Everything you ever wanted to know about Glow Labels but were too afraid to ask
(aka GLOW 101)
What they AREN'T...
As much as I hate to start by telling you what glow labels aren't, I need to tell you what glow labels aren't.... They are NOT some magic material that glows continuously as bright as a powered light (but without any power), enabling vampires to play in totally dark caves for hours on end! If that's what you're expecting, these are not the labels you are looking for (in my best Obi-Wan Kenobi voice).
What they ARE, Initial glow, Afterglow and how they work...
As a gigging guitarist myself, I can say from first hand experience that Glow Labels are the absolute dogs bollocks! They're a fantastic way to ensure your texts are as clear and easy to read as possible (I find them clearer than non-glow even in full daylight). Here's the sciency bit explaining how they work... Microscopic glow-in-the-dark (photo-luminescent) crystals in the material absorb invisible Ultra-Violet (UV) light from daylight and artificial electric lights (such as stage lighting) etc and then re-emit that energy as visible light over an extended time period. The UV energy absorbed is only very small in energy terms, with the majority of this stored energy burned off over an initial short period of time as a bright glow (called 'initial glow). The remaining energy is rationed and discharged as a dimmer, but longer lasting glow, gradually diminishing over an extended period of time (called 'Afterglow'). This makes them possible to read whenever lights go out on stage, at which point normal non-glow labels would not be visible. The labels continue to 'charge up' with stage lighting as you play and continue to glow whenever things go temporarily dark. They're also the dogs bollocks for non-gigging guitarists, just for the pure geek factor :-)
Useful or just a gimmick?...
So, are they really useful, or just a gimmick? Well, I've personally seen these in use by some absolute legends who rely on them for their stage setups to make sure they have the best possible visibility when things go dark, including Steve Vai, Dave Weiner, Stef Carpenter (Deftones), Larry Mitchell, Jamie Humphries (Lick Library legend, We Will Rock You and Brian May's guitar duelling partner on numerous tours). In fact, Dave Weiner (Steve Vai band) said to me:
"I LOVE the glow labels. We usually come out on a dark stage and the first thing I can see is the glow labels shining back at me - they're a great help".
(Dave Weiner, Steve Vai Band)
What's the best way to charge them up?
UV and Stage Lighting is what these are designed for, although you will notice them glowing after being exposed to sunlight or indoor lighting too (as long as it has UV content). For the stage, these continually soak up lighting and then, for the moments the lights dim or go completely black, the labels will shine back at you just at that crucial moment!
How long do they glow for?
Although the manufacturer of the glow material I use state they will emit a glow for up to 14 hours, (which is true - I've actually woken up at 3am with my board next to me still faintly glowing - probably best not to ask why I sleep next to my board), for practical use, I find the 'afterglow' period to be visible for around 20 minutes and, in real life gigging use under good stage lighting, they remain bright enough for a few vital seconds at the times the stage goes dark. Although the glow weakens after the intense initial brightness, they continue to charge up and continue to provide a useful afterglow for the next time the lights go out. The stronger your stage lighting, the more they absorb and the better they'll glow when the stage dramatically goes dark - usually just about the time you're about to pull off a face-melting solo!!!
What are they made of? Can I eat them?
The material I use is the best stuff you can currently buy on the market. Let's be clear on one thing - not all glow materials are equal! You can buy cheaper material, but the amount of 'stuff' they contain that glows, together with some other important things that I won't reveal here, determines their ability to glow and the length of afterglow. There are two types of Glow-in-the-Dark (GITD) techonology in use today - one is Zinc Sulfide and the other, newer, form is Strontium Aluminate. The afterglow with Strontium Aluminate lasts about 10 times longer than Zinc Sulfide, is completely safe and non-toxic (I wouldn't eat them though), and can be charged thousands of times over their useful lifetime. I use the highest quality Strontium Aluminate material currently in production.
I am a vampire. Can I keep them constantly charging and glowing?
Well, good evening to you! And yes, I know of a few people that have rigged up a portable UV (Ultraviolet / black) light for their board that keeps the labels glowing. Very cool. Hang on, I think UV kills vampires...