Sharing Backline - What's your experience?
I like to share an experience with you and am interested in yours!
We get asked to provide the backline for multi-band gigs usually. In the beginning of our "band-career" we did this to a certain point - sharing the basic drums, bass and guitar cabinets. In almost all situations, it ends up in at least one of the following situations:
- Something went missing afterwards (wires, screws etc)
- Other musicians do not ask but simply use
- Other musicians stand outside smoking/chatting while you load/unload the backline for them all. In case you ask help, you get pissed answers
- The gear is used in a wrong/destructive way - mainly because of point #2
In case a backline is provided by any other party, it usually ends up in:
- the provided information states "Bass amplifier is available". There is no further information to get - is it a combo? a fridge? no-one knows and it seems that noone cares to share this information, because bass-amp==bass-amp.
With my Ashdown cabinets, I had no problem with sharing the cabinet. Since I have fEARfuls (which I built myself) I really honor the (material) value of this stack. I shared it once with another band. The guy got the driver hot because he played with a massively clipped signal. He didnt care although I told him 3-4 times through the gig. I was about to shut down his amp to protect my cabinets, but they finished their set before I was about to. I told him afterwards to touch the woofers and explained to him what exactly happened. You could hear the clipping in the room (quite nasty) but after all his answer was "crap cabs, never had that with my ampeg 4x10 and 1x18".
That was the point where I decided to keep my backline for myself. The cabinets are worth 800 euros each plus the emotional value because I built them myself. Our drummer is on the same path - he plays a 5000€ drum kit and everytime we share something, a piece of the gear got missing.
Problem is now, with us sharing nothing anymore it is (at least for me) quite understandable that other bands won't share with us, too. That's not good for small gigs, because you cannot flip over the complete backline including drums in a bar.
With all our experience we decided to go that route and skip a gig if not possible otherwise in order to keep our equipment in shape.
I imagine that more bands are faced with this kind of problems?! I am curious in how other bands handling this.
I want to add that we do share some gear with bands that we got to know personally in the area.
I very seldom play gigs where more than one band plays. I did an outdoor festival once at which I had my Eden rig set up and, after talking to the other bass players, I got the sense they knew what they were doing, so I let them use my rig. No issues. I've also run sound for festival-style shows using my PA systems, but I have control over those at the board.
Nowadays I'd be very reluctant to let others use any of my amps or cabs unless I know them personally. The gear is just too expensive to replace, and getting the money out of a musician for damage they cause would be like squeezing blood from a turnip.
In your case, I think I'd have a policy that only bands you are familiar with can use your gear. When you sign up for a multi-band gig at which you don't know the other bands, make it clear to the promoter that your gear will not be available for the other bands.
In some cases where another band opened for us, we staged our backline behind theirs for a quick turnaround. We've even helped the previous band move their gear off stage. We've got a gig coming up where we're opening for another band. The venue requires that we use our own amps, but they also require that the drummer uses the POS drum kit on the stage. We'll put our amps in front of the other band's amps and move them directly off the front of the stage at the end of our set.
I don't get any angst over not sharing backline gear. I'm not in the gear loaning business.
Either say no, or bring a beater amp with a blown speaker as the provided backline. When it's time for your set plug in your good rig.
If you loan out gear to other bands, you should be aware that this is gear rental service, with all the implications.
Pretty much all my gigs are shared backline, multi-band gigs. Sometimes it's my gear, sometimes another band, sometimes the gear belongs to the venue.
Never had any issues personally, but I know our guitarists have had issues with people treating their heads like crap.
I'm in touring bands for over 15 years. It's underground stuff, but gigs go from squats, to big open air festivals.
Used to share, but don't do it anymore.
I openly state that in our tech-rider.
Imagine the situation.
We always carry our full backline and make lots of miles in the van coming to the shows.
So, after driving whole day you come to the venue and the promotor booked the supporting act. A local band, whose members (literally) live around the corner.
They didn't bring their amps (of course).
They use our amps.
They break our amp.
They go home after, we continue the tour.
With the broken amp and there's no time to fix it because the driving takes the most of the day.
[of course, if we know the other band, or if we're friends with them, we usually share, but we had some bad experiences even in that department]
I'm glad I'm old enough to where when I share backline, the people using it are responsible.
I have let another band use my gear twice. Once was a large outdoor event with a well known act. The bass player had an SVT4 PRO but was having trouble with his cab so I let him use my 410HLF. I specifically told him to not run his head in "bridge" mode. He did it anyway and blew the speakers in my cab. He offered to pay for it but never did.
The second time was a band that was opening for my band. No issues.
Munji covered it well for me - I haven't done a multi band bill in quite a while, and don't miss it in the least...
Also, if you're providing backline, you're owed a rental fee. Period. No favors, no "c'mon dude", that's your gear that you paid your money for, and if it gets blown up you're the one without the tools you need to do your job.
When I've shared backlines, we didn't share all the gear...
Drummers bring their own: snare, cymbals, kick pedal, sticks.
Bass & guitars generally plug into one designated head/cab that everyone uses. Cables, pedalboards, instruments are never shared.
Keyboards aren't shared.
DJ controllers are often shared, just switch the laptop.
I am in a unique situation, being an expat in China... I do both corporate gigs (99% amp-less w Sansamp) and "originals" at the rare festival or bar. Usually only one of the bands has gear period. Everyone else has beginner practice amps.
The main thing is to be watchful and helpful setting other people up. And, charge for your service. If you are good at something, or can fill a need, don't do it for free :)
Benefit shows are the only multi-band things I do, and I always make my rig available to anyone who wants to use it.
Like Jimmy, I find that the other bass players are responsible and appreciative.
if they cant afford their own gear, how can they pay to fix yours?..my other question.. why in the world would you play a show on unproven gear?..
We usually play bar gigs and most of them have to end by 10 pm because of noise issues. In those cases, sharing the backline is the only way to keep up with the tight schedule.
No real problems to date.
Of course, from time to time something gets lost (usually some little piece of the drum), but it also happens when we don't share, so...
I usually offer my rig to the other bass players, but we often play with the same guys, so its no big deal. My last show I had to fly in, and all of that gear sharing karma was reciprocated with a smile. But we were also more a singer/songwriter band than metal or punk, and the bands we shared with were all similar.
For me, I have ALWAYS talked to the other bass players before they touch my gear. You have to get a sense of how they are as a person. With full-time gigging musicians or at least really busy guys, they understand the idea of keeping gear in good shape and getting their money’s worth of it. I have been lucky to work with musicians who get “it”. There have been a few shows where I let a bass player from a well-known cover band play my bass and rig for a few songs. It’s cool to hear what it sounds like in the crowd and I get a kick out of watching them trying to play my bass slung down fairly low because of my long arms. :D
Where you have to watch out for is a Talent Show/Battle of the Bands. Many inexperienced people there and the chances for gear to go BOOM are much higher. Proceed with caution!
There was one time I had a guy I did not know use my rig and I worked with him on his tone. I stood up on stage and turned the knobs to where he wanted and cranked it up fairly loud. There was no reason to crank it any louder and he was plenty happy with the results. Luckily, he was open to the idea - that's the key.
Last gig I played, 4 bands were expecting to borrow my guitar cabs for their sets. This was fun, because my band a two piece bass and drums, no guitar band.
I found out last week that one of my guitarists promised a bar the use of my amp for an open mic--despite my telling him that I wasn't going.
It's a small 50w acoustic; I can only imagine what could have happened.
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