Why You Should Invest in Your Own Stage Lighting

When being an independent artist, your budget can be a little tight. Any money you typically make will go right back into merchandise, your gas tank to get to your next show, or if you’re lucky enough a recording. However, there’s one element that is often missed by artists that can enhance the experience of your live show; increase sales; and create a more memorable performance and that is Stage Lighting.

Playing live is one of the best parts of being a musician. Question is, what can you do to step-up your live show? Here’s why you should invest in your own stage lights along with some recommended hardware you can use.

Nine Inch Nails Live
Nine Inch Nails lighting setup

Investing in stage lighting creates a memorable experience. You may hear fans of the bands like Nine Inch Nails or Tool often rave about their lighting show. Granted their lighting is professionally done; they have their own techs; and have thousands to invest in it but, the fans leave the show with an experience. Any artist can play a show. If you’re able to create a show with stage lighting that syncs to your music, it’ll resonate with the audience.

Depending on what you’re looking for with a stage lighting, costs can vary. Do you want a couple of lights to go with the sound of your music? Do you want something that someone will control for you. Or, maybe you want something completely automated that will run while you play. However you wish to approach a stage lighting set-up is entirely up to you. Below we will discuss a few different options available to begin your stage lighting set-up.

Simple Sound Activated Stage Lighting

There are a plethora of lights available that are sound active. Sound active is the ability for a product to react a certain way though sound waves. Brands such as Chauvet or American DJ have various lights that are sound active. These are great to start off with as the cost isn’t too high and you can adjust the microphone on the lights to hear more or less music.

When I first started off with stage lighting we were using two Chauvet LED RGB ColorPalettes. We would place each one on either side of the stage and adjust the sound active settings and color accordingly. When the lighting was set for sound active, the music created a spastic lighting experience which is fitting for intense music. It’s an easy way for the lighting to go with your music. The reactive element of the lighting isn’t 100% spot on but it’s close enough to appearing synced with the music.

Hire a person/friend to control lighting

Another option to have more controlled lighting is to hire a personal lighting person or friend to help control the lighting. You could have this personal essentially be an additional member to the band and even have them do sampling as well if that’s your thing.

When hiring a light person often it does come with a cost. If you’re making a decent guarantee a show where you can afford to pay towards a lighting person then this may be the option for you.

Midi-Triggered Automated Stage Lighting

This option is a little more advanced and can be time consuming. However, the great part about having midi-triggered lighting is that it’s fully automated. You create a midi track, insert the notes that go along with beats/rhythms of the music, and then just hit play. This is great because it saves you from hiring a lighting person. For this approach you’ll need a series of interfaces along with a DAW to create/play the midi.

What you’ll need to get started:

  • Laptop (PC or Mac)
  • DMX Controlled Lighting (Chauvet, American DJ, etc…)
  • Midi to DMX converter/interface
  • DMX Cables
  • DAW (Ableton Live, ProTools, etc…)
  • Wireless adapters (optional but recommended to cut down on wiring.)

I won’t be going into detail on how to set up this kind of lighting because it’s very comprehensive. However, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube which will explain how to set up this kind of midi-triggered automated lighting. Below is an example video.

In Conclusion

There are plenty of options for lighting. If you’re looking to just get started with lighting I recommend sound active lighting. But, if you’re an advance DAW user then maybe midi-controlled lighting is the route for you. No matter the approach you’ll take, having lighting for your live set adds an extra feeling that goes with the music creating an audio and visual experience.

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