Gear sharing: a promoter’s perspective

Recently, my esteemed publicist and friend Meghan Swinkels suggested that I start writing a column from the perspective of what I am — a music promoter/venue representative/band manager/tour booker. The idea of this is to find things about my job that people might be interested in and share my thoughts on them. I am a bit nervous about the whole concept — don`t want to come across as a know-it-all, don`t want to ruffle too many feathers — but Meghan is omnipotent, so I will attempt it.

When it comes to putting on shows, there are several things that bands can do to give themselves their best chance to play a good show and get the most bang for their buck. Of all of those, the easiest, as far as I am concerned, is working out a reasonable gear share.

Why? Here are a few of the key reasons:

  • Shorter changeovers: The night has a much better chance to run on schedule with less changeover time, meaning fewer people leaving between sets
  • Less van cabs or designated drivers: Van cabs are a huge ripoff, but if you are each bringing a kit then you probably are each wasting a grotesque amount of money on them.
  • Easier on the sound tech: If you share one kit and one bass amp, the sound tech’s life is easier. A happier sound tech generally makes for a happier mix.
  • Builds good faith with bands on the bill: Unless we are talking about a d-bag band, most bands are hugely appreciative of a gear share. That’s the type of good faith favour that pays off down the road.
  • More soundchecks: That`s an article for another day, but setting up and striking multiple kits usually means that less bands get to check. Whether or not you believe it to be true, your band sounds better with a soundcheck.

So because all these reasons and many more, all bands are eager to work out a gear share, right? Well, sort of. Almost all bands are eager to share gear. They just don`t want to have to be the band providing any of it. Many of my friends in bands who may read this have been nothing but gold when it comes to working out gear shares. The point of this article is to speak to those bands who don`t understand it.

The idea of a gear share is that for some shows you are going to be providing the bass and drums, but for many other shows they are going to be provided for you. It’s like in baseball when a smashed linedrive is caught with a ridiculous catch, and then a few at-bats later you squib a rolling ball down the first-base line and get an infield hit — it all works itself out.

So then the question becomes: who brings the gear?

Generally speaking, the last band on the bill should be supplying the kit and loading it in as close to load-in time as humanly possible. At some shows, the headlining band supplies the kit and the bass amp. At my shows, I try to do the headlining band a solid and get the middle band to bring the bass amp, to ease the load on load-in. That said, the advantage of one band bringing both pieces of gear is that you know you can start soundcheck as soon as the gear arrives.

What not to say when you are asked to provide gear:

  • “Don`t you have a house drum kit?”: Real venues, for the most part, do not have a house kit. If they do, it’s a beater piece of shit that any respectable band does not want to be playing on.
  • “We do not have a drum kit”: Then you are barely in a band. If you do not have a kit, then really, the responsibility is on you to rent one.
  • “Sure, we will just need to get paid extra for it”: Seriously? I`m sure that when you are on earlier and bring a ton of people to a show, you won`t like the promoter telling you that you are only getting paid $X because you didn`t bring the kit. So just do not say that.
  • “We would, but our drummer is not going to show up till 11”: Your load-in time is given to you and the band — or at the very least, the gear needs to be there close to it. So even if your drummer is showing up late, load the drums in a car and bring them for him.

What is cool to say when you are asked to provide gear:

  • “My drummer or bass player does not like to share — we will bring our own gear and set it up and strike it right after the set”: This is totally cool. You bought the gear and you do not have to share it. But if you aren`t cool with sharing your gear, then you better not be cool to use someone else`s.
  • “We can bring drums and bass if we have to, but I am going to contact the second band to see if we can work something out”: Take ownership, leave the promoter out of it — we like that.

That`s it, that`s all. I am trying to keep these relatively short and readable, so I think this does the trick. The moral of the story is, everyone realizes that carting drums to a gig is annoying. But from time to time, you are going to have to do it. By just agreeing to do it and being as amicable as possible about it, the positives massively outweigh the negatives. So much of music is about building relationships with other bands, fans, venues, promoters, sound techs and such. Just something to keep in mind.

Cheers,

Dan

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Gear sharing: a promoter’s perspective

  1. Well said, Dan. Good on you for being such a strong advocate for gear sharing.

    I wish more bands I’ve shared stages with understood the benefits of everybody using a common backline. But I must also say that some promoters (you excluded, obviously) don’t do nearly enough to encourage it. I can’t count of the number of times extra drumkits have arrived at a gig needlessly. So here’s hoping that other promoters/bookers are reading this blog post, in addition to musicians.

    Keep it up, man. I’m definitely into reading what you think about soundchecks.

  2. Interesting article Dan. As a drummer its my personal rule that I always use my own kit, as even the slightest deviation in setup can distract me from my performance (poor clutches, toms not quite in the right position etc). I don’t mind when other bands use it as long as their attitude is right.

    Here’s the thing. I’ve played around 50 shows now and I’ve often found that trying to share a drum kit actually takes up more time than it saves. Often sharing a “drum kit” means, kick, floor tom and rack tom(s), and thats it. Hardware which takes the longest the setup, is hardly ever shared, so not the much time is saved in my opinion. The odd time when I’ve tried to incorporate my hardware into another setup, its never been ideal, and actually its taken more time that it would have take to just take the kit of the stage.

    Just my 2 cents. . .

  3. People wanting to use their own kit is a fine preference but that said, if a band told me they wanted to use their own kit they’d open or headline. There is a reason that bands are forced to use the shared backline at music festivals and that reason is switching kits takes a long time.

  4. Bartle

    Well said.

    Gear sharing is awesome if others respect gear. Recently I’ve had a huge issue with agreeing to share gear and some d-bag figured it’d be awesome to wreck my gear like a real “rock-star.”

    I don’t care how many shows you play or how “original” you are. If your act involves wrecking gear, don’t use mine. I play music everyday and cannot afford to replace gear every time there is another idiot thinks they are real tough.

    You’d think that unwritten rule of “you break it, you buy it.” would come into play.

    Other than that. Well said, Dan!

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