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LAB Best Threads: The Stairs Policy

An interesting conversation from the PSW Live Audio Board (LAB) forums on dealing with venues that aren't in compliance and tough load-ins.

By PSW Staff June 21, 2019

Image courtesy of Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke

Editor’s Note: Here’s an interesting thread from the PSW Live Audio Board (LAB) forums. It’s lightly edited for grammar and formatting. Enjoy.

Posted by Riley
What’s your “stairs” policy? The business operator’s answer to the stairs policy is that its simply another billable add-on to the final invoice. Extra load in / load out crew, possibly a loose truck ramp, maybe a winch or chain hoist, anything is possible if the customer wants to pay for it. Bar bands in basement pubs probably don’t want to pay that added cost but being willing to meet the customers needs while running a safe and sane operations always looks good.

Reply by Helge
Stairs = more crew = prices raised accordingly.
If no more crew can be afforded or provided, I take the day off.

I used to feel really bad about that but I’m getting better. I can’t say I don’t care about turning down a gig anymore, but I have a better understanding how much my own spare time is worth for me. I’d rather not do gigs anymore that takes too much effort and I have to use a day of my own spare time to recover.

Reply by Scott
Don’t feel bad. Turn down the gigs that you know are losers. People will get what they are willing to pay for, with very few exceptions. Here are two quick examples. Last year I was asked to work at an all day event with a crappy load in. No stairs, but a long trail through a field. I explained that I would have to bring in 2 more guys to make it workable and priced it as such. I didn’t get the gig. The crew that did, showed up with cheap junk. It was not “enough rig for the gig.” There were holes oodles of complaints. So many that this year they cancelled the event.

Also, last year, I raised my price for an event where the organizers wanted to make sure everything went well and they ponied up. I got the gig, And they signed a multiyear contract this year.

Reply by Tim
Asking about wheelchair access provides “the clue” that folks are legit or not. Legit gigs take ADA compliance into account.

We got out of the bar/bar band type biz a long time ago, mostly based on price. When you’re a sole employee you’ll take every gig. When you have to pay employees you have to find better gigs. Sometimes those are not available to you or the time it takes to establish in such markets is simply too long to be useful.

Back to topic – stairs are an issue and we bill accordingly. Extra labor, material handling rentals (stair-climbing hand trucks), etc. We explain the *why* and if they object we gently remind them that the called us because someone else screwed up their event last time. If that doesn’t work we exit the call with our best wishes for them. Let someone else get hurt or break gear. It will only take one injury that requires an ER visit or ambulance ride that gets the event sued (because these low-ball operators are almost certain to not have workman’s comp or liability insurance) to make an impression…

Reply by Scott
And I am no means arrogant on this. Almost 6 years ago I wandered out of the community theater I was volunteering at and did a cover band. The gig was awful. None of my workflows worked and I came here for advice.

Took every penny of working in the bars and invested in gear.  Started to make a few connections and won a few more. At one point we had 4 to 5 bar gigs a night! I knew I was subsidizing. Last year we saw the fruits and doubled down on investment. Added staging, generator, line array, more subs, more lighting, more cables, bigger projectors, video scalers and switches, cameras… you get the idea.

We made those purchases as part of a strategic partnership with another production company. That was a big turning point too.

To me though my call list is more valuable than the gear. We have great guys and people love to work for us. My competitors say I overpay, that really makes me smile.

Get a plan together and execute the plan. Be prepared for a bunch of no’s and some slow time.

We run into the cover bands and opening act playing at festivals we are providing sound for. They see us an ask how we are doing. The scene hasn’t changed, we just choose not to be a part of it.

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Guy morris says

In recent years I have noticed the number of hotels and event spaces ( London Excel is one culprit) who do not bother maintaining their lifts when they go wrong. A one off fail is just bad luck but on a regular basis it’s deliberate money saving. Their attitude is simply get more local crew in but of course neither they or the client want to pay so when taking on an event I would suggest your T&C s include the right to charge for additional crew if the venue lifts are not operational. The other thing to be aware off is the no load out until the next morning restriction ( This usually involves a get out scenic route with stairs and corridors) again clients often ‘forget’ to mention this so worth checking event spaces in advance.

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