Advancing your live Show like a Pro
Updated: May 20, 2020
So your gig is booked, your marketing is done, your show is sold out and you are so stoked! You have your merch on hand and ready to sell, your bono glasses are squeeky clean and you are ready to rock, literally.
Hold up though, has everything been confirmed with the venue or your promoter? What time is load-in? Where are you staying for the night? Who will sell your merch? Will there be exotic beef jerky exported from Mexico awaiting your arrival (yep, this happens).
The best way to be completly organised for your show is to advance it with the venue, the promoter and their lead production tech. Advancing your your concert, your gig or your show can be fairly straight forward and as simple as confirming load in . It can also be a little difficult depending on who you are working with and if there's been any previous discretions or miscommunication during the contract phase of the planning.
Depending on the show/tour, advancing is usually done 3 days to 3 weeks out from your show depending on how big it is, it's usually done between the tour manager and the venue/promoter and their production lead (or sound guy as they've been known). It's the last confirmation of show details prior to the event. Tour managers advance shows as they are organising the tour details for the artist and need to be on top of everything to ensure the tour runs smoothly. Depending on how big your production is, sometimes a member of the band plays tour manager, sometimes they get a girlfriend or buddy to play tour manager, sometimes it's mum or dad and if so, get them to read this so that they will have a heads up on how to manage and work through a show advance. Promoters and venues need to know that their performing artists and their team are professional and on top of the management and execution of the show.
So, what's usually discussed during advancement of show you ask, well, depending on how big the show is it could be as little as load-in/load out and set times BUT, if it's a little bigger then that and if you have a full crew with you, expect to chat about and confirm:
1. Show Date, Location, Time and Directions: You would be surprised at how many artists turn up in another town or on the wrong day or wrong time. Although it's right up the top of the performance contract you MUST confirm: - Show Date - Show Location (venue/amphitheater/concert hall name and address)
- Directions to address and load-in directions as this may be on another road.
2. Logistics: Some stages of concert halls, stadiums, amphitheaters and venues have tricky access points. You'll need to advise the venue on what vehicles you have that will need access for load in as well as parking. Some tours have 1 x soccer mum's minivan towing a tailor of gear and some tours have several tour coaches, semi trucks and tailors in tow. It's your job to know the best route for your driver for load-in. Overhead maps are usually made available by any organised venue if it's a tricky access and if not, ask. Be sure to make sure that tour vehicles are parked in the best systematic way possible as it can be a game of tetris with several artist load-ins. Be sure to ask about parking too and request a closed off sign posted area for your vehicle(s).
3. Production Requirements: Usually set out in tech rider in detail but not all tech riders can be honored due to availability or budget.
4. Performance Rider Requirements: Performance riders need to be looked at even before an agreed performance date or contract exchanges hands - why you ask..? Well depending on the artist, their rider may be over $5,000, just for the rider! I know right! Catering, alcohol, beverages, accommodation, travel, stage, sound, lighting, they all cost money and the majority of the time is at the cost of the promoter or venue. Some of the catering can be so knit picky too - and don't forget you're needing to feed your production crew too!
5. Technical Rider Requirements: PA (public address system, your speakers etc), stage plot, backline, sound, lights, staging all need to be discussed with the promoter/venue production lead or 'sound guy'. Some artists require *cough* demand a certain stage space to perform, lighting particulars. They need space for their guitar techs, their gear, and performing on an 8m x 5m stage just isn't appropriate.
Who is providing the instruments, the backline? Some artists like to bring their own (if they are touring on-road) and others are fly-ins and can't bring everything they want (or their guitar is damaged during flight, this has happend). Tony Bennett requires a particular brand in piano, not only do you need to transport that piano but you are required to pay a few techs an hourly rate to sit there and monitor it (even if it's for 20 hours). You also need a piano tuner to come tune for both sound check and curtain. The costs add up.
6. Load-in / load-out times
You'll need to work with other acts and support acts with this as well as the lead stage hand. Headliners load-in first and support follows. You need the majority of the headliners gear prepped and ready to set during the stage changover between sets/acts.
7. Sound Check Times:
For headlining act, support act (headliner sound checks first then support act so that their instruments are ready and on stage for curtain).
8. Stage Hand Requirements: Stage hands are my heros, they are always the first in and the last out of any show. Stage hand (or stage crew) requirements are usually set out in tech rider but should be discussed in case there's been any changes in production. Stage hands not only load-in and load-out artist performance gear, they also load in and build the stage hours before artists and crew even show up, sometimes even the day or week before. If you ever meet a stage hand buy them a pepsi and some donuts - they'll appreciate it.
9. Security What kind of security does the venue have? Will there be security watching your tour bus/vehicles? Is their a requirement for security to be at the greenroom or back stage? Even side of stage during performance..? I've had a rider request that had to be met by an artist that required armed off duty police offers to escort her around as she was politically active (that's totally what the rider stated) and that she gets death threats on the regular. In the USA nearly all the PoPo (police) work as security guards for events, for stores, for traffic control and more as they can legally exercise their policing rights on and off formal duty....that and their salary just doesn't surfice, I know it's pretty sad hey.
10. Runner and Vehicle Hire: Is their need for a runner and what kind of vehicle(s) are required. Usually SUV's and mini vans are rented from local hire car companies or some full time runners have their own SUV's or people mover vans. Local drivers or 'runners' are used from the local community who know their way around the area. They turn up prior to the artist and is usually palmed off to the Tour Manager upon artist arrival. The tour manager gets their mobile number and uses them to ferry around the artists and crew between artist arrival, load-in, sound check, curtain and after show hotel runs. The runner is also used to do exact that, run around for the day's show needs which includes getting catering. Runners will be of the tour managers disposal but is usually paid by the promoter. They will be released at the end of the night by the tour manger.
