“Sure you can perform. Will you bring a cucumber salad?” How the live music scene is changing

Are collectively organised concerts a cure-all to preserve live venues?

Recently, our artist family keeps telling us of odd requests from event organisers, bookers or club owners. Being asked to contribute a cucumber salad to catering, lend a light unit or a fog machine, promote the gig yourselves, in our opinion, this is a symptom of the dying of clubs.

The current complicated situation for many live clubs makes work more difficult for club owners and event organisers. Many clubs have pronlems to operate profitably in the long-term. This, in turn, leads to changes in the live music scene. However, how can musicians handle these changes?

Is 'collective organising' an upcoming trend?

“I have the stage, who will provide the rest?” No event organiser would probably put it so provocatively, but times have changed. Just a few event organisers still look for a band as they used to do, book the musicians for an evening and pay a fixed fee.

When we hear about bands being asked for a cucumber salad, i.e. a part of catering, we wonder if collectively organised concerts might be the salvation of the live underground scene. Of course, one cucumber salad cannot save a club, but maybe we are witnesses to an advancement of the live scene.

The local opening bands are particularly suitable as musical co-organisers

Often, the PA system as well as the backline are at least partially provided by a local band, for almost every band has a PA system, and of course a backline, in the rehearsal room. On the blog of a well-known booking community an author demands that musicians should place Facebook ads themselves for their club concerts and thus take over important promotional tasks of the club. The question for both sides is, how far is this shared organisation supposed to go? And what do we need to create a fair setting?

It does not have to be bad when club owners include the performing bands in the organisation of the event. However, it has to be fair for all parties.

“You best ask about the planned catering before gigs,” says Maurice of the band Rednight

One time, our provisions were a carton of unchilled milk and a 450 g package of muesli for 6 people. That felt a bit like “You cannot say afterwards, that we did not provide for you.” However, the gig was great. Do not hesitate to enquire in writing about the catering a few days before the gig.

The technical rider 2.0: transparency for both parties via a common organisational rider?

The technical rider has already reached the underground. It includes everything the band needs and what the event organiser has to provide. However, nowadays often three or more bands share a stage on one evening, and not only the stage but also the equipment. Therefore, a technical rider 2.0 is needed that specifies new additional requirements and that, at best, all parties involved know and can edit. An organisational rider in a document that is accessible for everyone.

Digitalisation creates new and uncomplicated forms of collective organisation of concerts.


Two new important aspects of the modern technical rider are responsibility and rights of use:

  • Backline: Who brings exactly what?
  • Amplifiers: Who may use which amps and under which conditions?
  • Drum set: Is one available? Who can use which components?
  • Promotion: Who takes on promotion for the gig? What do all involved parties expect? Would a shared advertising budget be possible for event organiser and band(s)?
  • Catering: Is there a buyout, i.e. compensation if the band does not want to use the catering?

Today, the technical rider of a band can also state under what conditions the band can provide equipment for the club. In that case, it may not be a technical rider anymore but a band rider.

Does the club not have a PA system? Providing the PA may lead to a few per cent more on the door deal for the opening act.

An anecdote of Sloppy Joes, a band from our IMG STAGELINE family, shows how, today, the responsibilities of all people involved in the concerts are often unclear. The guys were casually asked for the basic equipment for a live concert:

“An event organiser once asked us on the day of the gig (!) if we could provide the PA system,” said Jesse Garon of the band Sloppy Joes:

And it got even better: the previously promised sound engineer could not make it. In the end we stood in front of a completely empty stage and had to equip half the club. When we asked for a coffee later at the bar, we were told: “Nope, I have to see how the evening is going first.” We are talking about a coffee. As a result, we now want to know in detail what the stage looks like and how it is equipped before a gig. We ask promoters or club owners for example:

  1. What equipment is available, what do we have to provide?
  2. How high is the ceiling at the stage?
  3. How are power connections distributed on and around the stage?

We simply have made too weird experiences. Complete stage settings connected to a single 220 V line. Or absurdly low ceilings because the room used to be a storage cellar. Reflections from the ceiling completely cancel out any reasonable sound check. You may think now: “But bands perform there regularly, it should be ...” No. Make sure you get detailed information about the stage in writing. And if the stage is very small and the ceiling low, bring microphones with extra low acoustic feedback or very compact monitor speakers.

Conclusion: bands can bring cucumber salad, but not as a given addition to their music

Bands should be confident and keep in mind that they are the main attraction at a concert. However, it is also good to understand the financial problems live clubs are facing. There are clubs that cannot afford their own marketing or are forced to skimp on the catering. When bands (have to) take an active part in the organisation of a concert, it is time to re-think concerts as collective projects. In that case, bands should have more of a say in matters. Maybe it already helps to discuss this topic more openly with all involved parties and to develop new concepts for a smooth organisation and a great concert, for example during events such as the upStage conference.

Photos by ©The Hirsch Effekt