Backline Technician

What do Backline Technicians do?

A Backline Technician provides technical support for live performances. Each artist, orchestra or band is different and will have different needs, so the work can be varied. They will need to be comfortable with different types of equipment and different setups. Depending on the musicians and the type of event the Technician is working on they may be responsible for a range of road crew tasks or they may specialise in a particular area, such as percussion or strings. For a small scale performance there may be one Backline Technician who is expected to deal with everything. For a larger scale performance there may be a number of Backline Technicians with different specialist responsibilities. Some Backline Technicians specialise in instruments generally, or specific types of instruments.

For example a sound technician specialising in drums will build the drum kit, soundcheck it with the sound team, make sure the drummer is happy with the setup and be responsible for looking after the kit while on tour. They will tune the drums and sometimes sit next to the drum riser for the performance, making any necessary adjustments. Others Technicians specialise in the sound itself, or may be more generalist and have a range of responsibilities.

The responsibilities of a Backline Technician may include unloading and setting up the instruments and equipment. Backline Technicians with an orchestra may be required to set up the stage to the orchestra's lay out, including chairs, music stands, sheet music, risers and rostra percussion and keyboards. They may also help musicians with large instruments such as harps and basses.

Experience as a sound engineer or programmer is helpful, along with good knowledge of music hardware and software such as MIDI systems, computer music software, mixing consoles, and FX units.

Before an event a Backline Technician may need to help with unloading, then they will set up the equipment, including laptops and keyboards if necessary, and be responsible for tuning and testing. Rehearsals can be an opportunity to design and build the system, programme sounds and save patches and songs where needed. During the performance a Backline Technician will need to maintain the equipment and keep the systems running. They need to be highly organised and are responsible for troubleshooting and providing spares for equipment if things go wrong. Experience in maintenance and in basic repair is useful. After the performance they will break down, pack and load.

Backline Technicians are usually self employed. They need to be flexible as hours can be long, new equipment can be added on a whim and things can go wrong. Some may accompany bands on tour and be required to work away from home. As part of the crew they need to be a good team member and prepared to help out with any aspect of the performance if necessary. Knowledge of playing an instrument or instruments at least to a basic standard is useful.

Experience counts for a lot, but a professional qualification in a related field, such as music technology, is also important. Keeping up to date with the new technology in the music industry is essential. Backline Technicians may develop other roles during their career, such as tour manager, or become involved in the management side of the business.

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