Ten Reasons Why Roadies would be better than Politicians at Running a Country

1. Roadies can count and remember lots of complicated numbers. Lighting Roadies (“lampies”) frequently walk around for days with the DMX channel numbers for an entire show in their heads, ready to recall them at a moments notice.

There is a common misconception that Sound Roadies can only count to two, however this ignores the fact that they have a mental ledger dedicated to remembering who paid for what at the last petrol station. Tour manager Roadies are good at hotel room numbers and if you were to tell Merchandise Roadies to mind a country’s finances, they would guard them with their life.

Politicians have a tendency to forget and confuse numbers and, when they remember them finally, add extra zeroes at the end.

2. Roadies don’t mind working in the summer. Unlike politicians, roadies will gladly work in July and August. In fact, roadies will work over Christmas also. Another fact; a holiday for a roadie is a late start in a hotel bed. Any longer and it is unemployment.

3. Roadies are always on time. If a Stage Manager Roadie says something will start at this time and finish at that time, it will. With seconds to spare.

4. Unlike a former Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Roadies would never mix up “smoke and mirrors” with “cloak and daggers”. Smoke and mirrors combined can create stunning visual effects and is best left to Lampies. Smoke and daggers combined means a meeting between the props and lighting roadies, which could take days, usually resolved by the Stage Manager Roadie. (see 3 above)

5. Roadies dress better than politicians and have better hair.

6. Roadies can and will give a straight answer to any question in their particular area of expertise. Even the boring ones, such as “do you do this for a living?” or “do you know the band?” will get a short, straight and perfunctory reply. If they don’t know the answer to a particular question, they will helpfully point you in the direction of the person who knows everything – the truck driver.

7. Unlike a present Irish Taoiseach, Roadies have remarkable and unequalled constitutions that allow them to stay up late discussing the happenings of the day yet be capable of fulfilling their duties the following morning.

8. When a Roadie breaks something (and it does happen occasionally), they will, unlike politicians with an economy, fix it. And they will fix it on time (see point 3 above). If a Roadie breaks something and can’t fix it, they will at least have the decency to make an amusing video about it.

9. Like politicians, Roadies make lots of friends in tents in the Summer. However, unlike politicians that does not mean that they will take their money and make lots of unrealistic promises to their new friends before asking the audience to foot the bill in a few years time.

10. Finally, Roadies are resourceful. For example, watch how Roadies can open a bottle of wine with a shoe.

11. Because only Roadies know there will be one more.

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Virtual Accountant: How Cloud Accounting Software works for us.

I get quite a few tweets from time to time about the business side of doing sound for a living. Questions range from “what should I charge” to other considerations regarding promoting your business and so on. So I’ve decided to blog about it occasionally under the category of The business of doing sound. About 50% of my working week is spent running the business side of the company - that means everything from chasing up outstanding invoices, to making sure our own creditors are getting paid, keeping the books etc etc - this is all boring stuff in comparison to mixing sound for bands and tuning PA systems, but it’s just as important to the business as making sure we deliver the goods on shows for our customers.

If you don’t have access to a reasonably updated set of accounts, it’s like doing a gig in the dark - you know what you are doing but there are bound to be some surprises! If you can’t tell at a glance what you owe, what you are owed and how much money you are going to owe the taxman next quarter, you’ll soon find yourself in trouble. Even if you are just a freelance sound engineer, you need to be sure that you are making a living and by keeping all your expense receipts and so on. Even before I started the company, I always used some kind of accounting software to keep VAT accounts and do the invoices - it’s amazing how diesel receipts used to mount up.

Three years ago, the company changed every computer over to Mac for various reasons. We kept on a few PC based laptops for interfacing with some audio hardware but everything else - email, quotations, productivity and time management went over to the Macs. First problem I encountered was accounting software. Up to the changeover, we had used a pretty good PC only based application. So for the first year, we ran it on the Mac via Parallels or Bootcamp. This wasn’t always satisfactory for a variety of reasons. We searched around for a decent Mac OSX accounting package, and though there are some good ones out there, none of them really suited our needs.

The main problem was that our accountant used PC and was unlikely to switch to Mac just because one of its relatively small clients decided to do so. So late last year I decided to try a “cloud computing” application, Virtual Accountant.

For those of unfamiliar with the term, cloud computing is “Web-based processing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand over the Internet” (via Wikipedia).

This meant that not only could we enter, process and store our accounting information online using our Mac browser, but that also our accountant could access the same information via their PC browsers. This in turn meant we (the company and our accountants) could actively collaborate on keeping the accounts up to date, without the regular face to face meetings and transfers of large amounts of paperwork that it used to entail. It also meant that I did not need to be at the office in order to access the accounts, that I could actually view that information on my iPhone if need be.

Virtual Accountant may not be for every company - in fact it’s aimed more at small enterprises rather than large corporations. However its developer, Mark, is always available to help with any and every query and twelve months down the line I’m pretty happy with how it works. If you’re a freelance engineer who needs to keep track of her accounts, there a free 3 month trial

I’m now actively looking at a particular cloud computing solution to our rental management software which hopefully will be implemented next year.




