We asked our friend and colleague Eamonn Mckiernan (Lighting Designer/Director for bands such as Cage the Elephant, AWOLNation, Silversun Pickups, Little Dragon, and most recently Foster the People) for some advice on creating a lighting rider for a tour and how to make sure you communicate your needs through your advance.
When advancing a show, a lighting rider is intended to help open up the lines of communication with the venue and/or local vendor. If crafted well, when you show up for your load in you know exactly what is being provided to you and there are (hopefully) no surprises! There isn’t a right and a wrong way to make a lighting rider, it can be done in a variety of ways and everyone seems to develop their own style. The main thing to keep in mind is that your rider needs to be simple and straight to the point while still containing enough detail so that the local lighting vendor and/or venue knows exactly what is needed and how it will be used.
There are a few key things a lighting rider should always include in order to get what you need for a successful show.
At the top of the rider there must be….
Although seemingly obvious, it is important that the band name is prominent enough that the local crew can pick out your rider in a giant pile of future show information. The last thing you want is to put together what you need, and to find out that no one read it when you get to the venue. (Although you will find this happens a lot more than you want it to happen, especially in smaller venues).
Date and/or Version Number
This is important to keep your information up to date. Include both a time frame of the tour as well as a “current as of” date. It is incredibly frustrating when old riders end up being sent with the advance sometimes.
On the top of the rider there needs to be contact information for at least two people on the tour. Ideally the touring LD, tour manager and production manager, it needs to be someone that can answer all the questions a venue or local vendor may have.
The first main thing I put on a rider is a summary of what is going on in regards to lighting for the tour. This is where you can quickly explain what is going to happen, what you are bringing, and what is expected of the venue before diving into detailed specifics. By having a quick summary, there is no excuse for a venue to say “oh I didn’t know you were bringing anything today!”
“To be supplied by the venue”
Unless you are carrying full production, you need to specify what you need from the venue or local lighting company. If you are carrying full production, more power to you… But for those that aren’t as lucky, this is where you tell them what you need. Being as specific as you can will save you a lot of hassle in the future.
A conventional lighting rig, typically made up of 30 to 90 Par Can lights, is almost standard in most music venues. List exactly what gel colors you want for the conventional fixtures; both for upstage as well as downstage. Don’t forget to specify lens style; narrow, medium, wide etc. If you don’t you may be stuck with what the last bands LD wanted to use, either good or bad.
Specify the quantity, the type, and the make of the intelligent lighting. Generally a venue will have some sort of moving wash and moving spot fixture with a couple strobes. If you are going to be ordering a package from a local vendor, it is important to at least give one substitute as some companies only carry certain fixtures. Break it up by location; upstage, downstage, floor, etc.
If you are not carrying a console, give your preferences in order of what you would like. If you have a show file, make sure to specify the software version necessary for the console in order for your show to work. It surely isn’t a fun day when you show up with a show file to a console that hasn’t had its software updated at all.
DMX Lines from FOH
Specify if you need any DMX lines from FOH to stage for any lighting you brought.
Specify what console you have so that the venue can make sure they have enough space for your set up at their FOH position.
If you are carrying a backdrop, lighting or scenic elements you need to specify the size and the weight of such things. For the backdrop and scenic, give the dimensions both width and height to make sure your backdrop and scenic can be accommodated for, a lot of stages are narrower and have lower ceilings than you think. The weight of any backdrop, lighting and/or any scenic pieces is very important to see if the venues truss can support it. A lot of the venues will have weight and rigging restrictions and being able to troubleshoot all this before you arrive makes for a much smoother load in.
Specify if you are carrying a snake or not. If you are carrying one, specify how long it is. If it is 200’ and the venue needs you to have one that is 250’ to reach back stage, a red flag will be flown when advanced.
Provide the amount of total amps that you need to run your lighting package. Most power distros run off of three-phase power. Specify the length of feeder cable that you are carrying and the location that you would like your power distro to live. In the advance of the show, make this known so that the venue or local vendor can supply extra feeder cable to make this work if necessary. Don’t forget to specify if you are carrying any feeder tails or not. If you only have camlok ends, specifying the direction (male/female) will help with making sure there are camlok barrels provided to plug in your cabling if necessary.
Specify what type of hazer and fogger you have if applicable. Some venues will not allow oil based hazers. Some wont let you haze till after doors are open. And some venues don’t allow haze at all. (The Horror!!) This is very important information so that fire alarms don’t get tripped and the show has to stop.
Anything else that you can think of that might come up on show day.
Attach the lighting plots representing what you have mentioned in this rider. Both for what you are bringing with you on tour, as well as what you are looking to have provided from local lighting vendors. This gives an exact visual representation of what you need to put on a successful show.
→download plot example here ↓
→download rider example here ↓
Eamonn has been on tour as the Lighting Designer/Director for bands such as Cage the Elephant, AWOLNation, Silversun Pickups, Little Dragon, and most recently Foster the People. He also continues to work venues in New York City such as Summer Stage in Central Park as well as large event spaces throughout the city. He also freelances in NY when off tour.