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Essays, articles and/or commentary, sometimes with links to other sites…


Breaking Out of Solitary Confinement

November 29, 2017 • By

Recently I was listening to this episode of Inside Strategic Coach -“One Thing Every Entrepreneur Needs: Community”, a podcast aimed at entrepreneurs. The discussion got me thinking about a particular phenomenon I’ve observed among struggling live sound engineers far, far too many times over the years. A common scenario that so many of us encounter early on, which can condition many people to remain confined to the lower rungs of the industry (the bar circuit and small clubs), is that nearly all of us start out working in isolation and seldom get to work side by side with other engineers. Most of us got our start mixing in bars, cafes, open-mic nights or in very small venues that only require one engineer to run both FOH and monitors for any given show. And, performers at these small venues don’t arrive with their own, exclusive engineers. So, why is that a problem?

I firmly believe that the biggest pitfall that can result from rollin’ solo in the very beginning is that when compared to the relatively inexperienced performers that we’re often working with at that level, we can be incorrectly perceived, much too soon, as an “expert” or “authority” in our field. It can become way too easy to believe we’re a lot better at the job than we really are. Expectations are set pretty low in this part of the biz and very few outsiders would ever know enough to seriously challenge or question our knowledge, abilities or methods. After all, at times we’re practically miracle workers in a high stress, trial-by-fire job that very few people want. Because of these conditions it’s entirely possible to slide by in the beginning with a pretty limited bag of tricks and even very little fundamental knowledge about the physics of sound while still believing we’re the smartest person (and the best ears) in the room.

Now, in all likelihood you’ve only come to Live Sound Tips because you want to go further in the world of live sound. So, with that in mind, I’m here to tell you that if you do want to get to the next level in live sound (or any business, for that matter) you simply cannot work in isolation any longer than necessary. The best way to avoid ending up frustrated and spinning your wheels is by not letting yourself get comfortable as that “big fish in a small pond”. Finding a peer group where you can compare notes, share ideas, acquire greater knowledge, learn new techniques and (IMPORTANT!) unlearn any bad habits is crucial for the advancement of your career. What Dan Sullivan refers to in his podcast as the stifling “rugged individualism” within entrepreneurism is the same thing in the live sound world that will keep you stranded at a very unsatisfying level that is likely to be way beneath your potential.

One observation Dan Sullivan makes about cooperation between highly successful entrepreneurs which also jives with my observations of successful live sound engineers is that there is more open and honest talk that’s intended to help advance everyone in that peer group. The right group of colleagues would gladly nerd-out and share information with you; they’re not trying to keep you in the dark and they want to learn from you as well. This gives you opportunities to fill in gaps in your knowledge base, acquire new skills, learn about gear (both new and vintage) that wasn’t previously on your radar and even clarify or shore up your existing knowledge by teaching and communicating it to others. And none of this feels like a competition where someone has to lose.

I do have one caveat about networking and trying to meet more live sound engineers. On the occasions where you do find yourself meeting them you need to be keenly observant about whether or not they are someone working toward a compelling and interesting future in the business or if they are simply someone whose only achievements (or attempts) are now behind them. I think we’ve all met that middle-aged guy that’s a failed, former-musician-turned-engineer who constantly mutters under their breath and bitterly glares at everyone on stage because they believe they are the one that should be up there performing, not mixing. That is a person that has operated in isolation far too long and lost all perspective. The successful engineers you’ll meet aren’t afraid to talk openly about challenging situations or strategies that didn’t work whereas the unsuccessful ones never admit any failures or wrongdoing of their own and frequently resort to shit-talking about others as the only way to try and make their self look good. And I know you do NOT want to become that person. So please listen to this Inside Strategic Coach episode, mull it over and let me know what you think and if you got anything useful out of it.

Thanks for checking in!


Going Above & Beyond Expectations

March 25, 2017 • By

Fellow live-sound professionals, in recent weeks I’ve been enjoying a new podcast I found called ‘Starts With A Vision’ by Isiah Fowler. His talks and interviews, while not about professional-audio, are really interesting and informative. I specifically want to recommend listening to SWAV Episode #20 because the topic Isiah discusses (“Get more from your job than just a paycheck”) directly relates to an all too common problem that I see stifling careers every day (and not only in the world of professional audio!). This massive mistake I’ve seen a ton of people make over the years is not adequately preparing themselves for new opportunities to reach the next level in their career. Too many people hope that if they occupy a job long enough that someone higher up will eventually offer to open new doors for them despite the fact that they’re not taking any initiative or demonstrating they’re ready for that new role or responsibility. As if merely showing up and waiting long enough in one job entitles you at a shot for something bigger because it’s now “your turn” to advance. That is simply not the way the world works.

