Trudi Knight // bandsonstage: Blog en-us (C) Trudi Knight. All rights reserved. NO reproduction without permission. [email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) Tue, 13 Feb 2024 16:20:00 GMT Tue, 13 Feb 2024 16:20:00 GMT Trudi Knight // bandsonstage: Blog 119 120 Photographing an acoustic show First published October 2016

Here’s the background to last night’s sudden change of plan - thought I’d do an ‘evening in the life’ thing. Some of these notes I made on the train last night, the rest I put together on my way to work this morning.

Around six weeks ago I photographed an artist at the venue I work at. The gig was recorded live and sold at the end of the night. I was contacted a week or so later about licensing photos for the artwork of the proper release of the CD (with the live recording tidied up, gaps and tuning breaks trimmed, etc.). All this was still in progress, then yesterday lunchtime I received an email - was I free to photograph the Union Chapel show that night as well? They were recording for another live album and liked the idea of having continuity in the style of photography.

Yesterday was due to be my last night at home until Sunday, but I’m not about to turn down a paying gig at a lovely venue that results in work being published, so after ascertaining that I could definitely make it home and get to the venue in time, I said yes.

I left work at 4.30 (my boss is really great, he insisted I give myself extra travel time), went home, packed my camera bag, and was back out of the house six minutes after getting there (a new record for me, I think!). I trotted down the hill to the station, stopping briefly to hug Jason who was on his way home, and got myself to Union Chapel via two trains and two tubes, arriving at 7.20pm (showtime 8).

I was shown where the base camp was (production line CD case labelling was in full flow and there was a row of CD duplicators waiting to be fired up), and was given my pass and my instructions - first three songs of each 45 minute set from the front, then I was free to roam the venue. Unlike the previous show, this was wholly acoustic.

This was the only curveball of the night. A seated acoustic gig can be one of the trickiest things to navigate in gig photography. Luckily this ain’t my first rodeo! :) Here’s what I’ve learned, and what I put into practice.

One man with a guitar in a massive church renders your camera shutter as loud as AC/DC’s stage cannons. You can’t just fire away as you would at a plugged in gig, and that creates an extra layer of complication - as well as the timing of movement and expressions on stage, you also have to think about timing things so as to not disturb the atmosphere (and the paying audience!). You listen for crescendos in songs so that you can get away with clicking when things are slightly *less* quiet. Wait until the song ends and people clap (this can also be when you get more variety of expression from the artist), then move to your next vantage point before the clapping stops. Wear rubber soled shoes and dark clothes and try to be a ninja (luckily I was already prepared for that part as I’ve been to the venue a few times!).

First thing first, I nipped down to the front to decide which lens(es) to use, then spoke to the people I would be nearest to, to apologise for any potential movement and sound during the first few songs, and reassure them that I wouldn’t be there for long (I did the same on the other side of the venue during the interval).

The gig started, and for the first song there was a white light behind the artist that was illuminating the front of the crowd. I felt very conspicuous at this point and stayed as small and still as I was able to. He asked for it to be dimmed after the first song as it was a distraction to him, but not before I’d used it to get some nice partially silhouetted shots and a bit of deliberate lens flare (all good for shot choice and variety).

I then moved around the venue as stealthily as I could, making sure that key vantage points were covered with both telephoto and wide angle lenses at various points during the show. I made sure to include a number of shots that showed as much of the (very picturesque) venue as possible.

When the remit is specifically album artwork, it’s sensible to take photos with lots of negative space, so that there are more options for overlaying text, so I made sure that was covered as well.

During the interval I checked in to base camp and had a quick chat to make sure I was getting what they wanted, then repeated the drill during the second set. At the end of the night we discussed delivery and invoicing, then I headed home. I was home at 11.45pm, and asleep having edited everything by 1.30am (it was a really quick turnaround because the lighting was constant and not much editing was actually needed).

This morning I got up at 6.15, gave everything a quick check to make sure my eyes hadn’t been playing tricks on me when I was tired, set up the folder on my website and uploaded the images before work. I’ll make contact and tie up loose ends in my lunch hour, and then that’s it, job done!


