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We Get to Use a Soundman…!

Outdoor Festival Sond

Festival season is right around the corner. If your band is lucky, you’ve booked several local or regional fests as either an opening or headliner act. While few fests will require you to provide a PA system for your show, the good news is you have less gear to transport. And since the festival organizers have secured a sound & lighting company to handle this aspect, things should go relatively smooth. But for those of you who are new to this, or who haven’t had to deal with a sound company and moody sound technicians, there are a few helpful and important tips I’ll discuss here.

Once you’ve booked the gig, ask your fest organizer to provide you with the contact information of the sound company. Reach out to them. Introduce yourself and ask what they need from you concerning your act. The sound company will likely want to go over a few items such as how many performers in your group, instrumentation and a few other basic information gathering questions. You may also be asked to provide a stage plot which should outline the stage positioning and instrumentation of your band.

A proper stage plot with inputs

It’s a great idea to have one of these updated and ready to distribute when requested. Keep in mind that just because you have one stage monitor listed for each musician doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll get. Since the sound company has been hired by the festival organizers, they have already agreed upon what type of mains and monitor systems will be utilized for any given festival. And forget about bringing extra monitors to “patch-in” to the sound company’s system. It’s not that easy and will likely cause more problems. Additionally, the sound company may send you a small questionnaire that will help them get a better understanding of your act so they can be better prepared to help you sound your best. But the most important thing I can stress here is…. don’t just show up to the festival with no prior contact and expect to be treated in a professional manner.

A poorly prepared stage plot

Respect is a two-way street. And since the soundman controls everything the audience hears while you are performing, it’s a good idea to play by the rules or chances are you’ll sound like crap. Lastly, let the sound company know if you are requesting to use your own person to mix your sound. While it’s often allowed, sometimes the festival organizers want complete audio cohesion for their audience with no outside sound technicians allowed. If you are allowed to use your own sound person, remember that the sound (and safety of the company’s gear) can be overridden by the house soundman, should a problem occur.

So now it’s the day of the gig. The weather looks good and you start your journey to the fest stage location. Here are some things to remember when you arrive…

This has been a quick snap-shot of some rules of the road for bands at a festival or a multi-act gig. It’s fast passed and a lot of fun but can be very frustrating without a little planning, communication and respect. I’ve been on both sides of this. As a musician, my goals were a great performance and to get paid but also to get booked for the same gig next year.

For years, people have joked and have often dreaded working with stubborn and grumpy sound crew members with attitude. From the crew’s perspective, they have become this way from having to deal with ego-driven, disrespectful musicians. But don’t be apprehensive. Most sound company personnel are great to work with and will go out of their way to make your show a success.

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