Garage Band To Play Madison Square Garden? Building Your Stage To Success


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I’ve been talking to a lot of my friends who are stagehands lately, and as the summer concerts are beginning to be planed, and my mind got caught up in thinking about goals and planning.

When a band sets up a stage for a performance, they have to scout out the venue, determine their basic wants and needs for a show, figure out if the venue can actually allow them to do some cool extra things (more lights, split level stages, pyro, whatever), and then determine what the end result should be. If the band is comfortable with themselves and who they will be performing with, they know how well they move together on stage, and can easily set up a performance and tear down for a quick getaway once they know how much room you have to work with.

Take this to your work team or even personal goal planning. Think about yourself and the teams you work with, and take a closer look at the current level of talent in contrast to the limitations that have placed on you (budgets, time, authority, priority). Your limits make up the size of your venue, and whether it is the equivalent of a small club or outdoor stadium. That sets you up to gage the size of stage you can manage in the space, how much equipment and what type of equipment you can allow on stage, and the size of a crowd you have to pull into the venue to make your performance pay off. Your bosses may see a lot of potential for crowded theater shows, or they might not think your ready to come out of the garage. You’ve got to figure out what venue they’re trying to book you in before you try to negotiate a bigger room and more of the door money.

And you have to be especially honest about the level of talent you are currently working with. You can argue about the Beatles being the greatest band of all time, but they didn’t begin the British Invasion a few months after they formed. They spent years learning themselves and their audiences, and they started with humble beginning of playing in some of the smaller and more seamier dives all over Europe. They had designs on sellout arena crowds early in their career…but they to build themselves up to reaching their superstar status. And they had to build smaller steps and occupy smaller stages along the way until they could demand the biggest and the best. Don’t get fooled by your potential. Let your potential be your booking agent to bigger gigs in a timely manner.

Your first challenge is to see the venue for what it is, and plan the biggest possible stage and grandest show setup you can imagine for it. That becomes your target goal, and their is nothing wrong with taking that goal to an insane extreme. You might not sell out Madison Square Garden, but you’ll never come close if you don’t keep a few open dates in case the opportunity just happens to pop up.

Your second challenge, and what is the real hard part, is to be consistent in building the steps to that bigger stage, and not hope that talent or luck will allow you to leap from a smaller stage without the proper support. Having a team that is willing to do what it takes to sell out the Garden is great. Having a team that has the talent to pull off the show is wonderful. Having the team that has worked its way up, step by step, to grow its talent and fan base to sell out the show is what you really want. That is something special.

I’ve worked with people who have looked at the big stage and shied away from it, despite great talent, and chosen to stay in the smaller venues or even get out of the business altogether because of the time and expectations of people who perform on the grand level. More frustrating are the people I’ve worked with who you have looked at the stage we are working on and the steps we had built so far, take a chainsaw to them, set them on fire, and then drive over the whole thing with a steamroller. Then, they would stand on top on the ashes and complain that were not building an even bigger stage than the one we had previously destroyed. I have worked with far too many of the latter types of people than I care to think about, because it drains my personal energy when I have to think about the time and energy wasted in the build up. But each experience is a learning experience that you have to take something good away from.

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