Come down and see the gig was the invitation, I looked online, the venue confirmed that the act I wanted to see was booked and the show started at 19:30, so down I went.
The venue is one of many small venues in town, above a bar, reasonable beer and friendly staff. I bought a pint and relaxed a while until the start time and then wandered though to the venue. I was greeted at the door and shouted for a ticket over a noise that was coming from the stage, had they already started? No, someone was tuning up and having a sound check.
I asked when the show started but they didn't know, they thought maybe in half an hour. They struggled for change for the ticket so I counted out my loose change in the dark, and entered the room to find a dozen shadows wandering around, no tables for drinks, in fact the only table there was laid out with some CDs and business cards, but no prices or anyone serving so I decided to retreat to the bar for another half hour with several people with guitars pushing past me looking flustered and moody; could they be the artistes?
After another pint I went back upstairs there was still some commotion with musicians, there were now perhaps 20 people stood there in the dark but no sign of any act. looking closer at the uncomfortably lost souls in there it struck me that they were probably related to the acts and so couldn't leave. I waited for ten more minutes but as there was nothing happening I left and caught a really kicking act on the same block. That's the thing with Manchester, there's always something else going on.
Later over a lovely Chinese meal and some ice cold Tsingtao I recalled that my children used to put on shows from behind the sofa, but even they instinctively knew the rules.
The audience are your guests – treat them as such. Make sure they feel safe and comfortable, keep some lights up until the start of the show.
Start on time. Even if it is just some warm up music. I held in my hand a beautifully printed ticket that displayed 'starts at 7:30pm'. The acts had let me down before they'd even started.
Always make it easy to pay, for entry and merchandise, lots of change, perhaps a PC on hand for other payments, or to check if people have paid online.
Always have someone at the merchandise table. You will sell lots more. Make it someone who is enthusiastic about the music, make sure they know what everything is and how much it is.
Never, ever tune up or sound-check in front of the audience. This is wrong on so many levels. The 'show' must retain magic, the first time the audience see you should be in a spotlight with the bang of an opening chord and a smile on your face. I checked with the owner of the venue, there was ample opportunity to sound-check before the event. Oh, and get an electronic tuner - they are cheap and silent.
Never flounce around where the audience can see you. If the dressing rooms are not behind the stage, You can always run through the crowd as part of your entrance. Wherever the dressing rooms are, get someone to fetch your drinks. If you have to go out, don't wear your stage outfit, be quiet and unpretentious. This maybe a small venue and your act may not be perfectly polished but you can at least act like a professional.
Make sure all your helpers know what is going on. Just a quick run through beforehand or a printed sheet showing the running order of the acts, expected times and so-on. Explain how to validate the entry, tear the ticket or stamp the hand. There is nothing wrong with getting family and friends to help out, but make sure they all know what is going on.
If you progress to bigger venues you will find that more and more of the infrastructure things, like the tickets and merchandise are done by the venue itself, leaving you to perform, but you'll never get to this point unless you learn to make your audience, your patrons, feel special, welcome, comfortable and safe.
If my expectations seem a little high remember this, anyone, yes ANYONE can get 100 people to an event, people will attend if they have even a tenuous connection with you. To move from the hobby level to the professional level you have to reach out and attract people with whom you have no connection.