Band Etiquette 101

Whether you’re aware or not, there’s a few unwritten rules of how band’s conduct themselves within their local scenes. Break them, and you could face repercussions ranging from lost show opportunities to being the subject of ridicule by your peers. We’ve assembled five rules for you to follow if your band is interested in staying out of trouble and maintaining a good reputation. None of these rules have anything to do with the music your band makes, but they’re important because conducting yourself in a disrespectful or aloof way has the potential to keep you from reaching your goals.

Unless you’re headlining, get your stuff off the stage as fast as you can

This rule will probably seem obvious to some readers, but it has to be mentioned for the sake of those of you who might be just starting your music careers. When you’re finished playing your set, it’s absolutely paramount that you move your instruments and equipment off the stage as soon as possible. A good way to turn your local scene against you is to go mingle with fans after your set while the next band is eager to get on stage and play. Before you relax and take it easy, clear the stage. Literally everyone you ever play with going forward will thank you for it.

Be respectful when you talk about other bands in public

Badmouthing other bands in your scene is a poor reflection of you and your bandmates. It’s petty and annoying to hear bands complain about other musicians in their sphere for things like being successful or because they happen to make music you don’t care for. Professionalism is something that often separates serious musicians for amateurs, so the next time you’re tempted to talk badly about another band, try working on your own music instead.

Drop the name-dropping

We’ve all met that guy who can’t wait to tell you who’s producing his band’s next album and how he had drinks with some famous musician on tour last month. Don’t be this guy, guys. Name-dropping is obnoxious, and it’s a tell that the person doing it is insecure. Rather than relying on talking up your band’s accomplishments, focus on building your legacy through the music you make.

Be honest

Doing dishonest things like telling local venues your draw is 500 when you know it’s around 50 will pretty much ruin to your reputation within a music scene. Venues, press, and fans appreciate and demand honesty. So do your best to be genuine not only in what you promise the people you work with, but also in how you present yourselves.

Don’t be flakey

You probably get irritated when friends or family members are unreliable, so why should your band conduct itself in the same annoying manner? Everyone in your scene from the fans and bands down to press and show promoters are going to be looking for bands they can rely on. This means showing up on time, communicating frequently with the people you work with and delivering on your promises. It’s not brain surgery. If your band is consistently flakey, your scene will eventually take notice.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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  • Larry - November 2, 2017 reply

    “Professionalism” presents in many ways.It starts in being prepared for rehearsals.Being on time for rehearsals and the gigs shows respect for bandmates and the venue at which a performance is held.Sound check should be well in advance of the start time.Having a sound check leading into the 1st number conveys a poor image to the audience.”Was the sound check a flubbing up of the 1st song?” Attire appropriate to the style of the band and type venue should be a consideration.Sets should be seamless without long delays between numbers.Being prepared to play is paramount.

  • Luc Lecompte - January 26, 2018 reply

    Thank you! It’s obvious and also easy to forget. Sometimes, even the pros will get attitude and it gets noticed. Do you have one for DJ etiquettes?

  • Kirk - May 14, 2018 reply

    Once while being the opening band on a semi-major tour the headliner’s stage manager changed my life. “no cases on stage” was a very strict rule and it really changes the way you get your gear on and off stage. He was a total asshole about set times and stuff but that’s the first thing I noticed about coming home and playing local shows again. No one was in charge. There needs to be a designated asshole bruising egos and making sure everything runs smoothly. This is seriously lacking in many local scenes. Also common sense.

  • R - August 22, 2018 reply

    is it inappropriate to ask a lead singer of another band to co-front another band?

  • peter - July 15, 2020 reply

    always treat the sound man with great respect…and thank him afterwards…

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