Whether you’re a three-piece punk band playing dive bars or a hugely successful pop artist playing arenas, touring can be a grind. Your schedule is all over the place, weather can wreak havoc on travel, and unforeseen issues at venues often add a layer of stress for the performers and crew. On top of all that, trying to manage all the gear you need to put on a great show can feel like an insurmountable task. But if you plan the logistics of your audio and visual equipment effectively then you can at least alleviate the stresses that can come from managing your equipment. Here are some tips to consider when getting ready to embark on your next big tour.
Streamline your setup
Keeping your rig as simple as possible goes a long way toward staying organized and avoiding headaches while on tour. Think about what you truly need to get the sound you want for your performance. If you’re a guitar player or bassist, how many guitars and basses do you really need to bring? If you’re hauling a bass around the country and you only use it for one song you have to ask, is it worth it? The same can be said for amps. If you can get the tones you need from one amplifier, maybe with the help of effects pedals, then perhaps you can leave the second or third amp behind and save yourself the space.
Singers sometimes bring multiple microphones with. While they don’t take up the same amount of space as an amp, smaller items can add up. Think hard about what you really need to perform well. Drummers sometimes have humongous kits with all sorts of percussion pieces. If there’s something you hardly ever use, consider replacing it with something you already have and save yourself from hauling it around and having to set it up each night.
Sharing with others
If you’re heading out with another band or artist, consider discussing gear with them and seeing what you may be able to share. Most performers are particular about instruments and effects, but if you can make sacrifices and use some of the same music equipment as your touring mates it can help a lot when looking to save space. In addition to saving space, sharing gear also means less bulky equipment to lug around and faster setup on stage.
If both you and your touring partner like wireless systems, it’s not difficult to share those. If both bass players have similar tones, sharing a bass amp provides a ton of extra space and is one less huge item to load and set up. If you bring any of your own stage gear or lighting equipment, sharing that among others on the bill is also a great way to save space.
Ask what the venues have
Music venues have more equipment of their own, often referred to as house gear, than many people realize. If you play bass and don’t use a lot of special effects for your tone the house bass amp might be perfect for you. As mentioned above, bass amps tend to be heavy so this could really help save you the hassle of carrying one around. No matter what you play, if you’re working towards trimming down your packing list, consider reaching out to venues to see what options you have. Be sure to get very detailed information on what exactly the venue has: brand, model, condition, age, etc. You must make sure it will be the right fit for you. And remember to leave time to inspect the gear when you get to the venue. If it ends up not being a good fit you’ll want time to look at alternate options.
Look at music rentals
The best alternate option, if you find yourself in that situation, would be looking into music instrument rentals in the area of the venue. Many places offer guitar rentals, keyboard rentals, drum sets, amps, microphone rentals, and more. Places like On-Stage Rentals in Los Angeles offer anything you could possibly need to put on a live music performance from backline equipment and speaker rentals to lighting and stage equipment.
Finding a rental spot near the venue you are playing can be a life saver, even if you aren’t intending to rent gear. You never know when something might fail, get lost, or break when loading in or out of a venue. Before you hit the road, take a look online at places around the venue you might need to lean on in case of an emergency. If you find yourself struggling to find rentals when you’re already on the road, typing “music rental near me” into Google will help you find something near where you are.
One advantage to renting equipment from a reputable music rental company over relying on the venue or sharing gear with fellow bands is that you’ll feel confident that the gear will work and work well. Any good rental place will test gear after it comes back in and is consistently maintaining their instruments, speakers, or other sound equipment to make sure they are all in good working order. Some larger artists will also play surprise shows at smaller venues while on the road for fun and to do something special for their fans. If you’re considering that, you may need to find a PA system rental. Almost every music rental company carries a wide variety of PA systems.
Keep your gear safe
Whether you’re renting music equipment or bringing it along it is super important to be diligent about not letting anything walk. There are a multitude of stories out there from bands big and small about having their gear stolen. It’s almost always due to carelessness. Touring takes both a physical as well as a mental toll on artists and crew. Sleep schedules are spotty, and mistakes happen when fatigue kicks in.
Make sure to never leave your equipment unattended when not in the safety of the venue’s backstage or in a locked vehicle. Always unload in a well-lit area and work together with other band members and crew to ensure that the equipment is always looked after until it’s safely packed away.
Touring is what many musicians look forward to more than any other aspect of their careers. It gives them the opportunity to play the songs they worked so hard to create in front of the people who enjoy that creation. As fun as it is there are a lot of potential pitfalls you can run across when out on the road. Managing your instruments and other music equipment and having a solid plan for each venue will help artists, tour managers, and crew members stay sane during long trips around the country. If you are in the Los Angeles area and need to rent gear or get expertise, swing by On-Stage Rentals and they’ll help you with whatever you need.