List Hire Prices

I’ve noticed a few searches on our website for hire prices. Generally we don’t publish these prices as overall package prices vary with quantity, hire duration as well as the competitive discount structure we offer our long-term customers.

Below then is are the list prices for individual items in our inventory. All prices are Ex VAT of 21% and are prices for a one day hire.

For best prices, please call or email and ask for a quotation.

Speakers (Includes stands, rigging and cable as required)
Nexo RS15 €55
Nexo S1210/S1230 €55
Nexo PS10 €25
Nexo LS500 €25
SSE MB4 monitor €15
QSC K10 active speaker (2 mic/line input) €50

NXAMP 4x4 €45
NXAMP 4x1 €35
Camco Vortex 4 €25

Digidesign/Avid Venue SC48 €200.00
Yamaha LS9 16 €80.00

Microphones/DI Boxes (all include cable & stand as necessary)
Shure SM58/SM57 €5.00
Shure Beta 58/Beta 57 €7.50
Shure SM81 €10.00
Shure Beta 52 €7.50
Shure Beta 98 €15
AKG 214 €10
Sennheiser e604 €5
Sennheiser e904 €7.50
Sennheiser e906 €7.50
Sennheiser MD241 €10.00
Neumann KM184 €35.00
BSS AR133 Active DI Box €5.00
EMO Passive DI box €2.50

Wireless Microphone Systems
Sennheiser EW100 G3 with handheld or beltpack transmitter €35


How to stop a projector from moving on a sprung wooden floor.

You will need:

1 x 55cm square paving slab.
4 x squash balls
4 x rolls of PVC tape

Place the rolls of PVC tape in a square to approximate the size of a the paving slab. Put the squash balls onto the PVC tape roll - this stops the squash balls from moving. Put the paving slab on top and the projector on top of this and adjust to ensure the squash ball/ PVC tape combination is at each corner. Presto! Your projected image is now immune from the movement of the world and will probably survive a minor tremor. We used this to combat a sprung wooden floor in a multi-media exhibition over the summer - worked a treat. Photo courtesy of BC.

Also works spectacularly for record turntables.


Designing a Nexo Tangent array

A Note to Professionals: This piece is aimed at the non-professional user in an effort to explain, in layman’s terms, the science and procedure for rigging and tuning a high performance PA system. It is written to show potential clients that there is a difference between the same speaker systems if they are badly designed or deployed. Therefore, there will be some details abbreviated, simplified or omitted for clarity.

Setting up a PA system is easy right? Put the speakers on stands, face them at the audience as you would with your home stereo and you’re good to go, right. Well yes, sort of. The problems arise when you put multiple speakers together in a room in order to cater for larger audiences. If not properly designed, large PA systems can affect tone and clarity as well as having differing tonal characteristics in different parts of a room.

At Alex Fernie Audio, the design of the system begins before we even load the truck. Firstly, the room is measured by a human using a laser measure. We measure the length, width and height of a venue. We measure the width of the stage and the distance from the first line of the audience to the stage. Luckily, over the years we have built up a database of these dimensions for most of the main venues in Ireland, but for new or unfamiliar venues, we look for architectural drawings or send someone to take these measurements for us.

For our Nexo systems, we use Nexo’s proprietary design and prediction software NS-1. Firstly, we tell the program the venue dimensions. As you can see, we work along all 3 dimensions to give a 3-D picture.

As you can see from the picture above, the room we are looking at is a 20 metre by 20 metre square. The Z axis allows us to factor in any slope in the room, to take account of seating banks or balconies. In this room the room is a flat open space.

Next, we open the speaker selection dialogue box and begin adding speakers:

This is the most important part. Here, we not only calculate the quantity and type of speaker we will use, but also the exact position of the speaker in the room (the GPS tab at the bottom) and the angles between each speaker cabinet. On the left of the dialogue box above, we see the speaker type and the various angles between each box. To the right, we see a guide to where each individual speaker is aimed and the lower diagram shows how the speaker system is performing. The basic idea is to design a system which is as loud at the front as it is at the back. This is done for all speaker systems, i.e. left and right and also for the sub-bass cabinets underneath the main PA.

The “mechanics” tab at the bottom of the speaker selection dialogue box ensures that the rigging we are using will be safe and mechanically possible. It tells us how many speakers we will be packing and how heavy the system will be (this is important for the guys rigging the PA on the day) as well as how far it will be above the audience’s heads and so on. As most of our large PA systems are flown on chain hoists from the ceiling of a building, we need to make sure the roof can take the weight. If not we must look at other options such as our own PA lifting towers. For outdoor gigs, we can add in the effect of wind to ensure the system is safe in normal conditions.

Finally, we do a prediction check to see how the system will perform at the day. The software makes a prediction based on average sound levels using pink noise.

This is useful advance information for the system technician on the day when he makes his tweaks to the system on the day. Essentially the coverage is fairly even throughout the venue, however he may decide to angle the speaker arrays as he listens to the system in the room. NS-1 software gives us advance knowledge of potential issues on the day so speeding up the deployment process as well as ensuring we have enough boxes to cover the room.

