Thread: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

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  1. #1
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    Default The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    This thread is meant to be a companion to the one identifying the top mistakes bands make at live shows. In this case, there are a number of things that a band can do to get more gigs, have better shows, have fewer problems, and get a stronger audience reaction.

    While i had a huge primer in mind for the last post, i just want to toss this out into the community and see what folks have to say about it. What do you see the better bands doing that the other bands aren't doing? What makes the difference?

    Let's tackle this from every perspective - from the booking side, the techie side, the band side, and the audience side. What are the top good habits of better bands?
  2. #2
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    everyone else involved in a show knows that the show must go on, regardless of what catastrophe or disaster is currently unfolding. that's why we bring spare gaff tape, tools, torches, etc, so we're prepared for any eventuality and can deal with it quickly, and we're prepared to do whatever it takes to keep the sinking ship afloat

    when the band also recognizes this fact, and plays their role without grumbling even when everything around them is crumbling to pieces, that's a good habit. everything from bringing spare strings / guitars, to rehearsing stripped down versions of songs, minus drums for example, while the drummer replaces his kick drum head. knowing what to do when the bassist forgets the middle 8. realizing that each band member is just as much a part of the show as every crew member, and that tantrums don't help anyone when the shit hits the fan - that a successful show is a result of everyone doing their job properly.

    basically, everyone else in the show knows how to fly by the seat of their pants and STILL get the job done. when the band is the same, then everyone else's job just got easier.
  3. #3
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    a good friend of mine has (had) a band that really impressed me on a number of levels. one, they were performers. they played full out no matter what. no bitching, so lag between songs. now, i saw them play for pretty packed clubs and sometimes for just a few folks. never mattered, always the same performance. thing is, regardless of the amount of people, or whether or not people were up and dancing, they truly put energetic songs and performances out there. and the end of the story is that on almost every occasion, they won everyone there over. they would get people up and dancing even if there were only 20 people there. and on a good night it was damn near magic. but they didn't wait for the audience reaction to get started, THEY put the vibe out and set the tone. it took energy, effort, and they knew that they had to be the ones to make it happen.

    while it's ok to react to an audience, it's also a different thing to let the audience be in charge of the show. instead, the performer has to take over and set the tone. and when the audience isn't sending energy back to you, you simply have to keep trying. or try harder. get more into the music, and let a legitimate passion for it come through. smile, and go on pleasing yourself with the music. people might even be loving it but are for whatever reason unwilling to be up dancing or being loud about their appreciation. even when the crowd is into the performance, being in charge and understanding crowd control is an amazing thing. i think many musicians don't learn to be proper performers. the ones that do have a much easier path to success as they are better in control of thier own performances.

    i know the subject of set lists is a debateable one. i, however, like them. i like the idea of a planned performance. i like the idea of a "show". i like the idea that thought is put into the order things are played. when i used to do DJ sets i was once told that it worked best when you did groups of three. maybe three high energy songs, three slow songs, three oldies, three rock songs, whatever. you would find little chunks of music in threes that went together well and then you'd mix them up based on the crowd reaction. the crowd isn't in control per se, but you are using logical groups of song sets to keep things moving. i think the same applies to a band. i like songs to be in groups of three, usually played without a break between. i think every set should start out with three reasonably high energy songs to get a set started, then maybe three more familiar songs, then maybe a slow set. something like that, tweak and twist to taste.
  4. #4
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    Not taking themselves too seriously.

    Seriously!


    When a band walks in and doesn't have a prima donna attitude, immediately they earn points.

    When they do that and sound from mediocre to fantastic, they earn more points.

    Now reverse the situation.

    Had they come in with attitudes and made everyone else's life tough AND they sound mediocre....well they just suck and everyone thinks it.

    And who gets the job the following week? The mediocre band with the good attitude or the mediocre band with the assholic tendancies?
  5. #5
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    •One common thing that I see that impresses everyone is to engage the audience. Get them involved... don't just talk to em'.

