In my last blog, I talked about how I start preparing for a new tour by learning the artist's music and really familiarizing myself with their songs.
While I am learning the music, I am also building an input list and stage plot.
When I’m hired for the tour, one of the first questions I ask is who are the Tour Manager and Production Managers? I then reach out to them for information. Do an input list and stage plot exist? Is there an audio rider or technical spec? If so I’ll get them and review them with any existing crew (monitor engineer, backline technicians).
If they don’t exist, I’ll start with the band and ask each musician what their rig consists of. How big is the drum kit? Are there any loops or samples? How many keyboard lines? Is the guitar rig mono or stereo, a wet and a dry, how many cabinets? etc., until I've talked to everyone. Next, I review all of this with the backline technicians who can help clarify exactly what is coming from where so I can create an accurate input list and stage plot.
Input lists and stage plots can be as simple or detailed as needed and that will vary according to your needs. The more detail the less room for surprises and error, especially if you are using all local production.
If the band is not touring with a monitor engineer I find out what their monitor needs are. Are they using in-ear monitors or wedges and side fills? Who needs what in their monitor mixes?
If there is a monitor engineer we’ll work together on building all of this info into an input list and stage plot, as well as an audio spec.
Your Audio spec or rider will be determined by the scale of the tour. Basically, it is a list of all the audio equipment required for this show. From PA to Consoles to Microphones, etc.
Will the tour be using local production or will it be carrying an audio package?
Your options will increase with the size of the tour and the budget. It's been my experience, that if a particular piece of gear is necessary for the show to happen- say the lead singer must have a specific microphone- then the tour should be carrying it with them. It doesn't matter what is on the rider or how many times you advance a show, in the real world you don't always get exactly what you are promised. So if you absolutely have got to have the Waves Mercury bundle of plugins, you better bring them with you!
Once the audio spec is created, your Production Manager (PM) should be the first person to receive it. He or she will go over it and let you know if it’s within the budget or not. It’s their job to advance the technical requirements for every show and make sure that requirements are met as agreed upon with the promoter. If the tour is carrying production then the PM will solicit bids if needed, from various audio vendors and once a provider is chosen you will communicate with them to finalize the details.
If there is no PM, which is generally the case on small tours, then the job either falls to the Tour Manager (TM) or the audio engineer (you) to take care of advancing the audio requirements.
Advancing is basically going over your technical needs for each show with the local promoter/venue production manager or technical director.
You want to know what you are walking into. If you are not carrying any production, what does each venue have? What kind of PA and is it enough? What kind of console? How many channels in the snake? etc. Do you need to supplement or make any changes?
You want as few surprises as possible on the day.
The point of all of this is to make your day as problem free as possible so when you are actually at the gig, you can focus on the job of mixing rather than sorting out problems. The more of this stuff that is dealt with ahead of time means the more time you have to work on getting great sounds and a great mix.
That’s a lot of stuff right? And all of that happens before you even set foot on a tour bus, or walk into a gig. Ideally. Sometimes you get a call to be on a plane the next morning with no time for any of it.