By: Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato
Continuing from last month’s blog on preparing for your first tour, in this blog I will be talking about how to build a technical spec.
The two most important documents that you will need for a very long time are; a very clear and complete stage plot and input list. The technical spec will most likely not come into play until the band is in a position to start carrying production or at the point where they can negotiate for what they want.
You should know that many things factor into the level of production available to you. First and foremost- how are the deals cut? Is there a production buyout or is the promoter providing? Whose expense will it be? If there is in house production or the promoter is providing and what is being provided does not meet your needs, who will have to pay for it? How much does the band care about their sound? If it is important to the band/artist to have the best sound possible, they may be willing to spend the money to make sure their needs are met. Some artists just will not have the budget to supplement anything. Every situation will be different, but all of these things will influence what you get.
THE TECHNICAL SPEC
Your tech spec, along with the input list and stage plot, will be part of the Rider.
Don’t be worried if you don’t have the answers to all of the questions below. You will quickly figure out how you like to do things and what you need as things progress.
The technical spec should include the following information: Examples will follow
PA Preference – If you have a preference list it. If you don’t know what you like or don’t like you may want to state simply: it should be a professional quality 4 way stereo system capable of providing clear, undistorted coverage at 110db to the entire venue. Do you need Front Fill? Do you need extra Subs?
FOH Console Preference– How many Channels/Subgroups/VCA/DCAs are needed? If monitors are done from FOH- how many outputs are needed? If digital what size stage rack do you need and do you require a local rack? Do you require any special plug in packages? What console configuration do you need? Most of this may not be relevant for very small tours. Much of the details will work themselves out as the artist’s requirements grow.
If the console is analog, what inserts/effects do you need?
System Drive/EQ– Will you use the console output EQ or do you prefer a 31 band outboard graphic EQ, Galileo, Lake, or similar loudspeaker management system?(on a small club tour you will likely not have a choice). If you have no preference, you can simply request that system processing be available to you at FOH mix position.
Do you prefer to drive your Subs from an Aux or from the Left and Right?
Do you need Front Frill from a Matrix/ Aux, etc…?
Other– Do you require a CD player/burner? Talkback from FOH to Monitors? Input for Video/iPod playback? Clear Com? AC for any FOH equipment that you will be bringing? Etc…
Snake– Number of Snake inputs needed. If you are carrying consoles but not a snake, what particular snake system do you need?
Monitors-Monitor console preference, how many channels, if digital what size stage rack and any special plug ins? If analog what inserts/effects? How many channels of outboard EQ? Number of mixes needed. Does the band have a preference to what side of the stage the monitor console should be? Sometimes you will have a choice and sometimes not.
Speakers-the number of wedges and preference, how many drum subs, side fills?
Amplification for how many mixes?
If in ear mixes what type of system? How many channels? Number of transmitters, belt packs, etc..
Is there a monitor engineer or do you need one to be provided by the venue?
Microphones– List the number and preferred models of mics and DIs needed. This information should be on your input list.
Mic Stands– always a good idea to list how many of each type, especially if you have specific needs such as round base, or tripod tall booms, etc.
Are you bringing any equipment, for example, a FOH rack or In ear rack? What power requirements do you need?
NOTE: If you are doing an international tour be sure to include how many and what type of transformers you will need to convert your equipment/backline to the local power.
Support acts– Will you share channels/mics/stands/, etc with the support act or must they be taken care on separate equipment?
Finally– What personnel are required? You will want at the very least a System/FOH tech and Monitor tech. If the band does not have a monitor engineer but requires a separate monitor system, it should be noted that a qualified engineer should be present to mix monitors.
Here are a few examples:
Some things to remember:
If you find that there is something that you or the band can absolutely not do without, for example- a specific microphone, plug in package, or any other piece of gear, it’s best that the band purchase it and carry it with them wherever they go. No matter how many times you advance your needs, no matter how often you are told “yes, we will have everything on your spec,” things are rarely as promised. Information has a way of not making it to the people who really need it. The only way to be sure that you are going to have that special piece of gear is to bring it yourself.
If the band is carrying any of their own equipment- say a microphone package, it is always a good idea to label each individual piece with the bands name. When load out starts and stage hands start tearing into the stage, items can become quickly misplaced since the stage hands will not be aware of what you brought and what belongs to the venue or sound company.
IF you are working for a band that is a hot ticket, selling out everywhere, you will have a lot more bargaining power than a band that is relatively new and unknown and/or barely selling enough tickets to cover their guarantee.
There will be times that you end up with equipment that may not be exactly what you expected, and you’ll end up doing a lot of troubleshooting and teching. The bottom line is: Be prepared for anything and everything. Be flexible and understand that much of the time you may have to make do with what you get.