The Weekend Gig Gone Wrong: Ten Avoidable Ways to Botch a Gig

We normally don’t like to share stories of how shows go sideways; but since I have a moment I wanted to talk about my experience this weekend of what I shall call the worst executed gig of the weekend.  In going over what happened I realized that this was a great way about talking about how to not botch a gig.  So the names have been changed to protect both the client and performer. On Tuesday I received a message from a contact if I would be interested in performing ambient entertainment at a medieval themed event for a church.  He asked if I had any LED equipment and I responded “no I do not have any that I can use”.  I mentioned that I had some UV reactive gear and if that was acceptable plus my normal equipment.  He agreed and said he could pack the necessary black lights for this. I asked for a call time and he specified to be at his residence at 330 and that the gig would be scheduled at 430-445 with a show time of 5-6.  He quoted me and said that this was acceptable.  I informed him that I had a gig scheduled earlier that day and that I would be at his place around 245.  So fast forward to this Sunday.


I arrived at his place as per the agreement at 230 to find that I was to provide transportation for all three performers; which meant unloading a full show worth of equipment to make room for three performers plus their gear (#1).


Additionally I discovered that both performers misplaced their primary props which meant we neither of them had equipment that was ready or good to go.  One had misplaced their charging equipment for their hoop and totally misplaced their fans while the other was missing half a set of LED poi (#2) On top of that even though both of them were told that the theme of the performance was “ren faire” neither of them owned any clothing that was even close to ren faire;  the closest either of them came was “burner esque” (#3).  Also the venue we are performing at is 35 minutes away  (#4)

Upon noting he did not have his phone I asked him if he had contacted the customer at which point his response was no he had lost it. He used my phone to get the contacts information and call them at which point I realized he had never notified the customer of any of this (missing phone, equipment, timing issues). (#5) Needless to say we arrived late getting indoors at 5:10.  (#6).  We performed for approximately 40 minutes until I was told by him that we were leaving.  He had spoken with the client who had decided that since we did not arrive on time that she would be docking our check by an appropriate amount based on missed time (which ended up being half of the pay) and that she would “send” a check. (#7).  At which point he grabbed us and said that we were leaving (#8).

We dropped of the female hoop artist and got back to his place where we sort of debriefed. We went over the lack of blacklighting and the information on the sort of venue where this was taken place was way off course (#9).  I had been under the impression it was a church (it was actually a dining hall in a religious based college) and then it was a rave like environment (opening weekend of college).  The customers response after the event was to suggest that the offering of LED equipment had not been strong enough for the venue or with enough variety (#10).

And Of Course There is the follow up (#11)

Now these are pretty much just the facts; I haven’t embellished the story with any information to make interesting because in doing so I would let people know enough detail about the event in question that they could research it.  Since it wasn’t booked under my name I didn’t take the PR hit but I can talk about how the event could have been handled better.


#1 “Always be up front and honest about the conditions required for the gig”

In this case the performer in question was relying upon me to provide transportation to and from the gig and did not make this explicitly stated until arrival at his place.  Asking a performer to offload approximately 750-1000$ worth of equipment to make room for three performers without any control over the storage and locking of said equipment is beyond reasonable and should have been negotiated and agreed upon.

#2 “Always have your equipment ready and a back up in place”.

One of the things that happened here is that both performers were relying upon a single piece of equipment to fulfill the booking. This means that if anything happens to that equipment they are screwed and in full.  Prior to the booking;  you need to make physically sure that you have anything that is necessary (or a backup) to complete this booking.  Normally I make a mental inventory when I take the booking and a day before I go over what I have to make sure I have everything.  The day of is to late to make important decisions and choices because panic gets in the way.  What ended up happening in this case is that we were physically late to the booking because they both had to pick up equipment that was necessary to complete the booking in question (we didn’t get on the “ROAD” till  10 minutes prior to our necessary arrival time (with a 30 minute trip)).  Which is why we were late.

#3 “Professional appearance”.

I don’t think I even need to say anything…………..  if you are still wondering what professional appearance means you should not be taken any bookings…..AT ALL.


#4 “Be honest with the client”                

We have all had emergencies in our lives that we have dealt with.  And while it may not make us happy to look at a client and tell them we cannot be there on time we have to bite the bullet because a client who knows that we are lying or believes we are is going to be far, far, far, more upset than a client who understands that an emergency came up with our equipment and we had to replace some botched gear.  Yes they will be unhappy but given everything else that happened the client probably knows that there were “OTHER” issues.

