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Proper etiquette for backlining gearWhat’s the proper etiquette for backlining gear?

The Roots’ drummer Questlove announced via Instagram that the band has pulled out of a pair of upcoming, high-profile David Bowie tribute shows at Carnegie Hall this week, apparently — and the details are hazy — because some other artist on the bill wouldn’t share their gear with The Roots.

First, the request to backline in this situation seems totally understandable. It limits the changeover time for each of the fifteen acts slated to play. Plus, The Roots probably would’ve had to rush over to the gig after taping The Tonight Show (as they do every day) at Rockefeller Center. Easier to just show up and play the backlined kit, right?

Anyway, someone wasn’t so keen on the idea and the band bailed out, feeling they’d been disrespected.

So, here’s my question: under what circumstances would you NOT let another artist use your gear? Don’t you feel like backlining is standard practice at a tribute show or fundraiser concert? What’s the proper etiquette for borrowing other peoples’ instruments, amps, drums, etc.?

Let me know your thoughts below.

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  • Tony Meade

    If they asked and it was agreed upon, then no problem. But I wouldn’t if they showed up expecting to use it without asking, or if they demanded it. Then, no.

  • The only potential circumstance I can think of where anyone would say no to sharing a kit is if the *borrowing* band had a bad reputation for taking care of their own gear. Or if there were personal beef. Other than that, it seems pretty petty, and not at all conducive to creating a great experience for everyone involved.

  • halacious

    I can’t see a reason for not letting another band use my gear (kit). That is, unless I caught one of their earlier gigs and the drummer was using mallets.

  • That’s what I was thinking. If you know someone likes to smash their guitar amps, I can see the hesitation, but otherwise it seems petty.


  • Paul Morhen

    Once played a battle of the bands competition (never again) and a band turned up assuming they could use all our gear without asking, they went on to win!

  • Must’ve been some magic in that gear!


    • Paul Morhen

      You’re too kind @ChrisRobley:disqus I think they were just better than us but still!!!

  • Ry

    Our band owns all its own back line and pays for maintenance on it all year round and knowing the costs and the constant touring maintenance alone we just cant afford to loan it to other bands.. we have on occasion but most musicians we have encountered don’t respect others equipment and when you pay for hard cases for everything to protect it even a small scratch is something you shouldn’t have to deal with. Be a good musician, bring your own, or the backline should be provided by the venue or promoters 😀

  • Randy Hansen

    The lead guitarist in my band has a Mesa Boogie Mark V which, for the uninitiated, is basically three amps in one with a hell of a lot of dials and knobs. He has everything dialed in for our stuff. Once we shared a bill with three other bands. The first band brought their own gear. The second band brought nada. Their guitarist played through the Boogie and changed every damn channel, effect and EQ that was possible to change, and very dramatically so. We never thought we’d have to say “Don’t tweak anything” to him, because common musician etiquette (and common sense) dictates that you don’t do that with other’s gear. Anyway our lead guitarist learned a valuable lesson and now has a photo of his settings on his I-phone.

  • Thanks for the tips Gary! The photo of settings always comes in handy (in the studio too).