Lessons about performing, lesson 31: Be prompt!

Hello, my dear reader! It’s great to see that you survived the holiday! This being a grand week for such, ’cause you’ll also get to party it down this weekend!

Hmm… Side note, it’s surprisingly awkward to write about future events like this! It’s actually only Sunday. I friggin’ love the scheduling feature! But, it’s really weird to write like I’m writing this the day of publication.

Still, seeing as you’re reading this, I can assume you survived! If you’re dead, it’s okay – you can skip this lesson.

If you’re unfamiliar, I’m writing a list of all the rules (that I can think of – y’all are none too helpful at giving me new ideas and lessons I may have skipped along the way) that you might want to follow if you’re planning on becoming a performing musician. Here’s the full list.

For many of them, you’ll want to use some commonsense. They may only apply partially to your specific set of circumstances. Then again, they may be even more important to you and you may wish to emphasize some of them more than you do others.

However, this one has pretty much no exceptions. There’s no exceptions and no excuses good enough. This is a rule that should be set in stone, followed regardless of extenuating circumstances, and is very important.

Rule #31: Be prompt!

An astute reader would notice that I said be prompt, and not “be on time.”

My keyboard pounding is not, in fact, without any forethought and the choice of verbiage is pretty specific.

Why is that? Because there’s more to being prompt than just showing up on time. In fact, there’s quite a bit more.

As you may have noticed, I’m a stickler for a few things. Being prompt is one of them. Being prompt is a sign of professionalism. When I decided to go ahead and form the current band, I laid down a set of rules and one of the big ones was that they must be prompt – even for rehearsals and practice.

For those that don’t know, I live in the mountains of Maine. I regularly get snow storms that are measured in feet, multiples of feet. Unless the State canceled, or school canceled, I expect them to be here to rehearse on time.

Most things can be replaced, but not time. You only get so much time. There’s not a whole lot that’s worse than someone who steals your time. If you say you will be there at a certain time, be there at that time. If you have to, wait down the road until it is nearly that time – but be there on time.

We all live in Maine. We all drive in Maine. The venue doesn’t shut down unless the weather is truly terrible. The fans are still going to drive, risking their lives, to come see you. Be there on time.

This doesn’t just mean take to the stage on time. No, this means be there in time to do load in, sound check, walk-through, band meeting, and more.

Then, when you’re done with the set, get your ass off the stage. You may not even have time to change your clothing. I want your shit torn down and packed away.

This is even more important when there’s someone else playing behind you. They’re scheduled to go on stage at a certain time. They don’t want to cut into their setup time while you fuck around tearing down. If the schedule calls for it, end your set on time and get the hell off the stage.

So, you need to be there on time and leave on time. You need to be quick and you need to know what you’re doing. This is something learned from lots of practice.

No, don’t sit there carefully winding up your cords. Throw them in a box and get off the damned stage. There’s another act coming up behind you and they are eager to play. They can’t be prompt unless you’re prompt. Don’t steal their time.

Don’t steal the audience’s time. Don’t steal your bandmate’s time. Don’t steal time from the promoter, venue manager, or anyone else. Have reliable transportation, a working clock, and some pride in your professionalism.

It really is that simple.

I have refused to work with people who were unable to be prompt. It’s unprofessional and a pain in the ass to work around. It’s unfair to everyone involved. Don’t do it.

Wow! This is a short one! There’s really not much more to it. Your audience deserves to not have their time stolen, as does everyone else. You’re not that special and you have expectations to meet. If you can’t be prompt, don’t be a musician.

Sadly, it’s amazing how often this rule isn’t followed. There’s pretty much no exceptions. The number of times I’ve driven through a blizzard (I’ve spent much of my time in the north) to make a gig is way too high to accept excuses from other people. Leave early, drive slow, and know how to drive in bad weather.

It really is that simple. Reliable transportation is a must. Being prompt is a must. If I’m in the audience and you show up 15 minutes late, I’m not going to come see you again. It tells me that you’re not a professional and, more importantly, that you think so little of me that you just don’t care what you take from me. My time is valuable, don’t waste it. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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