by Daniel Reifsnyder
5 Tips To Make You Instantly More Professional At Writer’s Rounds
If you’re an artist/writer, doing shows is a given – even if you’re simply a writer with no designs on a record deal, performing out at least sometimes is a given. It’s a great way to meet potential co-writers and friends, and a great way to gauge audience reaction to your songs. Wherever you are in your career, here are some tips to help you make a great impression.
1. Be Early
Life happens. The venue you’re playing is only 20 minutes away, but you blow a tire halfway there. Or there’s an accident and traffic is backed up for miles. Or you get there and you can’t find parking (a given if you’re playing Downtown Nashville). I always try to be a minimum of half an hour early for gigs. This not only leaves plenty of time if the unexpected happens, but it also gives me time to check out the acts before my set. It’s always nice to catch even a little bit of their stuff and introduce yourself.
2. Stay Late
Nobody expects you to close down the bar, but if you skip out the minute your set is done, that can be seen as rude. Most people are understanding if you have a long drive ahead of you or another gig you have to get to – it happens. But if it happens all the time, it starts to look like you’re unsupportive of your peers. Even staying for just a few songs can leave a better impression than packing up and rushing out.
3. Don’t Play Longer than You’re Supposed To
I once played a gig where myself and another act were supposed to be opening for a larger band. We were each supposed to get 30 minutes, then exit the stage for the main event. The band that went on before us played for an hour and fifteen minutes. Yes, you read that right. The guy running the venue was pissed, and kept trying to get their attention. The band plowed ahead anyway, even calling up a “guest” from the audience to sing a song. And this was supposed to be an opening act. They ate into so much of the show time that even the headliners had to cut their set short. This was a pretty extreme example, but there’s always that person who wants to play “just one more song” at a round. Most venues have a tight schedule, and a short window for setup and sound check. If you’re supposed to play 3 songs, play 3 songs. You don’t want to leave a bad impression with the venue, or the writers coming up after you who have to cut their set short.
4. Have a Pocket Song or Two
As I referenced in #1, the unexpected often happens. Maybe the writer who was supposed to play a round with you got sick and now you’re a man short for the round. Or maybe the next group after you is running late. That’s going to mean you need to play more songs than you expected. If you keep a couple extra songs polished up and ready, you’ll never be caught unawares. There’s nothing more intimidating than being in the hot seat, wracking your brain on what to play next.
5. In Case of Emergency
I have a tendency to over prepare for things – it’s just always been my nature. I always carry extra batteries for my tuner, extra strings, extra picks. It’s easy to just stick them in your case and forget you have them…but in the event you need them, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you showed some foresight. I played a gig once in freezing New Jersey weather – I think they had just come off a blizzard. I drove a couple hours to the gig, which was a neat little coffee house that featured a roaring stone fireplace right behind the stage. If you know anything about instruments, you know how much temperatures can affect guitars – going from a frigid car trunk to a full blown fireplace can be quite the shock for a wooden instrument. I played a two hour gig, and believe me, I went through 2 sets of strings. It seemed like every song one would snap off and I’d have to pause and tell a joke while I re-strung and re-tuned. I was glad that day that I hadn’t only kept one set of strings – otherwise, I’d likely not have been able to finish the show. Having these extra things around makes you look like a pro, and gives the impression that you prepared for the show. Follow these tips, and any venue will welcome you with open arms!