BEFORE THE GIG
Promote your asses off and fill the venue. The touring acts are counting on you to bring all your friends down to the show to see your band open and catch some great touring acts while they're at it. You're the one with the connections, the fanbase, the bulletin boards, and the social media tied to your hometown that generates a buzz and fills a venue. Don't overplay your hometown so you can draw bigger crowds to support touring acts when they come through. If you're band is playing your home town twice a month why would your fanbase come out to see you for the fourteenth time this year? Your band should have someone appointed to knowing all the ways to market your gig in your home town. Only you can get plugged in locally through free local papers and social media groups. And if you are the touring act, reach out to the promoter and openers for contact info for local groups and avenues to promote your show.
Man the stations. If you can, find yourself an all-in-one photographer, videographer, roadie, merch person, tour manager, and bus driver willing to work for little to no money. LOL For real though, filling any or all of these positions may be impossible for your band in the early years but when you can, snag somebody to help out and your shows will be all the better for it. A trained roadie/guitar tech will pay dividends back to the band in professionalism, problem solving, and consistency.
Prep your instruments. Take your guitars for a professional setup and swap out those tubes in your amp that you've had since middle school Pack plenty of strings, picks, sticks, cymbals, drum heads, batteries, tools, tuners, replacement parts, and drum keys. And speaking of instruments, replace your bullshit instruments that can't hold a tune, barely work, and are falling apart. Nothing like a loud ass input jack on your $50 guitar buzzing through the main PA in front of your fans.
I know it can be hard to maintain high hygiene standards while sleeping in a van with a bunch of dudes, but at least try. For a short tour, bring enough clean clothes to change every day. For longer tours, include laundromat stops along the way. Another great way to get clean clothes while touring is to swap merch with other bands. Just beware that every shirt you swap is another shirt you can't sell. Remember, you're traveling merch salesman and you need that money to pay for food and gas. Better yet, get a membership for each member of the band to a nationwide chain of gyms. Not only can you work out but you can get in a fresh shower. If nothing else, a little deodorant and cologne go a long way. Just don't overdo it or you'll smell like your parents.
Be fucking sober. Not only is it cheaper and safer to tour sober, it makes you a better performer. Nobody wants to see their favorite band playing like shit because they got fucked up before the show even got started. Your fans want to see you perform a great set, hang out to take pictures, and be present when they tell you thanks for coming. Nobody wants that guy in the band that's always hammered and making an ass out of themselves with the fans and venue staff.
Restock your merch. How many of you caught your favorite band on the last leg of their tour and the only shirts they had were a women's sized small? As traveling merch salesman, it's your job to have stock in order to fund your gas/food/hotel bill while on the road. Have a nice display, bring plenty of sharpies, and have a stack of stickers ready to give away at every show.
Prep and submit your stage plot and input list in advance. A stage plot is a picture, drawing, or graphic showing your live setup including member placement, gear, and any other useful info the venue or sound tech might need. An input list lists out the number of outputs the band has for their instruments, equipment, and vocals as well as the number of mixer inputs needed.
AT THE GIG
Get on social media and post that you're on your way, post when you get there, post when you get setup, post while you're at dinner, post when you're about to go on, live stream while you're on, post after the show and thank everyone for coming out, and post where you're playing next. Starting to see a pattern here? Too many bands will post when the show is announced and when it's over but absolutely nothing in between. Don't be that band. Engage your audience, keep them informed, and they'll be there to support you.
Be fucking cool to everybody all the time. This includes servers, bartenders, bouncers, venue owners, stage hands, tour managers, sound guys, other bands, roadies, merch people, photographers, significant others, videographers, influencers, fans, bar backs, bloggers, and editors. Starting to see a trend here? Be fucking cool or get out of the business. Nobody has the time for big ego douche bags that think their band is the best thing ever. And while we're at it, be extra fucking cool when shit goes wrong. You want to be known for the band that's helpful, patient, understanding, problem solving, and rolls with the punches. Especially be nice to the other bands. Help them load in, load onto the stage, load off the stage, watch their merch booth, buy them a drink, compliment their significant others, swap merch, provide a place to crash, buy their merch, connect on social media, and shout them out on your socials.
Tip the sound guy. Other than the bartender, they're the hardest working people in that building. While you get to hang out and chat up fans, they're busy prepping, sound checking or cleaning up after your dirty asses so give them the same courtesy and respect you would your Mom or your grade school teacher. Do every single thing you can to get to know their job, lend a helping hand, make their job easier, and be cool to work with. If something doesn't go right, just roll with it. You want them to look forward to working with you again in the future.
Tune your damned instrument BEFORE it's your turn to load onto the stage. There's nothing like waiting on a guitarist to finish tuning in order to complete soundcheck or start the show. Same goes for the bassist and the drummer. No one wants to hear you tune your snare drum while the vocalist is doing soundcheck. If your shit isn't in tune before you hit the stage, you're just an amateur.