So there you have it. When you call us up to enquire about a PA system, this is how we work out how many speakers we need, how many people we need to rig the system and ultimately how much it will cost you, the customer.

Retail Audio Solutions

It’s challenging times for the retail sector as we know. Recently, we’ve been regularly providing a range of compact audio solutions to a major retail chain as they seek to increase shop foot-fall and sales.

By giving informal showcases, workshops and style tips on a frequent basis, Brown Thomas in Galway offer a value-added extra to their customers. Professional make-up artists can display techniques as well as giving product demonstrations. Fashion labels are able to show-off their incoming looks for the season as well as giving tips for garment co-ordination and so on.

From our client’s point of view, the main issues are that the sound system be capable of competing with the background noise of a busy shop-floor and that the system itself be easy to control by management, be neat and be visually aesthetically pleasing amongst the product lines on display.

To this end we supply a single QSC K10 active system, controlled via a ZED10 Allen & Heath compact mixer. The K10 is easily mounted on either instore shelving units or discreetly on a stand and the tiny footprint of the ZED10 is easily tucked away to be sufficiently accessible for staff but away from curious customers. Microphones comprise a selection of handheld wireless mics or beltpacks with headsets, allowing handsfree use where required. All wireless systems are Sennheiser G3 series, which offer quick frequency scanning, tuning and superior battery life.

Systems are easily moved at short notice between departments and are easily operated by shopfloor staff once setup in advance by a technician.

From an initial 4 week hire period earlier this year, the store has decided to double the amount of systems in the store and extend the hire period to 12 weeks for the autumn season. Management cite increased footfall as the easily identifiable benefits of these workshops and product demonstrations. Also, these free seminars offer Brown Thomas a competitive advantage on the high street in attracting sales.

If you would like to know more about a competitively priced commercial audio system, whether permanently or temporarily installed, and how it can benefit your retail operation, please contact us on 091 789848.

Stagecraft: Wiring a stage efficiently, neatly and safely.

Among many of the recent entrants into the sound profession, I’ve noticed a lack of knowledge when it comes to wiring a stage. Perhaps it due to a lot of sound engineering schools being essentially studio-based courses. Maybe it’s simply that it’s difficult to get a young mind to concentrate on something as mundane as running cable when there is a digital board with loads of lights and buttons sitting in the corner of the room!

Improper wiring of a stage makes for more work when it comes to wrapping up at the end of the night, makes it difficult to trace any faulty cables that may arise during soundcheck or during the gig and can cause trip hazards for artists and crew on- or back-stage. This is the way I was taught years ago and the basic method is the same on every stage right up to the top level.

Before we begin: Upstage = the part of the stage furthest from the audience. Downstage = the part of the stage closest to the audience. Stage left = the side of the stage to your left as you stand onstage and face the audience. Stage Right = the side of the stage to your right as you stand onstage and face the audience.

Mains cable
Heavy mains cable such as 3-phase feeder cable should always be kept off-stage. Excess mains cable should never be left tightly coiled but left in a neat figure of eight pattern under the stage if possible but certainly out of the way of walkways.

When running lighter gauge cable from the mains distro to amplifier racks, use the shortest length possible to avoid having large coils of excess cable in areas where monitor engineers, guitar technicians and other stage-hands are likely to be working. Leave short lengths of surplus cable under amp racks or in the dead space often found behind the amplfier racks. Try and ensure that all mains cable to amplifiers follows a similar path, to avoid tangles during load out. Makes sure it looks neat, if it doesn’t, you probably should redo it.

When running electrical cables to on-stage power drops, best practise is to have at least an upstage and a downstage feed. Try and run mains cable upstage on the drum-riser, following other cable runs for monitors and signal cables if possible. The upstage line will feed mainly guitar and bass amps (backline). The downstage power feed should be downstage of the monitors, and again should follow monitor and signal cable runs. This feed will generally be required to power guitarist’s tuners & pedal-boards and keyboards.

Again avoid using cables that are too long. Tuck any excess cable under on-stage risers or off-stage where possible. That way, if you need to move the powerdrop, extra cable is reasonably accessible. The key is to never cross the performance area (ie the space between the drum-kit and the monitor line) with cable.

Speaker Cable
Similar commonsense applies to running speaker cable. For onstage monitors, follow the same line as the other cable. Use the shortest lengths required, keep excess offstage, and never leave coils of cable onstage beside monitors. It just looks bad. If possible use speaker cable looms with breakout boxes for groups of monitor mixes close together. This speeds up both the load-in and the load out.

Signal Cable
Line systems (multi’s, “snakes” etc) should be preferably flown from stage to the front of house mix position where possible. Other solutions include rubber-mats, cable ramps or creating an audience free zone in the centre of the auditorium. Many venue’s have cable-ducts designed to quickly run line-systems and other control cable to front of house. Modern Ethernet, fiber and lightpipe solutions have greatly simplified this part of cable management.

