretty much guarantee they paid to see the headliner.  Going long on set length just pisses off everyone that is not you and your bandmates, so go by the “leave them wanting more” aesthetic and get the hell off stage.  Pack up quick too, as nobody likes waiting around for the opening band to get off.  It’s generally a good rule to use the less is more aesthetic with set-up on stage.  Sure, lots of gear and people make you look more like a “band,” but if you don’t need 20 people then make due with less.  It speeds everything up more and takes stress off everyone. 

Make sure to thank the promoter and venue staff just like mom taught you, too.  It’s the little things that help you get another show, as being nice is never taken lightly.  I’ve booked shows where major name bands have thanked me for simply greeting them.  People like to be appreciated.  Never forget that.

7) Be REALLY cool with the headliner (and their tour manager).

 Don’t piss off the headliner.  Okay, I know this one all too well from experience (just google “Caustic” and “KMFDM”).  If you get a big break opening for a large artist, remember that YOU are not the rockstar– THEY are.  Act accordingly.  Pick up after yourself, be friendly to the headliners but know when to leave them the hell alone, and don’t drink all of the free beer or eat that special cheese log that Slayer requested.  Make sure that anyone in the band is just as polite.  Why?  Not only does it reflect poorly on you as an artist, but it could embarrass the promoter (or, um, Combichrist) as well for vouching for you.  More established artists can help you more than you know, as networking is almost as important as actual talent in this world.  Make them happy, be cool, and you never know what’ll come out of it.  A good, professional reputation goes a long way.

Also, be very cool with the tour manager.  They work the longest hours and take all the shit for what generally amounts to minimum wage when you figure in all the hours.  They don’t need your shit, and can make your night miserable if you’re a douche to them.

 And that’s seven to grow on, you sexy little bitches.

(Special thanks to Jim Smith of Metropolis Record for insight and added tips that were included in this piece of awesome.  Add them on twitter at http://twitter.com/MetropolisRec or go to http://www.industrial-music.com.)

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7 responses to “So you wanna play some shows, eh?

  1. I’d amend “Don’t be a dick publicly” to “don’t be a dick.” Even private dickishness has tendency to be found out.

  2. hahaha ive made many of those mistakes before. i wish i would have read this 4 years ago hahahaa
    cheers!

  3. 8) If you haven’t dealt with hint #1 Don’t bother with 2 through 7

  4. *takes notes*

    don’t be an idiot, don’t suck….

    :P

  5. Just wanted to give a big thank you for posting up all of these tips for aspiring musicians. I’ve been linking it to a ton of people, and it’s been very helpful.

    • Hey, my pleasure. It’s not gospel or anything, but hopefully it’s at least good food for thought.

      Thanks for spreading the word, too!

      -Matt

  6. i love you matt.

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