Battle Blog

Here’s your spot for all things Battle of the Bands!

Expect to find answers to frequently asked questions as well as tips and insight on how to improve your chances of playing this year's tour.

Check in often as you never know when we might decide to blog, providing you with valuable insight regarding the competition, sweepstakes, band features, video, contests, and more!

Top 15 Things You Must Have in Your Gig Survival Kit


Guitar? Check. Bass? Check. Drum Kit? Check. Set list? Check. So, you have the absolute bare essentials needed to play a gig, but what else do you need to make sure that you can fix any last minute problems? Here is our list of absolute must-haves for any live performance. Think of this list as your musical tool kit. You can thank us later.

1. Gaffers tape. Kind of a weird name, but this stuff is worth its weight in gold. It’s like duct tape, but better because it doesn’t leave any residue. Use it to tape down cables, tape up set lists, etc.

2. Writing utensil. Sharpie, pen, pencil, whatever you have. This is incredibly useful for writing a set list, labeling gear, or even signing autographs for adoring fans.

3. Flashlight. Seeing backstage can be a challenge. Bring a flashlight or download a flashlight app on your smartphone to cut through the darkness and avoid stubbed toes or damage to your instruments.

4. Extra cables. Bringing extra cables ensures that you don’t have a panic attack when one your cables has a loose connection right before your band goes on. Make sure you have mic, instrument, and speaker cables.

5. Spare picks, strings, amp tubes, drum sticks, etc. Always bring extra instrument accessories, especially things that break easily or get lost in the shuffle. Always keep extra picks, strings, etc. in your instrument’s case so that you always have them.

6. Ear plugs. Constantly being on or next to a stage can really wear on your hearing. As hearing is one of your most valuable assets as a musician, you don’t want to lose it. So pop in those ear plugs when things get a little too loud.

7. Guitar tools. Basic tools like a Phillips screwdriver or pliers and multi-tools like the Leatherman can be very useful for instrument care and can be used for thousands of purposes.

8. Extension/power cords. Your band might require more power outlets then what your band needs. Or a cable you brought might be a little too short. Make sure you are covered with extra power cords.

9. Guitar strap. Unless you are playing in a coffee shop while sitting on a stool, a guitar strap is absolutely necessary for any other performance. It gives you the freedom to shred, don’t forget it. Check out Ernie Ball’s strap selection, including the number one selling strap in the world, the Black Polypro strap.

10. Tuner. While you should have already tuned your instruments before you get to the venue, a tuner can come in handy in a pinch or when you need to fix a detail.

11. Batteries. Make sure to have charged AA and AAAs on hand. You might need them for tools, accessories, or that trusty flashlight.

12. Water bottle. Stay hydrated during your gig, make sure you are drinking water throughout the night to keep your energy up and to take keep your throat from sounding scratchy.

13. Guitar stand. You need somewhere to put your guitar when you aren’t playing, unless you want to hold it the whole night. Guitar stands are easy to forget but can make your life much easier.

14. First aid kit. Whether you cut yourself trying to change your guitar strings or you need an aspirin from standing next to a speaker for a little too long, first aid kits are a necessity.

15. Extra "emergency" money. When all else fails and you don’t have the the needed emergency part or your tour bus is running on fumes, money is the solution. You can buy what you need to keep the show on the road.

What do you keep in your personal emergency gig survival kit?

How to Sound/Line Check like a Pro

Sound Check Stage

Sound checks are a necessary evil. Unfortunately, unless you are the headlining band, you probably won’t get one. In festival settings, supporting bands typically get a line check. A line check is where the sound engineer quickly goes through each input with the artist to verify that the line is working properly and that the monitor is at the correct level. This process typically takes place in the presence of the audience and is worked through separately with each individual band member.

While making every band member 100% happy with the way they sound in time for the show might be impossible, here are a few tips to make your check go a lot smoother.

