The idea sounds good? A life with the stars?
Champagne and Caviar?
There are three ways to look at a career [or a
brief fling] as a 'Roadie'.
1) A means to get to
know the ropes on the road. Probably a
touch of 'sound engineering' will be thrown
in? Or lighting design? Or stage
design? Or instrument teching [looking
after guitars, drums, synths]
2) A means to an easy
life of the renowned Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N Roll
3) A means to get on
the ladder, take the place of the guitar
player/synth player/lead singer who falls ill
and the show can't go on without YOU?
Lets get down to business:
A means to
get to know
on the road -
opinion, and in the opinion of most of my pals who
have experience of the 'roadie' life I would suggest
that a combination of (1) and (3) is the best
Roadies, at least the ones
who are dedicated to the life, know the ropes
and have got the back bone and resilience to
put up with the 27 hour days, salted car tyre
sandwiches and rusted six inch nail filled
damp beds, will tell you they are 'stone in
love with' the life... for that is what it is
... a life... a vocation?
Contrary to public belief,
it is not a glamorous, fun filled, booze
fuelled, sex driven heaven with just a tad of
It is a tough, hard,
grab sleep when you can, lifting mighty heavy
stuff slog with little thanks, plenty of being
shouted at and little dosh at the end of the
gig. So using the life as a means to get
on the ladder makes sense? Yes?
Getting started is the real
Almost every band, in every
city, in every country, in every planet of the
Universe is short of roadies. Now here,
I don't mean short of the highly professional
guys who tour with Beyonce and Il Divo [for
those gigs you need to have done all the years
of the cheapie local band gigs and need a sh*t
hot CV ... trust me!]
Every band needs the guy
who will hump the gear [known as 'humpers' for
Every band needs the guy
who will go out in the pouring rain to get the
suit-bag the star has left in the wagon
[usually a 15 year old rust bucket that breaks
down every second gig - hence little sleep]
The Real Story?
The constant breakdowns?
Every band needs the guy
who will do any job, including holding forth at
the sound desk while the sound engineer goes
out to smoke his roll-up, with dubious
contents, of the 'losing your mind' kind.
Handle the merchandising, get the take-aways.
wisdom? To you?
Don't ask questions
relating to Employment Law or minimum salary
... you simply will not get the gig.
[This should not be construed as legal advice]
How much can you earn?
will lose money until you have learned the
game. The real story is that you should
treat it as fun but with a serious learning
curve attached. Volunteer for everything
[particularly the merchandise selling ... you
will get 10%] [Again, this should
not be construed as legal advice]
teaches you serious 'selling' skills ... you
don't sell, you don't get dosh ... simple?
Treat it as a 'performance'.
- where you can make money
What can you learn?
There is a mountain to
learn ... sound.... where the cables go, what
cables do what. Best positioning for
cables. The art of keeping cables neat,
tidy and, most importantly, invisible.
Rolling and tying cables when finished.
Always ready for the next gig ... whether you
are involved in the next gig or not.
Learn the word 'certainly' .
Any thing you are asked to do say it!
Guys who use that word every time are like
gold dust and get the gig every time.
You can observe methods
for striking gear [removing from stage and
packing] ... observing can show you how labour
wasting most band's methods are. The top
hire companies only employ the guys who know
the efficient methods. Always learn the
jargon used ... QUICK!
Microphones, what mics.
do what, on which instrument? On which
drum? The vocal mics.? Radio mics?
What are D.I's [Direct Injection box ...
instrument plugs in and goes direct to the
sound desk]. What is MIDI and how does
it work? [Musical Instrument Digital
Interface] ... a system that allows digital
instruments to 'talk' to each other.
My advice? Watch,
learn quick, and volunteer .... ask the
questions. A good fellow Roadie will
be delighted to give the answers. It
makes him feel knowledgeable.
A word of warning:
Be desperately careful
of picking up bad habits and bad techniques.
Particularly in striking and setting up [ if
you are with a small time band ]
engineering methods are all over
'How To Make A $Million From Your Music'
... but sadly, a local band will not have that
knowledge. As an added slice of wisdom,
do not try to impose your knowledge on your
fellow Roadies ... they won't like it.
They probably enjoy the experience too much.
Most guys are simply in it for the 'fun'.
