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Are you sure there’s enough power?

In our earlier blog post, “Why use a booking agent,” we touched on how important it is to pay attention to power requirements for your selected entertainer. In this week’s post, we will dive a little deeper into what can be an intimidating concept and try to demystify the question: will there be enough power for the band you have chosen at your selected venue?

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Making sure your venue has the correct power will ensure your event goes off without a hitch and your guests aren’t sitting in a quiet room 5 minutes after the band starts.

Let’s say you’re having a small get together at your home and you want a jazz trio or quartet to play. Typically, the power needs for a small band like that aren’t great, and they’ll be fine just plugging into a standard wall outlet. In homes, standard outlets are 15 amp circuits. Commercial venues usually have 20 amp circuits.

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What if the party is a little bigger and so is the band? You’ll need to make sure the venue can handle power for a large band, or you will need to rent a generator (more on that later). Bigger bands bring more gear, which means they need more power.

Typically, larger bands will need four to five isolated 20 amp outlets, and they’ll need to run power to the lights on separate circuits. Having everything on separate circuits eliminates the chance of the band’s blowing a breaker, or the engineer’s having to to track down a “hum.”

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Most professional bands that play weddings, corporate events, and private parties carry their own house PA (public address) system for the audience, as well as a stage mix for the band. PA systems include microphones and loud speakers. The “mix” and the PA system run separate sets of power amplifiers. In addition to those systems, you need power for the instruments/musicians themselves (guitar amps, bass amp, keyboard amp, keyboards, pedal boards, etc.–basically anything that needs to be plugged in). And you can’t forget the lights! As a side note, LED lights tend to pull less power than traditional lighting rigs, which is part of the reason more bands are using LED these days.

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There are several issues you can run into if the venue is under powered:

  • The band gear will not function properly and lead to poor sound, which leads to a poor performance
  • The band will blow a breaker and everyone will be sitting in the dark
  • Fire. Yes, seriously. Fire.

So, how do you know if your venue has ample power for your event and is that power dedicated to the stage area? The venue manager should know exactly what the power specifications in the building are.

Great! Ok, but wait–how much power does the band need? Any professional band that plays frequently should know exactly what specifications they need.

How do you make sure the venue and the band are synced up and the party will run smooth? THAT’S when a professional booking agent comes in handy. You don’t want to find out an hour before the party starts that there won’t be enough power for the band.

What happens if you have the perfect venue and the perfect band but the power requirements aren’t there? No problem! You’ll just have to rent a power generator. No, not the noisy generator from Home Depot. A high end industrial grade generator. They run quiet and send a clean regulated power for hours. But beware, they aren’t cheap.

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In conclusion, a little anecdote: when Van Halen was starting to make a name for themselves in LA, Eddie Van Halen was extremely secretive when it came to his sound (guitar tone). He was famous for turning his back to the audience during his guitar solos so no one could see what he was doing. Later, when asked in “Guitar Player Magazine” how he got his sound, he said the secret was to run the amp through a “variac” (variable autotransformer), essentially pulling more power than was available at the venue. In a later interview, he lamented, “I told [the magazine] I raised it up 140 volts….The magazine said, ‘Please don’t attempt what Eddie Van Halen said in the last interview, because everyone was blowing their amps.’ Everyone fried their amps ’cause of me. I felt so bad.”

Hundreds of guitar players blew up their amplifiers because of misinformation and not fully understanding how electricity works, just to try to mimic Van Halen’s iconic “brown sound.” Do not try this at home, kids.

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Understanding power requirements is just one of many aspects of entertainment booking in which Gulf Coast Entertainment has decades of experience. Booking a band, organizing load in/load out schedules, checking & confirming venue specifications (dress code, load in policies, etc.), making sure the band can play your special dances, and confirming the event timeline with all vendors is a full time job unto itself. Let us handle the details for you by contacting us at 713-523-7004 or www.gulfcoastentertainment.com. We look forward to hearing from you!