As we roll into the fall church production season, your leadership may decide it’s a good time to invite a touring team into your facility for a night of worship, a CCM concert, or a youth conference. Any of these scenarios have one thing in common: a tech rider. The purpose of a tech rider is to ensure the client has the equipment and personnel at the event necessary to perform their tasks. It is a way to keep everyone on the same page regarding sound, lights, video, staging, and backline. The problem is most riders are written either as a “wish list” or they haven’t been updated in years. So, here are some things you need to know to make the event go smoothly:

Tech riders are a form of negotiation. Well written riders have a “preferred” and a “minimum” option for each item. The idea is to use as much of what the venue owns as possible to reduce rental costs. The problem is that non-technical people don’t know an SM58 from a KSM9. Often, by the time the rider gets to the church tech director, the promoter, booking agency, finance director, and worship leader have tossed it around and decided whether to host the event or not. It is then too late to add your input. So, as soon as a rumor reaches you, go to leadership and ask for the tech rider. You can then give insight into what in-house items can be work and what items need to be rented.
Christian artist tours tend to be run on a tight budget. Everyone on the bus (or van if it’s really tight) has at least two jobs. Given the limited space on the vehicle, they carry only small items, but everyone in the band wants you to rent their favorite toy. Instead, you want to talk to the TM/PM Tour Manager / Production Manager. This person is the Steady Eddie of the tour. He or she knows what they are doing and everyone looks to them for guidance. They will make the decision on who gets what. Be their friend. Let them know you are there to serve them and make their life easier. Tell them you will have an office and good coffee waiting for them as soon as they arrive.

If the tech rider is full of “unobtainium” such as DiGiCo SD5 consoles for FOH, MON and tracks, you know you have a gadfly on the other end. This person has never set foot in the reality that is church-tech. Instead of getting upset, suggest your M32s that are already in place and ask if the mix engineer can send a show file for you to have it ready when they roll in. Everyone is now cool with the M32 for almost any church show. In fact, my company’s expensive consoles now sit most of the time while the M32s are gone every weekend.

Be aware the tour team may have had bad experiences with churches in the past and see the rider as a way to prevent future problems. If the feel of the rider is antagonistic, put down the email and make a phone call. Let them know you have a solid AVL system and, while it might not meet all their requirements, it will work and your team is accommodating and helpful. They are only there one day, so anything you can do to set aside their fear of disaster will make their tomorrow that much better. Have their input list, lighting cues, and video clips programmed and ready to roll when they arrive.

The stage plot is a graphic display of where members stand and what they need at each position. Once you know the stage plot is current and correct, have it set up close to layout with some adjustment room built in. When the band arrives, they will move things around despite what the plot indicates. It just happens, so don’t gaff tape it down until they have settled in. Also, keep several spare channels ready for surprise guests to use.

A tech rider can be a useful guide to what the visiting team wants and needs to do their jobs. If you talk to the TM/PM early and often, and have things set to go when they arrive, the event will be a success.

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