I’ve been travelling around various continents as FOH and tour manager this summer. I’ve been part of some great shows and also witnessed some situations that needn’t have happened if bands, road crew and promoters had put a bit more thought into what they were hoping to achieve. I have listed a few tips here, in order to help you avoid some of these errors.
#1 Be Polite.
The actual number of people involved in the live music business in any country is small. The people involved will probably know each other very well and news, good or bad travels fast. So it pays to be polite to every person you meet on-the-road, from the door people to the promoter. One act of rudeness that always amazes me is how a band or crew announces themselves at the load in doors. Please, never kick the doors to alert the staff inside. If there is no bell/buzzer, then rap on the door with your knuckles/Maglite/Leatherman/Gerber/keys or wander around to the public entrance and see whether that is open. Kicking doors is just plain rude, and I have seen more than one shouting argument between venue staff and visiting productions.
# 2 Mark Your Cases
It is good practice to label all your instrument cases, flight cases and bags when on tour. Instrument and equipment cases often are spray painted with a stencil to mark the name of the act, the telephone number, and so on, in case of loss or theft. However, really good cases are expensive to buy and, as they do not depreciate much in value if left unmarked, are actually quite an investment. Not only are you protecting your instruments and equipment but you are adding to the value of those items if you then sell them later with a case. However, a potential buyer might be put off by the fact the case has your name/your bands name plastered all over the case. Your best bet is to mark cases with strips of white gaffer tape and then write the band name and contact info on that. This tape can be removed easily, allowing you to swap the function of the case and/or to sell your cases as unmarked if necessary.
#3 Use a Taxi
Gear in flight cases (see above) can be heavy – flight cases weigh a lot when empty anyway and also, depending on their function, may not have wheels. So, a sensible idea is to use a large item that does have wheels as a “taxi” for heavy items that you need to move over long distances. It amazes me, though, when people carry or move equipment cases and then leave them piled up on the ‘taxi’ or, even worse, dump cases on top of other cases. Someone will have to lift that case off again, so place everything on the floor, guys.
#4 What Time Is The Last Bus?
Not for you, but for your audience. It is always tempting for bands to go on as late as possible, just in case a few extra people turn up or so that the audience is really drunk by the time the band plays. Always bear in mind, though, that your audience has to get home, often by public transportation that stops running at a certain time. It is no good to go onstage and see everyone leave to get the last bus! This brings me onto…
# 5 Set Times and Running Order
You should agree, or be told, what time your band should be on stage and what time you should finish performing. Someone should then write up the agreed times and post them up in the band areas of the venue. If this is you then you should always put start and finish times when you write up times for the show. Each band’s set time and changeover time should be clearly marked. You can even put the amount of time in parentheses, such as “8:10–8:40 (30 mins.),” to reiterate the strict running schedule. I have seen show times printed up with no finish times or changeover times indicated, and every band on the bill thought they had an hour onstage and were pretty disappointed when they got pulled off stage after 30 minutes, the correct stage time.
Stage times should also be written from the top down i.e. the last act on goes at the top of the list.