Before you sign the contract however there are 4 technical issues that you need to make sure are covered so that there are no nasty surprises lurking for you on the run up to your event.
1) Public Liability Insurance
If you’re holding your event at a venue (eg a hotel, or a stately home) you need to speak to your liason in the Conference & Banquetting Department and find out what their requirements are – if any – towards Public Liability Insurance.
Most musicians get their Public Liability Insurance from their membership of the Musicians Union. But it’s a point worth checking with the venue and the band – especially as not all musicians are members of the Musicians Union.
Some Venues will require that the band produce a valid Public Liability Insurance Certificate before they will be allowed to play in the venue. And this is usually a formality – but it’s best to get it organized now rather than in the week before the event.
2) PAT Testing
PAT stands for Portable Appliance Testing – and is essentially an MOT for electricl equipment to check that it is operating safely. As with Public Liability Insurance there are venues – and increasingly more and more of them – that require bands who play in these venues to have not only the appropriate PAT stickers on every piece of their electricl equipment (including plug boards!), but will require copies of the PAT Certificates faxing or emailing to the venue for them to check over.
Again, most reputable bands will be PAT tested and will have the appropriate certificates. But it is best to check this out both with the band and the venue prior to signing a contract.
3) Noise Limiters
Noise Limiters are becoming more frequent at venues. If you don’t know what a Noise Limiter is, it’s a device that has a microphone connected to a decibel meter. When the decibel meter reaches a certain trigger level power is cut to the venue. Usually noise limiters are set to around 90 decibels.
Now if your venue has a noise limiter my first piece of advice is that if live music is important to you that you find another venue! And the reason for that is that if a drummer hits one of his snare drums with average force he’s likely to produce a sound that’s around 86 or 87 decibels – so perilously close to the trigger level.
In fact we’ve played at venues where all it takes to trigger the limiter is a guy who’s had a few too many drinks cheering too enthusiastically! It’s very frustrating for both the band and the guests if the power keeps going off and has to be reset.
If you venue does have a noise limiter and you really want to hold your event there, then my advice is that you try and find a band with a drummer who has an electronic drum kit. That way his volume can be controlled by turning a know up or down and frequent electricity cut outs are going to be much rarer!
This is probably more relevant to events that are held in marquees. If this is the case make sure that your marquee company are providing power to the marquee for the band with the appropriate cables. (These are usually blue, about an inch in diameter and are called IP55 cables). Your marquee company should have thousands of yards of this cable in their storage unit and should already be planning to use it to take power from your house to the marquee for things like lighting and the caterers.
On no account should you try to provide power to a marquee yourself with domestic quality cable leads. The best case scenario will involve your fuse box tripping out several times during the evening. The worse case scenario will involve calling the Fire Brigade! Seriously, it’s not worth it.
None of these issues should be a problem to a professional band, but it’s best to find out the requirements of the venue where you are holding your event, and double check that your band can meet these requirements. The last thing you want is lots of phone calls in the week before the event itself trying to resolve any of these issues out (and getting charged extra because of it).