Remember, you are there
to pick up experience and any additional
knowledge that comes your way. In a
It is also invaluable
experience in interfacing with fellow crew,
stars [or aspiring stars] and the public.....
Fabulous lighting knowledge
is available in 'The Art of Live Performing'
to get the gig?
Just approach any band
appearing locally ... you will have to live
close to their 'pick-up' point, where they set
off to their appearances.
Offer to help, don't
demand a set amount ... you won't get it ...
They will offer you a silly
amount or Zilch ... take it. You are learning on
their time ... remember that. It is like
an old-time apprenticeship. You can only
learn on the road ... so take the gig.
Colleges do not teach this stuff.
It really helps if you
can drive ... and have a clean license ... and
be the one who only has a half of lager and
can drive the 250 miles home with all your
fellow crew and band hammered and smoked to
death! Not to mention the nostrils
stuffed with strange white stuff?
In the UK and the USA the
best place to learn is the local Council run
theatre. Hard to get a position but the
teaching is stunning. Offer to help with
'get-in's' [off loading the stage trucks -
usually on Saturday nights] and 'get out's'
[same in reverse]. Usually good money,
unsocial hours and a job that no one wants
because they are out with girl friends or
that they will also teach you their 'Union Rules'
way of working complete with all the extraordinary
'Health and Safety' rules way of working ... they
are very efficient and correct but usually a pain in
the butt to share a theatre with! Pick the
good points and leave all the other stuff behind you
when your stint there ends. [This,
again, should not be construed as legal advice]
I have worked with those
bods ... seriously weird, when you want a
simple job done!
Another word of warning:
Be aware that there is
only one way to learn sound engineering and
sound mixing plus lighting design .. that is the correct, theoretical way
The Serious Writers Guild or an expensive
Sound and Technology Engineering College]. By the way,
in my experience, Sound Colleges are less than
useless ... you can quote me on that.
Mainly because the tutors are all failed
musicians/sound and lighting engineers.
If they knew their stuff they would be doing
Don't expect to
learn expert sound mixing and lighting design
On the road, you will
learn from the guy who learned before you and
picked up all the bad method, bad information
and bad techniques.
In college you will
learn from the guy who almost had a top
hundred hit in 1964. Loves 'old school' rock 'n roll
and probably has the pony tail to prove it.
Modern day analogue mixing desks are designed to be
easy to use straight out of the box with no
learning necessary. But to get the best
out of any piece of sound equipment it is
necessary to understand the theoretical
mechanisms behind how it works and
MOST IMPORTANT be able to get it to
work at 100% efficiency.
That is what the guy
working the F.O.H [Front of House] desk
for Beyonce is doing ... 100% efficiency ..
that is why he got the gig.
Digital desks are best
learned from a three week course as prescribed
by the manufacturers ... can you tell I don't
like them? .... until they sort their act out
... in other words , they all have a common
The first sound job?
The first job you may be
flung into, at a moment's notice, will be
operating the side of stage monitor mix.
I have rarely met one
monitor jockey who knew what they were doing.
Side of stage
monitor mixer. Daunting when you first stand
A guy on the phone
yesterday to me speaking of an upcoming
festival my band are playing said "we have
twelve monitor mixes available on stage" ... I
said "yes, twelve chances of being wrong."
Again, to be operated in
an optimum fashion [the best] it has to be set
up theoretically correct ... and would you
know how? The band will expect you to
means to an easy life
the renowned sex,
this is achievable. The groupies will be there
in abundance even for the most unknown bands and
singers. It sort of makes up for the low
I feel like an old man saying this
But ...... and I am not being
sexist ... just 'real'. Girl performers can
have male groupies as well ... trust me ...
Always remember that the silly
groupie who has drunk too much or taken some crazy
tablet or ingested something crazy, she bought just
to be 'hip' ... remember she is someone's loved
daughter ... and someday your own daughter could be
in the same position.
Have respect ... I know, hard
in those situations ... but try. Same for the
girl performers with male groupies, by the way.
Obey the golden rule "never
without a condom" .... a moment's stupidity can
result in a precious life being created ... a
beautiful piece of Nature's creation .... a gorgeous
'to die for' baby ... but an instant orphan.
A beautiful creation
... think before acting stoooopid!
