This article originally appeared on Ari's Take.
I meet (and play with) too many musicians who don't want to get to the venue early enough. Some like to arrive shortly before they need to play, others slightly before doors, and still others feel they're being responsible by allowing the bare minimum amount of time they believe they'll need to load in, set up, and soundcheck before start time or doors. Until you have a tour manager, you'll need to designate pre- and post-show duties within the band. These jobs cannot be overlooked.
I always schedule my load-in time as early as the venue is comfortable with, typically two hours before doors if there are just solo acts on the bill, three hours before doors if there are bands on the bill, and always three hours before start time for my solo show at colleges. Colleges are a different beast altogether.
Most musicians don't understand everything that needs to get done before the doors open. The obvious necessities of loading your gear in and setting it up is understood. Many bands don't fret over soundchecks with an "it'll be fine" attitude.
1. Leave enough time for soundcheck
Fret over soundcheck! It's incredibly important. Sure, there will be shows with venues that are so put together that everything runs smoothly and soundcheck takes 10 minutes or the engineer mixes you on the fly with no major issues, but you can't plan for that. Always plan for something to go wrong: a faulty DI box, a shoddy mic cable, your tuner mysteriously stops operating... the list is endless. Even if the equipment works flawlessly, every room is different and responds differently to your sound. You have to allow time to let the engineer feel out your sound in the room. You don't want the first three songs of your set to sound like butt, cluttered with feedback, because the engineer is attempting to mix you on the fly (and giving the audience an unsettling feeling about you).
You want time to feel it out onstage and get comfortable with the space. I've played too many shows where a soundcheck wasn't possible or was cut too short, and I hated performing because it felt awful onstage, and I couldn't settle into my performance and therefore put on a bad show. This can be overcome by setting aside enough time for the soundcheck.