So here’s something that most bands don’t even consider when they are on tour and this leads to them getting passed up when it comes time to come back to town on tour – and that’s etiquette. When it comes down to it the band who are known to be nice dudes is going to get booked in front of the band full of pretentious pricks every day of the week. I know this sounds self evident, but you would be amazed how many people don’t seem able to grasp a few basic concepts of etiquette which would turn around and make them into people who are actually worth something and who get somewhere. Instead they are happy to jack off around the mulberry bush, treat everyone like shit and wonder why they aren’t welcome back in town or at a certain venue. Remember as we dive into this – the people who run the venue know everyone in the scene because the scene revolves around them. If you can’t embrace that then you’re hurting yourself.
The first thing, and what should be the most obvious – learn the fucking soundmans name and try to remember him if you’re playing the same venue again. Saying ‘Hey sound man’ isn’t just rude it’s lazy. They are more than their job and they have control over how much money you sell at merch on a given night. If they don’t feel like the band is treating them properly they have no problem fucking with them. Beyond that – be cool. Offer to buy them a beer. Smoke them out. Y’know, just be cool. They have the potential to help you be greater than you are and are going to have more control over the night than pretty much anyone else. This is someone you want to be able to connect with and do cool stuff with. If you don’t treat your sound guy right then you’re pretty much just wasting time and are going to be screwed every time you come to the city because that sound guy knows all the other sound guys. Scenes are insular communities guys.
Tied into this – try to befriend all of the venue staff. Don’t be creepy about it, but tip well at the bar, get buddy buddy with the promoter. I’m telling you – offering everyone weed is always a good way to get remembered as a cool guy. Obviously use discretion but most folks at venues like that sort of thing. This isn’t something you should do in front of other professionals in the industry, but y’know, be aware. It’s amazing how far a good conversation with the bartender about craft beer can go. It can range from everything from free drinks to them letting you stay at their place. I’ve done it all and let me tell you – being able to have new friends in these towns is great. Not only are the staff their all night so you can impress them from start to finish, but they will always know the people who you need to talk too to get places to stay and all that other good stuff. Like I said – venues are a focal point, treat them as such and you will be justly rewarded.
Other key points include being willing to share your gear so that people can load on and off pretty quickly. I know that it sucks to share with strangers, but this way it makes sure that people actually are able to see your band and you’re not stuck going on at two in the morning which just sucks for everyone involved. Tied into this is just being able to load on and off very quickly. The bands who take forever are the bane of sound guys and promoters because they make shows run late. Fans don’t like it either because they need to be at work the next day, you can’t expect them to stick around until two AM just to see your shitty band play. If you are jealously hording gear and valuable stage space though, not only will the sound guy be pissed but the other bands won’t like you and will start to talk shit. Once that begins to happen everything falls apart because no one will want to play with you the next time you are in town.
The final big piece of advice I’d give is to be liberal with your merch. When I was tour managing bands I would always make sure that the journalists who interviewed the band got a free shirt, that the sound guy got one if he wanted one and that the promoter also had the option. I know that is a decent amount of free product you’re talking about – but for me it was always worth it because it made those people think the bands were cool. They would wear the shirts out and tell people how cool the band had been. This is a great step for bands out there who are trying to grow their reputations. These gifts are investments in creating superfans and making the tastemakers think that you are cool. This is obviously a very tricky thing to sort and can be grey hair inducing but guess what – none of that matters simply because if the people in power are willing to back you then the world is going to be yours. Simple as that.
I know it’s easy to be a dick when you’ve been on tour for a month, you haven’t seen your girlfriend and you’re gross and sweaty, but that’s part of how things need to go in this scene. You can’t expect everything to shake out nicely all the time, but other venues do expect things to go well. Remember that for your fans at various shows it’s their Friday night, they are out trying to party and live it up. It doesn’t matter that you have to do this every night for the next two weeks, you need to give them the rock and roll fantasy they so desperately want to buy into. It’s a separate reality, but professionalism and kindness are going to get you extremely far.