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So you have been given the job of organising a live music event and now have the job of finding a production company to provide the PA? Before you get to the technical stuff like speakers and microphones, here are 5 basic but very important things to consider and check out before engaging them.
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.