1. Early bird gets the worm. Get to the venue early so that you don’t have to rush your setup and sound/line check. It will stress everyone out if you don’t have enough time to problem solve and get everything right. If there are multiple bands playing that day/night, make sure to stay close to the stage. If the band before you finishes early, your band can step up and keep the ball rolling.
2. Befriend the sound guy. Rule number one, don’t call him “the sound guy.” Get his name and use it; he’s not your servant and he can make your life easier or a lot more difficult. Making some small talk before you start setting up can help you get some valuable background information about the stage setup and PA system. He is a resource that you don’t want to abuse.
3. Double check that you have all your gear. If you are missing an instrument or piece of equipment during your soundcheck that you will be using when playing live, then you risk messing up the entire mix. Make sure you have everything before you get to the venue.
4. Play like it’s the real deal. A line check is NOT the time to tune your instrument; that should have been done already. Play your instrument at full volume (imagine an audience there cheering you on). When checking electronic instruments like keyboards, samplers, tracks, etc., always send your loudest patch to the sound engineer. You do not want to line check with a soft patch and then start playing a much louder patch during your show. This will wreak havoc on your mix and could potentially damage the sound system.
5. Play together. If you do have time for a proper soundcheck, have the whole band play together after each individual band member has had their time in the “soundcheck spotlight.” What sounded good on its own might not sound as good mixed in with everyone else’s noise.
6. Don’t freak out. An empty room sounds completely different than a room packed with bodies. There’s a reason that you might sound flat or echoey when you are performing for just the sound engineer. The audience covers the large reflective surface of the floor and will absorb a lot of this sound. The sound engineer knows this and will be adjusting to compensate for the empty room during soundcheck.
7. It’s about the audience. It will always sound different to you onstage then it will to the audience. Sound from the monitors will contribute to onstage spill (meaning sound that is picked up by a microphone from an unintended source). High levels of sound on stage will make it very hard for the sound engineer to control the sound that the audience hears. Making everything very loud on stage will not improve the quality of the show for the audience. It will make it worse.

When all else fails, trust the sound engineer’s judgement. He has the experience and knows both the venue and the sound system better than you.

Band Tips: How to Share Backline

Remember when your kindergarten teacher told you that you had to share the toys with the other kids during recess? Sharing backline at a music festival with other bands is a little bit like that, but it doesn’t have to be a distressing experience. Here you will find the proper etiquette behind sharing backline so that your and other band’s experiences will be more enjoyable.

What exactly is backline? Backline includes drums, cymbals, guitar amps, guitar cabinets, bass amps, keyboards, stands, etc. that a band would need to perform on stage. Most music festivals require all bands to pick and choose from the backline equipment they have rented for the headliners.

Why can’t we just use our own stuff? While many bands might not like having to use unfamiliar gear, it makes sense in a large music festival environment. In this scenario there are multiple bands playing on one stage throughout the day. Sharing backline makes setup and teardown easier for band and crew, shortens the change-over time between bands, and lessens the wait time for the audience. In some cases it can save your band time and money. No more lugging your equipment across the state, nation, or even across borders/oceans for a one-off music festival.

How do we prepare beforehand? Sit down with all of your band members and come up with wish list of gear that you need. Remember that you will have to be flexible and that the provided backline list might not have everything you initially had hoped for. The best rule of thumb is to choose brands and models that are popular and well-liked because rental companies tend to have these in their inventory.

What SHOULD we bring? Just because you aren’t going to be bringing your own drums or amps doesn’t mean that you can’t be prepared with other pieces of gear that you are accustomed to. You can bring your own guitars, pedals, cables, vocal microphones, guitar heads, snare drums, cymbals, kick pedals, etc. It’s always a good to bring extra power strips, cables, drumsticks, guitar strings, and some basic tools.

How can we make setup go as smooth as possible? Get to the venue early. Even though sharing backline does make setup go faster, there are always last minute issues that crop up. Getting there early gives you more time to problem solve. It also doesn’t hurt to get acclimated to the space and organization of the stage so that you know where things are located. You can always help other bands unload and set up as well. You’ll get kudos from other bands and they just might help you out later on.

Keeping all of these things in mind can help you avoid a nightmare setup experience!

