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Beginner’s etiquette for local musicians

Over the last decade, I’ve performed with several different local bands. Drumming in front of a crowd is my favorite thing to do, and I’m always thankful for the opportunity.

I’ve played for crowds of three and crowds of several hundred, and each show has been worthwhile. Some days you don’t get paid at all, and other times, you make out like a bandit. Sometimes you even make out with a bandit.

This last weekend, I played one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve ever had in Northern Utah. The opening bands were talented and the touring band knew how to entertain a crowd. Overall, things went well, but I was reminded of some of the snags that can put a damper on local shows. I thought I’d come up with a simple etiquette list for local musicians:

1. Don’t be late. Regardless of how rock’n’roll we think we are, once we agree to a performance, music becomes our job. Show up to your job on time. If the show is supposed to start at 7:00, you’d better be on stage and ready to say, “Hi, we are the Adjective What-Have-Yous and we’re from Placeville” at 6:59. If we are late, or play too long, somebody else has to pay for our inconsideration. Shows are set to end at specific times, so if a band goes over their allotted time, which includes starting times, another band’s set is cut short. It is unfair that one band’s lack of professionalism will force another to play less.

2. Don’t play too long. If we are given a 30-minute set, we should play for 30 minutes or less. The only people who want us to perform every song we’ve ever written are ourselves. Remember: Leave while the crowd still wants you to stay. Leave them wanting more. Ending sooner rather than later drives merchandise sales and helps solidify spots at upcoming shows. Last weekend’s headlining band was incredible, but they played 45 minutes too long. I didn’t purchase any albums and I’m not likely to attend next time they come through town. A shorter set probably would have evoked opposite responses. Also, regardless of how good we think we are, venue employees do this every single night. I don’t think “jaded” even begins to cover their relationship with local music. Let them go home on time.

3. Be sober (or at least functional). Again, the job thing. It’s unfair that people may get a second-rate performance. If we don’t play the best we can, the crowd deserves refunds.

4. Be set up and ready to go as soon as the band preceding yours is done. When we hear the last note ring, it’s not our cue to start drinking behind the venue or to start putting drums together. Everything should be set up as much as possible beforehand. No local band should ever take more than 15 minutes to set up.

5. Have the time of your life. You never know when one of your bandmates is going to bug out, even if you did sign that contract with fake blood in seventh grade that you would stick together until you sold out and all died of heroin overdoses. This isn’t our chance to show everyone that we’re the greatest thing since Whole Wheat Bread (band or food, you decide); this is our lucky chance to share our passion with others.

We have a lot of talented musicians in Utah who I’m very proud of. We also have some unprofessional goons who make a fine mess of local shows. If we all show some respect and professionalism, we can make the experience more enjoyable for everybody, because, far too often, local shows are only enjoyable for the ones on stage.

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