Working with musicians is never boring — but it can present challenges to even the most experienced team. And if you’re booking shows for a venue, you’ll interact with a lot of characters.
So, how can you keep your cool and prepare for even the most idiosyncratic artists? We asked Lou Steaton, Artist Liason at Bath’s legendary music venue Moles in the UK, for a run down of how she keeps musicians happy. For six years, Steaton has booked shows and looked after every performer who passes through the doors — from The Smiths to Radiohead to Mumford & Sons. Here’s how she makes sure everything goes as planned on the day of the show.
Download Lou Steaton’s essential gig checklist to make sure your shows go smoothly.
Before the show: Negotiate rider requests and access levels, and craft an artist liason checklist
Rider requests: “In the weeks running up to the event, we’ll be in contact with the band, agent, or tour manager to receive all the essential information,” Steaton says. “Rider can be anything from a few drinks tokens to comprehensive lists with specific requirements and brands.”
Steaton does her best to accomodate artist requests within reason and budget. “If bands request something a bit silly for a laugh, I usually like to get it for them – it shows we’ve actually paid attention and that we have a sense of humor,” Steaton says. “That makes our venue more memorable. For instance, Heck requested a ‘children’s party’, so I gave them balloons and party rings. They loved it!”
Access levels: “We will send out advice on where bands can pull up and load out prior to the gig,” Steaton says. “If your venue has parking restrictions that change after a certain time, be sure to mention this.
Steaton is also sure to negotiate green room access with the headlining band in advance. “Sometimes they are touring with a supporting band who they won’t mind sharing with, but sometimes they want it to themselves,” Steaton says. “Make sure you know in advance to save any awkward conversations later!”
Artist Liaison sheet: “When I have all the information I need, I create an Artist Liaison sheet for my team’s reference – this is my custom ‘cheat sheet’ with all my essential info and reminders,” Steaton says. It includes names of the bands playing and band members names, as well as space for the crew’s names. “This is so I know how many wristbands to give out, and so I don’t accidentally give band wristbands to guests or (heaven forbid) someone who has snuck in.”
The gig checklist also includes:
- On-shift manager name
- Sound technician name
- Load-in time – including soundcheck time
- Load-out time
- The number of tickets already sold – bands that aren’t local usually like to know this
- Stocktake checklist for in-house rider – any stock that has been taken from the club stock needs to be noted down so it can be written off, this is usually slabs of beer or bottles of spirits
- Buyout information including special dietary requirements – budget per head, how many people, vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free requirements
- Shopping list for rider – I have this on a separate page so I can take it with me to the supermarket
This all goes inside a folder with pens, wristbands, drinks tokens, and paper.
Before load in: Prepare the green room
“On the day-of, I’ll visit the supermarket to buy the rider supplies, and then head to the venue an hour or two before the band is due to arrive,” Steaton says. “I give the Green Room a once over, making sure it is clean, and stock it up with beer, water, and the rest of the rider. I try and make our fridge look like a hotel mini-bar to make a better impression on our artists – little touches like making sure bottles/cans are all facing the same way do make a difference!”
If the band has any special dietary requirements, make sure these are clearly labeled and separated. The last thing Steaton prepares is drinks tokens for supporting acts, and she makes sure the buyout cash is withdrawn and put safely in an envelope.
Load in: Greet artists and flag restrictions
“When the band arrives, I introduce myself, the sound technician and the manager,” Steaton says. “If the band has not been paid in advance, I make sure they know who will be paying them. Everybody gets a wristband and is ticked off my list.”
Next up, give the band a minute to relax — they may have traveled significant distances to arrive at the venue. “Bands have often traveled long distances so it’s vital to let everyone know where the restroom is next!” Steaton says. “I usually like to put out a jug of iced water for everyone to help themselves to, and if it’s a cold day, I’ll offer tea and coffee.”
Finally, make sure the band knows if your venue or neighborhood has any restrictions. “If, like our venue, you are surrounded by offices, you may have restrictions on when soundcheck can begin,” Steaton says. “Make sure your artists are aware of this if load-in is before this time. Similarly, if you have any restrictions for load-out noise due to residential neighbors, make sure these are communicated as well.”
After soundcheck: Explain security and useful information
“When everyone is ready, I show the band up to the Green Room,” Steaton says. “If they need any spare keys or access codes, I make these available, and explain about security. For example, at our venue, bands have to use a locked side door to get in and out before the general public arrives. After that, they must use the main venue doors.”
Be sure to show your bands where bathrooms and water are, if they are not directly in the Green Room. “Now is usually a good time to ask for the guestlist as well,” Steaton says. “Finally, I will give bands a map that I have designed specifically for the venue, which lists to-go restaurants and shops. On the back cover it also has photos of key staff members with contact information, so bands know who they are looking for and who they can get in touch with if they have any problems or questions.
“If you cannot create a similar document at your venue, at the very least provide a map or local guide, and gather some takeout menus,” Steaton advises. “Out-of-town bands will especially appreciate the information as they don’t have time to wander around looking for what they need.”
Doors open: Hand over responsibilities to the rest of the team
If your job is over once the band is ready to go on stage, it’s time to make sure the rest of the team understands what’s required of them for the night to end as smoothly as it began. “If we’re using a videographer, I work with them to organize interviews before doors open,” Steaton says. “Our videographer will take about 20 minutes to set up his equipment, interview the bands, and then stay on to record parts of the show.”
Then Steaton is off the hook as soon as doors open. “I will pass responsibilities to the manager, including my Artist Liaison sheet for reference,” Steaton says. “It’s designed so it has all the information needed to carry through to the end of the gig, so I can go home and get some dinner.”
Want to take your artist relations to the next level? Download Steaton’s free essential artist liason checklist to ace every gig.
Want to take your artist relations to the next level? Download Steaton’s free essential gig checklist to ace every show.