Onstage, the keys to quick, tidy and accurate signal cable patching are sub-stage boxes and a bit of planning. If you’ve a stage plan, identify where the main cabling areas are going to be. Drum-kits will generally take at least 8 channels, with a couple of channels for the nearby bass rig and two vocals, you’re looking at a minimum of 12 lines pretty close to each other. Rather than running 12 long cables over and back to the main stagebox, drop a 12way substage box infront of the kit and run twelve short cables to the mics and DI’s required. It’s simple maths: it’s far quicker to wrap up 15m stage box and 12 3m cables, a total of 51m of cable, than wrapping up 12 10 metre cables, 120 metres.

Other areas possibly requiring stage boxes are keyboard-land and the front line of vocals with acoustic guitars and so on. Label stage boxes with the main input number and what this channel is for (centre vocal, snare, kick, whatever). Again, same rules for running cable apply: follow the other cabling routes, use shortest cable necessary and never cross the performance area or stage-access routes. Finally, leave any excess neatly coiled under mic stands. Always keep excess as close to the source – this makes it easy to move a mic later on.

Always start by running your mic cable from the main stage box or the substage box. There’s two good reasons for this: (1) it means the excess will always be by the mic and, (2) if you are working in a team, there is no chance of one of you accidentally plugging in the wrong mic into the wrong channel. Lastly, keep a few cables handy onstage as replacements if needed. Don’t close the cable box and stash it in some hard-to-access place.

Remember the old saying: the load out begins at the load in. By using some commonsense, you will have more time to make sound, tune the system and troubleshoot any problems arising by followin these groundrules. Your stages will be safer, your cables will last longer and you will make less mistakes. Finally, you will be heading home from the gig a lot earlier.

Summer Round-up

The weather is positively autumnal today so I thought it was as good a time as any to round up the summer at Alex Fernie Audio Ltd. Overall, despite the general economic situation, it was a good summer season with some new festival clients added which hopefully we can maintain in the future.

The month of May saw the Inishbofin Arts Festival with a great performance from Mick Flannery. Later that month was the first Festival of the Valleys in Clare. There were a lot of flaws with the organisation of this festival in its first year, but under new management it has promise as an annual event.

June was the Galway Powerboat Festival which lasted for a week. Also on the bank holiday was the Little Havana Festival around the streets of Galway. We were also the audio contractor for the Special Olympics opening in Thomond Park which featured the Cranberries. Litton Lane Audio in Dublin were contracted by us to supply a 24 box Meyer Milo system for the event with Yamaha control at FOH and Monitors.

July was the Film Fleadh in Galway, which required a number of Nexo PS systems as well as featuring a gig by Alabama 3 for the wrap party. Then it was into the Galway Arts Festival. This was our 10th consecutive year working on the festival and there were great shows in our venues from Neil Hannon & Teenage Fanclub. We also supplied the PA for the Hofesh Schechter dance show which was an outstanding success.

Into August and having courted them for a number of years, this year we tendered successfully for the Kilkenny Arts Festival. There were some great world music gigs, the Tindersticks played a great show in what is now my favourite non-venue venue in Ireland - St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. We all had a fabulous time in a great city and look forward to doing it again sometime.

Currently, we’re doing a few shows for the Tuam Arts Festival, which is a pleasant, if low key, end to the Summer 2010. As we speak, Druid Theatre are preparing to premiere their production of O’Casey’s “The Silver Tassie” in Galway’s Town Hall Theatre. The show will tour the UK and Ireland over the next few months and is touring, for an Irish production, a comparatively large PA system from us. The touring package includes Nexo S1210s, S1230s, NXAMPs and a Yamaha LS9 for control.

On the inventory side, we rented in a second Venue SC48 for the summer. I’m presently trying to evaluate if we should make the acquistion permanent, however it is difficult to predict how the winter will pan out. Early signs are promising it must be said.

Other smaller acquisitions were additions to microphone stock: KM184s, Shure Beta 98s, Sennheiser 904s, 906s were the main ones. We also added some rigging hardware to offer more options for flying Nexo S12 systems as horizontal arrays.

For those of you using analysis software, I’m finding Spectrafoo a useful addition to the traditional method (ie using your ears). We’ve successfully implemented it as part of our larger PA system setups and, in conjunction with Nexo’s new NS-1 prediction/array design software make implementing multi cabinet PA systems quicker and more accurate.

Finally, we had some Nexo PS10-R2s on sub-hire over the summer. I really liked them and they are certainly a step up from the older PS10.

One other thing, we’re at full capacity with our Sound Support Scheme for the rest of this year. I’ll be releasing details for 2011 in October, and also tweaking the schemes to maintain their appeal for venue owners and gigging bands.

I’ll be disappearing on annual leave over the next few weeks. Thanks to all the engineers, crew, van & truck drivers that worked for us over the summer. Thanks also to our customers, old and new that made Summer 2010 a successful festival season.

Into the Autumn,

Venue SC48, Wireless control, Spectrafoo

Getting bored with the grind of office work in the last few days I decided to disappear into the warehouse and play. I’ve been meaning to do a few things with the Venue SC48 but with hire schedules I haven’t had my hands on it for a while.

