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We have provided the sound hire and audio production for many outdoor events involving live music and performers through to MCs with roving microphones and many other requirements. From our experience, there are some key points that make these events run smoothly and that make our job of providing exactly the right equipment and a first class mix easy.
1. Start planning early. Contact your sound hire provider early to provide a preliminary quotation and confirm with them as soon as possible so they can lock in the crew and equipment for your event, especially if it is to be held on a holiday weekend such as Easter when both crew and equipment may be in high demand.
2. Appoint a ‘live music coordinator’. It is much easier to liaise with one person who can be the single point of contact for both performers and your sound hire company providing the sound and engineering. If you have a very tight program and a multitude of artists with differing requirements, this simplifies the communication process extremely well not only during the planning but during the event.
3. Request technical specs or riders from the artists in advance. Whilst a preliminary quotation can be provided, inevitably until it’s known exactly what the artists or performers will be using in terms or instruments and what they will require regarding vocal microphones, it’s not possible to provide a firm quotation. This is where the Coordinator comes into their own – there may be some careful and diplomatic negotiation with the artists required at this stage if not all of their requirements can be met due to budget or programming. However, the sooner this can be finalised the better so that not only microphones, but foldback, Dis, and lighting can be decided and confirmed. One rider request that has become famous in the industry is the one by Van Halen which you can read about here … there was more to their request than just being fussy! It’s a lesson well learned.
4. Lock in a runsheet for the program as soon as possible. The number of artists and change over times will dictate how many stage crew will be needed to ensure all acts are up and running on time and that there are no technical problems. Therefore, firming up the artists and performance times as soon as possible is important so that crew can be contracted and locked in and any adjustments to the original quotation can be negotiated in advance.
5. Ensure there is adequate and safe power supply. We will always provide you with the power we require to safely run the sound system we have quoted on. It is imperative that there is safe access to the required level of power, whether it be a generator or other power source.
6. Prepare a safety plan or appoint a safety supervisor. Outdoor events always look like disorganised chaos. However, it is important that a key person knows what is happening and when and provides the necessary direction and coordination to ensure the ‘work safe, home safe’ motto is observed.
7. Communicate with your sound engineer on the day. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is equally as important as the previous points. With live performance, things will always change. The unexpected will happen – a performer may be sick, someone goes much longer than their allotted time, the weather changes during the program, and so on. Regular and ongoing communication before and during the festival is paramount.
‘PA’ is a very common term used when hiring speakers for an event or show. But ‘P.A.’ is actually short for ‘public address’ which refers to a system that is usually used for speech only. So 'sound reinforcement system’ is better although ‘PA’ is now widely accepted. Just remember to describe what you want to use it for.
So with that in mind, if you wanted a PA system to use for announcements at a fete, an outdoor sporting event, or public rally, for instance, you would more than likely need speakers specifically designed for that use. The good old 100 volt line system would be best to use for these situations.
If you want to play music as well as make announcements then you would more than likely require a different type of speaker which could handle both.
With regards to sound reinforcement for bands, DJs and live music, this requires a lot more power and will usually involve sub woofers which are added to enhance the bass frequencies that this music requires.
We'll go into each of these systems in our coming series of blogs - next one will be on band sound reinforcement. In the meantime, if you are planning an event and need some help in deciding what you need, contact us and we will be only too happy to help you!
It is always enjoyable doing the sound check with acoustic acts - getting the balance just right and ensuring that the sound is crystal clear. It was particularly a pleasure to provide the sound system and do set up and sound check tonight for Michael Fix, widely acclaimed as one of the world's finest acoustic guitarists. Check Michael's website out at www.michaelfix.com , view some of his clips on his YouTube channel and follow him on @michaelfix1.