Question for live performers: Does the setup "matter"?

Lot’s of good responses here, this one is my favorite.

I see a bit of all those things where I live.
Stacks of vintage synths played live, DJ’s, Harps & Drumachines, 4-tracks with pedals, and laptops sometimes with controllers.
Seems to me if the person behind the rig is doing the best with what they got, people show respect regardless of “gear”

My personal philosophy for playing gigs is keeping my set fun and stress free for me to play. Sometimes parts of my sets dont require much talent or attention, other parts do.
Those choices have been made over time for maximum fun live.

As a fellow gigging musician, whats more important to me than what kind of gear someone has, is if they can set it all up in 15mins, do the show, tear down faster than they set up. Anything longer than that, you better blow the doors off the place otherwise it’s just rude. Nothing kills a vibe like one person plugging in cables for an hour.

This last bit is just my two cents, or personal wish.
If not the headliner, play shorter sets. 30-40 mins, 45 MAXIMUM.
Of course that excludes most DJ sets and if you’ve been asked to play for a specific amount of time.
Leave people wanting more of your best rather than giving them all of your ideas.


same. Doesn’t help if your machine has a crossfader

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I wish all performers thought this way. I work my ass off to streamline setup and tear down, almost as much as I think about performance aspects of a set. If I see people putting things in cases on stage, it makes me rage. Get it off stage, then button it up.


It’s one of my favorite topics to discuss at gigs.
I think most people want it to be easy, they just need a few pointers because they don’t think that way. I don’t go telling people what to do, but I do like to bring it up and talk about it, trying to helping each other streamline our setups.

If I don’t bring my 3, 55" TV’s for Video array, it takes me 3 mins to set up, and 3 to tear down. With the TV’s 15min tops.
Friend I grew up playing in shoegaze bands with, plays in this band Pinkish Black.
They have TONS of gear. The Drummer set up his kit and a semi modular rig.
They got it down to 15 min set up, 10 min tear down.
I got another friend, he’ll never figure it out. Takes him and hour to set up, and and hour or more set, most people usually leave. He’s got some great tracks in there too. Watched him do it for 30 years now

My live instrument of choice is the Octatrack. A computer on the other hand scares me, the potential of crashing on stage is always there. Talk about a vibe killer and I’ve seen it happen plenty of times. The Octatrack has never failed me and it does everything I need it to do. I’m putting a set together with the OT and the Model:Cycles and Model:Samples, again a simple reliable setup with huge potential. My choice of equipment for a live set is not based on what I think the crowd would like to see, it’s based on what’s reliable and efficient so I can stay focused during the set.


Nice thing about the OT is you can plug into the house mixer check your levels and off you go. Less than 5min to set up 2min to break down. :sunglasses:


:black_heart: Sleaford Mods

Another great act whose don’t give a f… ‘bout gear is Mark Fell.

Answering the OP’s question:

My opinion is no,
gear doesn’t matter,
music does matters.


You’re speaking my language. The rage trigger is internal. I’m well aware that people who behave this way simply haven’t thought about it. I approach it by being friendly and helpful as hell. Even if I’m not directly before or after them. Just to set a friendly atmosphere. I’m in my late 30s, and it’s very easy to be friendly to some of the younger folks and ask if you can carry some stands off stage, or offer to “strike unplugged cables.”

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Uhm… yes… gear does matter in the case of Mark Fell I guess :wink: The two guys appear to me as if they are standing with their latte venti at starbucks working on an essay but rather check their facebook timeline because they want to look “busy” to not talk to each other – “oh look a new mail coming in!”

I guess I would go to the bar to get another cocktail and go to some comfortable space to talk instead of watching those dudes doing nothing but looking at their screens.


The only rule about what sort of acts could play at the club I was involved with running was no laptop-only sets; bring a controller and do something, please, as otherwise it’s boring to watch.