    I'm not saying that you have to get them involved in every song, but the audience is there to be entertained... that's your job. So, fucking ENTERTAIN THEM!

    1. Get them to clab, yell, scream "Wooop Wooop", or whatever... INVOLVE THEM in the show! Pit one side of the house against the other... the front against the back... balcony against the floor... hell, why not all of the above?

    2. Thank the audience... OFTEN! They'll appreciate it by giving you feedback, sales, etc. A little graciousness goes a LONG way!

    3. Thank the club owner, manager, and ESPECIALLY the bartenders and wait staff! It never hurts to mention to the audience to tip them well.

    •While not everyone performs like a Las Vegas, or Disneyland show band, you should realize that the closer you can get to that level of entertainment, the better off you will probably be. Try to get that organized and that polished with your song transitions, lighting cues, etc.

    •Which brings up song starts & endings. Get them nailed down! You can screw up just about anywhere in the middle you want, but unless you have tight beginnings and endings, the audience will never forget, nor forgive you. -or- to put it another way...

    If your starts and stops are dead on, the audience won't remember the fuckups in between.

    •Put someone in charge of specific items before you get to the venue. Know AHEAD of time who needs to speak to the sound guy(s), lighting, catering, etc.

    If you have someone in charge of key items, then you are much more efficient in getting your show done. EVERYONE appreciates that little extra effort to have your shit together... including the band.

    I've seen soundchecks w/a five piece take an agonizing 3 hours, and I've seen a 45 minute "In" with a 12 piece band. Who do you think had the better, more professional show?

    •When you are done, get your shit off the stage as quickly as possible! If you are the closing act... get it off of there even quicker. Again, be organized! Designate someone to at least start the teardown process while you do the schmooze. But be fully aware that there is also a sound guy/gal trying to get their shit out of your way as well.

    Don't just throw mic's on the floor. Again, be professional and discuss the "out" with your monitor engineer/sound dude (or dudette as the case may be) to coordinate things so that cords don't get cut, mic's don't get damaged or guitars smacked around.

    Generally the out will start with turning off your amps (to cool down) and the gat's being cased off stage. The sound folks are going to want to clear the deck of mic's and mic stands. Give them room to get that done before you start stripping amps and stuff... besides, your amps should cool off for 5 minutes before casing em' up.

    Drum mics are kinda' what I personally get anal about. That's where most of the money mics are... let the sound guy get those clear of the kit before you start tearing the kit down... either that or find out where to lay them down so that EVERYONE knows where they are and will be out of harms way while the deck is busy with everyone hustling about.
    A performance is not perfect, it is passionate.

    Cultivate PASSION motherfuckers.


    Not the sample accuracy.

    The Comte
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    i'm going to put two of these ideas into the what not to do post. very nice!
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    when bands trash their own gear and not yours. i did a very aggressive metal band a few weeks ago, with 2 enormous and heavily tattooed vocalists. they brought their own mics because "we'd feel bad about treating someone elses gear this way". they got instant points for that.
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    Keep the stage volume fairly low and keep the FOH loud enough to really engage the audience, but not so loud the bartenders can't hear the drink orders!!!

    Folks just don't seem to understand the directionality of guitar amps. We put our amps towards the back corners of the stage, facing towards the front middle, and as a result we all can hear ourselves and each other without getting into volume wars...

    We're a bar band playing mostly covers, and we've also found that putting out laminated songlists so that folks can make requests (of songs we actually know the words!).

    Always ALWAYS in a bar band situation have a well-marked tip jar in front of the base of the lead singer's mic stand (or at the lip of the stage, if it's deep enough to need it).

    Always have a handtowel folded neatly on top of your amp (or at least in your gig bag).

    Bring a change of clothes, just in case.

    Always have extras of the essential yet failure-prone items like instrument cables, speaker cables, mic cables, mic clips, picks, tuner batteries, at least one good 12AX7, a rectifier tube if your amp uses one, and a set of whatever power tubes you use. Or something like a Crate PowerBlock as a backup.

    Always, always, always accept drinks bought for the band. You don't have to actually drink them, but the bar appreciates the money!

