Safety while performing is always important.
Fire exits, steep stairs, panic bars, exposed wiring on stage, mirrors on stage, loose floorboards, stage height, outside weather, storm protection, lack of lighting, fighting, thrown objects, wet staging and floor areas, weapons and fire; these are just some of the things that musicians should be aware of when performing in clubs, coffee houses and other venues.
When musicians perform in these venues they don’t look around; they just set up and get ready to play the gig. If you ask a lot musicians where the fire exit is, it would take them about a minute or two to look around until they find one. That could be just how long between life and death if you are ever in that situation.
A lot of performers don’t even take the time to see if there is a fire extinguisher on stage. Sometimes the excitement of setting up and getting ready to play consumes all of the prep time. Stop! Take the time to look around for fire exits, and check to see if the doors are locked. Time is precious in an emergency such as a fire.
Another thing to look for are the doors. Is there a door or exit stage right or stage left? Are the exit signs lit and over the doors in which to exit? Do they have panic bars? Municipalities require panic bars on the inside to ensure an easy escape in case of a fire or some other emergency.
One safety feature that is required in a lot of nightclubs and venues is fire retardant paint. I ran into this situation when I was painting the downstairs interior of Center Street Cabaret. I had just finished painting the entire downstairs area, which also had a bar, kitchen and stage. We painted the area a battleship gray, and as I was finishing up, a fireman came over to me and asked to see the can of paint. I noticed that he was looking for something on the can. He looked on the cans and said that it was not fire retardant paint and that we would have to re-paint the entire area.
Fire retardant paint takes longer to catch on fire, so a good thing to remember here is do your research when opening a nightclub or music venue. A delay like that can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars in lost revenue and possibly costing the venue to pay hefty cancellation fees to the entertainer, depending on the contractual agreement.
Another issue some people face is that most of the time when performers take the stage, they don’t think about how much weight per square foot can the stage handle. But in some cases, you bet the owner will. Stage height is also often ignored. I know of one musician who was intoxicated, which caused him to misjudge the height of the stage. He fell, and may have suffered permanent damage to his leg and has been using a cane to get around. Musicians can’t take this stuff for granted!
Be aware of your surroundings in the work place. It is safe as long as you do the proper things to ensure your safety. The gig is a working environment, and don’t ever forget it!