The Ethics Of Gear Loading

Look, there is no good one way to load gear. Everyone has their method, and each scenario can be wildly different. The most important things to look out for when loading and staging gear is time efficiency. This task should involve everyone moving, and no one should get leeway. Having a shifting schedule of people loading what is a good way to get things done. Because lifting the same heavy amps up to ten times in a night can be just as exhausting as endlessly moving the 10 piece drum kit and accoutrement.

What can you do about to alleviate these stresses? Make a schedule. Force rotation. Think about specific gear requirements prior to planned moving. Do you have a van that everything fits in? Are you taking three separate cars? Do you require a caravan to move all of the materials for your show?’

Considering the amount of separate trips that a piece of gear has to make giving each person a single responsibility hinders the efficiency of getting to the show on time and setting up when you were slated for. Here is a 5 member scenario that emphasizes one task for the entire day. This is a schedule that generally does not work.

Band Mate 1 Band Mate 2 Band Mate 3 Band Mate 4 Band Mate 5
Pre Show Amps Amps Cables/Mics Instruments Drum Kit
Arrival Amps Amps Cables/Mics Instruments Drum Kit
Back Staging Amps Amps Cables/Mics Instruments Drum Kit
Staging Amps Amps Cables/Mics Instruments Drum Kit
Tear-Down Amps Amps Cables/Mics Instruments Drum Kit
Loading Post Show Amps Amps Cables/Mics Instruments Drum Kit
Un-Loading (End of Night) Cables/Mics Instruments Amps Amps Drum Kit

So why doesn’t it work:

  • The average amp if we are talking in terms of half-stacks weighs roughly 100 lbs, so putting the brunt of the labor on two musicians will directly induce trauma from sheer repetition.
  • The same thing goes for the Drum Kit, with all of the pieces, it can take well up to an hour if someone is trying to move and set things up all on their own, and that is precious time that can not be wasted during local shows. Especially with early hour cut-offs in more residential areas and curfews for the all ages shows. Put simply the drummer needs help.
  • We can see that the third band member and fourth band member are basically slacking while the rest do the work. And, unfortunately, that is what can feel like. However if they are taking care of merch and reporting to the venue or other important personnel then this can be somewhat excusable.

 But things can change in the moment and motivation can run thin. You have to allow for error, you have to allow for rest, networking, and socializing with fans too. So how do we accomplish lightning fast tear downs and set ups all day long and still have time to enjoy the music we are putting out there.

If we take a more in depth look at how the time is spent between the five, then we can try and assess a more effective way of transporting materials. Let us focus on the Pre-show loading.

Pre-Show Loading Band Mate 1 Band Mate 2 Band Mate 3 Band Mate 4 Band Mate 5
Minutes 1-10 Detaching/ storing all necessary cables Putting all instruments in cases Clearing the van/cars to lug gear in Breaking down the drum-kit Collecting merchandise for show
Minutes 11-20 Amp Loading Instrument Loading Amp Loading Breaking down the drum-kit Overseeing movement of gear
Minutes 21-30 Merch Loading Instrument Loading Breaking down the drum-kit Breaking down the drum-kit (final) Putting Drum Shells and cymbals in cases
Minutes 31-40 Drum-Kit Loading Drum-Kit Loading Drum-Kit loading Drum Kit loading gathering sticks, carpet Overseeing movement of gear

Why this the way you want to manage gear:

  • Everything is easily accounted for
  • Responsibilities of the individual are for the greater good of the whole
  • Reasonable assurance that nothing will be missing once you get to the show, leave the show, and leave the gear in storage area.
  • The roles can be reversed depending on who wants to do what for the day or even  at that time. (Drummers have a tendency to focus on their gear, understandably so).
  • Burn out does not have to be an issue
    • Sore backs when you are already sleeping on the floor isn’t that much fun
    • The same goes for the “bang-over”
  • Shared feeling of accomplishment that things are running smoothly
  • Less liklihood of interpersonal conflict due to getting in the way of one another

This technique can be applied throughout the day and can speed up the night so that when you finally get to the resting spot at 12am you dont have to worry about unloading everything until 2am just to make sure everything is safe.

Some things to keep in mind when loading gear:

  • Paying a friend is a great option especially if they are planning on being at the show anyway, (payment can be through tickets, pizza, beer or whatever else you can barter for) in fact, the more friends you have the better , faster load times and maybe you can enlist a few to be your roadies.
  • Being friends with other bands goes a long way with how much space you have on your trip, being able to share drum kits and amplifiers can be the difference of taking two cars and taking four cars. So don’t be shy and make friends regularly



Have you seen our other articles on band management? If you haven’t click here to get filled in on the basics you might be missing.


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