It’s important to become as comfortable as possible at performing live. So many things can change so you need to be able to quickly adapt as you move from dance club to hole in the wall to rehearsal to studio session to outdoor concert.
Obviously it’s best if you have time to scope out a situation beforehand; and in most cases you probably will, but life happens. You’ll face traffic jams, weather issues, faulty hook ups, poor sound systems, bad lighting, crowd noise, hecklers, delays, scheduling mix-up’s, and everybody’s favorite – poor communication.
This is why you need to be fully rehearsed, as rested as possible, and well prepared for contingencies so that when Murphy’s Law is enforced, you keep your cool and use your coping skills to take charge of the situation.
This week we’ll address the issue of communication. Whether it’s members of your band, the venue owner, the club manager, a booking agent, a hotel – it’s important to check and double check to make sure that information you have is accurate and to make sure that information you pass along is fully understood.
As your career takes off you will have others taking care of your travel details, venue issues such as technical demands and limitations, food, sight lines, scheduling, and so forth.
But, even in those situations where someone handles those details for you, you want to have back up plans in place so that if something goes wrong, you’ll proceed with minimal discomfort and not freak out.
Make A Checklist
So, first rule of thumb, make a list of all concerns you have about a specific upcoming gig, even if it’s as simple as an open mike night, a five-song set at the corner coffee house, a charity function at the local community center, or a family reunion in the park. Each situation may have unique demands for common areas of concerns and will likely have an exceptional issue or two that needs attention or is something you need to be made aware of.
After you have your list, determine which items you can take care of yourself; and for the other items, find out who you need to contact. Run your list by someone you trust who is knowledgeable to see if there is anything you may have overlooked. Then, proceed to check off each item as you either get information or relay information to someone at the venue. Always keep track of names and times of contact.
Call Once More The Day Before
Once you work your way through your list; make sure you verify the information the day before your gig. Things can change very quickly between the time a date is set and the day of your performance. In fact, things can change between sound check and performance.
But, the general rule of thumb is: check and double check in your initial communication; and then, make sure you check again the day before your performance. This gives you time to make adjustments to any changes.
Check + Double Check, Please
So, what do we mean by check and double check what’s communicated when you make your initial contact? You want to mirror back information you’ve received so that what you’ve heard is what the contact meant to say. Many times we make assumptions about things we think might be common knowledge.
So, for example, the venue contact might not mention something about hook-up’s or restricted staging space because they assume you’re familiar with their venue. So, always repeat back what you’ve heard, and ask questions of the contact so that they confirm what you have told them.
For example, let’s say you’re performing on a busy night where there are three or four acts. Instead of doing a quick sound check just before each act they want to run one at three in the afternoon. You might ask, so is everybody supposed to have sound check at three or is that just me? Let’s say they snap back with, we do sound check at three. You can then politely respond in a concerned voice, so all four acts are at three? Then, based on the response, you’d verify your sound check time and get their name.
In most of your small clubs, road houses, and similar venues you do your sound check just before you go up. But whatever the demands for each venue or performance situation do the following: make your list of concerns, make contact, double check the details and understanding of the information you provide, double check the information you receive, make note on times and names of contacts, and verify all information the day before your gig.
Anything Else You Need?
One of the most frustrating issues is poor communication, and it is almost entirely avoidable. You don’t ever want to be in a situation where you find yourself saying, “Well, if I’ve known that…” or where you hear the club owner or venue operator say, “Well, if you’d told us that…” And you definitely don’t want to hear the following deal breaker: “You never asked.”
After you make your initial contact and have finished your list of concerns, always ask, “Is there anything else I need to know, or anything I haven’t covered that you need from me?” And then, ask this again on your follow up call to verify the day before.
Remember that the best singers are powerful communicators. Your commitment to conveying every nuance and detail in the message of a song is what will set you apart and help to define your singing success. So, as you prepare for each gig and gala, let that attention to detail and delivery of a clear message be your signature song!