We’ve all been there. You’re in the backroom of a pub gig, seeing a band pour out their hearts to a handful of people when as they play their very last note, in walks the band coming up next, with their crowd of between thirty and fifty friends, groupies and hangers-on. Also known as the rent-a-crowd. But what does it take to gain a following like this? The 405 guides you through where to start. Creativity? Originality? Passion? Commitment? Forget all of these, it’s up to your band to make as inoffensive music as possible, songs that people who find Kings Of Leon cutting edge would use to describe themselves as ‘alternative’. Make sure there’s three chords, a big EPIC chorus and a key change at the end. Remember, this is music for the masses – not for your own fulfilment. Oh, and feel free to throw in a guitar solo, complete with macho gurning and battling guitars, at the end of every song. Your singer, he’s going to be the pretty boy – station some young girls around the venue who will stare/stalk him at every opportunity. On stage he either has to have something ‘unique’, eyeliner always works, or perhaps a costume – maybe a Led Zeppelin t-shirt to show he respects music from another era. Not only does he have to be a ladies’ man, he also has to love himself – on stage he will tell your rent-a-crowd to “sing along”, “get those hands up” and for the final upbeat number “I want to see (insert generic town name) dancing”. When he walks into the venue, and he’s always fashionably late, make sure everyone high-fives him and a lot of noise is made to let the other punters know that someone special has entered the building. Stage names are optional, but encouraged. The rest of the band have to be willing not to impose on the star of the show, they should wear black clothes or have a band image of sorts to maintain. Remember, no-one is here to see them. Oh, and make damn sure you have a line of cheap, ill-fitting band t-shirts for your friends, or ‘fans’, to wear as gig uniform. Do not bother being creative with the design, a band logo in sans serif will do, remember everyone will wear them - but only at the shows. Not at any other time. Ever. They will also think the sun shines out of you, no matter how much you charge them to come and watch you play. Tell the promoter who wants you to bring 30 people to a city 30 miles away you can do that, and hire out a couple of minibuses but remember - your ‘fans’ pick up the bill for this. Don’t worry, you’ll take home the payment. Now, we come to the actual people in the rent-a-crowd. There are some must-haves – a couple of the band’s girlfriends are always present, and they have to invent a silly dance to at least one of your songs. During this, the ill-at-ease accountant from your bass player’s work will desperately try to sandwich himself in between them. Forget about other bands on the bill, roll up for your soundcheck and use their drumkits and amps, but whatever you do, do not say a word to them or show courtesy. They’re a mere distraction to what is your big show – as that twelve-foot banner emblazoned with your name draped across a stage smaller than a Smart Car implies. If there is a separate bar to the venue, make good use of that and don’t bother watching the other bands. But if there is no escape and you really do have to be in the same place, make sure that each member of your band talks really loudly to everyone in your posse during their sets, and the topics of conversation have to be increasingly pointless. Especially if there is a quiet song, or a solo acoustic artist on stage. It is time to play, so that guy who wants to be in the band that no-one really likes, but you all put up with as he has contacts who can get you new drumsticks? He’s your ‘roadie’. Although he can’t play any instruments, so his job is to carry all the heavy stuff and play air guitar while you’re on stage. You can have fun giving him ‘roadie training’. It is up to him to unsuccessfully sell your CD-R albums to the previous band and their fans, who are still reeling over the sudden influx of people out of nowhere. He’ll have a pitch: “They’re going to be huge, they’ve had a lot of record label interest, 8 tracks for only a tenner”. If you’re really serious about your art, you can always bring your own soundman. He will spend the whole set complaining about the equipment and upsetting venue staff with his ignorance and arrogance. Now the set has finished and what plans have you made? That club down the road? The one the rent-a-crowd spends every other Saturday night at would be the perfect place to toast your amazing success with a post-show party. It is full of Nathan Barley types and as your crowd leave the venue, they take off the t-shirts and replace them with designer shirts and smart shoes, and look so much more comfortable. Now you, the band, leave without saying a word to the other acts, and walk past the stage with your gear as the next band linechecks. Only talk to the promoter to get your money for being one of the few to bow to his ridiculous demands. He’ll actually love you as not many are able to do this. You can be happy with your lot, and already plan to do the same again in three months’ time.