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[Editor’s note: the following article was guest-written by the band Our Friend & The Spiders; check ’em out in the video below]
Touring is only easy for a selected few. For most bands, touring is synonymous with packing, driving, getting lost, unpacking, waiting and playing. This sequence is usually repeated more than once and can get a little frustrating and sometimes even discouraging. However, how you decide to act when you’re not in the touring vehicle is entirely up to you. Being nice is not always easy, especially when you’ve been in a van for 8 hours, but it’s still a choice. As a band, we decided without ever really talking about it that we we’re going to be nice. We try to be nice to everyone, but being nice to the soundman and the other bands on the bill has actually brought us a lot.
One of our bandmates is a soundman, so we’ve always been nice to the soundmen on tour out of respect. When you soundcheck, you should always try to get the sound you’re looking for. However, when you’re playing in a hole-in-the-wall that opened its doors in 1963 where the PA system has never been updated, the soundman can’t perform miracles. You can request more vocals in the monitors, more reverb in the voice, or a little extra volume, but there are limits! Sometimes, the soundman has 45 minutes to soundcheck 4 bands…it won’t be perfect! As a band, you should recognize those limits and not push your luck. The advantages of dealing with a soundman that is on your side are numerous. Firstly, he will actually listen to your set and adjust the sound as you play. He will take the time to make you sound as good as possible. When you act like U2, the soundman will often tune out while you play, which is usually not a good thing. Being nice to soundmen also increases your chance of being booked. A lot of times, soundmen work in more than one bar and if they like you, they will not hesitate recommending you to the bookers. This of course can lead to more gig opportunities, which is something that most bands are after. This has actually paid off for us more than once!
Being nice to other bands has also paid off more than once. It is of course impossible to like all the bands that you play with, but you can easily stay away from those you know you won’t. You will come across many people, many personalities and many styles of music. It can actually be fun to get to know the bands and it is always interesting to talk about the path that led them to being on the same bill as you. Over the years, we’ve had great conversations and heard great stories about life on the road.
You’re probably asking yourself how this can actually help your band? Well, first of all, you can get really good information on where to play. The bands you meet often have different experiences on the road and can give you valuable information about venues, cities, contacts, etc. This can help your band eventually book a more efficient tour. Also, it’s a great way of getting information on similar local bands that you can contact to share the stage. It has worked out for our band many times while on the road. Also, being nice with other bands usually leads to them listening to your set. When this happens, it increases your chances of getting word of mouth out about your band. This has helped us when going back to the same city for a second or third time. Local bands had talked about us after our first passage and a lot more people came out to our gig the second time.
Being nice isn’t always viewed as cool, but it can really help your band, and face it, the road would be a much better place if we all got along!