Live music rises again. Here’s what you should know.
Touring musician and Green Bay writer Matty Day solicits advice on how bands, fans and venues should engage in an industry still wrestling pandemic woes
By Matty Day
As we baby-step our way into whatever life looks like in light of the coronavirus outbreak, you might be a bit rusty regarding live music, whether you’re playing it, hosting it or just simply enjoying it.
Whenever you’re ready to dip your toes back into the live music scene, this list will help you brush up on etiquette both timeless and topical.
Do put on a show. Make each one a unique experience, not just a rehash of roughly the same show your band’s always played. You’ll never be in that room again with those exact same people, so be present, revel in the ephemeral, and share the moment with them. Even just a bit of banter will make people glad they came out and paid the cover instead of staying home and skimming your old live footage on their iPhones.
Don’t perform in your street clothes. Unless you’re a full-time eccentric, wear something more compelling than what you’d wear off-stage.
Do grow a mullet if you can’t figure out stage garb. Partially as punishment—it shouldn’t be that hard to dress somewhat interestingly. But it might also trick your audience into thinking you have some character.
Don’t leave your little clip-on tuners on your guitars during the show. Just… don’t.
Do be cordial to the other bands on the bill. I’d hesitate to suggest “networking” because that can feel forced. But at the very least, appreciate how you’re all weirdos who continue to choose live music for artistic expression and be decent to your gigging peers. This ain’t the time to “big-time” the bands you’re playing with.
Don’t take gigging for granted. Nor your crowds, modest as they may be right now. Pre-pandemic, other than legacy touring acts and popular cover bands, Green Bay wasn’t exactly packing its mid-sized venues or small clubs. Make the case for live music as a vital, communal experience every time you take the stage.
Do promote your live music. Facebook event pages are worth creating for each show, whether or not you have your own website. Beyond that, a weekly email or even text message could also do wonders for spreading the word about your upcoming concerts; perhaps offer people a free drink when they sign up for your contact list.
Don’t NOT promote your live music. This is so important I’m just going to invert the previous listing. Work with the bands you book to ensure Green Bay knows about your shows, or really, don’t even bother booking. Following such an extended drought of entertainment, people no longer presume something’s going on somewhere in Green Bay on a given night, rather the opposite. Venues cannot assume people will simply find out about concerts on their own. Broadcast the rock!
Do communicate well with your bands. Clarify with musicians your promotional expectations, such as who’s responsible for creating online event pages, or who’s designing, printing, and distributing fliers. And make your compensation offer/process perfectly clear beforehand.
Don’t rip bands off. Promoters, don’t exploit the hard work, time and talent of musicians who’ve been eager to get back on stage. Again, discuss payment beforehand, especially whether it’s guaranteed or based on tickets or bar sales.
Do go to shows! Provided you’re feeling okay about heading back out, support your local, pandemic-ized music scene. Scour event calendars and be particularly open to checking out bands you haven’t heard of or venues you’ve never been to.
Don’t give venues’ employees a hard time about their COVID-19 policies, or lack thereof. These people aren’t getting paid enough to endure your opinion. If you’re appalled one way or another, seek out the manager, or storm out and blow off your steam on social media like a normal millennial.
Do be extra decent to venues’ employees. Bartenders and sound technicians have likely taken financial hits in recent months. Tip generously if you can, and have extra sympathy for the sound techs if you aren’t in love with their mix.
Don’t balk at cover charges. This is hardly a new issue for Green Bay, but if we’re to build back a better music scene here, we need to de-stigmatize paying for live music. (Further, if you find drink prices have increased, keep in mind how much un-drank beer these venues have had to tragically throw away in the past 18 months.)
Do email Green Bay City Pages with upcoming events to be listed in the calendar. Let’s finally give Green Bay a definitive, go-to resource for live music happenings and more. Help us spread the word about local shows by sending information to Green Bay City Pages Editor John McCracken at [email protected] at least 10 days in advance. You can also send press releases and review or interview requests his way too.
Don’t go out if you’re not feeling well or aren’t comfortable doing so yet. Between legitimate fears of unknown COVID-19 variants looming, and likewise legitimate feelings of cabin fever and FOMO welling up, different people are simply going to be on different timelines, and that’s okay.
Do the Watusi.
Don’t rock the boat, baby.
Matty Day has been a gigging musician for 15 years, performing with Muddy Udders, the Foamers?, Cory Chisel, the Priggs, J-Council and more. You can reach him via email at [email protected], on Twitter @pollutedmindset or on his website matthewtday.com.