Challenge yourselves to be the fastest band in your city to load onto a stage, set up, and be ready for soundcheck. Practice at home if you have too. Your load on and setup should be less than five minutes unless the entire building is on fire and collapsing around you. Have every single person on your crew standing by and ready to load on with a perfectly choreographed plan of whose moving what with whom and to where upon the stage. Your load in should be so fast that the audience didn't even realize the last band was finished playing before you're ready for soundcheck. To facilitate this, leave your fucking 14 piece drum set at home! No one gives a shit that you have 9 fucking toms unless you're Neil Pert so cut the shit, keep it simple, and stop trying to stroke your own ego and impress the one prog metal drummer in the crowd. This goes for guitarists and bassists as well. Keep your setup as simple as possible for everyone involved and you'll go far in this industry. Got 40 guitar pedals at home? LEAVE THEM AT HOME!
Soundcheck as fast as you can. Ever stand there in the audience and watch a band sound check for 10 minutes? It's excruciating. Don't be that band! You don't need a vocal mic for 4 out of 5 people on stage if most of them only ever sing one line of one song. Save everyone 5 minutes and skip their vocal mics. Pay attention to the sound guy. He's going to be asking for certain elements to be played and it's your job to play them when he asks. Also, it's your job to shut the fuck up 100% of the time that the sound guy is not asking for you to play your instrument. And don't even get me started on drummers barely tapping on their drums during soundcheck and then trying to punch a hole in their heads once the song starts. This is a guaranteed way to piss of the sound guy and end up with the shittiest mix of the night. And don't even think of touching an EQ or volume knob on your amp after your soundcheck is complete.
Start the show with a banger! Ever watch a band that started the show off with a ballad or an instrumental? BORING! Take it from professional comics with specials on Netflix and come out swinging. The first 5 minutes of your set should be your top 1-2 bangers that keep the crowd sticking around for more. Ever wonder why half the crowd is out on the sidewalk smoking while you're preforming? It's because your set fucking sucks and no one is engaged. Pick a couple bangers to draw them in and get them invested in you, your message, and your brand before you hit them with the soft stuff.
Include at least one song that has a sing-a-long or has a call and response section to improve crowd interaction. Ever watched a show where nobody on stage even acknowledged there was an audience? It sucks and you know it. Talk to the crowd. Interact with them. Ask them to participate. I guarantee you they'll remember you and your band for months if you ask them to sing along and shove a microphone in their face to participate. And have fun! If you're having fun, the crowd will have fun. It's that simple.
End on an up tempo song. I don't care how tired you are at the end of a performance, your last song will be the only one that the crowd remembers. Save your second favorite/popular song for the very end and wrap up your set with a bang. If you want to be forgotten before they leave the venue, feel free to end your set on a low-energy and very forgetful song that nobody cares about. I know your tired and sweaty and bloody but don't forget, your fans paid money to see you pour your heart out on stage and they'll spend more money at your merch booth if you send them away star struck and eager to support you after that last banger you just ended with. So save a little extra for that last song and give them a little extra and it'll pay off
Get off the stage and load out faster than any other band within three states. There's nothing a sound guy, venue owner, promoter, stage hand, next up band, or audience hates more than a band that hangs out, loads off slow, and fucks around causing the entire night to slow it's pace. If you're ever going to cause an audience member to leave after your set and miss the next band it's because you fucked around and took forever to get off stage. Don't get me wrong, your vocalist should spend at least 30-60 seconds fist bumping and hugging people while the rest of the band tears down and loads out like their hair is on fire. But damn you if it takes longer than 3 minutes to clear that stage. Again, every single person on your crew should have a clearly defined set of tasks to complete the second the last note is played.
AFTER THE PERFORMANCE
I prefer that the lead vocalist bumps fists for a minute and heads directly to the merch booth to sign autographs and sell merch. This little trick doubled our sales as a band. When the rest of the band is finished loading out the gear, they too should make their way to the merch booth to sign autographs and take photos with fans. Be nice to your fans, ask their names, give fist bumps and hugs, volunteer to sign autographs and take photos together. Just make sure there is a minimum of one member of the band at the booth for the remainder of the night.
Stay till the very end and don't miss a single band. I like to volunteer my services as an engineer to the other touring acts we're traveling with and review their sound from the audience's perspective. Volunteer to watch another band's merch while they perform. Help load out other bands. Lend a hand to the venue's sound engineer. Just find a way to be useful, make friends, and create memories for fans and other service industry professionals of a great band that was helpful and easy to work with. Some promoters will ask the event photographer for a group photo at the end of the night. Don't be the band that missed it because you were in the parking lot fucking off.
THE NEXT DAY
Say thanks for showing up. Never forget to post about the show you just played, how much you enjoyed it, and what a wonderful crowd it was. Share any photos or videos you took from the show and tag as many people as you possibly can. Invite the rest of your fanbase out to your next show.
Schedule a follow up meeting with your band and review what went well and what went wrong at the show. I also suggest having a discussion including a breakdown of expenses and/or income from your previous show. Identifying problems along the way and addressing them head on will save you lots of heartache down the road.