So loaded the Ecx software onto the console and onto my mac. This allows control via ethernet or wirelessly via a router. All worked first time. For the fun, I downloaded Mocha lite for the i-Phone and was able to view and edit certain setting within the limits of the app. The full version of Mocha gives you a virtual mouse control which is needed to have control over EQ and faders.

20 years of gigs can’t do your hearing any favours and worst is you don’t know if what you are hearing is real or imagined. So I’m biting the bullet and have purchased a copy of spectrafoo. I would love to have the new Smaart 7 but at the level we’re at, the functions available on Spectrafoo standard are standard. I’m presently using the Audix TR40A as the measurement mic.

The great thing about the SC48 is its firewire interface allows you to route the measurement mic and master returns to Spectrafoo via firewire, which saves having to have an extra unit in the rack for FFT duties. Still getting to grips with it so more later.

Please post or tweet with any tips or suggestions

Galway Powerboat Festival Stage


Venue SC48 gets a friend...


Technical Riders for Newbie Promoters: Part II

The Technical Rider Continued: Backline, Stage, Risers,
Lighting & Crew

In part I of this series, I discussed elements of a standard sound technical rider. This part deals with the rest of the technical rider.

“Backline” concerns itself with the instruments and amplification of the band. Req uirements for DJs operating in a band environment may also be found here. Most often, bands will carry their own backline. However certain circumstances, such as airline restrictions and schedules, may mean that heavier and bulkier items may need to be supplied by the promoter. Drumkits, keyboards and amplification will be listed in order of preference. Finally, keyboard and guitar stands, drum thrones and other hardware will be listed. Touring bands from the US will often need 220-120v transformers onstage for their own equipment as well as American style 3 pin “edison’ adaptors. European acts may look for “schuko” style 2 pin outlets for the same reason. Reputable backline suppliers will be able to provide anything but the strangest request. Many PA companies will also provide backline as part of their service and will be able to offer PA and backline packages.

Before booking an act for your festival or venue, perhaps the first thing to check is that the band will fit on your stage. A well-written rider will have a minimum stage size specified. Just because a certain 5 piece band fits on your stage, it doesn’t mean that every 5 piece band will. Measuring a stage can be done by anyone and costs nothing but your time. Cramped stages have certain knock on effects. If the singer has to stand right in front of the drumkit, he will need more of his own vocal in his monitors. So the singers monitors are louder, all of a sudden the guitarist can’t hear his guitar amp or his backing vocal in his monitors…well you can guess where this is heading. Ultimately cramped stages end up being louder stages, which ultimately affect the front of house sound which your customers are paying to hear.
Most acts will look for low-level stage sections (risers) for drummers, keyboard or brass sections. Cramped stages often mean that risers can’t be used – so the drummer ends up hidden behind the front line singers and guitarists.

If your stage is too small, enquire about hiring extra stage sections. Again, your local production company will be able to help. If your venue is too small to accommodate the minimum stage size requested by the act, then you better get emailing quickly. DON’T ASSUME THE BAND’S CREW WILL WORK IT OUT ON THE DAY. Generally, if you are upfront with a band on any aspect of a rider, they will come to an agreement or be able to work something out in advance of the show.

As I mentioned in part one, touring theatre shows will have an in depth specification of the lighting fixtures required and will forward on a detailed plan of where they are to be hung in advance of the company’s arrival. Lighting for a theatre show is an integral part of the performance and should be treated as importantly as booking flights and accommodation. Lighting riders for bands are generally less specific and many promoters make the mistake of trying to save money by offering minimal lighting. Effective lighting brings atmosphere and excitement to an act’s performance and will add to the audience’s enjoyment. If you want bands and audiences to return to your venue again, make an effort to contact your local professional lighting company to discuss the bands requirements with them.

Unless you are a qualified professional, DO NOT EVER attempt to hire some lights and hang them yourself over the stage or audience area in order to save money.

Finally, a band may require two or more people as crew to help un-load and load their van. Don’t EVER assume that because you have hired a sound guy and a lighting guy that they will do this. They will have enough to do. If a band requires two people, PAY these two people otherwise they will either not show up for the load out, or they will be drunk at the load out, or they may not show up at all. Nothing makes a roadie cranky like the local crew not showing up sober and on time.

NEXT: More stuff on riders for newbie promoters. How the professionals deal with riders. Why heeding the rider makes business sense for a promoter.

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Why a Rider isn't a "wishlist": Part I

Many people new to promoting events may be bemused by the artist’s accompanying rider. The rider is a document which forms part of the legally binding contract between the promoter and the artist or performer and should not be ignored. An artist’s rider is not simply a “wishlist” to be approximated in the interests of budget or expediency but an integral part of the performance.

It can generally be divided into two sections; a hospitality rider and a technical rider. The hospitality rider deals with accommodation, dressing rooms, food, beverages and security and contain items that are easily organised by most people in a hotel. The technical rider is, to non-production types, often a bewildering array of technical shorthand, model numbers and jargon. If you do not understand a technical rider, don’t sign it until you have consulted with a professional production person.

