| By Dave Whalen |
In my last article, I outlined the many advantages of doing live sound, and how it will help you develop your skills on a technical level. That’s all great, but what if I were to tell you that’s not even the most important benefit? There is an even greater advantage, and I’ll tell you what it is.
Are you ready?
That’s right, you’re actually going to meet real people and make their bands sound good. For a bunch of folks who sit in a dark room listening to a 4-bar phrase on loop for three hours at a time, this is a huge deal.
I mean… Learning how to dial in a snare compressor in ten seconds is great and all, but nothing can compare to actually meeting and dealing with real-life, honest-to-goodness people, and all of the benefits of interacting with them – such as:
You’re going to meet some good contacts:
When you think about it, there are a lot of people involved in putting on a show. There’s the venue owner (if it’s a small venue you may interact with them), manager, promoter, and, of course, the band. These people represent contacts which collectively make up your local scene. Doing sound for various places in your scene is going to put your face in front of a lot of bands. They will inevitably know that you make things sound good for money. All that’s left is to make them sound as good as possible… And possibly hand them a business card while you’re talking.
You’ll get to show off how you work:
All of the great new friends you’re making at tonight’s bar gig are going to see, first-hand, how you handle yourself when it’s time to bring it. As a guy who feels a little awkward talking myself up in a way that’s not pushy or irritating, this is a big deal. To me it’s the most natural setting to showcase your chops, because everyone is there just doing what they’re being paid to do. All you have to do is be awesome.
From setting up, to switching bands, to when it’s time to wrap it up, you are in the “invisible spotlight.” You’re responsible for making sure everything on your end goes smoothly and the band sounds amazing. If you do it right, no one will even know you’re there. In the end though, the band will appreciate what an effortless experience it was to play their show. (not like the last guy who couldn’t get the monitor mix right)
I can say as a band member, a sound guy who can keep things running smoothly is always appreciated. My band always took $20 from our haul for the night and tipped an awesome sound guy.
It could land you some recording gigs:
Like I mentioned before, you’re going to be in front of a lot more people, doing your thing. This is a great opportunity to let the bands know that you’re also a recording engineer. Don’t be ham-fisted about it though. You don’t want to force yourself onto them in such a way that it becomes a turn-off. Let it come naturally in conversation. Eventually word will spread about your studio, and you will finally be able to take over the Tri-State Area!
You’ll get lots of practice being nice to people who suck:
You may have heard of the lead singer who stops in the middle of every song to complain that he can’t hear himself in the monitors and gets super frustrated. Or maybe the guy standing on stage, behind the mains, critiquing you mix because he would rather monitor through the house system than through his “monitor.”
Then there’s the guy who walks up to the mix console and says, “Hey that sounds real great. Is there too much reverb?” Seriously dude, either it sounds great or there’s too much reverb. Pick one.
Actually, don’t say that. Just smile and nod.
Please note, all of these guys are likely to actually be the same guy.
Let’s face it, not all people are awesome – in fact, I have a fairly low tolerance for suckitude. People are created for relationships however, so knowing how to deal with difficult people in a graceful, amicable way will help you in all facets of life. You may as well practice while you’re doing something you love and getting paid, it makes it less painful.
You’ll get the opportunity how to troll people with style:
If it happens that you’ve tried “human relationships” a few times and have decided that it’s just not for you, live sound is a great avenue to be able to completely troll people, in style. Turning the bass player down and screwing with monitor mixes comes to mind.
Or you could disconnect something somewhere in the chain which completely disables the lead vocal mic from the house system and the television broadcast. I don’t actually think guy was trolling, but if he was, it was epic. Either way, he probably won’t be engineering for the Grammys again.
If you do choose to use your position of ultimate power for the trolling of all musician-kind, just know that you’ll only be able to do it a few times before venues magically find another guy to do their sound on a consistent basis. Consider yourself warned.
You’ll be able to do all of this while making some extra money:
This is possibly the biggest advantage of all. After all, that new Distressor isn’t going to pay for itself… And after you buy it you can invite all your new friends to the studio to check it out.
So the next time you think to yourself, “Self, what can I do to meet people, show them what I can do in a way that’s not pushy, practice patience and problem-solving, potentially mess with them, and get paid for it?” the answer is clear: go get hooked up with a live sound gig.
You can find some of his work and other production/mixing tips on his website – The Mix Shed.
You can read “You Should Be Doing Live Sound – Part 1” here.
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