So you’ve been spotted at one of your own gigs, and been asked to play at a bigger event, with a managed stage, and everything provided. Congratulations!
Playing on a big stage is the ultimate thrill in live music – seeing a big crowd dancing around in front of you, and being one of the few people who are actually making the music, will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
But because you won’t be setting the PA system up, or any of the stage setting – it’s a good idea to communicate exactly what you want to see from the stage team, well ahead of time.
What can you do to smooth the process?
I’m going to use my most recent experiences with Black Market as an example. Not every gig like this is the same, so make sure you take notice of what the organiser is requesting. If they haven’t requested anything a few weeks before the event – take the initiative and send them some documents, so that at least you have taken a professional approach – regardless of whether it’s used!
1. Do a complete list of everything your band uses. This will give your sound engineer an idea of exactly what he or she is working with, and allow them to make judgement calls based on their experience. They may feel a certain mic will work better on a certain cab, so can sling it in the box to use if they want to for example. This is our current technical spec.
2. Show the stage managers, how you would ideally like the stage laid out. We know every gig is different, but it’s worth having some consistency in the layout of the stage in my opinion. When you’re nervous, you’ll take cues off of your other musicians – if they’re on the other side of the stage compared to normal, you might not hear your cues – so keep it consistent! Once you have that down – document the way you want the stage to look, and send it to the stage manager, and the sound engineers. They might not get it exactly right – but at least they’ll try to get you into an order you’re familiar with.
Make this document simple, and easy to follow. If you must be flashy with the graphic design, make sure it doesn’t detract from the message of the document.
Again, the Black Market arrangement is set out below:
3. Detail your input/output information: Some events, allow you to have a rider (no – not Frankie Dettori!) a rider, as in a choice of certain elements of the stage equipment.
This is NOT prescriptive – it is a rough guide, and a chance for the engineers to get a bit of input from you, and your experience of what sounds good for your band – but ultimately, the sound engineer has control over mic selection – so don’t get precious about it!
Do, however provide a list of inputs you usually use. It’s also a good idea to have a rough guide to the mics you usually use/would use in an ideal world.
This is a document we produced for a large beer festival last year. When we arrived, the engineers had every mic set up, and all of them matched our spec – with his help we selected some of our planned mics, and some he wanted to try – If we hadn’t communicated this to him beforehand, he said he would have bought many more bits of kit, just to see. It helps the sound engineer – and anything that does that, helps you, ultimately.
4. Give as much information as you can to the engineers. These guys are critical to ensuring you sound at your best. So give them as much as you can! If you’re going to shove a load of delay on your vocal at certain points, using a stomp pedal, make sure the engineer knows it’s coming for example!
Make sure they have a set list so that they know what you’re playing, and when you arrive, buy the sound man a drink/coffee/biscuit too…he’ll be your best friend from there on in – which can only be good for your band!!
You’re going to be changing over quickly if you’re involved in these larger scale events – so anything you can do to minimise set up times, helps with having more of an opportunity to make sure things sound as they should out the front.
And this is what it ends up looking like!