July 22, 2011, 7:22 p.m.
posted by brevis
Podcast at an Event
Find out what's legal and ethical when recording at a live event, and how to record effectively so that your listeners get a sense of place and intensity.
Podcasting an event such as a concert, parade, sports event, or other activity with lots of excitement and a big crowd is a great experience to share with your listeners. Surprisingly enough, very often it's legal as well as fun. For public events, such as parades, you can record as much as you want (unless taping is expressly forbidden).
For ticketed events, such as concerts, the policy is a combination of the performer's taping policy and that of the venue. Phish and The Grateful Dead were well-known taper-friendly bands that even had taper sections at performances. This is called taper access. The tradition didn't stop there, though, as other bands learned the value of the free publicity of taping. Taper-friendly bands include the Indigo Girls, the Dave Matthews Band, the Black Crowes, Little Feat, Blues Traveler, and many others. GWAR allows taping, but I'm not sure what you would get. A complete list of bands that support taping is available at http://btat.wagnerone.com/.
Other ticketed events, in particular professional sporting events, are very protective of their copyrights and are not amenable to taping.
With taper access you can bring recording equipment with you to the show. There is often a policy against "pro" equipment, with some specification as to what defines "pro."
Particularly when bringing recording equipment to a concert, you should bring along a printout of the taper policy from the band's web site. This is handy for handling the private security at the door who might not know the policy.
Getting Good Sound
If you want to record the band itself, the best sound from an event is board access. This is the feed directly from the performers. Check the band's web site or contact their management to see if board access is available at the event and what the format is. Usually it's either XLR or RCA pairs [Hack #69].
Without board access, if you want to get a good recording of the concert, I recommend a stereo pair of cardioid microphones on a boom. Often these rigs are allowed in special taper sections where they won't obstruct the view of the band.
A podcast that's just a band playing is just a recording. If you want to personalize the podcast with your own voice, I recommend using a small lavalier omnidirectional microphone with proximity effect [Hack #13]. That will bring in the ambience of the event but give your voice good presence when you speak. These can work in combination with an iPod or iRiver, a mini-disc recorder, a DAT recorder, or another solid-state recorder [Hack #69]. Another option is a short shotgun microphone or dynamic cardioid microphone that you can point at the band to record the songs and then back at yourself to give your live reviews.
One way to add some color to your event podcast is to interview [Hack #33] the people you went to the event with about what they are looking forward to before the show, and what they liked about the show afterward.
If it's a lesser-known band, or the concert is a small venue, you should consider contacting the band's management to see about getting an interview before or after the show. It's always worth a try.