Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to Advance a Performance

Whenever an artist is booked for a performance, it is crucial to touch base with the client directly at least a week prior to the performance. This is called “advancing” the show. With your signed contract in hand, call (not email) the client to confirm the following:
  • Dress
  • Show content and special requests
  • Directions, unloading, and parking details
  • Technical rider, staging, and sound details
  • Arrival time and performance time
  • Hotel reservations
  • Food/drink arrangements
  • Final payment


My personal opinion on dress is that the performer should always be the best dressed person in the room. Unless you have an act like Larry the Cable Guy, there is no good reason to be wearing jeans when everyone else is in suits. Of course, you don’t want to overdress, either. Ask the client what the dress for the event will be, and then dress a little nicer.

Show Content and Special Requests

Make sure you and the client are on the same page about the kind of show you're offering. If they ask you to avoid certain subject matter or language, then go out of your way to accommodate them. If they want you to do unusual song requests or custom material that is outside the scope of your contract, feel free to politely push back or ask them to speak to your booking agent.

Directions, Unloading, and Parking

In case you don’t know it already, Google Maps isn’t always correct. Plot out your directions before you call then go over them with the client. Get some anecdotal landmarks like “turn left right past the Wal-Mart”. You’ll save yourself some stress later. Also be sure that you have a designated area nearby to load your equipment and park your car. Have the client mail or fax you a parking pass ahead of time if necessary.

Technical Rider, Staging, and Sound

Just because the client signed the contract doesn’t mean that they read it. And it’s very possible that they won’t be the on-site contact, and that the on-site contact will have never seen your rider. So if there’s something you absolutely need, make it abundantly clear.

Arrival and Performance Time

The arrival time on your contract should not be overlooked. Often times you will have to meet your client at a specified time to be escorted to your performance location. Don’t waste your time or theirs. Make sure you specify where, when, and who you will meet. Also, double-check the performance time. Plans often change dramatically from the time the contract was issued.

Hotel Reservations

Get a hotel confirmation number from the client. If you’re going to be checking in late, call the hotel directly to confirm your reservation. About 1 out of 5 times someone at the client organization makes the hotel reservation under their name. You won’t know this when you get to the hotel at 2 AM, and neither will the person working the front desk at the hotel. Guess what happens then? You don't get the room that has been reserved and paid for. Save yourself the hassle and call ahead!

Food and Drink Arrangements

If your rider calls for a meal, confirm ahead of time when and where it will be served. Never count on anything. Take your own bottled water and power bars just in case.

Final Payment

If your contract calls for you to be paid following the performance, make sure they will have the check cut and ready for you. This doesn’t have to be awkward. When you call, just casually ask “Will I pick up a check that night?”, and follow that with “And just to confirm, it will be made payable to _________.” Sometimes corporate events and government agencies cannot have your check that night, no matter what your contract says. Avoid any night-of-show confusion by asking ahead of time.

If you have any additional provisions in your contract, be sure to go over each and every one. Remember that it is your responsibility to call ahead and ensure a successful performance.

Why Call?

All of these details can be confirmed over email. So why should you call? Simple: it's your first opportunity to connect with the client on a personal level and begin winning them over. Even if you don't need to call, call anyway. They will remember when they submit the post-show review.

Arriving at the Show

The show begins when you pull into the parking lot. Dress and act accordingly.

Be sure to carry a printed introduction with you and hand it to the person introducing you.

Make it your goal with all interactions before and after the performance to receive a 5-Star review. You are evaluated not just by your time on stage, but the sum of all of your interactions with the client. Make them count!

If you have additional tips, advice, or funny stories, please post them in the comments section below...


DV2 said...

>When you call, just casually ask >“Will I pick up a check that >night?”, and follow that with “And >just to confirm, it will be made >payable to _________.”

I'd change that to, "The contract states that I'm to pick-up a check immediately after the performance. What's the person's name who'll be paying me that night? Dave Blahblah? Great. I'll look for Dave Blahblah, what is his contact info so I can make sure he spells Weaver correctly and verify before I go on that he actually has it in hand."

Translation - There's no question I'm getting paid that night and I ain't going on until I know the check is there.

13-years in radio...



Anonymous said...

Great article! Here's a tip: if you're performing outdoors, bring your own towel.

Anonymous said...

I usually carry a small P.A. System, Microphone, and extension cord if I'm driving to a show. Some of these events think since there are only going to be 40 people there, you don't need a sound system. If your voice is not louder than the audience, you will have difficulty holding and keeping their attention. If you do impressions or use props, it is very difficult to do them effectively if you don't have amplified sound or a microphone STAND. A Guitar Amp, stand and mike ( the system I use for 50 people or so ) ran me $100. It's been worth the small investment!

Larry Weaver said...

I'll second David's recommendation on carrying your own sound system to any driving gigs. At the very least, carry your own Shure SM58 Microphone and XLR cable. Also pick up a universal mic holder for under $5. Too many times the venue has provided a wireless mic that will not fit into the provided mic stand. Solve this problem by carrying your own adjustable mic clip. And buy at least two - you'll break or leave the first one behind.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the article, Larry.

I always carry an iPod loaded with a playlist of tunes specific to genre that my band plays, as well as a good selection of mellow dinnertime music (if we're not slated to play during dinner, of course). I also check with the client to see if they have any between set music requests. I suggest that they send me a mix CD that I can rip to MP3 and load on the iPod if they have specific requests for tunes not in my library.

And to follow up on what David and Larry observed, you can never have too many mic clips, cables (there's always a guy in the band that doesn't have enough cables for his guitar rig) or mics. I always travel heavy, just in case. I've never been sorry...