[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) Mon, 11 Dec 2023 01:08:42 GMT
First arena shoot First published November 2018

This is the story of my first arena shoot.

When this show was announced, the artist hadn’t been to the UK for a decade, and the last time was at Hyde Park during a time in my life that me and large crowds were not the best of friends.

When the O2 gig went on sale I was really torn. £75 for the cheapest seats, released when a spare £75 was a) not available without busting the credit card out of retirement (big fat nope), and b) over my self-imposed limit for ticket prices (my brain has had a really hard time moving on from 1990s prices). So I decided that I would wait it out and cross my fingers that a) the cheap seats wouldn’t sell out, and b) I could rustle up £75 before the event. As is usually the case, I squeaked excitedly on Facebook about the gig announcement and rambled on about my photography bucket list.

For a while now, I’ve been on the contributing photographer list for a big webzine, but had only done a small handful of gigs for them due to them having a large pool of photographers, gig allocation being ‘first come, first served’, and most contributors being online more than me, or at least a lot quicker off the mark when gigs were announced :)

One of the people who read my Facebook post was my editor. No promises, he said, but if he could find a reviewer he’d apply for a photo pass for me. I really wasn’t convinced that anything would come of this, but a few weeks ago, jackpot! Thank you!

So suddenly I found myself plunged into exciting, unfamiliar territory - finally, my first ever arena gig after almost a decade and a half of gig photography, and a bucket list one too!

The day before the show, I discovered that it was a mixing desk shoot, which I’d sort of been expecting/dreading. I find mixing desk shoots to be a very silly concept, especially in this era - literally everyone in the arena has a mobile device, and photos and videos will be spewing out in their thousands in real time, yet the press is put in a tiny pen half a mile from the stage. I’m of the opinion that if artists want to put restrictions in place that basically punish the press for wanting to publicise them, they should just say ‘no photographers’ and hire one of their own to handle the media distribution.

Anyhoo, I digress.

I knew from friends how things generally work for photographers at the O2. You are escorted in and out. You can’t stay to watch the support act, you are escorted out, and wait outside to be escorted in again for the headliner. After the first three songs you have to be escorted out again. If you have a ticket to the show, you have to check your photography gear in at security before you go back in; you’re not allowed to take your gear to your seat.

As I was photographing and not reviewing, I knew that there was no guarantee I would even get a ticket, and so I resigned myself to knowing that my bucket list show could well consist of three songs with an obscured view from half a mile away, then straight back home on the bus to drown my sorrows in pasta.

I went to the gig straight after work (having photographed a colleague's graduation in the afternoon, talk about contrasts!), and as I was pretty early, did a recce of all the entrances/exits I would need to find later in the evening. At 6.30 I went to find out whether I had a ticket in addition to a photo pass. The very nice lady at the box office said that I was welcome to stay for the show and handed me a ticket from the top of the pile. I thanked her and walked away, glanced at the ticket (fully expecting it to be up in the gods at the back) and… holy crap, block A, 11 rows from the front! Jackpot!

I walked over to door A were we were meeting the PR rep and getting our passes. Then came surprise #1 - a contract. Ugh. It’s all very well getting emailed a contract days/weeks in advance, but minutes? A contract that stated that you may only photograph from the mixer (fine, we already knew that), the photos could only be used in conjunction with the review (no website/portfolio use allowed), and that the artist could have free use of the photos (REALLY not fine). The thought did actually cross my mind - I could blow this one out, store my gear, and just enjoy my free ticket. But, in the end, I signed (I’ve only ever done this once before) as I didn’t want to let my editor down; he’d gone above and beyond sorting the pass at me. I reasoned that we’d only be publishing a few photos with the review, which the artist would most likely have no interest in whatsoever (you’ll understand why when I get to the next part of this story), and I’d just go in and enjoy the majority of the show.

I messaged a friend who I knew was also shooting to warn her about the contract, and some attempts were made to renegotiate, but no joy.

The time came to go in to shoot the support band. I won’t deny it - I did get a bit of a tingle walking into the arena and passing by the photo pit. Restrictions notwithstanding, I was still pretty damn excited to be there at all! Then I saw my ‘home base’  - the mixing desk. A few dozen rows back, with six of us penned into a little teeny corner. It was a bit grim - with my biggest lens and a 1.7x teleconverter, I *just* had enough reach to zoom in sufficiently.