11. Merch Sellers: Was there merch seller required on the performance contract? If so this needs to be discussed. Merch sellers help set up the merch tent and is usually managed by the tour manager. Some tours have professional merch sellers on tour with them, what a job hey, but you know what, apart from ticket sales merch is the second highest source of revenue for touring artists so yeah, think about that...
Merch sellers, from my experience are paid between $80.00 - $150.00 a night or a percentage of what they sell. Giving them a percentage of sales entices them to try and sell more instead of sitting there like a potato. At times too, a percentage of merch sales is needed to go to the promoter or venue, I know, no fair hey but still, if everyone does a good job everyone is happy.
12. Set Times: When does each set start and finish for each artist? Is their an encore? How long is the set / will they be doing more than one? Will their be en encore? You don't want the house lights turned on if there will be en encore (yep, this happens too..)
13. Stage Changeover Times: How long does each stage changeover go for? This all depends on how many acts are performing on that stage. Is their more than one stage and if so are they on rotation so while one stage is live the other is being changed over (this happens for festival lineups)
14. Backline Requirements:
Are artists sharing backline?
15. Meal Times: Artists gotta eat right, and so do their crew, and so does the venue crew, and so do you... Headlining artists normally have a whole heap of delicious goodies on their rider to begin with when they arrive in their hotels or greenrooms, but you still need to provide them a meal whether it be professional vegan catering only made from the artists recipe (yep, it happens), a $4,068 takeaway order from your local Ma n Pa Italian restaurant (yep), or getting the runner to drive up to Maccas for 25 big mac meals, 6 quater pounder meals and 10 sneaky cheesies (yep, this happens too). This is all laid out during the advancing of the show and all depends on the show budget.
Hot tip too: give your local restaurant or fast food chain a heads up that they will be receiving a bulk order at a proposed time or send your order ahead. Normally, headlining artists either have their main meal just after they sound check so it has a few hours to digest. They always have after show meals on their rider too which is mostly fast food.
16. Catering Needs: Usually on performance rider but you'll need to discuss particular caterers in your area, if there's specific catering needs (vegan, vegetarian, gluten free etc), the promoter will usually send through local menus to the tour manager, or simply let them know where the nearest food vendors are..
17. After Show Catering: Usually on your catering rider and usually tacky take out (hey hey delicious pizza I'm looking at you..). Some artists, despite their huge catering rider requests (a lot of this catering is for the artists' crew) like good hearty meals for their after show catering. Boz Scaggs' TM (tour manager) ordered a meal from a local restaurant menu, our 1 show runner we had for that event was driving band members back to their hotels so I actually went to pick up the food. When I got to the restaurant, they'd found out it was for the Boz Scaggs tour. Unfortunetly, it took me FOREVER to get out of there as they made so much extra food for Boz, threw in pamphlets and meal vouchers and notes from fans. It was super sweet and cute but it ate up so much time. He likes his lamb medium to well by the way...
18. Day of Show Contact Details:
The tour manager and venue/promoter (or your mate Davo) will need to exchange both telephone and email contact details for at least: - Show manager (venue)
- Production lead (venue)
- Stage manager (venue)
- Stage hand lead (venue)
- Runners (venue)
- Merch Sellers (venue or tour)
- Tour Manager (tour)
- Guitar Tech (tour)
19. VIP Meet and Greet / Photo Op Details
Depending on your clout, you may be in a position to up sell an experience to your fan base with a VIP meet and Greet and/or photo opportunity. Fans will pay good money to meet you, and we will cover up sells and meet and greets in another blog post but for now you'll need to make sure this is covered in your advance. - When will the meet and greet be? Before or after the set? - What will identify the attendees: wrist bands, printed confirmations, lanyards..?
- Where will the M & G be located? - Where can the attendees meet to be escorted for the M & G?
- Will there be photo opps and will it be with the attendees mobile phones only or will you have a photographer? - Will you need security?
Depending on your clout and popularity you may need some event staff or security to assist with meet and greet / photo ops. Some fans can get a little emotional and out of hand at times and you may just need some more bodies to organise the excitment. When I did a show with Trace Atkins he was running late from his flight. We had to have him escorted by the Po Po from the airport to the event. Once he arrived a few fan girls somehow got past the barriers and came up to us. He went into his dressing room *cough* I mean, portable trailer and one particular fan was crying with excitment and wanted to meet him. As I tried to calm her down she slapped me in my own face - I know right! My own face! The surprised look on hers was probably just as surprised as mine, she then broke down in tears even more apologising saying that she's just a big fan and wanted to meet him. She hyperventalated and I needed to call the fair's medical to come help her.
This was the first and last time I was assulted at a show I managed in the USA, I was more stunned then anything, had a bit of a laugh afterwards but yeah kids getting emotionally violent and fan girling isn't cool so be sure to keep yours (your cool).
20. Settlement: YASSS you say, the one you've been waiting for. Settlement is getting paid! Who is going to pay you your moneh! This definetly needs to be discussed and confirmed during the advance. - Who will be making final payment to the band - Confirm the settlement amount - Will it be cash, cheque (Australia doesn't really do cheque payments anymore but the USA music industry still does, and they spell it 'check' too) or direct debit bank transfer? - If there's a merch settlement who collects that money, promoter, the venue, ted the door man?
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