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15 Rules of Backstage Access

How to act, how not to act, how to keep from making a fool of yourself and how to get asked to come back again.

This month we're going to discuss a different type of problem—something that I'm sure most people don't think about when they think of live music. This month we're going to discuss the Rules of Backstage Access. In other words: how to act, how not to act, how to keep from making a fool of yourself and how to get asked to come back again.

This was a topic of discussion one day between Dan Boul of 65Amps, Sam Austin of Diamond Amps and myself after some lighthearted storytelling of things we've all witnessed backstage over the years. I know that this might seem a little strict in some places, but please remember it is all for your own good, to help you have the best backstage experience you can possibly have.

Above all, respect the fact that you are about to experience something that less than 1/10 of 1% of the world will ever experience. Do not take it for granted. You are allowed backstage because of someone the artist trusts. Every action you take will reflect on the person that got you into the show, and to assume that you can participate in any liberties they have might come across as arrogant.

Here are the Rules of Backstage Access:

1. Show respect to those who are working. Someone on the crew has taken responsibility for you to be back there and will take the grief and abuse from coworkers when do something you shouldn't have.

2. No, that pass you have does not mean you can do whatever you want or go where ever you want.

3. Never knock on a tour bus door. The bus is 100% off limits unless you are explicitly invited by someone who has authority to take you there. It is our house.

4. Dressing rooms are not for you to visit.

5. Do not assume you'll get catering. Also that table full of donuts, water and coffee is for the local crew, not for you to take.

6. Always ask where you should stand so you’ll be out of everyone’s way. Even if it means you won’t see as well, this is someone’s workspace. Please stay out of their way so they can do their job.

7. Do what the crew and security tell you to do—nothing more, nothing less. Don't take any liberties with your privileges.

8. Do not approach the artist unless you’re invited. This is non-negotiable.

9. Do not go wandering around the venue unescorted. Most places have overacheivers for security who will throw you out if you don’t have an All Access pass. (no, your V.I.P. or GUEST pass will not substitute)

10. Please don't ask for anything to be signed. It's considered tacky and rude coming from a backstage guest.

11. Always ask before you start taking pictures, video or cell phone snapshots. While some artists allow cameras, I don't know of any that like a paparazzi-type scene on the side of the stage. I know of even fewer that allow video to be taken at all, even if the performance hasn't started. Trust me, your memories will be great!

12. No, you may not bring your friends unless they were invited as well.

13. If you are offered alcohol, you may drink it but know your limit! Going overboard is one of the quickest ways to accomplish two things: get the person who invited you in trouble, and banish yourself from ever being a guest again.

14. Never place a drink on any piece of gear or someone’s workbox. I cannot stress this point enough. It’s considered disrespectful and may get you kicked out immediately. People make their living with this gear and you are putting it in danger by placing drinks on it.

15. Please arrive at the time you're asked to. Show days can be very busy and having breaks long enough to come find you aren't very plentiful. Even though most of us have been to these venues many times before, we rarely see anything outside of the stage, loading dock and dressing room areas. It usually takes asking a few venue employees before finding one that actually knows where 'Gate C' is.

Basically, it's a lesson in respect and courtesy. Try your best to respect the backstage area as a workplace, and remember that you are a guest. When you’re at someone’s house or business, you always treat people with the utmost respect. This is both to us.

Now go have fun and stay out of the way!