On another technical point, camera shake is a problem when you are using a heavy telephoto from a distance (especially when you have weak arthritic thumbs); the shutter speed as a rule needs to be fast enough to compensate for the unsteadiness, e.g. if I’m shooting at 300mm I’ll try to be at 1/300 of a second.  In a club gig that kind of speed is rarely if ever possible, but in glorious arena lighting? No problem! I was also able to sneakily rest one elbow against the desk to stabilise myself, which helped a bit. The audience was sitting, everything went smoothly, but I started to worry about the main event. Bluntly, if people stood up, my 5’2.5” self would be totally screwed. Some of the other photographers came prepared with step stools - I have one, but when I hauled it out to bring with me that morning, I discovered that it was cracked and perished in places you do not want things to be cracked and perished when trusting them to hold your weight.

After the first three songs we were escorted out, and then had an hour and twenty minutes to kill before being taken back in. Now you can see how glamorous the life of an event photographer truly is(n’t!). The O2 was very draughty, my circulation was crap, food was expensive, and I really didn’t want to kill what was left of my phone battery at this point. So I mooched around, and discovered that since I last paid any attention, a fancy shopping mall linking the O2 and the Intercontinental Hotel had been built. I am not a fan of shopping, but the big sweeping staircases are nice and they provided me with plenty of exercise to keep me warm. One of the security staff rolled eyes at me a bit on my third trip up and down the stairs (but in a good humoured way).

My friend (who’s a full-time press photographer) arrived shortly after 9, and before long later we were all escorted back into our tiny pen. The desk I was leaning against previously had been cleared away, and we had more space! This did me precisely sod all good, though, as there was nothing to lean on, everyone was on their feet, and EVERYONE in the few rows in front of the mixer appeared to be a rather tall, wide, bloke. Worst case scenario.

For the first song my view was that of a tiny disembodied head appearing randomly between the shadowy shoulders of giants. I contemplated giving up, then gave myself a talking to and tried moving around to get a better view. Progress! I manage half a torso and the top half of a drum kit. Then a hint of saxophone. In despair, I started to take pictures of the video screens. This went on for the rest of the first song, and I started to giggle at the absurdity of the situation. I envied the really tall photographer who had also bought a step elevating him to 7’6”, and started to covet the monopods and big stepladders that usually annoy the crap out of me when I see them being used in places where they're not necessary - all of a sudden they seemed like entirely reasonable things to bring to a gig (I have now resolved to buy myself a shiny new step the day I am next confirmed for an arena show).

During the second song, ny friend came to my rescue and shared her step, and I had a 90 second frenzy of trying to make sure I had some semi-usable shots in the bag. I thanked her profusely and offered to donate a kidney if she ever needs one. We repeated this step sharing for song 3, and miraculously a few of the taller blokes also took their seats, so I was briefly able to see what the band looked like. Technically, somewhere during all this I also got a jump shot, but due to the obscured view, you can’t see any legs. But I know I got it :)

What happened next? We were escorted back to the arena entrance, so I talked to security, exchanged my camera bag for a cloakroom ticket (having first taken out and pocketed my purse, phone, door keys and memory cards), and ran back in to find my seat. My seat was freaking brilliant and would have set me back £120 at full price, so Mr Artist, if you do use one of my shitty blurry photos taken from half a mile away from a borrowed step, I’ll just consider that to be payment. But I won’t hold my breath for your call!

The set was everything I could have wanted, songs I have been listening to for practically my whole life, complete with the Vegas-y razzmatazz of pyro and confetti cannons and even a bit of a marching band interlude, and I spent the almost hour that remained bopping around in my seat and having a whale of a time.



[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) Mon, 11 Dec 2023 00:58:11 GMT
Finding your voice (First published in 2014)

I have had some great questions on my Facebook page over the years, but this remains one of my favourites.

'All your photos are recognisably yours - even if they had no watermark. Is this intentional?'

