Being on time is an important part of being a professional musician at any level. People need to know that you are dependable, and being on time for rehearsals and gigs is one of the most important factors in building a reputation as someone who can be counted on, along with learning the material, being easy to work with, and delivering the goods on the bandstand. Being consistently late shows inconsideration and a lack of respect for your fellow musicians, as well as demonstrating poor time management skills, a poor work ethic, and a lack of commitment to the band and its professional image. It can also potentially cost the band money when its contracted to start at a specific time and fails to do so, because a key member hasn’t showed yet, or showed late and hasn’t finished setting up and preparing for starting at the official on the clock start time.
Unless there are specific load in times set by the venue, a good rule of thumb for an arrival time is a minimum of one hour before the official start time, depending upon how much equipment you have to set up, which should allow sufficient time to set up and get in a sound check before performance time. If you’re planning on eating before the band starts, then that time needs to be figured in as well, which can push your arrival time to more than an hour before. If you’re a drummer with a large kit, then it’s going to take more time than the hour so go from there in figuring how much time you need to budget. In order to figure this out you also need to take into account how much time it’s going to take to get to the venue, allowing for traffic and errors in either the directions or your interpretation of the directions. It is always better to be early than late, except for your own funeral. . .
If you adhere to these rules in as much as is possible, you’ll go a long way toward establishing yourself as reliable. If you don’t, then problems will start to arise. First, when you’re late you’re affecting more people than yourself. Lateness affects your band-mates as well. They’ve made their plans and made the effort to be on time, set up and ready to go, mentally, physically and emotionally. When you’re late this throws their efforts off. They start worrying about whether or not you remembered the gig, if you’re going to show up, if you’re in trouble, what they’re going to do if you don’t show up, and the later you are the more of a negative effect you’re going to create. If it is a consistent issue, then they’re going to start to resent your lateness, and often will start to be angry on top of the anxiety, because you’re essentially stating by your tardiness, that you’re not placing the same importance on the gig and the band’s image that they are.
Lateness that pushes back start times can be a deal crusher as well. It can cost the band money for the gig contracted, and have an effect on whether or not the band is able to rebook at the venue where it has occurred. Booking bands isn’t easy; no matter how good you are it takes a lot of effort to break into a new club, and once you have, it’s your responsibility to remain in good standing with the management. Also, there are plenty of clubs out there that have an adversarial perspective regarding paying the band. If you give them any opening to short the band on payment, they will exploit that opportunity to cut costs and they have contracted your band for a service that they expect will increase their profits for the night. If your tardiness costs your band money, your band-mates aren’t going to be too happy about it. If you establish a consistent pattern of lateness that results in the band being unable to fulfill contractual obligations, you’re helping no one. You can probably expect an ultimatum from the band, and if you don’t change your ways they will replace you. No one is irreplaceable, no matter what you might think, and word will get around that while you might be able to play, you’re not a dependable band member.
Being on time is only one aspect of professionalism, but it’s a pretty important one. It tells the people that you work with that you care about the project and the image of the band as a whole. It communicates a sense of responsibility and respect for your fellow band members while reducing the overall presence of pre-show stress and jitters. When everyone is on time and present, everyone can focus on the job at hand, putting on the best possible show the band can which is what they should be focused on. Lateness disrupts everyone in the group, not just the individual who is late. The focus goes from putting on a solid show to are we even going to be able to do the show, start on time, get the sound check in, set up correctly, and all of the little things that shouldn’t even be a factor in the first place. It’s particularly maddening when all of this could be avoided simply by people showing up when they are supposed to. Make your plans accordingly, and if you’re going to be late let people know ahead of time. If it’s a habit, it’s a serious issue.