Thursday, May 14, 2015

If I managed a young rock band these are the seven things I'd tell them

I've never been in a rock band but I've stood and watched enough up and coming bands perform to have realised a few things the people in those bands still don't appear to have realised. The other night I saw another lot of up and comers and found myself thinking the same things I've thought for years.

1. The most precious resource is not your music, it's the audience's attention. Don't let it drop for so much as a second.

2. Introduce yourself or be introduced. Bob Dylan has a man whose job it is to list his achievements and remind the audience who he is. And he's Bob Bloody Dylan.

3. Get on stage and start at least two minutes before your agreed time. And start, don't faff. In the early days Elvis Costello and The Attractions would *run* on clutching the tools of their trade, which was a signal. Any band who didn't want to waste their own time weren't going to waste yours either.

4. Audiences only really like two parts of a show - the beginning and the end.  Prolong the former by rolling directly through your first three numbers without pausing. End suddenly and unexpectedly. Audiences reward bands who stop early and punish those who stay late.

5. Between songs never approach the microphone and say the first thing that comes into your head. The chat is as important as the music.

6. In his excellent book The Ten Rules Of Rock and Roll, Robert Forster says "no band does anything new on stage after the first twenty minutes". Try to prove him wrong by doing one thing they're not expecting you to do. That's what the people will talk about on the way home.

7. Finally, there's nothing an audience enjoys more than hearing something familiar. If you think your songwriting and all-round musical excellence are enough to entertain a bunch of strangers for an hour with songs they have never heard before, bully for you. The Beatles didn't, but what the hell did they know?


  1. 8. Write your band's name in big letters on the bass drum, that's what it is there for.

  2. All good tips, especially no. 2. I've lost count of the number of support acts I've seen over the years who never told the audience who they were. If they can't be bothered to do that, why should I bother to seek out their music?

  3. I’ve never played in a rock band, but I h ave played in the 60s version: The Beat Group. Same thing really. Things haven’t changed.
    Regarding the “chat,” those who do chat, often rely on saying the first thing that comes into their head. Sadly this all too often this amounts to nothing.
    Too many performers give so little time to the audience. “If they don’t get it, that’s their hard luck,” is the attitude. Which is all very well as far as it goes; we’re all Artists, after all. But a bit of effort in the “selling” shouldn’t come amiss. And considering one of the essentials of performing is Showing Off, it’s not really very difficult.

  4. If you're on a stage, it doesn't matter if you're Slipknot or Dean Martin. You're in show business and, although the content is different, the rules of entertaining an audience and keeping them engaged are exactly the same.

  5. 9. Have CDs pressed up and ready to sell at every gig. After your set, go out and meet people. Shake hands, answer questions, pose for selfies, do autographs. Sell your CDs and autograph *them*.

    It's called building an audience.

  6. Skipola says

    Get a famous rock star from the city your in to perform one of their songs with you or do a song that was a hit from the city.

  7. After your first number always shout "Good evening 'INSERT CITY NAME HERE'. Are you having a good time?"

  8. Couldn't agree more. I saw Television at the Roundhouse in 2013 and the communication with the audience was woeful; consisting of mumbled 'name the song' intros and a pitiful "Do we sound alright?". Gaps between the songs were often measured in minutes where the band tuned up and had the odd chat near the drum riser ("Hey Tom, have the piles cleared up? Billy, How are the kids? Jimmy, I hear you finally got that ride-on mower. Fred, how's the prostate?")

    This from a band who, without doubt, have anecdotes by the bucket-load about New York, New Wave and their time playing at CBGBs. Compare that to Songhoy Blues who I saw last week; they played like it was their last-ever gig and constantly involved the audience with calls to sway, clap hands, sing along etc.

    Maybe the disconnect is between being hungry to play or just hungry for pay.

  9. We're a folk duo, not a rock band, but these are still excellent points, thank you! When we rehearse we always time our set to make sure we're not going to outstay our welcome, and we also rehearse what we're planning to say between songs.

    However, and this is based on something we forgot to do once, and regretted:
    8. If you have merch, tell people you have merch. More than once. And point to the merch stall.