My burning-the-midnight-oil answer was: ‘My editing process is almost identical whatever the circumstances, so it's part that I know what I want, and part gut feel - I wouldn't know where to start on making them not look like mine! I'm not using state of the art gear, not overly fussed with the technical side, and probably a hell of a lot sloppier in that respect than a lot of people. If it feels right then it stays.’

Apparently I wasn’t entirely happy with this answer and my brain was mulling it over more in my sleep, because the next day I woke up with more to say.

I don’t have, and never have had, a favourite music photographer or a specific influence. I honestly don’t pay that much attention - I can’t, it would drive me absolutely nuts. I have seen many, many great concert photos (which I’m sure my brain has taken note of and filed away to an extent), but an early self-preservation technique was to try to avoid getting too drawn in to what other people are doing/have done. Why? Because I know myself well enough to know how easily I hit self-destruct. ‘Not good enough’ are words that rattle around my head constantly if I let them.

I became a lot more content with what I was doing once I forced myself to confront my hangups about how things ‘should’ be, stopped looking for ‘good examples’, stopped caring about whether my stuff was 'better' or 'worse' (again, so subjective!) than the next guy's, and just started to feed my desire to do something I loved in a way that felt right to me.

I stopped being afraid of not being perfect, and decided to trust that I am technically competent enough to not screw up too horribly on a regular basis. After all, it's supposed to be fun, not a form of torture! I still want to bin everything on at least an annual basis, but something has always happened to drag me back in before I've reached a tipping point.

Essentially I want my photos to look like my memories (which are warm, rich, colourful and occasionally fuzzy). I love to see exchanges of emotion. I like silly stuff, moments of joy, messy truth. I want to demonstrate as much of the emotion of a gig as possible. I want to be able to point to a picture and say ‘that’s what it felt like’. That's what I want the people IN the photos to come away with too. Sometimes, I get it right, and that's probably the main reason I haven't packed it all in - I know that the next significant moment could be just around the corner.

I usually favour colour over black and white. I also don't 'clean' pictures - stage furniture is messy. Microphones and leads get in the way. If there's none of that in a gallery it's not going to be a true impression of how things were. Also I overshare. Common advice (and common sense) is to limit the number of photos you publish, but that's never been how I roll.

Final words: unless you're shooting to spec for a client (which is an entirely different kettle of fish!) shoot what you care about. Be present. Immerse yourself. Make something that’s yours, that feels right to you. If you believe in it, chances are that feeling will be communicated to others. Nothing is ever as satisfying or as motivating or as authentic as doing your own thing. I think that’s the key to your work becoming recognisably yours. 

[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) authenticity emotion identity influence motivation Mon, 23 Oct 2023 06:25:00 GMT
Keeping it fresh (first published in 2016)

A couple of weeks ago I was scrounging a ride between gigs, when the question was posed "how do you not tire of shooting the same thing again and again?". At the time I (hope that I) managed to explain myself *reasonably* adequately, but the question was clearly filed away by the brain cell for further rumination, because I woke up thinking about it a while later.

Answer - no two gigs are ever the same. Photographing a wide variety of bands is great, but there’s something I enjoy about spending time with the same people that’s very different to photographing a band as a one-off. Different venues, stages, lighting conditions, lenses, viewpoints...the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes in the way people interact from gig to gig...each night is is self-contained and unique. Some days bring challenges, others can be serendipitous in nature (and that’s all without mentioning having the time and space to build a level of trust, which should never be taken for granted).

I guess it’s my equivalent of changing up the set or changing an arrangement, finding a different groove, going off-road, or bringing up different guests for different songs.  Essentially it comes down to colours and shapes and expressions, and where the mood and my gut take me. If things were the same night after night after night I’m sure there's a chance that I’d eventually run out of steam...but that hasn't happened yet.

[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) diversity inspiration photography variety Sun, 22 Oct 2023 20:25:00 GMT
Publishing and sharing (First published in 2013)

I publish a lot of band photos on social media. I like my photos to be seen, not to gather virtual dust on a hard drive. I like being able to get instant feedback (and dopamine, not gonna lie). I love the potential of the knock-on effect of publishing live concert photos - someone might feel inspired to go to a gig, or listen to a band they haven’t heard before. It’s great being able to promote the shows of bands I love to the communities that I am part of. I love it when sharing images starts a chain reaction of conversation that results in tickets or merch sales or the growth of a fanbase. 

