The opportunity to tour off the beaten track sounds exotic and exciting, a chance to go to places that you’d never see otherwise and get paid for the privilege. While you’ll certainly have unique experiences and return home a more capable engineer, touring in developing countries can be extremely challenging.
I’ve been touring in unusual territories for 15 years and I’ve just returned home from a tour of Southeast Asia with my current band, so I’ve picked up a few tips over the years. I hope sharing them here will help make your experience of touring off the usual circuit a little smoother.
Keep It Simple
As with any tour, the pre-production work starts long before you hit the road; but things can take longer in less-developed regions, so you need to start early. Spend extra time creating your technical rider to leave no room for confusion.
Keep the language as simple and concise as possible, with no slang terms – remember, the people reading it likely do not have English as their first language – and photos within the document can be a useful addition to illustrate a point. The same goes for emails – keeping it simple means fewer misunderstandings.
It’s a good idea to offer a few different options for locally supplied equipment such as PA, console, etc., and if a particular software version is needed, be sure to highlight it. It’s not uncommon for local companies to respond to a rider with “Yes, all fine.” This can be a trap! Some countries have a strong culture of “saving face,” meaning they’ll agree to whatever you like on paper in order to get the gig and look good, and you won’t find out until you arrive that there have been substitutions.
For this reason, I recommend asking them to detail exactly what they intend to supply – don’t settle for “Yes, all fine.” Be aware that local promoters might look out for their own interests by giving work to companies they have relationships with. This can mean you’ll be told that some items are not available in their region, when actually their preferred company just doesn’t stock that equipment.
If you feel that you’re not getting the whole story, be prepared to dig a little deeper, perhaps with the manufacturer, to see who carries what you need in a given area – it can be useful to have contacts for the product support team for each region anyhow.
Specify things that normally go without saying, from the technical to the ancillary, such as adequate waterproofing and work lighting. I once walked on to a stage to discover that every single wedge sounded different. I asked the local folks to show me the amplifiers, and lo and behold, every wedge was being driven by a different amp as well as different crossovers!
These days I specify wedges that come as a turnkey package with the amps, but where appropriate I say something like, “All amps to be identical” or
“All either option A or B, no combinations.” Have the promoter put you in touch with the supply company for every show and ask them to send you the loudspeaker design file (i.e., d&b ArrayCalc, L-Acoustics SoundVision, etc.) files for what they intend to put in the venue.
It’s common to find that the projected amount of PA is sub-optimal to keep costs down – you may have to push for more boxes to insure adequate coverage. It’s also not unheard of in certain countries to discover that some equipment is a copy brand – yes, fake PAs are out there!