The quickest way to interpret a technical rider is to pass it on to some reputable sound and lighting companies in your area and ask them to price it – remember, unless you are sure your venue can accommodate the technical rider you will have to pay for any extra equipment. But just so that you have some idea what it’s all about, here’s a quick 101 on artist technical riders.

For music acts, the sound system forms the bulk of the technical rider. Touring theatre companies will concentrate more on the lighting side and will provide a lighting plan which will need to be accommodated by your venue.

FOH or Front of House system is the sound reinforcement system that the audience will hear. Professional engineers will look for reputable, relatively modern brands and designs that they are familiar with and also that there is enough “rig for the gig”. They will most often give a list of suitable systems and need enough of it to provide consistent sound throughout a venue. Professional sound engineers will never simply state that they need “a 4kW PA” or something similar.

FOH console is the mixing desk. The engineer/artist will want one that can accommodate all the individual channels from the stage and again, one that is a reputable, modern design. Most professional sound engineers no longer have a problem with using a digital board – some prefer them to analogue mixing desks. Again a list of acceptable digital boards will be listed. If an engineer explicitly states that she does not want a digital board, then suitable analogue boards will be listed. Do not assume that just because an act only needs 16 channels they are just being smart by asking for a 32 channel desk. Analogue boards will require a certain amount of outboard equipment; again suitable makes and models will be listed. Makes and models not wanted will be explicitly listed.

MONS or Monitor System deals with the speaker system the artist hears onstage and as such is in some ways more important than the FOH system. Do not try to skimp on the monitor system. Similar to the FOH system (see - you’re learning the jargon!), reputable, modern brands and designs will be preferred and listed. Monitor systems for bands will need to provide high sound pressure levels, and often detailed monitor speaker design and processing will be given. For larger venues and acts, an analogue or digital Monitor Console and outboard will be requested in a similar fashion to the FOH console.

Generally these specifications are followed by a
stage plan and a channel list. The channel list will detail what microphones and other equipment is needed such as short or tall mic stands. The stage plan will show where everything goes and will help your venue or house sound engineer get everything ready in advance of the band arriving. The stage plan will also detail where power is needed on the stage.

Finally, you may see some makes and models of equipment listed on the rider as
UNACCEPTABLE. There is generally a good reason for this. Maybe they break down a lot. Maybe they just sound bad to a trained ear. Maybe they are simply useless products. NEVER ASSUME THAT A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER OR ARTIST IS SIMPLY BEING AWKWARD, STUCK UP OR IGNORANT. If in any doubt, get a professional opinion.

Just like you, the band and their technical crew want the audience to enjoy the show so that no-one dies, we all get paid and we all go home. So remember a technical rider is just that, it’s not a wishlist but it is a list of necessary and minimum items required to do the job.

NEXT: The Backline and Lighting Rider.

AND AFTER THAT: How professionals deal with riders and advancing a show

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Photos March 2010

I’m not a great one for remembering to take photos, but here’s 3 from the last few weeks.


Media Release: Greens choose Galway Sound Company to get message across.

Media Release

Greens choose Galway sound company
to get message across

Galway event audio company, Alex Fernie Audio Ltd, has been selected to provide audio-visual equipment and services for the Green Party’s annual convention to be held this weekend in Waterford.

“We’ve been working with the Greens on their annual convention since 2004, but it is always great to get the call – especially this year,” says company owner Alex Fernie. “Although it may not be on the scale of some of the larger Irish political party conferences, the leader’s speech will be broadcast live on RTE and there promises to be considerable interest from national and international media. We will be providing audio feeds for all print news and broadcast media, liaising with RTE and the outside broadcast company, so it’s a large undertaking”

It’s been a busy month for the Galway company, who provided technical management services to the Skyfest fireworks event in Limerick and who were employed to provide the audio at the press conference announcing Galway as the final port for the Volvo Ocean Race. “We were asked by Let’s Do It Galway’s event management company about a week beforehand – at first they wouldn’t tell us what it was about, it was that secret! We had cameramen, journalists and photographers from all over Europe on the day so it was quite a challenge to ensure they all had audio feeds to their TV cameras and other recording formats”

“We do a mixture of all types of all work – last week we did an electronic dance act for 400 people, the Fashion Innovation Awards and the Croi Ball, so it keeps things interesting. Obviously in the current economic climate, things are tougher but there are always events on around Galway city and county and further afield”.

So is Alex Fernie Audio Ltd a “green” company? “Actually we are! We’ve invested heavily in digital equipment over the past few years. Modern sound equipment is lighter and more compact so it costs less to transport. It is also far more energy efficient than older sound systems. We recycle all our office and warehouse waste, so I’d say we’re pretty environmentally-friendly, though there’s always room for improvement!”

Alex Fernie Audio Ltd 091 78 98 48


For more information, contact:

Alex Fernie 091 78 98 48

Subwoofer arrays, new Nexo RS18 and a letter to Mr. Band Sound Engineer.