I have met and photographed some fantastic people and had some priceless experiences because of connections I’ve made online through sharing my photography, and some of the relationships that have built are very dear to me. A lot of my friends are musicians, or the friends and families of musicians - the support network, the people who can’t necessarily go to the gigs because they are holding the fort at home. I often share so that they get to feel part of it too.  

But damn, it can be tricky to navigate. Music photography can be bloody expensive and time consuming. Exposure on social media is NOT a fast-track way to paid work (I can count on one hand the number of times that's happened in all the years I've been doing this). But as anyone in a creative role will have experienced, people are just accustomed to consuming media for free.

The thousands spent on equipment, time invested in learning, improving, developing a style, seeking accreditation, travelling, photographing, countless hours of sorting and editing...none of that is really visible. 

There's so much more to be said, but the subject was supposed to be image use on social media and I'm already off-roading! 

In my enthusiasm to share content I'm beyond terrible at remembering to have this conversation - which I should always, always have upfront (and regret when I don't). Bottom line - if you like it enough to want to share it, please respect the wishes of the person who made it

  1. No screenshotting, cropping or editing. I upload images how I want them to be presented. NO GODDAMN FILTERS. Please. Especially not that cartoony crap. And the watermark is there for a reason.
  2. Share using the share button, use my name (it's written on every photo!) and tag @bandsonstage if you're reposting. This way I have a fighting chance of keeping track of where a photo is shared, and people can trace it back to me. 
  3. For any potential use elsewhere, contact me and we can talk fees.

I watermark images I put on social media with the copyright symbol, my name, and website address. Now, technically I don’t have to do this - copyright is automatic and exists as soon as the shutter is pressed. But there are still a lot of misunderstandings, so I do this to:

  • Identify myself as the photographer.
  • Make it easy for people to trace the source of the photo 
  • Prevent the photo being claimed by someone else as their work 
  • Prevent the photo from becoming an ‘orphaned work’

Is watermarking foolproof? Absolutely not. Photos still get used in all sorts of ways that haven't been agreed, and honestly it just drains the energy right out of me. Most people don't want to do wrong by you, and although this is no excuse, most problems arise from people not realising that there are dos and don'ts when it comes to using pictures that you find on the internet.

As aesthetically annoying as it is, adding my copyright watermark to each image removes ambiguity about where the photo has come from, makes a discussion with someone about the way a photo has been used a whole lot simpler. Also, if someone wants to commission me, license a photo for commercial use, buy a print...or, ya know, even just say thanks - they know how to find me!









[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) copyright facebook image theft sharing social media use Sun, 22 Oct 2023 18:25:00 GMT
In colour and in black and white (first published in 2015)

Have you ever read the assertion that 'the only solution' when faced with a wash of red lights is to turn images black and white? This is one of those trigger phrases that can send me in to full-on rant mode!

Maybe its a stubbornness thing, but when someone declares that something is 'the only solution', it needs to be challenged.

Black and white to me is a matter of personal taste, not a default 'fix'. What I'm questioning is not artistic choice, but the seemingly growing number of people who appear to be saying 'don't waste your time, black and white is the only way to go' when what they mean is that it's the least challenging, least labour-intensive way to go. My approach is 'shoot what happens and present it in the most authentic to memory way that you can'. I don't see in black and white (or filters), so 99% of the time I'll deliver colour. Which means handling the lighting in the best way I can. Challenges are good for us, they help us to learn!



[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) black and white challenge choice lighting red light Sun, 22 Oct 2023 18:15:00 GMT
Music photography tips: jump shots (First published in 2014)

I’m a big fan of jump shots, and it’s one of the aspects of band photography I get the most questions about. Nailing the elusive jump shot is a mixture of planning, good judgement and luck.

If you want to improve your chances of success, here are a few tips:

  • Research your band. Try to watch some live footage to find out how lively they are on stage. 
  • Listen  – sometimes, even with a song you’ve never heard before, you can predict where a jump might occur (If you’re familiar with the music, this is much easier).   

