The venue where I serve as technical director has recently had a number of touring acts come through.
With each tour, there are always special technical requirements that the artists need, particularly in these tight economic times where few of them are able to travel with everything they need.
The last three events, the venue was responsible for providing the entire house system, and for two of them, I served as the front of house engineer.
When a tour group comes to a venue they never know what they’re going to get. Yes, the rider said six separate wireless in-ear monitor systems, but the venue only has two and is unwilling to rent any more. Yes, the rider said the PA needs to hit peaks of 110 dBA, but the installed system can only hit 95 dBA. I know, I know…
I understand this type of thing happens all of the time on tours, and I also know it must be very frustrating for touring artists.
On the venue side, I’ve seen many riders that really don’t mean much at all because they’re not specific enough. Things like “concert quality sound system required” or “adequate monitors for the band” are so open to interpretation that it’s almost comical.
I’ve also seen riders that are rife with overkill, i.e., microphone requirements that include every exotic studio mic that you can think of, the latest, greatest stadium-caliber line arrays, and so on.
In light of all of this, what can we do to sort it out, meet needs, and help them put on the best performance possible?
Learn to dance.
I’ve found that every one of the tour groups that comes through has a certain dance. It usually starts during the pre-arrival check-in by the tour manager.
Good tour managers tell you exactly what they need, and are willing to negotiate on the items that you can’t provide without renting or that just aren’t feasible (such as, if your front of house mix position is on the front edge of the balcony, moving it to the main floor may not be feasible).
The ones that are either stubborn or incompetent (and I’ve dealt with a couple who were both) either can’t tell you what they need, or are completely inflexible in their demands.
This initial engagement with the tour manager usually provides a feel for the type of dance you’re going to need to perform.