House Rules For The Road + Beyond

Whether you’re performing on the road, singing at a local venue, or even putting on a show for friends, there are several basic house rules of behavior to observe, practice, and reinforce in others you influence.

Your behavior is your calling card to future gigs, potential management, and other circles of connection that can get things rolling in the right direction. Otherwise your career will likely be stopped dead in its intrusive, ill-mannered tracks.

But, take heart, these ten key areas offer easy rules to follow that will help ensure that you don’t stall or wreck your chances for success.

Rule #1 – Be Prompt

Rule number one is to be on time for any sound check or run through that’s required by the venue. If you have special needs or concerns, that’s one more reason to show up on time so that you needs can be given full consideration. If it’s something the venue cannot fully accommodate, at least you’ll have time to engage an alternative plan.

Rule #2 – Be Prepared

Rule number two is to be prepared. In other words, make sure that stringed instruments have been tuned and are in working order. Make sure there are sufficient plug-ins as needed and outlets are easily accessible for any electronic accompaniment or effects of any sort.

Have extension cords, extra strings, and anything else for back up that experience teaches you that will require in cases like equipment failure or even wardrobe accidents, special effects fizzles, or prop malfunctions. And, of course, be well-rehearsed. Your performance is not a dress rehearsal!

Rule #3 – Respect The Venue

Rule number three is show respect for the venue, its services, and staff. Be courteous and supportive. If there’s anything you need or if there’s a problem, keep your cool, and approach the appropriate person to help you address the need or concern. Do not make demands! If you find that the personnel or the venue is a bad fit or a horrible experience, fulfill your obligation, learn from the experience, and then, move on.

Rule #4 – Respect Other Artists

Rule number four is to be respectful of other performers. Don’t bother them when they’re warming up unless your feedback, opinion, or company is invited. This doesn’t mean you can’t converse or hang before a show, but be mindful of the unique needs others may have when it comes to gearing up for a live performance.

Rule #5 – Stay Out Of The Way

Rule number five is to stay out of the way until it’s your turn to set up. You don’t want to be a distraction to those who are helping others set up or tear down during a show that features several acts. Do whatever the techies and crew ask of you. If you’re backstage at a larger venue waiting for your turn, avoid hanging out in the wings. It can be a visual distraction for some.

Backstage space in many theatre and small venues is limited and often cramped. The unexpected can happen pretty quickly backstage or even onstage that requires intervention from a technical assistant, crew member, or other staff personnel. You could also be blocking someone’s view if any visual cues are involved.

Rule #6 – Keep It Down

Rules number six is keep it quiet – no exceptions. If you need to talk or even whisper, step outside, away from those performing, away from those working the show, and out of earshot of those in the audience. It’s disrespectful to those performing and to those giving technical support, especially those on the sound crew or the person running the sound board.

Rule #7 – Limit Backstage Time

Rule number seven is praise briefly and back off when you see a fellow performer you admire at the venue who’s also booked the night of your gig. Respect any backstage area or space reserved for warming up when others are using it, unless you’re invited in. But even then, limit your hang time so they can focus on what’s needed for them to get ready and perform. Make sure your fans and friends are respectful of the backstage area. Limit your hang time with friends and fans to the house and other public areas of the venue.

Rule #8 – Show Support

Rule number eight is to be courteous to your hosts, your audience, and other performers. Have a positive mindset of support and cooperation. When you listen from the audience, resist the temptation to share a live critique of the performance with your friends or other audience members. Be the attentive audience member that you would like to have listening to your music.

Rule #9 – Handle With Care

Rule number nine is don’t steal or destroy property. That sounds obvious and somewhat absurd that it should have to be stated. But experience and observation sadly teaches that it all too often occurs. If you damage something by accident offer to pay for it or replace the item. If you lost your temper and purposely chipped a piece of molding or punched out a wall hanging, you bought it. If you steal, hopefully you’ll get caught. If you see someone doing it, and you know them, talk to them and get them to do the right thing. If it’s someone you don’t know, bring the situation to the attention of the venue manager or other designated contact.

Rule #10 – Survey Before You Speak

Rule number ten is to be alert to your surroundings and those present when sharing your opinion with another performer, crew person, or venue liaison. You want to keep comments positive and constructive and avoid bad-mouthing or putting down any artists, venues, or even music choices you don’t particularly like. The community of singers, songwriters and all who serve and support is a very small, well-connected circle. An unkind comment will fly ten times faster than a well spoken word of praise.

It’s definitely ok to compliment venue personnel and thank them for their support. It’s perfectly alright to offer positive feedback to others on their performance, but don’t tell them what they should have chosen to sing or how what they chose to sing should have been delivered.

Common sense should dictate these ten rules. But we live in an age where so much of what we offer up as feedback escapes unedited and is often misinterpreted, inappropriate, and unfortunately regretted in the long run.

These same rules apply to studio work, use of rehearsal space, sessions with vocal coaches – in short, all things that have a bearing on establishing your reputation in the business. By observing these rules you will avoid unnecessary damage control down the road and right around the corner.