Of course, I do not need to
mention the range of STD's [Sexually Transmitted
Diseases] that abound today. A fun topic of
conversation but totally different when the doctor
gives you a lifetime 'sentence' ... for a few
minutes stupidity ??????
Chlamydia, Herpes are just not
funny ... there are other infections even more
dangerous and life threatening, not to mention
fertility threatening ... and AIDS? Well, just
doesn't bear thinking about.
And girls ... this warning is
the same for you. And gay? I just hope
the Government warnings mean something.
This is part of the 'roadie'
scenario that the 'stupid' guys just cannot get into
Dress correctly, as in 'to
dress correctly is to dress appropriately'.
That is the
secret to success on the road. And, strangely
enough, follows you into success in mainstream Show
If you are part of the crew to
put a sound system into Wimbledon for the Tennis
Finals? What do you wear? Correct first
time ... WHITE!
If you are in the crew to put
the sound into the Hilton in Park Lane,
London ... what do you wear? All together now?
Black Tie. Haven't got a black tie
outfit? GET ONE....QUICK! It is an
investment .. just like an Athlete invests in his
Works every time?
It does not matter how many
times you do not wear it ... it is a life and death
situation when you are required to wear it.
will look like a duck at a swan convention - if you do
not dress correctly.
The correct sound/lighting crew dress
for any situation
all black with no bare flesh showing
Dress incorrectly and you will
eat with the slummy crew on the biggest cruise ships
... dress correctly and you will eat in the 6 star
restaurant ... choice is yours? I know my
choice. Champagne is better than lager any day
of the week. I always pack a great black tie outfit
... see the advice in
"How to Make a $Million From Your music"
Know the meaning of the word
I need to say it again .... The most important attribute
of a great Roadie is to know the word 'Certainly'.
As a mainstream artist, the
word we love most, after any request, is the word
'Certainly' ... no matter what the request is.
I repeat that ... "no matter what the request is".
The only answer a major artist
wants to hear is that magic "certainly" .....
No excuses, no muttering, no
explaining ... just 'certainly' .. knowing the job gets
done. The thank-you's get given after the
event in our business.
is the problem solved?
The answer to that, from an
artist's point of view, is when the problem is
I can speak from experience -
if my guitar equipment is not behaving correctly and
I have a secret signal to the road crew that all is
not well... when am I happy?
When the problem is solved.
I do not want to see crew
lolling around and hear a feeble excuse after the
show ... I WANT THE PROBLEM FIXED ... that is what
they are paid for ... am I right?
Fix that fuse, replace that
lead ... replace that microphone battery ... know
the trip switch lay-out. Get the problem
solved ... and work your socks off, with no excuse,
until the problem is solved ... right up to the end
of the show. That is your job.
And particularly when you are
elevated to sound crew level ... be aware of every
signal from stage .. have a series of secret signals
from the artists ... and obey them instantly ...
have a system of flashing your MAGLITE [industry
standard crew light] to say YES or NO.
Maglite ... the
Industry Standard hand held light - get one!
The artist will be happy, the
show will go huge ... the audience will be ecstatic
and the appreciation will be reflected in your pay
means to get on the ladder
Now you are talking!
One of the most important
factors involved in success in the music industry is
the Bryan Adams factor ...
He is happy to set up his
complete concert rig solo ... on his own ... no one
He doesn't ... but he could
I could ... but that is a
different story. I don't ... My logic is
that I employ guys to do it ... but I know more than
them and I can check that everything ... and I do
mean everything, is right for the show ....
My logic is that if anything
goes wrong, just like a Member of Parliament, I take
the blame... not the road crew ... because I
should have checked everything. Even at
Wembley I will find a way of checking everything.
A lot of guys have started as
minor members of bands ... even road crew.
Phil Collins was a replacement drummer with Genesis.
What a career he had?
Most of my pals in the game
know the whole deal inside out . They don't
have to do it, but when push comes to shove they
could ... they could.. they could!
Dec ... with love
idea for this article was from songwriting
and music making members
of The Serious Writers Guild. It
gives an idea of the benefits of
belonging to the Guild. You can
join simply by purchasing the ten month
programme 'How to Make A $Million From
Your Music' at www.makehits.co.uk/swgappsecure.htm