You have done everything right. You put together and tested your gear, making sure your batteries are fresh and your cables are in fine working order. Your strings are fresh and your guitar is relatively in tune. You know what goes where, so when your name is called your ready to play in a moment’s notice.

You’ve pinpointed the perfect venue that is receptive to your style of music. You’ve gone in before hand and checked out the stage, introduced yourself to host (or M.C. or Booking Manager) and soundman, and witnessed a show in action.

You prepped your setlist, given yourself some viable alternative and extra songs (you know… just in case), and rehearsed a little witty repartee’, song introductions, and adlibbed lines. You warmed up your voice, double check everything, and you’re ready to go deliver a flawless KA show.

Part 4: What to expect

Well, sadly, rarely is any show flawless. Even the most professional productions that are designed to work like clockwork have flaws. In fact, the bigger the production the more opportunity there is for something to go wrong. The reason it can go by unnoticed by all but the most trained eye is the professionalism of those affiliated with that production.


Professionalism should be something you expect, but just as with common sense, you discover it’s not that common. But, I’m under the belief that regardless of the behavior of others, one should always retain the heir of professionalism, if not professionalism itself.  If only others felt the same.

So, if a writer’s night is a first come first play basis, and you’re first and you’ve brought a huge crowd of people with you…the host may spontaneously decide to “play a few songs to kick the evening off. “

That can also happen during middle of the evening when you’re on the middle of the list and your friends are not there when the show has started.

If a known artist or songwriter stops by, or just a friend of the host, they may be inserted un-scrupulously into the list. And, don’t expect them to necessarily honor the song limit: even though you’ll be expected to.

That being said, they will be friendly and as accommodating as they can be while still showing favoritism: Their keeping this gig depends on singer/songwriters like you coming out. 

Which brings up the next point: The audience is likely to largely consist (if not entirely) of other singer/songwriters. They may or may not have brought a crowd with them. Some of the other singer/songwriters will be overtly friendly, some will appear arrogant, some will timid, and some…well, there will be all kinds. Some will come up to you after you play and compliment your performance or songs, or both. If that happens, as opposed to bumping into one of them when you’re leaving, take it to heart that they are being sincere and it’s not just professional courtesy.

Since these affairs are largely acoustic-based and just about everyone has a different pickup system in their guitar, there’s most likely going to be brief squeals, screeches, hums, buzzes and indescribable sounds emanating from the front of house speakers and monitors. Don’t like it jar you if it happens when you’re on stage. The soundman will correct the problem or ask you to change a setting or cord if the problem is on your end.

It will seem like you are waiting forever before you get to play, and everyone before you will seemingly play all their longest songs. The only exception to this is if someone is driving over to watch your show or bringing you some piece of forgotten gear you left at home. Then time will fly by at a pretty good clip.

Time on stage is different than time really is, too. If there’s a problem on stage…say, you forgot your setlist and a friend is bringing it to you from your table…it will seem like five minutes before they get there. Actually, it’ll more likely be twenty seconds; but it will feel like five minutes. With more experience, your time and space continuum will balance out.

If it’s a writer’s night, your pay (if the gig is supposed to be a paying gig) will most likely be the door of the guests that came to see you. But it’s not unheard of for the establishment to want a percentage of the door or the whole door up to a certain amount, in which you get everything after that. (But, rarely will you get a percentage of the money your fans spent at the bar). Sometimes, you’ll be asked to pay the soundman a certain amount, regardless of how many people you bring. Obviously, this is stuff you want to know at the time you’re booking the gig.

Open mic nights and some songwriters in the round, the host is the only one who gets paid (aside from the soundman). The good news is you won’t be expected to pay for production. But you will have to pay for your drinks.

Sometimes the
re’s a hype that labels, managers, publishers and other industry types frequent this writer’s night or open mic night. Usually, it’s just hype, so don’t count on it.

However, there have been occasions that it has happened. If they are there to listen to someone on the bill it is doubtful that they’ll pay too much attention to anyone else’s performance. But, if they do comment on your song, by all means ask for their card and/or email address so you can send them a MP3. You could be the one in a million. 

Remember that each time on stage is practice for the next one. The object is to gain as much experience as you can. Actually, the object is to gain as much experience as you can of having the unexpected happen to you (power outage, broken string, bar fight, lost voice, rough crowd, etc.) in a situation that doesn’t matter all that much to you, so you’ll be a pro if such unfortunate things happen in a situation that does.

Jake Kelly is a man on the constant search for enlightenment, if anyone finds it let him know so he can get some. For more of this hombre’s ramblings and the rest of L2P check out L2Pbandspace and


Originally posted 2010-10-20 21:42:24.