Just a short link to an article on building sufwoofer arrays, printed in this months Live Sound International. Quite Meyer specific, but some good info here. Don’t take all of it as gospel, though. There has been some talk over at Prosoundweb about erroneous information going unchecked in the mag, so this is just a disclaimer as I haven’t read this article in detail yet.
Speaking of subs, Nexo are demoing their new RS18 sub in Frankfurt next week. More info
here. Will miss it unfortunately due to the work commitments here

Oh yeah and while I think of it:
Mr band sound engineer, next time you want an extra 3db across your mains and I’m supplying the PA, just ask - I generally oblige. Don’t say all’s cool and you’re happy and then do it on the sly just before your set. Password protection will be making a comeback....

Why you should use a professional audio company

Tighter budgets are an aspect of all economic life these days and the event industry is no exception. Event managers and organisers may be tempted to look at the cheaper audio quotation in an effort to stay within the event budget. Before you put cost before everything in planning your event, consider what a professional audio company can bring to the success of your event.

Correct Advice
Contrary to popular belief, not all sound companies want to hire you equipment you don’t require for your event. Most sound companies will make an effort to discuss your event with you in advance. They will design a sound system based on the size of the room, its audience capacity and the type of performance or event. For larger events, sound companies use highly specialised software in order to accurately predict the sound pressure levels in all areas of a venue.

The loudspeaker system a professional sound company will recommend for your event will give approximately the same audio experience to all members of the audience, no matter where they are positioned in the room. Modern loudspeakers are highly directional, meaning that they can be positioned to minimise acoustic reflections from walls. Loudspeakers are arrayed in such a way that there is a minimal difference in loudness between the front seats of an audience and the seats at the back.

Having a sufficiently large PA system also means that the risk of feedback during your event is minimal. Feedback, and its distinctive the high-pitched whine, most often occurs where a sound engineer is trying to extract maximum level from an insufficiently powerful PA system.

Professional sound companies will also be able to recommend suitable wired and wireless microphones for different applications. Finally, they will be able to advise you on the smooth running of your event in terms of smooth changeovers between different acts and speakers.

The best thing about professional audio companies is that they will willingly give you all this advice for free.

Modern and Sophisicated Sound Equipment
Professional audio equipment has come a long way in the past ten years. Major developments have taken place in loudspeaker and amplifier design. The continuing evolution of digital equipment and digital mixing offer enhanced sound quality for modern event audio.

All professional audio companies have invested to some degree in this new technology which not only gives a superior audio experience to the listener, but also translates into savings on manpower and transport by being better, lighter and more compact than older audio equipment.

To give one example, a modern 48 channel digital console like the Digidesign Venue SC48 offers the same audio control in a package one-quarter the size of a comparable analogue console and processing package from only 5 years ago. The same is true of modern loudspeaker array systems and amplifiers from companies like Nexo, d&b, EV, l’Acoustics and Meyer.

Modern audio equipment is safer. Professional sound companies spend a lot of time and money ensuring that their equipment doesn’t fail on their events. Equipment is regularly tested for electrical safety and rigging equipment is thoroughly overhauled at least twice a year. If equipment should fail during an event, spares will be to hand allowing the event to continue.

Modern audio equipment and systems are more reliable – professional wireless microphone systems from Sennheiser and Shure rarely fail or drop signal these days. Modern audio equipment is more environmentally friendly – it uses less power and costs less to transport. All this makes modern sound companies more efficient and professional in delivering an excellent cost effective service.

Experienced and Qualified Professional Sound Engineers
Professional sound companies value and look after their staff and freelance engineers equally. Even the best sound system can deliver poor results if poorly deployed and operated. So sound companies spend a great deal of time and money ensuring that all employees and freelance staff are fully up to date on their audio systems, health and safety and manual handling procedures.

A full day’s work for a typical sound engineer can often be up to 12 hours. Professional sound companies ensure that their engineers and crews are well paid for work which involves substantial heavy lifting and long periods of intense concentration in noisy and often uncomfortable surroundings. Professional sound companies will schedule breaks and rotate engineers on longer events. Beware of operations that offer “engineers” at minimum wage levels.

Qualified and experienced sound engineers not only ensure the success of an event but also ensure the safety and well-being of audience members and performers alike. Properly laid and dressed cables on stage and throughout the venue are not just neater looking but they also mean that attention has been paid to their safety. Professional sound engineers are aware of the risks posed by excessive exposure to extreme sound pressure levels and will operate sound systems accordingly.

Professional sound companies will be able to produce a health and safety statement and risk assesment checklist on demand for your event. All staff will be fully aware of procedures in the event of a cause for public concern. Professional sound companies carry full public liability insurance and will gladly produce insurance schedules if asked.

And Finally….
Professional audio is a professional business run by professional people. To do it correctly and to maintain the level of investment needed to be successful, it needs to be a 24/365 service. Whilst many part-time or hobby operations can deliver sound, in order to do it consistently well and to meet the needs of artists, performers and the expectations of modern audiences it has to be run as a professional full-time operation by passionate and professional people.

All of us in the professional audio industry look forward to you call.


Using High-Pass Filters

For all you rookies, here’s how to take advantage of the high-pass filter to improve your mixes. Read..

Smaart 7 Preview and Amplifier Size.

