Whenever you book a gig at a fresh venue, you’re on a learning curve.
Circumstances are different in every room and if you don’t know the deal,
the night can go off the rails before you hit the first downbeat. As any well-gigged
player will tell you, gathering a little information ahead of time can prevent
some big headaches.
Here's what you need to know before you go:
Is there a backline? Detailed info
about available backline gear typically is available in advance
through the booking person, the soundman or the venue’s
website. Even if you learn there’s a backline in place,
make no assumptions until you have some solid intel. For example,
there may be amps but no drum kit; or there may be drums but
no snare or cymbals.
Is there a frontline and soundman? Microphones,
a PA and monitors are part of a stage’s frontline, and
though they’re commonplace at performance venues, don’t
take them for granted even if you know there’s a backline,
and vice versa. When there is a PA, find out whether a soundman
will be working or if you’ll have to run the soundboard
Who's the contact? When your booking is confirmed, ask who
the onsite point person will be. You don’t want to be
asking every bartender or waitress if it’s okay to play
long or how to get paid.
What time is load in? Bars and restaurants
can be choosy about when the band should bring gear into the
room, especially if there are patrons dining or other acts
performing. Ask what time you’ll be clear for load in,
which entrance to load through and where to stash the gear.
What's the line up? Unless you’ll have
the stage to yourself, figure out where you’re scheduled
in the lineup. A multi-band bill can affect when you load
your gear, whether onstage or backstage, how the door pay
is divided, when your people should arrive, whether set durations
are strict, and how your start may be delayed by another band’s
encore or breakdown. On the upside, if someone you respect
is sharing the bill, you might work up some cross-promo before
the show, share gear or make plans for sitting in.
What's start time? When does your set
realistically start? Seems like playing in bars is one of
those few jobs where arriving too early is thankless, though
arriving too late is unforgivable. When you book your slot,
ask if the start time is realistic and whether there’s
a strict end time.
What's the door charge? You should know the band’s pay
arrangement ahead of time, but you also should discuss details
about a door or gate charge. Ask how much the venue will charge
at the door so your guests don’t start the night with
an expensive surprise.
Who's buying? Will the band be comped for
food or drinks? Given a good performance and a friendly barkeep,
the policy may be loose on this one. But ask ahead of time,
diplomatically, so that you know what the band is entitled
to and so that no one accidentally drinks the night’s