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Live Sound Spotlight


Organization Is the Real Secret to Successful Shows

Just as you should work out all of the arrangements to your songs, you should also work out all the arrangements to your show. Most bands simply prepare for a show by promoting it and working on a set list; the rest will take care of itself, right? No! The logistics of getting everything to and from the gig, storing items properly between soundcheck and show time, and getting it all on and off stage can be very taxing. Even when these aspects are properly managed and accounted for, a good many bands fail to keep the business aspects of a band under control. The reality is that business is work. It’s each member’s responsibility to be individually organized. Gather the band and have each member go through this list and write down what he or she needs to do:

  • Band Inventory: Do you remember everything you brought to your last gig? What if something is missing? Do you have serial numbers to verify if missing gear is found?
  • Stage Plot/Input List: A picture is worth a thousand words. Having a stage plot makes your set changes faster. An input list helps your engineer set up quicker. Having these lists for a busy show can cut five minutes or more from your changeover.
  • Monitor/Instrument Cues: Even when you are okay with turning the engineer loose on the mix, you are still going to need the right blend in each of your stage monitors. This is a great way to speed things up. Instrument cues tell the engineer when to anticipate an instrument change.
  • Sound/Lighting Cues: You could literally run out of breath trying to describe everything you want in your show. Trying to do so just before you go on is ridiculous! Even if you could, who’d remember all that? Put it down on paper and you may stand a chance of it actually happening.
  • Show Plan: Showing up, setting up, and kicking butt doesn’t always work; if you’re not prepared, it may be your butt that gets kicked! Each new venue will have different circumstances that require advance planning, like transportation, addresses, soundcheck and show times, set lists, promoting your next show, merchandise booths, etc. Not every club does things the same way every time, or with the same accommodations.
  • Promotion: This is optional if you are not serious about being a professional; however, if you are serious, it is not optional! Phone numbers, addresses, e-mail, press clippings, promo packs, business cards, flyers, T-shirts, and CDs should all be available when you need them. In most cases, you can create an electronic press kit in PDF format that fits on a CD or DVD and can be e-mailed as well. That way, a smartphone can store your info and send it out anytime, anywhere.
  • Accounting/Business Records: You need to be able to keep up with the money coming in and going out. Money problems have broken up many bands. This will cover your rear end in both directions. Copyrights, publishing splits, and business licenses are also part of the equation. After all, it’s the money that will keep your band going

Some of these things are optional. One person doesn’t have to keep up with all of these. The responsibilities can be shared among band members. Each person in your band probably knows what they should be doing; to a large part, this information is for the benefit of the other people who become involved in your show.

—Adapted from Rockin’ Your Stage Sound: A Musician’s Guide to Professional Live Audio, by Rob Gainey (Hal Leonard Corporation, 2010).