The importance of the technical rider
Legend has it that the technical rider of glam rock group Van Halen included a clause that forbade catering from having brown M & M. The legend insinuates the cliche of rock star diva and ridiculously demanding. However, the legend turned out to be true, as David Lee Roth himself, lead singer of the band at the time, tells in this video. And the clause was not a whim: at the time, the band had a gigantic and demanding lights show, and on more than one occasion the infrastructure of the premises did not comply or even endangered the lights crew, basically because the promoters had not fully read the band’s technical rider and so ignored those technical demands. To ensure the promoter had completely read the rider, they included in the rider, in the middle of the section about lights, the clause that forbade brown M & M in the catering, on pain of cancellation of the event with full payment to the band. If brown M & M appeared in the catering, as it happened, they knew that it was not safe to play in that place.
Though Van Halen’s case is extreme, the technical rider is an essential tool for bands and artists of all sizes and careers. But what exactly is the technical rider? It is a document that describes the needs and technical conditions that an artist asks for their shows. It can be simple and only describe the needs of PA and microphones, to extremes such as the one mentioned by Van Halen, where catering is described, dressing room conditions, electrical requirements, etc.
It may vary, but in a basic way it includes:
- List of channels, microphones and instruments
- Specification of PA, mixing console, sound levels, monitors, etc.
- Stage plot
It may also include:
- List of musicians and staff
- Backline requirementsCatering requirements (food / drink)
- Dressing room requirements
And virtually any condition or request that one may come up with, though it is advisable to include only what is really necessary, and that is also at the level of the artist’s negotiation power at that moment.
Why is the rider important for small, emerging artists? For several reasons: the first, because it makes you more serious to the event production. The second, obviously, is that the production crew has the chance to know in advance and in time your needs, and be able to negotiate alternatives in case they can not satisfy them. Also, because it simplifies them and helps the work of the stage technicians: they know how to arrange the microphones and for whom, how many channels are needed, etc. It is also an essential document for the artist’s own crew, and a basis on which to work with the event crew.
Of course, it is not uncommon for promoters to ignore or fail to meet the riders. Most of the time, in my experience at least, it may be because they already have an established production (PA, catering, schedules) that the artist must accommodate. But even in these cases sending the rider in advance offers the opportunity to renegotiate the conditions, look for alternatives, etc. In productions specifically organized around the artist, it is very likely that the production fulfills the requested (provided it is rational, not camel milk or only green M & Ms).
Here are a couple of examples of technical riders of bands I’m part or have been part (in spanish). You don’t need to reinvent the wheel: grab from different riders that you can find (there are many on the internet) and use what suits you. Ideally, you should consult with a sound engineer for the technical parts.
As always, if you have any questions just contact me!