Backstage conduct – the golden rules

Mike Portnoy tweeted something this morning that just made my jaw drop – are people crazy?!

“A fan “popped by” my house today. I was nice to him, but note to you all out there thinking of visiting your fav musician’s home: NOT COOL”

Some fans often forget common sense, manners or just plain respect for the artists that they admire. That is also why it’s SO crucial who you bring backstage for instance. People often ask me howcome I go to most shows alone – and that’s part of the reason. You need to be 100% sure that whoever you’re with, knows the “unwritten rules”. 

The article from Premier Guitar (below) explains it better than I ever could, and it’s so true.
Other things that they failed to mention, that should have been on the list:

1. DO NOT bother artists when they’re eating,
2. DO NOT interrupt their conversations.
3. DO NOT touch anything (on the stage, in the dressing room, the bus, pretty much any area you are invited to)

4. DO NOT ask for picks, sticks whatever (unless artist or road crew offers it as a gift, and seem to want to get it off their hands)

5. DO NOT stare at the artists or whoever you find fascinating – they get plenty of that once they get ON the stage… Keep a low profile.

I’ve seen some unbelievable behavior backstage, made me glad that I wasn’t the one who invited them.

Like one girl – never mind which band it was – was told that the band had to leave so they closed the door to the dressing room (which means “party is over – go home!”).

She pretty much pushed the tour manager aside and barged into the band’s dressing room (while they were getting undressed!) with the words: “I’m not leaving until I’ve said goodbye!”
Holy fuck. I was so ashamed on her behalf, whereas she didn’t even understand that she had screwed up BIG time.

And even if you do have backstage access and are able to enter a band’s dressing room – don’t RUN back there straight after the show. They want to unwind, talk about the show, get the adrenaline-rush down to a lower level, take a shower, whatever.. It’s their “band time”. Guests can come in LATER. Respect that.

 There’s simply a “code” that most people who have been in this business for a while automatically KNOW and follow. It’s tough to run through all these things with “newbies” who are not aware of all this stuff. And you will always be “guilty by association” if someone makes an ass of himself or herself – which makes it really delicate sometimes.

I feel bad for Mike Portnoy, what a pain in the ass…! You don’t even have to be a huge international rock star to experience fans coming over to your house, not respecting your privacy. A local singer found two girls sleeping on the stairs outside his apartment when he came home one night. A pretty spooky feeling.

Anyway…… it’s a world that not everybody gets invited to and there’s a good reason for that.
This article from PREMIER GUITAR is SPOT ON. Enjoy the read!



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!


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