Every musician's fantasy, at one point or another, wants to be up onstage, saying "Can I get more (insert instrument here) in my monitor" and do the normal 4 count into your first original or cover song. But there's some things when it comes time to make that dream come true that you should do and that you shouldn't do.
If you're told to be at the venue by 6:30, make sure you're there either at 6:30 on the dot, or, to stay on the safe side, earlier to make a good impression, 6:25 or 6:20.No venue wants a late musician or band to come in whenever they feel like.Managers will not stand for late arrivals, I promise you this. It takes time to get everything scheduled according to plan and get all the bands on at the set time, sound checks started, etc. If you're late, the gambit of ramifications runs from a strict lecture from the venue manager, a bad repuatiton for tardiness, or being banned to play from the venue even. Time is everything when it comes to playing shows, because everything is so meticulously put into place that if one band or musician screws it up, there's no patience for you. You don't want to waste time. So be early or right on cue.
2. Social Attitude
Don't give off the negative vibe that you may give off at school, home, church, the gym, or wherever you go. When you're playing a venue, you're either going to be the opening act, the headlining act, or somewhere in between the set. Wherever you are, you're going to be near many types of people.Different viewpoints, different genres, different ideas, and most importantly:contacts. It's not what you know, it's who you know, and that's a firm rule when you're playing music. Introduce yourself, strike up a conversation, talk music with different bands, if they aren't the same genre or they play your instrument better than you(and it's a known fact that some people can), ask them for tips or cool tricks you can use(for later shows! ). Just make yourself as friendly as possible to everyone you can come into contact with at the venue.
Unless you've been playing for 10+ years, I don't suggest improvising a complete show. If you don't know what you're doing and you're onstage, the crowd doesn't get too friendly, neither does the rest of the band or the managers. If you're doing originals, make sure you're rhytmically tight:stay in the same time signature, the drums and the bass help lead the rhythm for the entire band. Know your parts for each and every bar of the song, you don't want to look like a fool on stage when you look at your lead guitarist, thinking that he knows your parts when you'll be so lucky if he does know it, but it's not like he can do anything. If you're doing a cover, stick to the original, I don't suggest going off on your own direction, unless you've been playing for 10+ years and you know what you're doing like the back of your hand.MAKE SURE YOU'RE IN TUNE: You don't know if there's an AR Representative in the audience or the stage manager may want a band at another time, you never know in the end.So make sure your instruments sound as coherent as possible. Change strings, new picks, new drumsticks, if you're the vocalist, avoid certain beverages and project loudly.
When you sound check: Don't be the kid who's amp is up to 8 and you're trying to show off. Don't be the drummer who's hitting the snare and cracking rimshots as hard as he can. When it's your cue, use your good judgment, nobody likes a showoff. If you can't hear someone in the monitor or your mix is low, notify the sound crew.
4. The Entertainers
As a musician, you're responsibility is to make the audience have a good time. Not just listening to the music, but how you project it. If you're Dream Theater and have a 2 cm. Radius of movement, you better hope your songs are energetic enough to start crowd movements without you doing a thing. More often than not that's not the common case. You're on stage, living a dream that so many people wish they have, HAVE FUN WITH IT. Jump around playing the energetic songs, have the audience pull out their lighters or cell phones during a ballad, get the crowd clapping, mosh pitting(if the venue permits), headbanging, stand on the monitors(good balance is mandatory), interact with the crowd(if your cables are long enough), me and my band dressed up for our last show, and it worked! Albeit it was hot, it worked.If you can make good music and project it with as much livelihood and energy as possible, then everyone else will have a great time and talk about the band after the show.
This is the opposite of Social Attitude.Don't go into a venue with the mindset that you're Dave Lombardo, Paul Waggoner, Billy Sheehan, Tommy Rogers, or whoever is a virtuoso at what instrument you do. You're human, you're going to mess up, so don't walk on stage thinking you're going to be the best thing to ever to happen to the music world. And don't be the band that talks crap about other bands too. If you want a reputation as smack talkers, or want to keep your teeth intact, keep your thoughts to yourself if they aren't positive, if they ask for constructive criticism, give it, but use your judgment once again.
2. Avoid Certain Habits
Check beforehand if the venue is a smoking estbalishment or can sell liquor. Keep in mind that you're trying to present yourself as clean and as professional as possible. If you smoke, do it after the show, not many bands like the smell of cigarette smoke or weed as you walk onstage to set up before or during set time. If you drink, do it after the show also, it's okay to have a few beers afterwards, just not during. You will not sound good just a little drunk, Mick Mars and Slash didn't sound good playing drunk, so you shouldn't try it either. After the show, celebrate in moderation. If you're behavior becomes erratic, don't be stupid and trash the place. You want to get asked back and have a good reputation.
3. Be Stupid
This is under the "DON'T" category. Just making sure some readers remember that. You're not blink-182 where you can make all the perverted jokes you want to and still remain signed to the same record label or play whatever venue you choose. Until you have that kind of flexibility, then keep the stupidity to a minimum. This means resisting the urges to take the vocalist's microphone and saying whatever you choose, pulling an Axl Rose just because you don't like someone in the audience, tackling band members mid-song, or pulling a Nirvana and trashing all your equipment and everything around you. It's not your bedroom where you can headbang and dance around all you want to,it's a public place.
Playing music is one of the most enjoyable things anyone can do, especially if it's on a stage, in front of a group of 30-50 people, or a group of 10 people. But you have to know about what you can do and what you can't do. I hope this helped!