What Happens on Gig Night?

Load-in, Soundcheck and Doors

Male musician holds microphone and guitar on stage surrounded by strong light and smoke
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What happens when you play your first show? If you are worried about how things will work when you turn up to play your first gig, here's a rundown of what you need to know:

Gig Night Timeline


Load-in before the night of the show. You should get information about the timing of everything that will happen for the evening. The first time on the list will be the load-in time. This is the time at which you can arrive at the venue and start carrying your stuff in.

The musicians that will be sound checking first can start setting their stuff up on the stage right away. Everyone else should put their gear someplace out of the way and wait until they get to soundcheck.


Soundcheck is a chance for everyone to perfect their sound for the space they will play in. Musicians get to work with the sound engineer to figure out the mix the audience will hear and the mix the band hears on stage.

Soundcheck usually starts an hour or so after load-in, but sometimes, load-in and soundcheck times are the same. Soundchecks go in reverse order that the musicians will perform at the show. The headliners go first, and the first support act goes last. This means that sometimes the first support act may find they don't get much of a soundcheck at all. It's not ideal, and it can be frustrating, but it happens often, so be ready to roll with it.


"Doors" refers to the time that the venue starts letting audience members into the venue space. By the time that doors open, it is best to have all of the "behind the scenes" kind of work done -- the merch table should be set up; the soundchecks should be finished and so on. Again, though, that's in a perfect world. In real life, sometimes you'll find that you're scrambling to get stuff done while people are filing into the room. 

Additional Set Up Details

You also need to know:

  • When your set starts
  • When your set ends
  • What time the show has to finish

Make a point of being ready to go when your set is scheduled to start. You may find that things are running behind and that you can't start at that time, but make sure you're not the reason the show is running late.

Also, if your set gets pushed back, be prepared to shorten it. The headlining act is entitled to get their full time on stage, and so if they want it, as frustrating as it may be, you should back off and let them have it. Likewise, even if the show is running on time, don't let your set run over.

If you are getting paid for the show, you will usually get your money at the end of the night, after all of the music is finished.