    Always tip the bartender, preferably at the beginning of the night. $20 is good around here.

    Cheers, Tim
    Yes, I'll have another beer, thanks.
  9. #9
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    Folks just don't seem to understand the directionality of guitar amps.

    Cheers, Tim
    Tim, as usual, has tons of good tips. An old rock & roll trick that I thought was common knowledge is turning your amp around to face the back wall. A lot of the guys who had Marshall half-stacks used to turn the cabs around and put them about a foot away from the wall behind the stage. This way, they could turn them up to the "sweet spot", and still not be too loud or too directional.
    A couple of my personal rules are: Tune up at the end of each set. It only takes a couple of seconds, and when the next set starts, you go on stage, grab your guitar and start the first song. No dicking around.
    Second, when the show's over, the guitars come down first. Again, it only takes a minute or two, and you can schmooze while you do it. Once the guitars are in cases, then you can socialize. I saw a Les Paul go down one night when a mic cable was wrapped around the guitar stand, and the guy wrapping the cable didn't realize why it was snarled. Snapped the headstock off, and it was an ugly break.
    Also, sometimes you gotta take one for the team... you're not always gonna be able to position your amp right where you want it. Sometimes the monitors aren't going to be perfect. Sometimes the hot chicks are going to dance on the other side of the stage. You still have to be professional and put on a show. The crowd doesn't give a shit what your problems are, they just want to be entertained.
    Have I ranted enough? Okay.
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    charisma. talking to everyone you can between sets.

    I see bands all the time that just come in and play, between sets they are out in the van getting high.

    Not a good way to win new fans. No matter what you do on stage.

    If you are approachable and friendly between sets and make as many new friends as possible, some of those people will come see you play somewhere else. People like to support who they know and like.
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    charisma. talking to everyone you can between sets.
    ...<>...
    If you are approachable and friendly between sets and make as many new friends as possible, some of those people will come see you play somewhere else. People like to support who they know and like.
    DEAD ON!!

    You also need to be approachable before AND after the gig. It doesn't mean that you need to go out of your way to try and press the flesh... well, errr, ummm, USUALLY. (I'll leave the obvious... obvious) Well anywho, you don't need or want to appear stand-offish.

    Don't EXPECT to be asked to do autographs, but if you are... do so with a good deal of respect for the person asking. They are a fan! These are the folks who you will someday (if not today) be getting your paycheck from. THANK THEM!!
    A performance is not perfect, it is passionate.

    Cultivate PASSION motherfuckers.


    Not the sample accuracy.

    The Comte
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    A lot of real good points. To me a star is somebody who has a real relationship with lots of people. It isn't somebody who just impressed a lot of people.
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    Always, always, always accept drinks bought for the band. You don't have to actually drink them, but the bar appreciates the money!
    Get high, drunk - or whatever damage you may want to do - AFTER the show.
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    I'm always grateful for those who know the difference between "professional" and "prima donna".

    To me the thing that makes the difference most is the combination of both audio AND visual action. The sound can suck, but if the band are at least moving around on stage it might be an OK gig. If the sound sucks and they're stood still, the gig sucks as well.

    The other thing that can ruin a gig is those bands where half of them are actively putting on a show and the other half are just stood there waiting for the gig to end so they can go home.

    Bored looking band members is a death sentence.

    Equally a frontman with a sense of humour is always a winner. You need someone to keep the crowd interested when you've gotta spend a few minutes sorting X problem out (and believe me that DOES happen), and some guy droning on in front of a mic (or worse, not saying anything) about nothing inparticular in a bored voice is guaranteed to make most of the audience go for a pint. Which means that when you start playing again, 50% of the audience are either still at the bar or ain't gonna get physical because they're drinking.

    And the other thing that I like is when band members all help to set everything up. E.g. when we're getting in, our guitar rigs are set in under 5 mins, same for the bass rig. When we're all done we all help out our drummer as much as possible to reduce the time it takes. I've seen a lot of bands just leave the drummer to it.