  • Learn to shoot with both eyes open – looking through the viewfinder is all well and good, but sometimes you get extra cues from your peripheral vision

  • Watch out for body language and stage positioning. Standing on the drum riser or a monitor can be a dead giveaway, as can looking at a bit of the stage a few feet away (or the ceiling!), or someone steadying themselves and bending their knees slightly.

  • Use the fastest shutter speed you can get away with, and if you need to use a slower speed due to bad lighting, try to pan with the jump to stand a better chance of getting a sharp shot.

  • Don’t be reluctant to use continuous shooting to increase your chances of success if you’re following a jump.

Good luck!





[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) band photography jumping music photographer Sun, 22 Oct 2023 18:00:00 GMT
Amateur Photographer Magazine - gig photography article Recently I was approached to contribute to an article in Amateur Photographer on getting the most out of photographing bands in small venues. It was a privilege to be asked, and they had some great questions! The interview took the form of an email Q&A which was then shaped into an article, with contributions from myself and Shona Cutt. The print version was in the issue dated September 16th, and you can read the article online here:


[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) advice band photography interview Tue, 03 Oct 2017 14:08:57 GMT
The Red Wristband Special Thinks rarely go quite according to plan, do they? 

In Dan's words:

"Long post warning-
Gang, I gotta take a leave of absence for the rest of the year. It's a medical thing. CLL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Knew i had it and it was coming but I thought it was a couple of years off. Not so. Older folks blood condition that wants to eat up you body and red blood cells as well as leave junked white blood cells like wrecked cars all over the blood stream. Inherited. Treatable. But debilitating in the short term when it picks up a head of steam, like now. 
Dern tootin I'ma gonna give it a fight. I got a good piece of stubborn in me, might as well put it to a decent use. 
The bad news is The Yayhoos shows, and the 2 weeks in the states and a month in Europe and England of db & HMS shows this year that I can no longer do. Sorry. 
I'll find a way to get stronger. Skip the damn crying emoji, please. It makes me feel like a death sentence. It ain't. One of the most addressable blood disorders. 
Besides, I'm the luckiest fucker any y'all ever even heard of, and I know it. 
Mick Brown has me set up in a nice English hospital right now, and am being treated to be well enough to fly home and start the real work. Great staff here at the hospital and this wacky idea that you shouldn't have to pay for it. Oh those crazy socialists! 
Shout out to Pete Mason for calling "its time, get his ass to the hospital ". 
Warner Hodges, Mauro Magellan and Micke Björk are doing the last 3 HMS shows as a 3 piece. Throwing it together to honor the dates in the back of the van rolling to the gig. Gentleman, you are truly what the good shit is made of. Certified dudes.
Now, if you don't put the top hat on the mic stand and play a huggy kissie/Freebird medley at least once I'll never forgive you. 

There ya have it. Dan will be off the road for the remainder of 2017 due to concentrating on kicking leukaemia's arse. On Dan's personal invitation Bluefields and Royal Court of China frontman, Joe Blanton is stepping-up to the plate to front Homemade Sin for the rest of the year.  In order to ensure that the autumn tour goes ahead as planned, the band are rush releasing a new CD as a 'tour support crowd funder'.

The Red Wristband Special features both sets from Dan Baird & Homemade Sin's recent show at Bootleggers in Kendal, UK, recorded on July 26, 2017. The CD also features four bonus studio tracks, plus a new demo from Dan. The CD will ship late August. 

Help us keep Homemade Sin on the road and order The Red Wristband Special. 26 tracks. Minimum price £15.

[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) cll crowdfunding dan baird and homemade sin double cd tour Wed, 23 Aug 2017 21:34:39 GMT
Road trip resources Disclaimer: this was published when the economy was a little less shitty (and obviously pre-pandemic). Most of this is still valid, but the waters are a bit more difficult to navigate now and there are fewer bargains to be had - but it can still be viable!

