Every band has had the experience at least once (and probably more than once) - you get to the venue, and no one is there to help you set up, the gear you need is nowhere to be found, and it seems like no one in town even knows you're playing. The way to avoid all of this hassle is your advance your gig. Advancing your gig gives you an extra layer of insurance that everything will go smoothly on the night of the show, so all you have to worry about is getting up there and playing a good set.
Assign the Task
"I thought you were going to do it." "No, you said you were." Sound like the kind of conversations you have with your bandmates in the run up to a gig? Advancing your gig is too important of a task to assume someone else is going to do. If your band has a manager or an agent, then the job of advancing the show will usually fall on their shoulders. If you have booked the show yourself, the job of advancing falls on someone in the band. It is a good idea to have a band spokesperson who can act as the business contract for your band and take on responsibilities like these.
If you want people to come to your gig, you have to promote it. Whose job that is depends on if you booked the gig with a promoter, who will take on most of these tasks, or if you are promoting the show yourself. If you're working with a promoter, it makes sense to check in during the run up to the show to make sure all promotional plans have been implemeted. Ask questions like:
- Is the venue/town postered?
- Has the press be told about the gig?
- If there are to be ticket pre-sales, are the tickets ready and on sale?
Confirm the Details
Before the show, confirm the details in your contract, like:
- What time is load-in? Soundcheck? On stage time? Length of set?
- Will there be accommodation provided? Where? At whose cost?
- Will your rider or meal requests be ok?
- Have they arranged to meet all of your tech needs? If you need special equipment, will they be able to provide it? At whose cost?
The Final Day
On the day of your show, it is time for one last confirmation of the details. Check in with the promoter or venue early in the day to make sure everything is on track. If you had to make any changes to your original plan when you confirmed the details the first time, make sure those changes are all in place. Arrive on time for your load in/soundcheck and scope things out. If you see any problems with the stage set up, the gear, or anything else, speak up right away so you have the best chance of fixing things.
Advancing your gig is a great way to try and make things run a little more smoothly, but they're not a guarantee. Things can go wrong, things do go wrong - often, you can count on the fact that things WILL go wrong. Be ready to go with the flow - it will make things much easier for you. This is especially important for smaller, up and coming indie bands who may be working with smaller venues and part time promoters. If something goes wrong, before flying off the handle, try to step back and weigh the situation. Trying to fix the problem and learning for next time is the best remedy for any show night disaster.
When you are confirming the details about things like hotel rooms and transportation with a promoter, it is worthwhile to do a triple check by calling the hotel/the airline, etc, to see if they have a reservation for you.
Even if you are self promoting a show, you can still advance the gig but running through the pre-gig check list with yourself.
When you're confirming the details, that is also a good time to make sure you have directions to the venue and a contact number for someone in case you get lost coming into town (and you can bet you will - getting lost is part of being on tour).
While you're keeping everyone else on task, make sure you stay on yours. The one thing that is absolutely guaranteed to ruin a show is if you turn up not ready to play. You expect the promoters and venues to be professionals - make sure you are one, too.