Tips To Make Your Road Gigs Go Smoother

© 2009 Vinny Ribas

I spent the better part of fifteen years on the road, playing every kind of venue from scary truck stops to the world’s largest, most eloquent luxury cruise ship, the SS Norway. In most of the locations, the venue provided lodging for us. Some provided meals. Some gave us nothing but our weekly pay. In some places, the gigs were great but our sleeping rooms were a nightmare. In others the gig itself was the nightmare. Of course, in the majority of them, everything was acceptable and we just did our job. However, I learned a lot during that time. Here are some tips that come from those experiences.[private_pro]

  • Call an act that has performed in the venue you’re booked in, and ask them as much about the gig as possible. Ask about the venue itself, the audience, the management, the sleeping accommodations, the sound equipment, the sound tech and anything or anyone else that you don’t want to be surprised by. My country band was once booked in a hard-core rock club!
  • Arrive as early as possible. I have arrived at gigs to find out that there was a private party in the room that were going to be playing that night, and we had little or no time to set up because of it. You never know what kinds of unpredictable situations you’ll be faced with.
  • Ask the manager about the general nature of the patrons so you know what to expect. How many people does he predict will be there? Is the crowd different on different nights? Do they like to dance? Are they rowdy? Should you play softer for your first set while people are eating (if it is a restaurant)?
  • Be sure you have a toolbox of replacement parts for your gear, from extra guitar strings or tubes (if you use a tube amp), to springs for your drum pedal and fuses for any equipment you have that uses them. This is especially true with hard-to-find parts. You may find yourself in a town that’s a long way from a large music store, and you’re unable to get what you need to repair your equipment.
  • Find out ahead of time how management feels about playing original songs. Some venues want familiar cover tunes only!
  • Before you show up, ask management, your booking agent or an act that has played the room before how and when you will get paid. I have been paid with cash, with a check drawn on a bank that is not local (which means you don’t have immediate access to the money) and even in casino chips! If they pay with a check, find out beforehand if they will cash it for you. I have also had to stay an extra night to get paid the day after the gig.
  • Find out beforehand from someone in authority if you will be sharing the stage with another act. If you will, find out if you will be sharing equipment with that act. On one cruise that I was booked on, the booking agent told me that my drummer wouldn’t need his drums because there were plenty of other drum kits on board from the other players. He was wrong, and we were completely embarrassed. In fact, they were counting on our drummer’s kit for others to use! To make things worse, we had just traveled 2300 miles to get to the port in Miami, so we couldn’t just go home and get it!

I can go on for hours with other situations I’ve been faced with. Instead, I would like to hear YOUR tips based on your experiences. Please post them below so everyone can benefit![/private_pro]

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.