As a function musician, a big chunk of your gigs could be weddings and parties. This can mean that the crowd can be booze-fuelled and boisterous towards the end of the event.
Playing to rowdy audiences can be fun, but it also poses a range of challenges, especially when it comes to keeping your expensive gear safe from drinks or people. Some venues will have a stage set up to keep you from harm's reach, but you’ll often be in a room without one, so it can be tricky to keep safe without seeming like a party-pooper!
If a stage isn’t provided, here are a few suggestions you could try:
- Get a sensible sidekick 🤝
If you anticipate things to getting rowdy or the crowd getting too close, try to enlist the help of someone responsible to keep an eye out during your set. Look for someone who's sober, a venue staff member, the organiser, or even a bandmate who can politely shuffle away any troublemakers. Ultimately, it’s not your job to police the event, so politely letting the client know at the beginning that it’s their responsibility to keep you and your equipment safe is the best preventative measure.
- Strategic positioning 🔎
Before the event kicks off, check with the client or organiser and figure out where the dancefloor will be. Then you can try and set up the performance area in a way that keeps you a safe distance away from bulk of the crowd - perhaps a bit more tucked away. It’s difficult to strike a balance between being front and centre of the party and at a safe distance, so it’s worth considering this during setup.
- Visual barriers 💡
When there's no stage available, you should consider bringing your own visual cues to mark out your performance area. Bring some stage lights to outline the ‘no-go’ area. Fairy lights are popular due to them being an effective barrier as well as adding a touch of magic. Some musicians even put up warning signs around the perimeter of their makeshift stage.
- Friendly reminders 🎤
Don’t worry if you need to say something. If necessary, speak up and ask the crowd to take a step back. A simple, "Hey everyone, just a quick request: could we all take two steps back a bit to avoid any accidents?" after a song should do the trick. If you keep it friendly, people should be respectful without killing the vibe.
- Crank up the volume 🔊
If people are standing too close and talking loudly, consider turning up your PA’s volume a touch. If you make it harder for guests to carry on their own conversations, they’re probably more likely to head to the back. Use this tip with caution - you don’t want anyone damaging their hearing.
- Consider going wireless 🎤
Depending on your setup, consider using portable equipment like wireless microphones and inputs can be helpful. This way, you can move around and create more distance between yourself, your speakers and your audiences.
- Understand your PLI policy 📄
Make sure you're clued up on your public liability insurance (PLI) coverage. Ask your provider about what's included and how they protect your gear. If you encounter any issues with clients, let your PLI provider know and seek their guidance and assistance. If you don't have PLI, we'd recommend getting your policy through the Musicians' Union - it's free with your membership!
Fairly lights on the floor or a rug can be a great way to mark out your performance zone or makeshift stage! 💡
There will always be some rogue and rowdy guests, but don’t let a bad experience discourage you from playing weddings and parties. The vast majority of event attendees are respectful and with some of the above preparation, you'll manage to navigate the majority of shows without issue.
Communication, boundaries, and understanding your rights are key to a safe and successful event.