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Break Time - How Long is Too Long?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by JMacBass65, Mar 1, 2014.

  1. That's basically my question. I know this will vary somewhat based on band, venue, setting etc., so here is our deal. Weekend warrior middle aged rock/blues trio playing what you'd expet - SRV, ZZ Top, Jimi, Zep, Muddy, Guy, the Kings, Clapton and related material. A bit heavy on the guitar solos, more "guy rock" than chicks dancing type stuff.

    Anyway, we play on average between 10 & 16 gigs a year, mostly a handful of small-ish bars. We know the owners well, and hey, they keep booking us as we do tend to have a number of folks that come to see us, and those already there seem to enjoy us too. They certainly have bands with bigger draws, but we do OK.

    Anyway, we have always struggled with professionalism - with me leading the charge to be more professional. Start on time, don't play too loud, take 20 minute brakes and get back up there.

    While we have struggled in the past, it's gotten really bad lately, and I think we will end up shooting ourselves in the foot soon, and start loosing gigs.

    Last night the drummer showed up late and screwed up our start time. We were on target for 9:15, but he started socializing after setting up his drums, while here was still more work to do. Anyway, we started at 9:45! That's with an advertised 9:00 start, with about 9:20 still being acceptable.

    So we took our first break at........11.......for 40 MINUTES!

    So we start our second set near midnight, UFB! At that point, I was prepared to just play straight through to 1 AM, had we done that we likely could have called it night. However, the drummer called for a break at about 12:35, and that lasted a good 20 minutes, so we got back up and played 4 songs, two after they turned the house lights on.

    Anyway, I felt the whole thing was unacceptable. There were more people there than usual, many of the, traveled about an hour to see us and had not seen us in a while, so there was a need to socialize, but this was too much. In the light of day I feel some what embarrassed. I know the guitar player is pissed too.

    The weak link is the drummer. He's the most social, and also the most adamant about taking breaks, regardless of the situation. This of course ends up with maybe me and/or the guitar player waiting around. Sometimes we tire of that, and wander away from the stage again ourselves, then maybe the drummer sees we are not there, and decides to go outside for one more cigarette........you see how this gets out of control?

    Anyway, enough of my rant/babbling. What do you guys do? How long is too long? If the club owner never says anything, are we OK? (I doubt that.)
  2. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Take a whiz, have a smoke, get a beer, start the next set.
  3. waynobass


    Feb 27, 2008
    Isn't it always? :smug:

    10-15 minutes for a break, otherwise audience members might start leaving.
  4. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    I like 10. My band likes 15. Usually, we compromise on 10.

    20? You take a 20 minute break, and we are going to discuss pay.
  5. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Generally you break for 30 minutes here, start at 10 and do 3 1-hour sets, ends at 2 A.M. I guess I just assumed that is how it went everywhere.
  6. Big John66

    Big John66

    Feb 12, 2008
    Start 20 minutes late, take a 20 minute break and then take another break at 12:35? Nope, not a chance. We take 10 minutes that usually stretches to 12-13 and every once in a while 15 minutes. Any longer than that and you can lose any vibe or momentum you had going.

    I'd be having a chat with the drummer pronto.
  7. mwbassace


    Jul 26, 2010
    N.W. Ohio
    Back in my country days we did 5 40 minute sets with 20 minute breaks from 9:30 to 2:00. But the norm is 3 1 hour sets with 30 minute breaks from 10:00 to 2:00 or 9:00 to 1:00.
  8. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Breaks are usually 15 minutes around here at most venues. Starting 45 minutes late? ... heads are going to roll. I like starting as the second hand crosses downbeat time. That's what I like about Vegas. When show time is 9:00, you can set your watch by when the curtain goes up.
  9. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

