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Paul

Bad-ass at The Bottom of the Hill, SF, CA.

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Being a Live Sound Engineer isn’t so hard

June 24, 2016 • By

Stop acting like your job is so damn difficult. Because if you’re getting paid to be an “audio engineer” it really isn’t. I know you’ve got your war stories from the trenches about those gigs that strained your limits, physically and emotionally. At one time or another, obnoxious or belligerent people have tested your patience and questioned your abilities, qualifications or work ethic. And it goes without saying that even when things go perfectly you still feel grossly underpaid. I know, I know, I know… we’ve all been pushed to our limits on the job. That said, none of it changes the fact that as an audio engineer you should be thanking your lucky-stars, counting your blessings, kissing the ground or whatever is your preferred method for expressing gratitude over the fact that you don’t actually have to work for a living. You get to do this.

I know some of you folks get really pissed off when someone like me has the gall to suggest WHAT YOU DO IS NOT “REAL” WORK. But I’m not afraid to say it because I didn’t start my career as a live sound engineer until I was 35 years old and prior to that I had nearly 20 years of actually working “real” jobs (and I hated nearly every minute of it). I had long been relegated to whatever mind-numbing, soul-destroying, menial drudgery is given out to a maladjusted guy with little education and tattoos on his hands and let me tell you most of that shit sucks. Bad. So over the last 11 years I’ve come to realize how lucky I am to now earn a living doing something where my worst day on the job is still infinitely better than nearly any of the best days I ever had while working in retail, construction, food-service, and warehouse jobs. So let me reiterate, if you are an audio engineer and you think your job is hard (bwaaaaahaahahaha!) then either you’ve just never experienced REAL work or it’s been so long ago that you’ve since lost all reasonable perspective.

Sadly, I see this lack of perspective from live sound engineers on a daily basis. Occasionally I hear it while talking with colleagues but mostly I see it whenever browsing any internet forums related to live sound engineering. It always starts with someone sharing their latest “nightmare gig” (pfffffft. Oh puhlease…) which rapidly devolves as more and more group members join the fray with stories attempting to one-up each other in the “I’m-so-overworked/underpaid/unappreciated boo-hoo” category. Venting frustration can be valuable when it’s done with someone close enough to you that can be trusted to help manage the process so it doesn’t spiral out of control. However, venting in public forums only tends to create a vortex of negativity where every added voice escalates the levels of frustration (not to mention delusions of persecution) and tends to create even more anxiety about ways in which things can further go wrong on future jobs. Rarely do I ever see someone on a live sound engineering forum posting about the great events they’ve been working at recently or the talented people they’re so fortunate to work with each day. It’s usually just a shit storm of woe-is-me or I-don’t-get-enough-respect-wwaaaaaaaaah.

Look, I get it, you put in a lot of effort and it would be nice to get a thank you along with your paycheck. You want things to run smoothly on the job and if someone else provides faulty equipment, doesn’t schedule adequate changeovers between acts, isn’t providing enough laborers for load-in or whatever myriad things are beyond your control you could get blamed when the show goes poorly. Being the audio person everyone intensely glares at in the booth (or side-of-stage) when things go haywire is very, very stressful and embarrassing. I’ve been there so believe me, I get it. Nevertheless, it still doesn’t change the fact that you’re not digging ditches or tarring roofs in 110 degree weather. You’re not trying to repair a busted sewer line beneath a house in a crawlspace full of rats and black widow spiders. You’re not scrubbing floors, cleaning toilets or mopping up puke at the local elementary school. You most certainly ain’t carrying a rifle and 50+lb. pack on your back in a combat zone where people are trying to kill you and your fellow soldiers. I could go on and on but rather than me listing thousands of perfectly “normal” jobs that are infinitely more fucked up than being an audio engineer just ask yourself this… Has your job description as an audio engineer ever required cleaning up or coming in contact with someone else’s blood, excrement, bodily fluids or organs? No? Then quit your fuckin’ whining on internet forums about what a “nightmare” your gig was yesterday!!! By the way, when is the last time you thought of the millions actually forced/beaten/coerced to labor as domestic servants or trapped in violent sex-trafficking situations. That, my friends, is a real nightmare. Kinda puts things in their proper perspective, don’t it?

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wake up feeling grateful that I don’t have to go to a job that brings me no fulfillment while dealing with people I can’t stand to be around. But if the day ever comes when I do have to return to that kind of work I’ll still know I’m luckier than most people on the planet. Every day I think about the billions of people that grind their way through each day, toiling away at something I’m simply not cut out for. I think it’s a damn shame that there aren’t a lot more live sound engineers voicing how fortunate they feel about getting to do what they do for a living. Complaining seems to be the default for most. Maybe if there were more of us expressing gratitude about the very privileged position we’re fortunate to be in then we could attract better people toward our chosen industry and weed out the bitter, failed, ex-musicians and wannabe DJs.

Like I said before, I get it. It’s entirely possible my gig yesterday went sideways just like yours. But spare the rest of us the histrionics and save the “OMG THIS GIG SUX! WHUT A NIGHTMARE!” thing for your own private, one-on-one conversations so you’re not publicly depicting yourself as the world’s biggest crybaby with a grossly distorted sense of reality. You’re an audio engineer and in the grand scheme of things YOUR JOB IS INCREDIBLY FUCKING EASY. If you can’t appreciate that fact then I recommend you quit and GO GET A REAL JOB. Because nobody is keeping you here at gunpoint.

I-Keeps-it-Real

About

My Mission

April 27, 2016 • By

Live-sound advice, tips, secrets and Jedi mind-tricks from an unconventional, rule-breaking, maverick audio engineer. With no prior experience, no musical abilities, no formal education, no industry connections and no money, I became a live-sound engineer at the relatively old age of 35. Exactly three years after mixing my first show for a few people in a dive bar I was on tour mixing for 20,000 per night. I have since gone on to tour around the world with incredible performers, all while holding down my dream gig as the Head Engineer at one of America’s most beloved live music venues, Bottom of the Hill. Most of the tips presented here are intended for beginner level concert audio engineers (and struggling musicians!) so they can learn the skills and mindset required to make their dreams come true.

Me at the 9:30 in DC

Videos

My #1 Piece of Professional Advice for Live-Sound Engineers

April 22, 2016 • By

Episode #1. After nearly ten years mixing at one of America’s most beloved and well respected live music venues this is what I’ve found to create more gratitude and goodwill from performers than any other method I’ve seen. It’s the easiest way to build rapport by showing you understand the needs and concerns of the performers on your stage. Hundreds of performers have personally told me just how much my simple yet powerful idea means to them and they wished it would become the industry standard. Please help me make that become a reality.

A huge thank you to the awesome Bob Dossa for all of his hard work shooting and editing around all of my mistakes and awkward nervousness while in front of the camera. You can find him and much more of his work at http://www.rainydayrun.com

Please share with engineers, musicians and/or anyone that performs with their voice. Thank you for your support!

You can also connect with me at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LiveSoundTips/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FrontOfHouseEngineer/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_at_FOH
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/live_sound_engineer
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/livesoundengineer