Gig Etiquette #1 – Drum Share

I am frequently asked questions about who should supply what at a gig, so I thought I’d give a bash at an etiquette thread, aimed at what we should and should not expect from bands at gigs…

First up – Drum Share

Easily the longest to set up and pack down, the hardest to carry about and the heaviest of any bands kit – the drums are the bane of any set up, be it from mixing pub gigs to having to orchestrate a kit change between bands, sound engineers would probably prefer to set it up once, and be done with it.

But what is it exactly? Clearly your £300 pound snare drum is for your own personal use, and you don’t want heavy hitters or inexperienced drummers treating you prized kit without respect, but you do want the gig to be as flexible as possible and keep every one happy – so what should you share?

“Breakables” is a term which typically refer’s to the expensive-to-replace parts of a drum kit, and usually the quickest bits to change – the snare drum, the cymbals and even the kick pedal. You don’t share these, as often special cymbals can be an important part of your sound, and if anything should be broken – the most expensive to replace. Rarely do you see these supplied, so if you’re ever requested to bring your breakables – this is what they mean. (it can also include the stool – so do check!)

“Shells” refer’s to the rack and floor toms, kick drum and stands.

In my experience most bands don’t mind sharing their drum shells – I had an excellent conversation with The Little Comets tour manager Michael G about drum share at their gig in Swindon at the 12 Bar last month. I asked whether there was anything in place for the support bands to use – he asked me to ask the drummer who asked me to ask the tour manager… Tour managed said that “in reality you’re not going to damage the skins of the drum shells, and it shouldn’t be a problem for them (the support bands) to use the shells” He was by and far the easiest going tour manager I have every dealt with, and it was a pleasure.

The drummer in question was a very heavy hitter, and needless to say if he’s not doing the shells any damage, its unlikely many more drummers would. Though they did have a conversation about 4 bands bills… more on that shortly.

Who supply’s the “shells”? – Simply put, the headlining band. You would assume they are receiving some form of payment, and as such should be expected to warrant it. – I recently had a band booked for an electric set, who pulled out but offered to go acoustic. Not supplying any of the back line, I said there would be an issue over money, as one of the support bands is going to have to supply the kit – and their wear and tear. This wasn’t met with the understanding I expected, nether the less I stood by my decision, and the support bands request. (for more money)

Ie. If you’re not going to bring your kit and share it with the other bands, what exactly are you bring paid for?! It’s all lovely and all that you agreed to play, but im not paying your band £600 to turn up, use every one else’s backline and bugger off.

But what if there is 4 support bands on the bill?

Good question. – Whilst you’re doing your bit to be a good touring musician and making the event / night flow nicely, there’s no need to take the piss out of your generosity. I wouldn’t expect any band to supply their drum kit for any more than 3 bands, including their own. So that covers a typically average 3 band bill, but what if there is 4 bands?

Well in a situation like this, it’s down to the promoter who organised the gig, to of organised some form of understanding in advance of the gig, what was expected of each band, and allowed for time to change over drum kits. Often you may find a “house kit” in place for situations like this.

A house kit? – Yes a house kit. Most toilet circuit venues have a battered kit some where on their premises. Usually only wheeled out in an emergency, or if they have big bills or tight schedules. A house kit is almost certainly not going to include any breakables, and often not the kick pedal.

As a rule of thumb, if in doubt always take everything you think you’ll need. If a kick pedal hasn’t been discussed then take it, it’s better to have too much kit than too little in any given circumstance! And if you know a venue has a house kit, don’t always assume it will be there – I’ve had bands come a cropper in the 12 Bar, when the house kit is being used in The Vic (in Swindon) and vice versa.

Thanks for reading – feel free to leave your comments, tell me I forgot something, your feedback and to agree or disagree with anything I have said – its good to talk, it’s even better to discuss!


8 thoughts on “Gig Etiquette #1 – Drum Share

  1. Good work Kieran, the headline band should ALWAYS assume they’re supplying the drum kit for general use (minus breakables), and often the bass-rig too (though I guess that’s the subject of another thread!).

  2. Bass – yes, that is indeed! I think that would is going to come under backline… But thanks for the feedback – I tried to include some recent experiences, that certain people could relate to – you saw that one!

  3. Thanks! i had no idea what breakables were before i read this, will probably come in handy as I’m an artist manager loll

    1. No problem, a lot of people locally didn’t understand this sort of terminology until 6th forms started running music tech courses!

  4. “Ie. If you’re not going to bring your kit and share it with the other bands, what exactly are you bring paid for?!” First of all, i believe you mean being. Second of all you are clearly not a musician! Fucking ludicrous statement, how dare you!

    1. Quite right, not a musician. I’m an event organiser, promoter, occasional stage manager & regular sound engineer, and tech (gofa) at Christian Music festivals.

      & Yes I did mean “being”. I evidently didn’t proofread it – I rarely do

  5. The term ‘breakables’ is widely used but in my experience can lead to a whole bag of presumption. If you’re lucky enough to be able to turn up and play someone else’s kit without having to go through the hassle of transporting it, setting it up, soundchecking, taking it down, possibly moving it through a busy crowd, accepting wear and tear and possibly losing something expensive then try and find the time to have a conversation with the person who has.

    A courteous email before a gig finding out what is being provided and what you should bring is a perfect start. If that’s not possible then at least try and turn up early, find the kit owner and let them know what you need to borrow. Offer your help if you can.

    I’ve played many gigs where I’ve provided the kit and watched drummers turn up 5 mins before they go on, throw my hardware around like a diva, make adjustments without loosening any locks, play the set and bugger off to the bar without even bothering to find out who’s the kit it is. Often my gigs are for charity so there’s no money anyway. Just be polite and consider others, it’s professional courtesy.

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