Proper Radio Etiquette

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Love it or hate it, Two-Way radios are the unsung hero of touring communication. The days of flickering a flashlight from side-stage should be left in the past where they belong. Although for some reason, when I’m handing out radios on the first morning, I’m unpleasantly greeted with sighs and grumbles. Let’s get to the bottom of it with this article on Proper Radio Etiquette.

Now before we find out if you can talkie the walkie-talk, we’re gonna break this up into some categories

  • Why You Should Wear A Radio
  • How To Wear Your Radio Properly
  • Accessories
  • How To Talk On A Radio
  • Do’s and Don’ts

Why You Should Wear A Radio

Not that it really compares, but I was listening to the Jocko Podcast‘s (Ex-Navy Seal) breakdown of a particular fatal situation that involved a police department making a bunch of mistakes. In this situation, the officer in charge didn’t have his radio with him and was unable to establish communication with the rest of his team. Obviously, on that scale, it’s a terrible no-no. But the point of the matter was that you need to be in constant communication with your team. They even went as far as to say… “When I’m in charge, I’ll grab my radio before even grabbing my weapon”.


Not that we should be worrying about life-or-death situations on tour, but I had an emergency situation this past year in which I needed to check in with the whole team one by one to ensure everyone had gotten to safety. I wouldn’t have been able to do that efficiently if we had to rely on our phones. Sometimes seconds matter.

Your Radio Will Work When Your Phone Won’t

We’ve all had signals jam up when you get a large number of people in a condensed area. If there’s an amphitheater close to a football game, chances are that your phone isn’t going to work and the show can’t wait for your service to come back.

Just think of all of the times that your AT&T account works perfectly in the woods, but for some reason, not in the dressing rooms of the club you’re playing at.


Just like in sports teams, the more chatter you have, the more in sync you are as a team. It’s much more professional to convey your message quietly over the radio without having to yell across the room. Your radio allows you to be quick and discreet.


It’s simple, it’s generally a loud environment, and you’ll need to communicate with someone who is either too far to hear your voice, or in another room out of site.

How To Wear Your Radio Properly

How you wear your radio says a lot about you. You can generally tell which position a person on tour works based on how they wear their radio. Here are the variations, (whether I agree with them or not)

  1. Standard (let’s just call this standard). Radio clips onto your belt, the handset mic/speaker crosses your back, and clips onto the collar or your shirt on your dominant side. This is by far the most common.
  2. Roadie Bra. This is a chest harness that can hold up to 2 radios. Here’s a link to get a visual. I gotta say, I picked one up on amazon to try it out when I was PM’ing and needed to wear 2 radios. Life changing. It keeps everything in front of you without stretching your shirt or weighing down your pants. My only suggestion would be to get 2… so you can send one out in your laundry without missing a beat.
  3. Holster. Same sorta practicality as the roadie bra, just keeps it off your chest. Link here for a visual.
    – Also, check out this dope holster that Andrea Howat sent after I posted Roadie Bra on the @roadiedictionary
  4. Fanny pack. This is my current mode of transpo for my radio. How terribly Gen Z of me.
  5. Any other way that you wear your radio is dumb 🙂

Radio Accessories

Just like how you wear your radio, which radio accessories you use will depend on what position you work. Some accessories are practical, some are pieces of flare. Here are some examples.

  1. Ear Piece. I rock this often. I have a hard time hearing my clarity on my radio. I combine my IEMs with an adapter much like this.
  2. Headset. When I’m PM’ing, there are often SFX cues that I need to hear clearly, I’ll wear a noise-canceling earmuff headset like the ones in the link here.
  3. Belt Pouch. If the roadie bra or holster is a little too much for you, some touring folks like to use a belt pouch and connect the molle webbing to a tactical belt. Link here.
  4. Connection to Audio Console. This is important. Linking a radio to the console so that the techs can hear radio calls while wearing their show IEMs is the best way to ensure proper communication.

How To Talk On A Radio.

This is subjective. Some camps are really chatty. Some camps only use their radios around show time. Brevity is key. The longer you talk, the more likely some of your messages will get cut off by either an external noise or someone else pressing the button. Speak direct and clearly at an appropriate volume. I’d suggest that you treat the handset like a microphone and not cover the capsule. Save that for your rap career.

Here are a few phrases that will keep you in the know when sitting on an active channel.

  • Copy That, 10-4, Roger. They all mean “I Understand”.
  • Come Again, Please Repeat. They mean, “I didn’t hear” or “I Don’t Understand”
  • What’s your 20? This means “Where are you”
  • Standby. Means I’m in the middle of something, please wait a second.
  • Meet me on 12. This means I need to relay info that isn’t for everyone to hear. Go to channel 12 where we can speak a little more privately.
  • <My name> for <Your name>. How you call someone.
  • Go for <my name>. How you answer your radio.
  • Be right back. Sometimes means you’re in the can.

Do’s and Don’ts


  • Be on the correct channel for your department
  • Change your battery every day. If you wait, it’ll start to die at an inconvenient moment.
    If your bus has a charger, make sure to put it on every night.
  • Turn your radio down or cover the handset when you’re standing beside someone talking on the same channel. Otherwise, it will feedback
  • Put on your radio as soon as you’re walking into the venue in the morning


  • Don’t leave your radio on when you’re not using it. This goes for the bus at night, or your radio will pick up something along the drive, or worse, start to die and wake everyone up. Digging in a junk bunk to find someone’s radio is no way to make friends.
  • Don’t leave it behind. These things are expensive. Treat it like you have to pay for it.


Now, remember… Please and thank yous go a long way. Use your manners and have fun out there.

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