Concert techs travel on tour with established bands, where they are responsible for the overall condition and day-to-day functionality of musicians' instruments and equipment. A guitar tech, for example, strings and tunes guitars, sets up amps and pedals on stage, and sound checks before the show to ensure everything is working properly. In addition to servicing and preparing equipment, skilled techs might contribute creatively to the bands they travel with by crafting new sounds for their use or even workshopping new material. There are as many varieties of instrument tech as there are instruments, but some of the most common are guitar techs, bass techs, drum techs, and keyboard techs.
Many concert techs have gone on to join successful bands, including David Gilmour, Krist Novoselic, Noel Gallagher, Henry Rollins, and Lemmy.
While transporting and preparing equipment might not sound too difficult, the concert tech's other duty—maintaining instruments—requires intimate knowledge of the instrument's construction, performance, and use. Guitar techs, for example, check string height and intonation, test amp tubes and cables, and make sure there are fresh batteries in effects devices. And when technical problems occur, concert techs help take care of them—whether in the lull of the soundcheck or the midst of performance. Wearing in-ear monitors allows them to listen closely for anything amiss with the amps or instruments and hustle to remedy the situation in between songs, usually by replacing or repairing faulty components. Concert techs often end up becoming highly knowledgeable about the music of bands they tour with, and on rare occasions have even been called upon to fill in for the musicians for whom they work. Many concert techs have gone on to join successful bands, including David Gilmour, Krist Novoselic, Noel Gallagher, Henry Rollins, and Lemmy.
Concert Tech at a Glance
There are no formal educational requirements to work as a concert technician. Instead, demonstrable instrumental knowledge and touring experience go a long way. Many career concert techs start out as all-purpose "roadies"—a title which implies less specialized knowledge and more heavy lifting. Roadies who acquire instrument maintenance and repair skills are well suited to performing the role of concert tech. On the other hand, some concert techs take a different path altogether, working as touring musicians or band members before concert teching for a bigger act in search of industry connections and wisdom. Successful concert techs who enjoy life on the road might tech for bigger acts, or progress to become the touring crew chief or tour manager.
While these positions are sometimes advertised online, concert techs most frequently find work via personal connections and word-of-mouth referrals. Once they've successfully completed a tour or two and demonstrated speed, reliability, and all-around excellence, a concert tech can find work with more prominent bands playing bigger venues. Getting to know one's tour manager can go a long way towards getting a recommendation.
- Deep knowledge of one's instrument
- Deep knowledge of music-related hardware (amps, pedals, cords, etc.)
- Instrument repair
- Physical strength and stamina
- Good ears (detail, nuance)
- Experience touring
Concert techs may be part of the behind-the-scenes support crew, but when a power cord fails or a string breaks mid-song, they become the most important person at the show. In these moments, a good concert tech must be reliable, attentive, and quick (both on their feet and at coming up with creative solutions). When servicing equipment between shows, it helps to be organized and meticulous.
The hours of this job change day to day, and largely depend on whether the band is playing a festival or a club. Most of the time, days start slow and get increasingly busier as showtime approaches. Like most touring professionals, concert techs work most nights and weekends and spend many weeks away from home. As far as work relationships, much depends on the band or musician in question. For a large, high-profile band, a concert tech might be another cog in a massive machine. In other situations, however, concert techs can form deep creative bonds with the musicians they assist, perhaps even becoming long-term, behind-the-scenes members of the band.