What About a Tech Rider?

by Laura Hartmann

As a young, up and coming artist should you have a tech rider?  The answer is a resounding YES!  But why do you need it?  What IS a tech rider and what does it include?   

A tech rider is a document that attaches to a performance contract, becomes legal and binding like the contract, and outlines a band’s or ensemble’s technical needs.  Items like the capabilities of the of the sound equipment in the venue, backline (amps, drums, piano, keyboards, etc), stage size, electrical cords, cables, mics, lighting, smoke machines, etc.  Anything relevant to what the artist needs to make the performance happen.  It also may contain logistical and hospitality needs (somewhat debated, we’ll explore this more later).

Let’s look at the first question, why do you need a tech rider?  That is twofold.  It is important to the negotiating process, in that it informs the venue what you will need to make your performance happen, and to assist in calculating the cost of the performance.  For example, discovering that the venue does not have a grand piano only when you arrive could make for a BIG problem with your performance – with a big price tag.  If that is discovered during the negotiating, either side must work out a solution to this problem.  It will be decided who will pay for it, and no one gets stuck with an unexpected expense.  The tech rider makes the artists needs clear from the outset, as well as the financial needs and limits to make it happen for both parties.

Once the contract is signed and the date approaches, this document is very important to the production staff in preparing for the performance.  It is their guide to know what gear needs to be rented, what the artist may be bringing, and how to set up the stage.  The more they are prepared, the better everyone’s experience is going to be. 

This brings us to what goes into a tech rider.  It will list each instrument that is in the ensemble, mic preferences (with an input list), a stage plot, anything that needs to be on the stage.  For example, tablets are now being used for reading music.  Making sure there is a way to plug each of them in is an important detail that the stage crew should be prepared for – especially if someone has forgotten to charge their tablet!  If you need a specific keyboard or amp, this is how you let the venue know. 

What about hospitality and comfort items?  You must get the venue this information, so my opinion is yes, it belongs in the tech rider.  The key is organization.  Put all the technical needs up front for the production staff.  Just technical items.  Have the second part of the document be your hospitality needs.  Include meal requests and dietary restrictions, hotel accommodations, comp tickets, request to sell merch, a clause stating that the venue is a member of a PRO (they rightfully should pay these fees), requests for towels, bottled water on stage, no recording without permission, guidelines for publicity materials, etc.

As a young artist, here is my advice for being taken seriously and having success with your requests:

  • Do not ask for more than you need, but ask for what you need.   Venues will not be pleased to rent gear you do not use.  This is a golden rule.
  • Organize the text, input list and stage plot into a very clear document.
  • Do not put in any tricks like asking for a bowl of green M & M’s to see if they read it.
  • It is your responsibility to follow up and help them prepare as you advance the gig.  Never assume they will read it and just do it. 
  • Always be pleasant, helpful and be accommodating to substitutions as best you can without compromising what you need to have the performance sound it’s best.

If you’d like a specific topic covered, or you have a question for another article, please send it to laura@lvanhart.com.

Laura Hartmann founded LVanHart Artist Productions in 1997.  She currently represents Steve Wilson, Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash Duo, Mike Stern and Diane Monroe.  An adjunct faculty member at the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY, she has led workshops at a number of colleges and universities,  she is also available for private consultations and workshops .  www.lvanhart.com

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