The Top 10 Ways to Teach Your Student to Successfully Survive a Road Gig

Mike Lawson • GoodVibes • March 3, 2020

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As your students’ progress into the real world, there are many challenges regarding concerts on the road.

In regional areas where you live, there are many comforts such as knowing the local audience and venues. When your students hit the road, there are often unexpected situations that can lead to a disaster if they are not prepared. Getting advice on these situations from someone who has road experience will greatly enhance the chances of a successful road concert!

1) Book an Appropriate Venue: When your student’s bags are packed and they are ready to go, it is too late. But planning a concert in advance can help alleviate booking mistakes. Your students always want to choose venues where their music is appropriate for the clients. Doing research ahead of time and finding venues that are a hand-in-a glove fit for the style of music is extremely important.

2) Research the Venue: Have your student call the venue and ask questions. Ask them what the age range of the clients tends to be, as well as other questions. Is there a special event happening that night? What day of the week will the concert be on? The answers to these questions will help your student decide which songs to put on the setlist and in which order. The more upbeat songs should be programmed during the busier periods of the evening. Have your students also find out the area that the venue resides. Whether the venue sits in a college town or a rural area makes a huge difference! Your student may want to learn a couple of appropriate songs for the type of clients that will be in attendance.

3) Contracts: Contracts are extremely important, so all of the bases are covered. Realistically, not all venues prefer to be this formal. Just make sure your students get the details of the pay scale, performance times, breaks, etc. in writing. Even a simple email outlining details is considered a legal document if it is needed. If a contract is made, make sure details such as cancellation policies, sickness, and other unpredictable events are covered in writing. This makes a more comfortable situation for the performer and the venue.

4) Sound: Always find out if there is a sound person and equipment. If there is a sound person, your students need to be in communication days before the performance to make sure details are worked out. During setup is not the right time to tell the sound guy that you need a condenser microphone! If sound is not provided, your student will either need to rent one or bring their own. They should always have extra chords and backup parts. Equipment does malfunction and often times even if there is a sound music store in the area, it is usually closed if your student is performing a concert at night. I have had it happen to me and I wasn’t prepared, and it is an absolutely awful situation to be in. If the sound system can’t be fixed, make sure your students have an acoustic version of the show that can be performed.

5) Stay Healthy: Days before your student leaves for a road concert, they should eat well. Having a healthy mind and body is very important because there is nothing worse than being sick on the road! The roads brings foreign germs, so the Walgreens Airborne supplement is highly recommended.

6) Local Promotion: Make sure your students contact the local newspapers and send a press release regarding the concert. Bringing people to the concert is very important in hoping that they will be asked to perform again. Have your students contact friends or family in the area that may want to attend the concert. Make sure your student isn’t crushed if nobody shows up. It happens to the best of us. My most interesting concert was in a rural area where nobody showed up. There was a farm pasture across from the stage and I ended up performing for about 20 cows for three hours. I kept my contract and performed and used the humor for the situation to lift my spirits as I kept hearing “moooooore cowbell” in my head!

7) Arrive Early: On a road gig, your students should arrive extra early! With a stage they have never seen and aren’t comfortable with, it is very important to get used to the sound situation. If there is a lot of equipment to be brought in, getting there early will ensure that your student can survive loading in if the unloading area is far from the stage. It is best to call the venue before the concert and get information on this situation.

8) New Audience Mentality: When your students perform on the road, the audience may be completely unfamiliar with the music. Design the set list that will fit a new audience. Your students need to perform with intense energy, as if they are performing every song for the first time! The reason for this mindset is because the audience is hearing each song for the first time!

9) Have Confidence: Performing in a new area can be rough on the nerves. If your student isn’t confident, then fake it! They should always remember that they are considered an employee of the venue for one night and they should make the audience feel comfortable and welcome. They should perform like they own the place!

10) Stay Sober: I believe that all teachers should not be afraid to discuss this subject with students. A clean and sober life is a successful life! Being clean and sober at a concert will also help your students perform at their very best. It is actually a myth that performers play better while drinking, they only think that they are!

Kevin has been nominated for 38 music industry awards for his Echoes in the Sand album, and he won the 2016 American Songwriting Awards. He performed with the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps from 1992-1994 and won the DCI Midwest Individuals in 1994 for keyboard percussion. He placed 2nd in the United States for concert hall percussion at the Music Teachers National Association collegiate competition in 1997.

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