When I'm not photographing bands, I still spend a lot of time going to gigs. The bands I want to see don’t always play locally, so I often end up travelling. If they can't come to me, I will go to them if I can afford it. I love travelling, and have become reasonably competent at the planning side of things. This page is a summary of resources that I most commonly use. I know I'm probably missing a fair few tricks, but if anything here helps even one person who shares my stubborn mindset, that's my job done...

DISCLAIMER: This post won’t give you more money, or free time, or motivation, or find you a babysitter, or fix whatever other things stop you from getting to see bands…and it certainly won’t miraculously make them play in your home town… (for a really good read on the subject of why bands play where they play, I used to direct folks to Hayseed Dixie's Live Tour Primer but this is sadly now a dead link). I'm in the UK, so I've concentrated on 'local' resources but you can take these ideas and apply them anywhere.

When a band I really like announces a tour, I usually start out by looking at the state of my finances, laughing hysterically, plotting to sell anything left in the house that's not nailed down, and thinking about buying lottery tickets. Once all that is out of my system, I open up my calendar, make up a shortlist of dates that looks like it could be realistic (to start with that includes any dates on weekends, and if in the UK, anywhere that can be reached in a couple of hours, so that I can avoid using up too much annual leave in one hit). Then I start to figure out whether I can actually make travelling to any of them work. I like to set things in motion as far in advance as possible so that I can spread the costs out (and have a few months to figure out how to raise extra money if I really want to make something happen - eBay is more definitely a factor in a lot of my plans). It's not always possible to do things on a shoestring, but if you do the research, you can improve the odds dramatically.

Over the years it's become a game to see how far a limited budget and finite amount of annual leave can be stretched, and success often hinges on whether I care about getting a full night’s sleep (I've used overnight buses from Glasgow or Newcastle to London on a Sunday night and gone straight to work from the coach station on Monday).

UK travel

If driving isn't possible, or is prohibitively expensive, I use National Express  and subscribe to alerts on thetrainline in the hope of nabbing a cheap train ticket.

Going further afield

First I get the big picture: travel planning sites such as or are connected to a bunch of travel (airline, train, bus, coach, car hire) and accommodation sites, and will suggest routes and prices. Goeuro even allows you to specify any discount cards that you have for modes of travel that it suggests so that you get an accurate price reflected. Both sites will connect you to the site that handles bookings for your chosen mode of transport. It’s far from foolproof - some operators won’t timetable or book journeys that are too far in advance, and earlybirds may not always get the best price (depending on whether services have set schedules for releasing cheaper tickets), but it gives you a quick sense of what might be possible.

I use these sites to get a ballpark figure and get an idea of how much travel time & money is going to be needed, then go to the individual travel companies (or alternative ones) to price and possibly book each part of the journey individually.

It's ridiculous, but using budget airlines to get to venues in Europe and Scandinavia can be cheaper and faster than getting to many parts of England (the first time I did this was to go to a gig in Paris in 1994 when the artist wasn't coming to the UK or Ireland).

Google flightsKayak or Skyscanner are all useful to get initial info about airlines/price ranges for your potential destination and dates.


I always look up the venue, then go to , which is really useful when it comes to advance planning (with perks for frequent users). I use the map view to see what's closest, weigh up locations for convenience, and always look for deals that allow you to pay nothing upfront and change/cancel the booking free of charge until a day or two before the booking date. It can be a little more expensive than the pay upfront, non-refundable options, but I've had to make enough cancellations due to unforeseen circumstances over the years that I'll often err on the side of caution (it's sometimes possible to book a non-refundable, cheaper room closer to the day and then cancel the original booking, but that's not a given). and can be good budget options for some locations if know your plans are unlikely to change.

There have been occasions where the original intention has been to stay up overnight and get the earliest travel option the next day, but I always check on arrival for last-minute bargains. My favourite was booking a room in a 4* hotel for £28 while we were on the bus from Dublin airport, meaning that we could get a shower and sleep for a few hours before heading home. 

