Drummer Mike Bennett with Hillary DuffWhat’s up, MD readers! It’s been awhile since my last blog, and I wanted to say hello. I spent all of 2007 on the road playing percussion with pop singer Hilary Duff. We toured the world and played all over television, and it was an absolutely amazing experience. Seeing the world while playing music really is something not to be taken for granted. I am now starting 2008 back on the road with Hilary, this time behind the drums. I love being a percussionist, but the drums are my first home so I’m excited to play the show from a different angle.

Last blog I talked about being able to coexist in the touring world and in the around-town scene. This time I wanted to drop a little behind-the-scenes info about what happens if you land a major tour, and offer some tips so you can be prepared when the call comes!

There are departments within a tour. As a band member you work with the members of the crew that handle backline or instruments. This consists of the techs–who (if you’re lucky enough to have one) you should make sure to thank every day. Before you leave on tour, backline has to manifest or list and itemize all gear that is going out on the road. This is why it’s important to possess everything you need or could need before you leave on tour. The purpose of this is to account for and protect your gear, and also to provide customs agents with lists of what you are traveling with internationally.

With that in mind, and before you pack, check out this list of things to consider when in pre-production for your tour.

1) Everything needs a home. If it comes with you on the road, it needs a safe place to travel. This is where road cases come in. They’re bulky and expensive, but they can handle weather and a blow from a forklift. These cases will take some abuse, making them the best way to protect your gear.

2) Anything that can break will break. Carry plenty of spares of items such as hardware, so that if something breaks mid-show, another one can be on stage immediately. This also means bringing plenty of felts, wing nuts, etc. They will get lost constantly. If you’re using electronics, make sure you’ve backed up your sounds and have a spare for your spare, plus extra cables and power supplies. Also, always keep a spare pedal and snare close to you during the show.

3) Sticks and heads aplenty. Sticks are meant to break, and heads need to be changed. Make sure you have an overstock of these for all of the shows your playing. This will keep you sounding good and prepared in case of an emergency. Also keep in mind that, outside of a major city, it’s difficult and often expensive to obtain such items.

4) Memory locks increase efficiency. Load-in and load-out for your tech is a fast yet difficult process. Techs don’t always have time to measure your adjustments precisely every night or pack up neatly. Using memory locks will speed up the process and make things far more consistent night after night.

5) Plan ahead. Will you be leaving your cases and using rental gear at any point in the tour? Doing a TV show with all rental items? Make sure you have a complete rider or list of gear needed for a show available. It should be detailed and account for all necessary spare parts. You, your tech, and your production manager should all have copies of this document. I also “float” all of my electronics and other essential items in a highly durable pelican case outside my road cases. That way I can easily pick up and go to a rental gig mid-tour.

I hope this gives you some insight into one aspect of the touring industry, and help you plan ahead when you land your big gig. Please pay me a visit at myspace.com/mikebennettmusic or at mikebennettdrums.com and say hello. Best of luck to everyone in the new year, and I hope to see you out on the road soon. Peace.

Mike Bennett