Tips for the Touring Computer-Based Musician

What to do when you're preparing to tour using your laptop or desktop computer? G.W. Childs explores the worst case scenarios and how to prevent them when playing live using a Mac, PC or iPad.  

There’s nothing scarier than the idea of getting one, or several shows together in distant locations, practicing for weeks, only to show up and discover that your laptop has stopped working. Situations like these cost you (and everyone else money) time, and heartache. 

But if you have a backup plan, a Murphy’s Law if you will, you can avoid a serious moment of sadness and money loss....Wait, what could go wrong? If your laptop goes down, how can you make music?

Let me break down my own little checklist for being on the road, and see if you can add some things to this list to make your next show a success. You may even get ideas for other possibilities for items you can add to your traveling arsenal of gear. 

It’s important to note: some of the items in this list could be a little scary. Remember, this is just for a situation where you have no way to perform because of system failure, damaged item, or even a stolen or lost item. 


Best Case Scenario: Second Laptop... 

If you have the cash and can pull it off, an extra laptop with the exact same image as your stage laptop is ideal. As you set the secondary laptop up, make sure that your secondary has everything, works perfectly with your audio interface, etc. You can even make a backup of your main laptop, and then restore that Time Machine backup to the new laptop. Or, just use something like Carbon Copy Cloner. 


Second Best Case Scenario: iPod, iPhone, iPad...

If a new laptop is not on the horizon, consider keeping an audio copy of your set (uncompressed AIFF or WAV) on your iPod, or iPhone. 

This can sound a little bit on the dark side, lip-syncing, sort of tomfoolery we all know and hate. And, to be sure, we’d all love to have a working laptop there, and ready to go. However, if you don’t have a second laptop in your budget, this may be the ideal choice for you. 

If you have an iPad, there are several smaller DAWs showing up that would, to some extent, facilitate live computer-based performance as well. Even still, I would have an audio copy around with the proper play order, etc.


Worst Case Scenario: The Cloud...

You may want to engineer a way where, in case electronics fail you, you have access to an audio version of your set online. Consider setting up a free Gobbler.com account and backing up an audio version, or even session files of your set to your Gobbler account. If you roll into a town, and you have lost everything, maybe you can convince a club owner, or promoter to let you use their laptop.

A Gobbler account can be accessed from any computer, anywhere. The only thing is, you have to download the proprietary software to the computer you’re using first. 


Conclusion

Keeping around a backup plan (or two) is never a bad idea, and can benefit the success of your live performances... Because you’ll be able to salvage a bad situation and able to play a show, you’re not only someone who gets paid... But you’re also someone that the promoter, venue, etc. can rely on... And reliable people are usually brought back for a second performance.


Sound Designer, Musician, Author... G.W. Childs has worn many hats. Beginning in the U.S. Army back in 1991, at the age of 18, G.W. began learning electronics, communications and then ultimately audio and video editing from the Department of Defense. Upon leaving the military G.W. went on to work for many exciting companies like Lu... Read More

Discussion

Gary Hiebner
Excellent tips G.W Childs.

You never know when Murphy's Law kicks in.

Thanks for the tips.

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