  10. antonspon


    Mar 27, 2013
    :) we have the same problem, with a super-sociable drummer who disappears with 50 of his closest friends at break...although it works in our favour too, since his friends have friends etc making sure we almost always have a full house. What often happens is that we (guitarist/vocalist, sax and bass) just start the next set without him...he's usually back looking flustered by halfway through the first song. :D
  11. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    We always ask the manager of the venue what they want us to take for breaks. Then make sure we are on stage a few minutes early. In general, our breaks are 10 to 20 minutes depending on the venue.
  13. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    Last few gigs we've done four sets of 40-45 minutes, one set per hour, so about a 15 minute break give or take. We used to do three longer sets, maybe an hour fifteen minutes, with longer breaks, but the current format seems to work much better both for the band and the audience.
  14. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    The gigs I have played the breaks were always around 20 minutes. WHich seems about right. I need time to give my back a rest, go to the bathroom, and get geared up for the next set. Any longer than 20 is too long, especially if you started way late.

    On the reverse side, bands who don't take breaks are crazy as well.
  15. Playing a gig is a job , not a social event. Show up late for your regular day job and the bosses are gonna have a talk with you. Show up late continuously and they are gonna fire you. It's a business , not a picnic. Some places are not too terribly worried about punctuality but starting late and running breaks long is unprofessional. Save that kind of garbage for practice (and even then it's a pain for the rest of the band.) The drummer is making the rest of you look like a bunch of school kids. Get a set list set up that runs the amount of time you should stay on stage and stick to it. Write on the list how long the breaks will last. These are simple instructions and if the drummer ( or anyone else in the band ) can't follow them , get rid of them. If he wants to socialize with all his buddies , he should be doing it on a night that your band is not playing.
  16. 10cc


    Oct 28, 2013
    One of the bands I play in usually starts at 10:00 and plays till 1:45-2:00. If we take a break it's for at least 30-40 minutes. We have a great following and people don't seem to mind the long break. Been this way since 97. I wouldn't worry to much. I use to try and keep everybody aware of how long the break was and eventually I just quit and went with the flow. If the bar owners are not complaining don't sweat it.
  17. We try for 15 min, but usually stretches into 20. I am the first one up ready to go. Socializing and working the crowd during breaks is not a bad thing. The more personal connections you make with the audience the better.

    No excuse for starting late though. That is totally unacceptable. You could fine him part of his share of the fee for the night. Put that money into the general band fund to pay for business cards, posters etc. His actions jeopardized the rep of the band and future gigs, some of his money should go to help promote the band.

    Couple of things you can do if a drummer is not ready to end his break.
    1. Have the first song of the set one that you can do without drums. Acoustic/bass duo sort of thing. (Used to Love Her by GnR for ex.)
    2. Make a joke out of it. When the band is ready to go get up to your mic and ask if there is a drummer in the house. In a joking but serious way call him out and tell him to get his a** to the stage. Get the crowd to start chanting his name, whatever.

    You shouldn't have to do any of that, but unless you want to replace him, you are going to have to figure out how to get him behind his kit when you are ready to roll.
  18. It depends - if you're doing a 7pm show and a 10:30pm show, you may have a big long 30 minute to an 1 hour long break between the two shows while the staff clears out the venue to get ready for the next show - and if you're only playing a 2 hour show, IMHO any break is way to long. On the other hand - if you're playing 3-4 hour dive bar type gigs, usually the breaks are somewhere between 10 to 15 minutes each and anything over that is way to long.
  19. In most of the clubs I play and have played in, it's the manager/owner who let's us know what the start time is; how many sets; how long the sets are; how long the breaks are—and the band is informed that these are the rules: Be there.

    Pretty much all the clubs around here work to the same schedule: 45min on and 45 min off. They don't mind if we stretch our sets to 1 hr. as long as we're done by 2:30am. And that's because the clubs close at 3:00am and they want to have some breathing space to clear out the crowd.

    If it happens that we're all on stage ready to go and one band member is still off chatting someone up, we just call him on the PA. But it's pretty rare that we have to do that.
  20. sparkyfender2


    Nov 25, 2013
    I am used to 15 minute breaks.

    Any longer, and any buzz you may have had going dissipates. If a DJ plays during your breaks, it can be a small disaster; too many girls on the floor dancing to canned music makes the band the bad guy when the plug is pulled on their good time.