A couple of interesting articles from Live Sound International last month, which I’ve clipped here for you. There’s a preview of Smaart 7 and a guide to correct amplifier size. With modern speakers capable of high program SPL, it’s more important than ever that drivers aren’t underpowered. This article gives you the tech and tells you why.

I’m expecting our copy of Smaart 7 to arrive shortly. The new version is a significant improvement on v6. Also Smaart is back in the hands of Rational Acoustics - its original creators.

Good News Friday

Media Release

January 22nd, 2010.

New Optimism in Irish Corporate Event and Conference Sector

Galway event sound company, Alex Fernie Audio has reported renewed optimism in the 2010 corporate hospitality and conference sector. “Our website traffic is up 25% and enquiries are up 40% on this time last year” according to business owner and manager, Alex Fernie.

“Irish investment in infrastructure is now paying off. The opening of the new Conference Centre in September puts Ireland on the international map and will have a positive effect for events outside Dublin, as will the new road network”

“The new M6 motorway now allows us to bring audio services nationwide faster and cheaper than before. Also, the M6 means that Dublin head offices are now taking advantage of better value in Galway hotels for their corporate events”

The company, who supplied audio systems for the Volvo Ocean Race Gala Ball in 2009 and Guinness 250, will launch their 2010 Sound Support Scheme today. “This affiliate scheme allows gigging bands and event promoters to fix their audio costs for a year, with savings of up to 40%. Schemes such as this are ultimately great news for the concert-going public as it will allow a reduction in ticket prices”

Along with event audio services to the live music and corporate sector, Alex Fernie Audio provides a range of installed audio systems for the commercial sector. The company also does a range of cost-effective hearing loop systems for companies needing to facilitate staff and customers with hearing difficulties

“We are already planning recruitment for a full-time sound engineer as well as a sales executive to drive the expected growth in installed audio systems”

This message has been sent in the spirit of positivity and as part of Good News Friday – for one day bringing good news back into fashion.


For further information contact Alex Fernie
+353 91 789848.

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2010 Sound Support Scheme

I’ve been working away at this for the past few weeks so it’s great to finally put it out into the world and see what happens.

The idea came to me driving home from a gig one night around Christmas. Wouldn’t it be great if bands, venue owners and promoters could fix their audio costs for a year like they fix any other cost? And spread the payments for the year over a few months? Insurance costs, rent and vehicle costs are fixed for a year, why can’t we do the same with audio hire.

Say your band does 35 gigs a year and you are based in Dublin. You might pay one rate for PA hire and crew in Dublin but once you go elsewhere in the country for gigs, you end up maybe hiring from another local company and paying a bit less. But the gear is different and you aren’t sure what you will end up with on the night. So... you decide to rent from your regular Dublin PA company but they have to charge more than usual to drive to wherever the gig is. So some nights you pay €400 and some nights you pay maybe €600 for PA and crew. But you still get the same fee for playing in Dublin as you do in Kerry. You can see where this is heading....

Or say you have a venue where you put on gigs 20 times a year. You want the same PA system for these of these 20 gigs but you can’t afford to buy it. So you rent it in for each gig. But maybe one or two gigs don’t sell so well and you lose money on the night. What if you could spread the annual payments over 7 months, giving you some cover for shows that don’t do so well on the door and letting you make a killing on the busy nights

Or you run a 3 day festival once a year and a few shows around Ireland for the rest of the year. After a festival everyone wants to get paid. The bands, the lighting and sound companies, the stage company, security, advertising company, the portaloo guy etc etc etc. But you’re waiting on the money from the ticket sales and the concessions to come in and we know how long that takes. What if you could spread the PA cost over 7 months? Would that help?

Sound Support Scheme provides a solution to all these problems.

You get a fixed price for an agreed specification. The crew costs and transport costs to anywhere in Ireland are all included. You pay an upfront fee of 25% and then 6 equal monthly payments.

So if you’re a band playing around the country, you pay the same cost for a gig in Donegal as a gig in Cork. If you start the scheme in say April, by November you’ve paid for the PA. And that means that you pocket all the money from the gigs from December until March but you still have a PA system.

For any more info, have a read of the
Sound Support page on the website or contact me for more information

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Website, New Products, Audio tips

We’ve added a number of new product lines for the start of 2010. Firstly a range of ceiling and wall-mounted 100V speakers and systems from ADS Worldwide and secondly a range of induction loop systems. More details under the sales link of Alex Fernie Audio.
I’m very excited by the Induction loop kits from Signet, they are easily installed, affordable and offer a solution for businesses and organisations looking to facilitate hearing aid users.
There are an estimated 58000 people in Ireland with a hearing disability - can you afford not to be able to communicate with them?

I’ve just finished giving the website a bit of a sheen for the New Year, a few new photos here and there and some extra information on our product range also.

As a bit of a taster, there was a good article in Live Sound International in December 2009 on Gain Structure which you can download and read
here. A must read if you are starting out in the world of live sound mixing and you would be amazed at the amount of sound engineers I meet in an average year that don’t understand these basic principles, so read up!

This is the future and I can't wait!

This is the future - and I can’t wait.