Band tips: How to create a custom stage plot and input list

There’s more to being prepared for a gig than simply rehearsing with your band until you can play all your songs with your eyes closed. Communicating with the venue before you get there can make the difference between a very stressful setup and a great sounding show. You will make the lives of your band, the sound technician, and the venue much easier if you advance your show with a stage plot and input list.

What needs to be included and how much detail should you provide?

In basic terms, a stage plot is a diagram of the placement of each band member/instrument that outlines where microphones and monitors should be placed as well as any other helpful information. The input list is a detailed list of all instruments, microphones, and DI boxes that your band requires and where they should be patched into the sound mixing board.

For now, let’s start with the stage plot. The stage plot should be simple and uncluttered, yet provide enough information for the sound tech to be able to set the stage up just like your own band would. It’s important that your stage plot is updated and current at all times. You never want to circulate an outdated document.

Example Stage Plot

These are the essentials that are necessary to fill in: The band name and contact information of the band member who knows the most about your audio needs. The relative position of each member on stage along with their instrument and/or amplifier. The number of mics, DIs, and monitors, that you will need from the venue What sound gear (if any) you’ll bring to the venue yourself To create your plot, you can use software made for this specific purporse such as or you could even use a word processing program to create a diagram. You simply need to know the universal symbols for stage plots, listed below.

Instrument/Gear Symbol
Amplifiers Rectangle
Microphones An “X” inside of a circle
Stage Monitors Triangles
DI Box Box labeled with “DI”
Drums A series of circles

You’ll also need an input list to accompany your stage plot. Essentially, the input list is a way to show how the amps, instrument, mics, DIs, etc. are interrelated. The input list should have at least four columns: a description of the input, the microphone or DI, the stand type, and finally if there are specific outboard requirements/requests for that channel. Always make sure that you include more information than you think is necessary. It’s better to have too much detail then to have the sound engineer be confused.

Example Input List

You could also simply write the input list in the body of the email when you send your stage plot.

When you are satisfied with your stage plot and input list, advance them with the venue and sound technician. To ensure you sound the best you can while avoiding the wrath of the dreaded overworked and annoyed “sound guy,” be prepared with your stage plot and input list!

Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Buzz Rating

Battle of the Bands Rock on the Range stage

So, you have signed up for Battle of the Bands to *fingers crossed* cash in on the opportunity to play in front of thousands. Now what? You can do more to catapult your band to the top of the rankings than just counting on luck. Here are the top ten ways you can get your band noticed and on to the big stage.

1. Express yourself. Write up a description of your band including the band member names, the type of music you play, information about how you came together, shows you have played, etc. The more people know, the more they can connect to you and your music.
2. Say cheese. Add band photos to your profile to give your fans and curious spectators an idea of what your band stands for. Uploading photos of your band playing gigs, group photos, etc. all help your audience engage with your band more.
3. Youtube. Upload videos of your band’s latest single or your favorite song to your profile to round out your band profile. It could be a professionally produced music video or a simple video with album art, anything to get people listening to your music.
4. What’s your type? List the genre(s) of your music on your profile. Battle of the Bands fans can search for new bands to support based on a genre filter built into the website. You just may gain a few new followers that way alone.
5. Link in. Make sure that your BOTB profile page is correctly linked to your band’s Facebook page. That link is just one more way to engage with old fans and create new ones.
6. Share those sound waves. Share at least one MP3 on your band page to give your fans a listen to some of your most popular material. The more songs you upload, the more listens you will likely get!
7. Drive traffic. Encourage your fans to share your BOTB profile page with their friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram (basically any social media site they are active on.)
8. Become a Facebook fiend. Post regularly on your band’s Facebook page to collect more Facebook fans. Post about gigs, recording albums, pictures from your daily life, updates about Battle of the Bands; just be creative!
9. ReverbNation station. Link your Vans Warped Tour BOTB profile page with your band’s ReverbNation account and pocket an extra boost on your buzz rating. And if you don’t already have an account, get one here for free.
10. Give and you shall receive. Give a little love to your fans that took the time to comment on your BOTB band profile page. Responding back to some comments encourages fans to continue sharing your music and page with their friends.