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Top 6 Rules for Roadies

Updated on November 19, 2011

Rules Roadies Can Live by

Top 6 Rules for roadies to live by; Real time advice for the aspiring roadie.

First allow me to explain to you what a roadie is and what a roadie is not. A roadie is a person who accompanies a band to the place where they will be performing music. The place and anything associated with where the band will be playing their music is very often called ‘The Gig”. The equipment is often called ‘The Gear’, or ‘The Rig’, or ‘The Equipment’. Roadies are involved in the setup of ‘The Equipment’ in preparations for the band to play.

1. Never plug in a chord until you make sure the volume is turned all the way off on any outgoing speakers or turned way, way down. This is a precautionary measure against unintended bursts of noise, unbearable screeches which can haunt even the most cautious and well prepared roadie by surprise. Don’t let the squeals, squeaks, quirks, and noise bombs interrupt your audience’s nice afternoon brunch. There is nothing more embarrassing than vagrant, misplaced, uncontrolled noise made by an amateur roadie because of their lack of following rule #1 to the tee. Practice now or forever hold your peace. Turn the volume control levels for all instruments involved all the way down before powering up a mixer, amplifier, sound cube, bass amp, anything. Turn it all the way down then work your way up to the appropriate level adjusting the volume from low to high safeguards against unwanted sonic booms at inappropriate times. When a manager of a club or any other nearby patron decides to pull the power plug on you, there will be no gig. This is the most common way young well-to-do, full of good intentions roadies suffer death. Think bottom up. Start soft adjusting your levels going up not having to be told to “TURN DOWN” or have the power plug pulled right from the socket due to the incompetence. There is no excuse for ever subjugating anyone, including yourself, to unbearable levels of hiss/ white noise and/ or causing anyone else, including yourself, to bleed from the ears because you didn’t obey rule #1.  You know, you are responsible for setting up the equipment on the stage, and getting the musician’s gear from the truck, van, bus etc. to the approximate area where the music will be performed, which brings me to rule #2.

2.      Never place on the stage anything except in the following exceptional cases:


a.The object will be in the same position when the gig is live, or if the piece of gear/equipment will occupy (by placing or otherwise) the exact same spot during the actual performance. Don’t break rule #2. Breaking of rule #2 gets the musicians, “Pissed-Off” at the roadie responsible. Pissed off means that they will be very angry with that roadie later in the evening when that musician will have to do the job of the roadie again and move equipment off the stage so that he/she can properly setup. For example, let’s say that you have a 40x20 ft2 stage with which to setup the band’s stuff. Now we reasonably assume that all the musicians will occupy a space of roughly 1x1 ft2 and also occupy the space upon which he/she stands from 3’ to 8’ tall, you need to also remember that stools and thrones and the various musicians standing habits or sitting habits can vary the 1x1 number about another ½ a foot to 3 ½ feet (for drummers. Do not place anything that won’t be there later. . .  now. For example, don’t just think you are helping by putting all the band equipment on the stage. Rule #2 says never place anything on the stage unless it will physically be there in the future. Now the idea behind rule #2 stems from the fact that musicians are usually not the most punctual of people. I know a lot of musicians who are very exacting on being on time and I give praise and thanks to their perfections, however, the majority of musicians have a reputation for starting late and even arriving late, so. . . Since they are the actual performers of the show, we, as roadies must afford them the least amount of stress for their money. They are the stars remember? And can you remember why you had chosen your lot in life – to be a roadie – Roadies are under-appreciated and are not given a fair chance They don’t get a chance to “F up” get hardly any respect, but they do drink and eat well, participate in all sorts of strange and unusual behaviors at social gatherings.

3.Tear down is even more important than set-up. Why? Because what you do doing tear down will affect your next set-up, get my point. Make sure to neatly wrap all cords, putting all equipment into their protective cases, and then carefully load the van, truck, etc. in a uniformly square pattern, heaviest equipment first to lightest equipment. This brings me to rule #4.

4.      When loading the band’s equipment always make sure that there will be no in transit shifting of the equipment/gear. You don’t want anything sliding out the back of the vehicle so make sure your van or truck’s doors are completely shut. Don’t overstuff the vehicle with equipment either. The band’s equipment is the tools of their trade, without them they have no trade.  As a roadie you must ensure that the equipment you load will not shift, break, and fall off or out of the transport vehicle while in transit. This rule must be adhered to in both getting the band equipment from and its destination. You will find that with the more gigs you help setup, the easier it gets because you’ll find that groove where all the equipment is accounted for and  spot where after you have loaded all of your equipment into the van, tuck or bus, and you know that it won’t move. Packing equipment as well as you can by blocking it into square type shapes if you can.

a. The bigger equipment should be loaded first, in a tight and neat, orderly fashion to facilitate the roadie’s quick ride home. Gig’s are played often to the wee hours of the morning, so anything that helps get the roadies and the band members home quicker is seen as helpful as long as in so doing that by cutting corners you are not jeopardizing the safety of the roadies themselves or to the equipment.

5. Never have a microphone in the forbidden zone of the speaker. And if you happen to catch a microphone in the forbidden zone and you can hear the beginning of feed-back, quickly dowse out the feedback fire by pointing the microphone away from the pathway of the sound waves which will emanate from the speakers.  Make a conscious effort to know the direction the outgoing speakers or “Mains” are facing. The unbearable noise of the infamous microphone squeal otherwise known as “Feed-back”, is such a hideous creature as to avoid this roadie no-no at all costs.  Which brings me to a summary of the main reasons behind being a good roadie which include, being respected by those who pay you to do this kind of work, because you want to be hired again, and again and again? The gig’s at time can be hard but for the most part they are very fun, make them as enjoyable as you can and keep these rules close by and never part from the ways of the true roadie masters. Your friend on the gig, Brett McCluskey.  

Bonus **** roadie road rule tip

#6 When testing the microphones, don’t tap on the mike or flick it with your hands. This only serves to damage your expensive Electro Voice’s fine filament used to capture the voice. Instead, simply utter clearly these immortal words, “Testing . . . 1, 2, 3”.

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