4) The Relationships: Foster the relationships with your fans, because they are the reason you’re getting booked; with the bar owners and other clients, because they are not your adversaries; and don’t overlook the wait staff and bartenders, because they’re not your servants; they are your COLLEAGUES
This subject I saved for last because I felt like I needed to get through the other factors first in order to set this one up. Earlier I described success as encompassing four legs of a table: Production, Promotion, the Show, and now the Relationships. In order to have a stable foundation you need all four legs, and each are equally important in their own way. On the face of it, the Relationships can seem like the throwaway leg that doesn’t need much thought, because I mean, yeah sure, whatever. But it’s a potentially powerful piece that can help propel you to success…or failure.
I’ve seen bands take on a “we don’t give a shit, fuck this place” attitude that you could see permeate their performance on stage…and I’ve seen bands display a “we’re very happy to be here, what can we do to help” attitude that also showed through their performance. Now which band do you think has had more success?
It’s important to be approachable and engaging. You want to make people feel welcome and appreciated for showing up to your gig. People love feeling like they are a part of the experience you are creating, as opposed to just being an observer. I know people who have met their future wives at these shows. I’ve seen them propose to their future wives at these shows. I know people who have made lifelong friends at these shows. What you do matters in it’s own unique way. Respect it and treat it accordingly.
It’s also important to be flexible with the bar owner (or the person who hired you) on things like the load in times, sound check times, play times, etc. Listen, I get that you’ve had bad experiences in the past and encountered bar owners who were jackasses or who tried to rip you off or short you at the end of the night. It’s going to happen. But that doesn’t give you the license to drop all sense of professionalism on your part. Not if you want to have success. You never know if somebody in the crowd is a potential client who might want to hire you for a future show, and you don’t want to turn that person off by mailing in a half-assed performance or cussing in between (or during) songs, or calling out the staff, the owner, or the bar on stage in a fit of petulance.
And DO NOT treat the wait staff like they’re your personal servants. Yes, their job is to serve the patrons…but you are not their patrons. Your band and the wait staff are COLLEAGUES, and they can be your biggest allies. I know a band who tips the wait staff handsomely at the end of the night after they play. Have you even considered tipping them at all? You treat the wait staff well, they can be your biggest cheerleaders leading up to your next gig there, hyping you up to their daily customers. (Insert the “But we don’t make enough money to tip them” response here. Okay. But I’m just telling you what other bands have done that works for them.) Remember what I keep saying, your job as a cover band is to keep people in the bar dancing, partying, and buying drinks all night. Their job is to serve those people in order to make a living. You respect the wait staff and they’ll respect you, and together you can build a lucrative working relationship that benefits you both.
And finally, if you can win over the women, the men will follow. This might be better off belonging in the Show aspect. But it’s like this: guys want to be where the women are. Women want to be somewhere they can dance and let loose (and you can’t dance to Zeppelin or Rush, heh). The most successful cover bands in town have strong female followings. Tailor your set to entice the ladies out on to the dance floor throughout the night, maybe even let them get on stage to dance for a few songs, and the guys will identify your band’s show as being one where they can meet women at. Keep the ladies dancing. And make sure your wives and girlfriends understand it’s just part of the business. No, really. Nothing will run off your female following like a jealous significant other. And then you’re nothing but a sausage fest, and nobody wants to be at a sausage fest. Not even women.