When you’re a band on tour, it’s hard trying to balance work and family life with the complex politics and logistics of the band itself. Touring musicians often adhere to the unwritten rules of the road to make life easier. Rules like not eating another band’s rider or picking up a guitar without asking first, for example. But very often, the fellow musicians they encounter on tour don’t appreciate these unwritten rules.
Take the support band, for example. The support band is often the reason the touring band is playing in front of a crowd, don’t forget. Headliners should treat them with respect when they’re on their home soil and be good to their fans, because the chances are they’re the ones buying merch.
However, for every great support band, you’re going to get one or two who turn up and drive the touring band mad. Yes, of course, you can help each other out by lending a bass amp here and there or sharing a kit, but sometimes the support band will go too far.
So, in the interest of making headliner-support band relationships more harmonious, here are 20 things a support band should never say.
- We thought you were bringing a crowd.
Nope, unfortunately we don’t bring a rent-a-crowd to gigs and you’ve basically just told me that no one is coming.
- Can we borrow an amp/guitar lead/plectrum/guitar/your drum stool?
Dude, if you’re turning up to a gig without the bare essentials, you don’t deserve to play on a stage. A plumber doesn’t turn up to a house and ask for a plunger. Everyone loses or breaks something at some point, but you shouldn’t use that as an excuse to turn up without all the equipment you need. It’s rare for bands to share breakables, except for cymbal stands occasionally. After all, breakables break!
- My girlfriend/boyfriend is the manager
This is just trouble. Have you seen Spinal Tap?
- Can you take your gear off before we play?
If space on stage is tight then yes, they headliner might agree to pack down after sound check, but if it’s just to make room to jump around, the support act should manage with what space they have and respect the headliner and allow them to leave their gear onstage.
- Can I have a free t-shirt/CD?
No, you can’t. Every free t-shirt or CD we give away means we’re down £10 and can’t afford petrol money to get home.
- Can we swap a t-shirt/CD?
No. See above.
- Where are all your fans?
If it’s your first tour this just hurts. Rome wasn’t built in a day… besides, where are all yours?!
- We sound nothing like your band
Great, that means that there’s a good chance that a lot of the people coming to see you are NOT going to like our music.
- The promoter left
Even better. This means we’re probably not getting paid and he hasn’t promoted the gig properly so he’s hiding.
- We were only told about this gig last night/today
Awesome. That means none of your fans are coming and the promoter probably hasn’t put flyers out and posters up.
- We thought you were supplying the backline.
It’s one of the first things you’re expected to check when negotiating a support slot. At this stage, it’s far too late to pull that line. No. Just, no.
- Can we come on tour with you?
This is a tough one. If you’re unsigned and you like the band, this is fairly easy to organise, however, GOOD promoters don’t want two out of town bands playing as the local support acts usually bring people. If you’re signed, the politics of booking agents and management companies usually dictates what bands you gig with. We’re all vying for a better position on the touring scene, so don’t be offended if the headliner act says “no” as it’s not usually down to them.
- We have to leave after we play.
This is rude. Support your local scene and stick around. Playing to an empty room sucks so show some support. Plus the fact, it’s just polite to stay.
- We broke your drumkit/amp/guitar.
Pay for it.
- Can our friends hang out in the dressing room?
No, this is where we chill out or get ready for the gig. Plus all of our laptops/wallets/phones are in there and we don’t want random people touching our stuff. It’s just polite so don’t ask.
- Our set is 40 minutes long
No, it’s 30 mins. Cut it down so we can get on and play before people have to get their last train/bus home.
- Can we borrow your backstage pass?
Can I borrow the keys to your house?
- What time is sound check?
If you hear this, chances are the gig hasn’t been organised properly.
- Can we have some of your rider?
No. This is part of our payment. You’ve drank/eaten all of yours so get your own.
- I don’t know where your gear is.
The ultimate nightmare. Someone has walked in and pinched your stuff. Hopefully you’ve got musical instrument insurance though, right?
Respect each other on the road. Support your local scene and help each other out where possible. Just don’t show up to a gig without your instruments please!