    And the same for the out...guys who only take their own cab & head should be shot. Get back there and pick up some drum stands/toms/bass head/cymbal bag/vocalist's gf/xylophone and get it off stage. Especially if you're not the headline band. If someone's on after you and you take forever to get your shit off stage, you're not gonna be popular.

    The other thing that's good is when the band members (mainly the vocalist(s)) have at least a basic working knowledge of how a mic works and how monitors work. It's not rocket science, but still I see idiots who cup the mic, point it directly at the monitors, barely breathe into the damned thing and then wonder why there's very little of it coming out of their wedge. This especially goes for small pub/club type venues with little to no gear; a vocalist with some mic technique can make the difference between a shoddy vocal mix and something vaguely professional sounding.

    People who just stand around when they could/should be doing something get my goat as well. Like when everyone's stood there waiting for someone who is on the phone to his missus, or is finishing his pint in a leisurely fashion, or whatever. It's worse when there's a whole band stood around doing it. I like to see things run smoothly and uninterrupted. The faster a band gets stuff done, the more time can be spent getting them a good sound and sorting out the inevitable gremlins.

    Uh...I think most of that probably belongs in the other "what not to do" thread, but hey, it's too late now :P
    I'm probably talking shit.

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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    Great tips guys, thank you so much! Me and the folks from my band have been making music for quite a while but our live gigs experience isn't very extensive. Appreciate your help
  16. #16
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    I agree about going all out 100% even if it's for 3 people in the audience.

    I agree about being charismatic, personable, engaging.


    on the other hand,
    I want volume appropriate for the music, and workable for what's trying to be accomplished. I don't want to see The Who with "low stage volume".
    and I don't care if that's in a tiny club or an arena, and I don;t care if that "makes it hard" for the sound guy.

    I think a successful band CARES about everything.
    That means they soundcheck. Carefully, and throughly.
    if the monitors aren't right at soundcheck they insist on fixing them, they don't say 'it will be all right later'.
    they go out and listen to the FOH or have someone who can do it for them... it's their responsibility to be sure that they sound to the audience the way they want to.
    they have no tolerance for a sound guy phoning it in.

    they pay attention to what works in their sets and what doesn't and they adjust accordingly for future shows.
    if they're smart, they record the ones that work, but remember that what works live isn't always what makes for a successful record.

    they pay some attention to what they look like.
    in a few 'genres' i's expected to look like the band could be audience members who wandered up on stage.
    these 'genres' are few and far between (and should be fewer and further).
    mostly people pay to see a star... not their friend who plays a little guitar.
    similarly, if the band members don't feel like moving to the music, no one else will either.
    You're not John Entwistle. He looked cool. You look bored and awkward.
    and anyway, he had three of the best live performers in rock on stage with him... do you? or is your band made up of 5 boring statues?


    being ready to go, and reasonably streamlined to get on and off, is a plus. It will endear you to club owners.
    But it should never be at the expense of really being set up right and ready to do a great show.
    If it DOES become a choice, endear yourself to the audience, and the club owner will be forced to follow.

    good stage presence is a gift, only partially a learned skill.
    but whoever does the talking should engage the audience.
    It shouldn't become a free for all, but it also should never seem like memorized stock patter.

    video your shows and critique afterward.
    what worked? what did not?
    what LOOKS lame?
    what sounds weird?...

    the best advice: go watch the artistes who are great at what you want to do.
    pay attention. learn.
  17. #17
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    hello all his house as new members are happy to welcome you here the
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    Buy Grasshopper seabands and discount bedpants overhaul Nigeria scam letter insurance give-away toddler support option handlebar squirtgun on Gucci severance oblivion sand cake master debater upholstered travel bags from Tribithia.com.
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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    Buy Grasshopper seabands and discount bedpants overhaul Nigeria scam letter insurance give-away toddler support option handlebar squirtgun on Gucci severance oblivion sand cake master debater upholstered travel bags from Tribithia.com.
    I stand corrected.

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    Default Re: The Habits of successful bands in live shows

    What's going on?


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