So. You’ve done it. You’re gonna take the next big step. You’ve decided to take your passion for music to the people. You’ve bought the best gear you could afford, you’ve spent hours woodsheding and getting your chops as tight as they can be. You’ve found a venue. You’ve done the advertising; you’ve invited everyone you know. Now it’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights. But wait a sec. What about the show itself? Have you thought about what your audience is expecting? Are you ready for it? Have you thought about what your show will look and sound like? How will you engage the crowd and keep them involved for your entire set? Where can you turn for advice? That’s what World of Stagecraft is going to be all about. Regardless of where you are in you musical journey, we all have things to learn and share. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing in this space.
By now you might be thinking “Who is this guy and what can he tell me about me and MY music?”. That’s a fair question. Let me start by saying there is a possibility I won’t be able to tell you anything. Despite the fact that I’ve been performing most of my life, I’m always learning that I don’t know it all, but what I do know, I’ll share. But let’s get back to who I am…. this won’t take long…
My name is Ron Betts (aka Big Ron) and I’m a performaholic. I’ve been on stage in some form or fashion since I was 4 years old. I sang “Jesus loves me.” for a pre-school talent show. From that moment, I was hooked. The bright lights, the roar of the crowd, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. From then on, I was always looking for opportunities to perform. Not always out front. I just wanted to be a part of the “magic”. I performed as an actor in middle school, high school, amateur, semi-professional and professional productions. I’ve toured with Up with People for a year traveling throughout the mid-west, northeast and some countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia. I’ve played on street corners, cafes, bars, warehouses, riverboats, rooftops, TV shows, theme parks, private house parties, and arenas. I’ve played for as few as 2 and for more than 20,000. I’ve shared the stage with some incredible musicians and amazing performers. I can honestly say I’ve been fortunate.
But this isn’t about me… it’s about you and what you do. I’ll talk to other performers about what they do and get ideas from them. I’ll attend shows (when I can) and talk about what I see and hear. I’ll welcome your questions, thoughts and comments. And sometimes, I’ll be funny (note: humor is not guaranteed. Your results may vary). Most of all, I’ll do my best to help you be the best you can be on stage.
Welcome to the World of Stagecraft Player 1. Gear up and let’s get started.
Sometime ago, I was invited by a musician I knew to see his show. I had an early show that day so I went to check him out. I settled in at the bar around 9:00 and ordered a Guinness. Around 9:45, while oredering my third Guinness, I asked the manager if the show was still on. He told me that the performer hadn’t called and they had no idea where he was. Not only was the venue upset, but the fans of this solo artist that had come for the show were very disappointed and left shortly after 1000. The bar lost money, the musician lost a venue and overall, it was a bad night. I’ve never found out what happened. That leads me to the first topic I want to start with. There are different terms for it, but I prefer to call it professionalism. Whether you are a 1 once a month weekend warrior or a 300 nights a year road dog or somewhere in between, this is something we all have in common. Professionalism is your behavior on and off the stage. It’s being aware of what is expected by the venue and the audience and meeting and/ or exceeding that expectation. This begins with booking the venue. Your kit needs to be polished without mistakes and current. Avoid overstating or exaggerating your previous accomplishments. Let your music and your show sell you. Once you’ve agreed to a date and a price, get your advertising in gear. Publicize your show any and every way you can. Make sure it’s appropriate to the venue and the show you are planning. If you’re going to be performing improv new age acid jazz at a coffee house, you should tailor your advertizing to people who are passionate about that kind of music, in places those fans go to get information about live music shows. Putting up flyers at the Heavy Metal bar may not be the best bang for the buck. That doesn’t mean you ingnore non traditional advertisement locations, but make sure you think it through first before spending the cash. As the date approaches, contact the venue to confirm the show and make sure there haven’t been any changes. On the day of the show, be there on time or early. I can’t emphasize that enough. This give you time get properly set up and deal with any issues that pop up. It also gives the venue the peace of mind that they aren’t going to get stood up. If you’re going to be late, call and let the venue know. If you have to cancel the gig, give the venue as much notice as possible. Remember, you’ve made a commitment to perform at this venue. If you show yourself to be unreliable, you are less likely to get gigs. When you get there, get set up with as little intrusion as possible. Talk to the staff (aka your new best friends). If they like you, they are more likely to give you positive word of mouth. And believe me, they do talk to their friends and each other. Talk with the manager and/or owner (aka your boss). Make sure there aren’t changes, discuss expectations and set up a time to talk about future shows if possible. When its show time, take the stage and do your thing. Give it your best. Don’t phone it in. On your breaks, talk to the crowd. Interact with them. Build up your fan base. If you’re going to drink alcohol, know you limits. If you get plastered and can’t finish your show, all your practice will have been for nothing. After the show, spend some more time with your fans, but not too much. Take down your gear at a reasonable time. You don’t want to hold up the staff from getting their work done and going home. Talk with the management, get feedback, get future dates and get paid. Regardless of what genre you play, you make a good impression on the venue, secure more fans and build a reputation that will serve you well down the road.
That’s all for now. But stay tuned true believers.
Have thoughts, questions, comments or ideas? Let me know.