I’ve had several setups over the years that I’ve hauled around the world.
MPC2KXL with a mixer and rack of fx
SU-700 with JP8080, R8 MK2, and a laptop.
Laptop + MPD-32 + Maschine V1 + X-station 25
AR+A4 and a mixer + Infinity Looper.
OT + Drumatix and pedals.

For longer journeys, if a promoter could provide some gear I could just dump data to, I took advantage of that. Saved me the hassle and wear+tear.
I’ve never worried about setup time/tear-down as I’ve always demanded a soundcheck before the doors opened and been fine to tear down after last call, but I realize I am fortunate in this regard.

Anyway, in all my various live setups the common thread was capitalizing on how much energy I could personally put into 60-120 minutes of performance. When you stop and think about it, lots of things free up your energy;
Some pre-sequenced patterns, certain configurations that promote improvisation, an FX chain that adds some complexity to the sound that give you more time to cue other machines without boring the crowd (or yourself). The list goes on and on.

So think about what you want to accomplish for that brief moment in the present, where many people are paying attention. Make the setup too automated and you will bore yourself. Make it too live and improvised and you will stress yourself out with the mechanics of it all (remember that even live bands are playing music through their drums and guitars that has already been written and arranged).

What is it you want to say? What will help you punctuate that statement to the fullest? What will make that memory last for your audience?
The answers to these questions are different for every performer. So answer those questions for yourself and then mold your setup accordingly.


I’m a long way away from gigging, but the two man band I’m in might eventually get gigs. I’ve been putting tracks together totally with performing live in mind but now I’m seriously thinking about going down the Sleaford mods route because, whether I hit play on a laptop or work my ass off playing with filters and fucking with track mutes it’ll sound pretty much the same anyway, given that I’m basically providing backing tracks for his MCing/vocal work.

Audience expecation matters a lot.

My scene is mostly noise/electronic heads in my local area. Folks whose goal is to share their skills and creations with creative peers (tho “getting big” would be nice as well). Live performance is the hub that socialization happens around, and is more important than creating a polished studio work. This expectation is different than shows where you are playing to the “general public”, who wants to socialize with their scene while hearing something enjoyable.

Both definitely are live performance. Different setup and presentation is needed for the different experiences.


This. So important. The connection that is.

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Possibly the finest reply so far.

Wow, Juan. Just wow!

I’ll say it again… soooooo many great responses in this thread. A myriad of experiences to set you free. What a great read! Thank you, Elektronauts!


I’d suggest you use a setup that is optimized for you to enjoy playing with. Odds are that if you really enjoy your time on stage people will perceive that. Provided you’re not too far from the public, more blinking leds is not the answer to a great performance. Your involvement is.


It’s really about the vibe of the specific event. And you often don’t know what that is until it’s happening. I’ve found that the overwhelming majority of the time it doesn’t matter to anyone but other musicians, and even then the more “traditional” musicians will probably turn their noses up at any electronic instruments.
At most dance oriented events most people won’t even look at the performer because it’s not really the point. These are the events where there isn’t even a pause between sets. When there is someone watching you it’s usually one dude hovering a foot away staring and analyzing your every move.
This can be different at a noise show of experimental night which often are more of an exhibition. The crowds at those are largely musicians so they’re all interested in your gear.
All of this changes when the performers are thought of as bands. In this context there’s pressure to demonstrate that you’re an “authentic” musician. The more mechanical (as opposed to electronic) instruments are involved (guitars/ drums/ etc) the more this is the case. Once someone is singing the crowd feels like you’re cheating if you’re using a laptop, unless it’s hip hop. Hip hop has always been about using whatever you have/ whatever works.
This is just my take on it from my experience and naturally there are tons of exceptions. I’ve played sets with a single piece of gear, with piles of circuit bent kids toys, even one with a contact mic’d cardboard box and some markers. Crowds sometimes care but usually not, the other performers just ask why I don’t just use a laptop. If you want to be visually entertaining there are probably better avenues than gear selection.


Totally true.