The Technical Rider Continued: Backline, Stage, Risers,
Lighting & Crew
In part I of this series, I discussed elements of a standard sound technical rider. This part deals with the rest of the technical rider.
“Backline” concerns itself with the instruments and amplification of the band. Req uirements for DJs operating in a band environment may also be found here. Most often, bands will carry their own backline. However certain circumstances, such as airline restrictions and schedules, may mean that heavier and bulkier items may need to be supplied by the promoter. Drumkits, keyboards and amplification will be listed in order of preference. Finally, keyboard and guitar stands, drum thrones and other hardware will be listed. Touring bands from the US will often need 220-120v transformers onstage for their own equipment as well as American style 3 pin “edison’ adaptors. European acts may look for “schuko” style 2 pin outlets for the same reason. Reputable backline suppliers will be able to provide anything but the strangest request. Many PA companies will also provide backline as part of their service and will be able to offer PA and backline packages.
Before booking an act for your festival or venue, perhaps the first thing to check is that the band will fit on your stage. A well-written rider will have a minimum stage size specified. Just because a certain 5 piece band fits on your stage, it doesn’t mean that every 5 piece band will. Measuring a stage can be done by anyone and costs nothing but your time. Cramped stages have certain knock on effects. If the singer has to stand right in front of the drumkit, he will need more of his own vocal in his monitors. So the singers monitors are louder, all of a sudden the guitarist can’t hear his guitar amp or his backing vocal in his monitors…well you can guess where this is heading. Ultimately cramped stages end up being louder stages, which ultimately affect the front of house sound which your customers are paying to hear.
Most acts will look for low-level stage sections (risers) for drummers, keyboard or brass sections. Cramped stages often mean that risers can’t be used – so the drummer ends up hidden behind the front line singers and guitarists.
If your stage is too small, enquire about hiring extra stage sections. Again, your local production company will be able to help. If your venue is too small to accommodate the minimum stage size requested by the act, then you better get emailing quickly. DON’T ASSUME THE BAND’S CREW WILL WORK IT OUT ON THE DAY. Generally, if you are upfront with a band on any aspect of a rider, they will come to an agreement or be able to work something out in advance of the show.
As I mentioned in part one, touring theatre shows will have an in depth specification of the lighting fixtures required and will forward on a detailed plan of where they are to be hung in advance of the company’s arrival. Lighting for a theatre show is an integral part of the performance and should be treated as importantly as booking flights and accommodation. Lighting riders for bands are generally less specific and many promoters make the mistake of trying to save money by offering minimal lighting. Effective lighting brings atmosphere and excitement to an act’s performance and will add to the audience’s enjoyment. If you want bands and audiences to return to your venue again, make an effort to contact your local professional lighting company to discuss the bands requirements with them.
Unless you are a qualified professional, DO NOT EVER attempt to hire some lights and hang them yourself over the stage or audience area in order to save money.
Finally, a band may require two or more people as crew to help un-load and load their van. Don’t EVER assume that because you have hired a sound guy and a lighting guy that they will do this. They will have enough to do. If a band requires two people, PAY these two people otherwise they will either not show up for the load out, or they will be drunk at the load out, or they may not show up at all. Nothing makes a roadie cranky like the local crew not showing up sober and on time.
NEXT: More stuff on riders for newbie promoters. How the professionals deal with riders. Why heeding the rider makes business sense for a promoter.
It can generally be divided into two sections; a hospitality rider and a technical rider. The hospitality rider deals with accommodation, dressing rooms, food, beverages and security and contain items that are easily organised by most people in a hotel. The technical rider is, to non-production types, often a bewildering array of technical shorthand, model numbers and jargon. If you do not understand a technical rider, don’t sign it until you have consulted with a professional production person.
The quickest way to interpret a technical rider is to pass it on to some reputable sound and lighting companies in your area and ask them to price it – remember, unless you are sure your venue can accommodate the technical rider you will have to pay for any extra equipment. But just so that you have some idea what it’s all about, here’s a quick 101 on artist technical riders.
For music acts, the sound system forms the bulk of the technical rider. Touring theatre companies will concentrate more on the lighting side and will provide a lighting plan which will need to be accommodated by your venue.
The FOH or Front of House system is the sound reinforcement system that the audience will hear. Professional engineers will look for reputable, relatively modern brands and designs that they are familiar with and also that there is enough “rig for the gig”. They will most often give a list of suitable systems and need enough of it to provide consistent sound throughout a venue. Professional sound engineers will never simply state that they need “a 4kW PA” or something similar.
The FOH console is the mixing desk. The engineer/artist will want one that can accommodate all the individual channels from the stage and again, one that is a reputable, modern design. Most professional sound engineers no longer have a problem with using a digital board – some prefer them to analogue mixing desks. Again a list of acceptable digital boards will be listed. If an engineer explicitly states that she does not want a digital board, then suitable analogue boards will be listed. Do not assume that just because an act only needs 16 channels they are just being smart by asking for a 32 channel desk. Analogue boards will require a certain amount of outboard equipment; again suitable makes and models will be listed. Makes and models not wanted will be explicitly listed.
The MONS or Monitor System deals with the speaker system the artist hears onstage and as such is in some ways more important than the FOH system. Do not try to skimp on the monitor system. Similar to the FOH system (see - you’re learning the jargon!), reputable, modern brands and designs will be preferred and listed. Monitor systems for bands will need to provide high sound pressure levels, and often detailed monitor speaker design and processing will be given. For larger venues and acts, an analogue or digital Monitor Console and outboard will be requested in a similar fashion to the FOH console.
Generally these specifications are followed by a stage plan and a channel list. The channel list will detail what microphones and other equipment is needed such as short or tall mic stands. The stage plan will show where everything goes and will help your venue or house sound engineer get everything ready in advance of the band arriving. The stage plan will also detail where power is needed on the stage.
Finally, you may see some makes and models of equipment listed on the rider as UNACCEPTABLE. There is generally a good reason for this. Maybe they break down a lot. Maybe they just sound bad to a trained ear. Maybe they are simply useless products. NEVER ASSUME THAT A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER OR ARTIST IS SIMPLY BEING AWKWARD, STUCK UP OR IGNORANT. If in any doubt, get a professional opinion.
Just like you, the band and their technical crew want the audience to enjoy the show so that no-one dies, we all get paid and we all go home. So remember a technical rider is just that, it’s not a wishlist but it is a list of necessary and minimum items required to do the job.
NEXT: The Backline and Lighting Rider.
AND AFTER THAT: How professionals deal with riders and advancing a show