Other thoughts:

  • Asking friends, family and connections on social networks for help/recommendations is always a good bet. I've been a part of some great fan communities on the internet for many years now.  These can be great places to find gig buddies and transport buddies. People often post up alerts when they see cheap tickets going on sale, or if they have last minute spares, train tickets they can no longer use, extra seats in their cars, etc. Obviously you need to exercise a bit of caution, but J and I have met up with countless people over the years to facilitate getting to and from gigs, hosted people and been hosted in return, and made lifelong friends.
  • Research your destination online - if I'm going somewhere I'm not familiar with, I always look up the venue and accommodation on Google Street view so I'm not flailing around figuring out what to do when I arrive, and check walking distances and alternative travel options between key points.
  • Look up food shops, cafes and restaurants in the area - in Madrid thanks to a bit of research we found a great Mexican restaurant behind the venue we were going to which was open 'til 2am, great for post-gig snacks and cheep beers for those that wanted them.

  • Look for accommodation without breakfast, and pack some instant porridge, or shop locally for picnic food. Alternatively if you're heading somewhere that food and drink is comparatively expensive, an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast option can be worth more than double what you pay for it.

  • Travel as light as possible so that you can comfortably walk around your destination without needing to stop by your accommodation first.

  • Find out whether airport bus tickets can be bought cheaper online in advance.

  • If you need airport parking, try to book it more than a month in advance if you can - there's a massive price hike the closer you get to your departure date

  • Are you going to a city with bus passes/travelcards/multi-trip savers available?

  • Join membership/rewards schemes for hotel chains etc - perks may include things like include 10% off for direct booking, occasional free room upgrades, free wifi, early check-in or late checkout. Also sometimes cheaper than comparison sites.

  • If you're travelling in a group and don't mind room-sharing, many hostels (such as Danhostels in Denmark) have private rooms that will sleep 4-6 adults comfortably.

  • Hiring a car can sometimes work out cheaper than public transport for two or more people, depending on your destination and travel dates (approach this one with caution).

  • Check cashback offers provided by your bank! This month I got 10% cashback on airport parking by booking with my debit card and earned Avios at the same time by adding my reward number to the booking.

I will add more to this as I think of it, but spending a few extra hours planning can really pay off in the long run.

[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) adventure budget creativity gigs resources road trip travel Wed, 24 May 2017 09:53:56 GMT
Stolen gear Not a fun update, this one.

My camera bag was stolen at a bus stop in Manchester on Saturday October 31st 2015 just after 4pm. The police have been informed, as have local camera shops and second hand shops. The bag and contents are as follows:

  • Tamrac 5584 Expedition 4X Backpack
  • Sandisk Cruzer Glide 128gb USB flash drive 
  • Nikon D600 camera body Barcode on box # HC1301011154 (HK import) - not sure if this is correct for serial # but is in the right place on the box.
  • Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens Serial # 3021819 
  • Nikon 14‐24mm 1:2.8G ED NIKKOR lens Serial # 299679
  • Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S NIKKOR lens Serial # 705162
  • 3xEN-EL15 Lithium-ion Batteries
  • 1x EN-EL15 battery charger
  • 3x SanDisk 32Gb SDHC memory cards
  • 1x mini usb cable
  • 8x AA batteries
  • 1x blue 2Gb ipod shuffle 4th generation (engraved with my name and mobile number in the back)
  • 1x black Sennheiser earbuds
  • 1x Apple iPad mains charger

The bag had a business card with all my contact details in the front top left pocket.

I got off the bus with a suitcase, camera bag and two other bags. The handle of one of my bags had broken so, thinking I was alone at the bus stop, I put everything down by my feet while I fixed the broken handle with gaffer tape, which took my attention for less than a minute. I picked everything up to cross the road to my hotel, and realised that I was a bag short. There was nobody in sight.


I found out later that contrary to the signs on the bus stop, there was no CCTV covering the exact area, so there's no way of identifying the thief. Also, because I had reported honestly exactly what happened, my insurance did not cover me as I was not technically mugged.

My heartfelt thanks go out to the music communities of which I am a part, who helped me to keep working; the friends who called to check up on me and those that looked after me for the rest of the day, and over the period that followed. It may have been a shitty event, but I learned a lot about how great people can be.

[email protected] (Trudi Knight // bandsonstage) band photography crime police serial numbers stolen camera stolen lenses theft Tue, 03 Nov 2015 15:43:04 GMT