#5 “Have a clear method of communication with client”.               

We are a service industry; you should always have communication with the client as a top priority.  My normal standard is that for clients who I do not know prior to an event they are informed of my status when I am on my way through text message.  If you are not able to be in communication with a client (because you do not have a smart phone with Facebook access or your phone is damaged and nonfunctioning) the client should be made aware of these things at the very least.  The experience the client has starts when they look to book you and ends after you have received payment and acknowledge that.  IT IS NOT SOLEY THE SHOW ITSELF.  If you do not have a clear method of communication with your client their experience will suffer as will your reputation.


#6 “Discussions with client”

If you are scheduled to perform; unless absolutely necessary during the time in which you are performing you should be avoiding having discussions with the client as you only have a limited time to perform. This is the reason why when you negotiate ambient style or long-winded performances you also negotiate for breaks so that the client understands that asking performers to go the distance can cause issue and they require breaks.  The TIME YOU ARE BOOKED IS NOT THE TIME TO HAVE BUSINESS DISCUSSIONS  WITH THE CLIENT.  Those discussions need to happen either before or after because they are not paying to stand around and talk the specifics of the job.

#7 “Arguments Over Payment”/”Don’t Pass The Buck”

In this instance you can see that there were several rookie mistakes made during the booking/scheduling/performance that caused friction between the entertainment and the booker. Whenever anything like this happens to me and the client does not want to pay me in full or anything else related to money occurs my first question is; did I do anything to make this happen.  It doesn’t matter if it happened by chance or circumstance but did I make a mistake that caused the client to feel they were owed or didn’t get what they deserved.  If the answer is “yes”; that’s it your done.  At that point you pretty much have to swallow whatever they are willing to give you because you did not live up to your contractually agreed terms. Likewise if you are dealing with another performer and the nature of their ability to perform changes or their performance was not up to the standard and caused a financial issue once again ask yourself;  is there anything that I did wrong that caused this to happen.  If this is the case then you are going to pay the performer; because it is not their fault.

In Short don’t argue over payment with the client when you screw up and don’t pass the buck to the people you booked because you screwed up.

#8 “The Booking is The Booking”

If you have a contract that says you will be there until 330 then you are there until 330,  if it says you are there until 5:30 you are there until 5:30.  Unless the client explicitly tells you to leave then you don’t leave until the time you are contractually obligated to leave.  One this covers you as per the terms of your contract.  If the client has expressed comfort with the level of performance then you are golden.


Now with this being said the other reason that I say that the booking is the booking. Is because it is also vital that you separate your emotional self from the booking so you do not make rash or stupid decisions such as deciding that since the client is not paying in full then you should just leave now.

#9 “Taking Notes”

In this instance much would have been changed if during the course of the booking my friend had taken notes and investigated the location via the internet. During the course of a booking process you should be asking the client every question that is necessary to get a complete understanding of what is going on so you can be properly prepared for the booking in question.  If that means spending some time googling then Google.

#10 The Importance of not Simply Saying Yes To Everything The Client Wants

This is rather important because while the client may have an image of what they actually want; often enough what they want is not easily possible in the circumstances they are creating.   For instance in this case wanting LED props/glow props in a fully lit dining room establishment during the day time.    In no way could this have been done without changing the circumstances of the ambience.  LED props just do not have the “glow” power to combat overhead lighting.  If the lighting had been turned down then it would have been wonderful rather than a whole bunch of people just playing with toys.  The client has come to you because you are the subject matter expert in this regard;  if you can tell them that it is not feasible to do and provide justification most clients will understand and be okay with substitutes.

In this instance the client could have perceived the problem as not being the circumstances she asked for; but rather that the performers did not have the proper equipment for the request. That point; it falls on you.




This is an unspoken rule and one that I am currently deciding if I will enforce. When you work as an entertainer you are judged by the company you keep.  If you are working with someone and they make you look bad by being unprofessional and incompetent then you yourself will also look unprofessional and incompetent unless you go to great lengths to show case how amazing you are.  If you run into a friend like this then you need to think long and hard about whether or not you will continue to work with him.

In this online world it only takes one REALLY bad review to botch your reputation.

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