If you want to advance in your career you have to not only strive to be the best while doing your job but also spend a good amount of your free time studying, practicing, rehearsing and preparing yourself for that next level opportunity. Think about the performers we mix on our stages. Musicians repeatedly practice and study music far more hours per month than they actually spend performing. Comedians write and rehearse material for many more hours than the length of the final stand-up set they perform. Professional speech writers, motivational speakers, business coaches and spiritual leaders toil for countless hours to perfect the delivery of a pep-talk, speech, presentation or sermon that may last for 5-20 minutes. Yet I know VERY FEW audio engineers that invest time in becoming better at all things related to audio electronics when they are not “clocked in” on the job.

When that next-level opportunity comes how will anyone know or even suspect that you are the person that is ready for it? Most of my biggest opportunities were not simply the result of turning dials and pushing the faders up and down. My greatest opportunities came because of how many times people saw me come to a gig an hour early and take out a soldering iron and start fixing things that were broken. Or staying late to clean up the messes other engineers had ignored night after night. Or the times when someone else couldn’t figure out an issue with a piece of gear and I opened my laptop where I already had roughly 1000 pdf manuals and repair schematics of every kind of pro audio equipment you can imagine. All of which I’ve actually read in my spare time over the last 15+ years. Those are the qualities and traits that led me from mixing at my very first punk rock dive-bar show to mixing on tour for 20,000 a night in only 3 years.

The point here is that when you arrive at a gig you should be there not only to perform the minimum work required but to go above and beyond expectations, including fixing or improving those unexpected situations others failed to notice or anticipate. When you start doing that consistently, along with trying out new gear, investigating new mixing techniques, training your ears, reading technical manuals and learning the fundamentals of electronics and acoustics from textbooks (all in your own spare time, of course) then you’ll find that a lot more opportunities will not only present themselves but you’ll also have the necessary confidence to rise to that next level when they do. Quite simply, there is no “luck” in this business. Being in the “right place at the right time” is the end result of your intent and level of preparation for the next big move. Your studying, practicing and preparation are what will separate you from bitter losers that are stuck with lousy gigs in shitty venues because they won’t put in more than the bare minimum each day. Let them continue to think that by virtue of time or “seniority” they’re eventually owed a raise, promotion, tour offer or a gig at a bigger venue. Meanwhile you’re cruising past them by constantly improving your skills (both technical skills and “people skills”), increasing your knowledge and bettering yourself as a person.

If what I’m saying here resonates and makes sense or maybe even validates your own experiences and observations then please let me know. And if you enjoyed Isiah’s ‘Starts With a Vision’ podcast then I can highly recommend all of his preceding episodes as well. I really like what the dude is doing and recommend subscribing to his podcast and following him on your preferred social media platforms. As always, I thank you for checking in (and sharing) my Live Sound Tips!


Marie Forleo says, “Start _before_ you’re ready.”

March 10, 2017 • By

Friends, when I set out to become a successful, full-time live sound engineer at the age of 35 with no formal education in audio, no money in the bank, no industry connections and no other backup plan I was certainly _not_ ready. But I was so fed up with my old life that I knew I had to make a drastic change and pay whatever price was necessary. Rarely, if ever, will you be truly “ready” for the challenges in life that will help you advance to the next level. So if you’re still hesitating about getting your feet wet in the audio world or you’ve already started but you’re afraid of taking on the challenges that will get you noticed by the people on the next tier up, please watch this video by Marie Forleo and consider following her on your preferred social media platform(s). She’s one of my favorites and a huge inspiration for me starting

Rock on!


Fake it ’til you make it

March 1, 2017 • By

Because Live Sound Tips is mostly aimed at beginners or even some intermediate level engineers that are simply looking to further their careers I need to stress to all of you the importance of something called the “Pygmalion Effect”. If you want to become a specialist like a “Front of House (FOH) Engineer”, “Monitor Engineer”, “Systems Tech”, “Wireless Coordinator” or any other highly differentiated role in live sound then you really need to adopt that job title as your new identity, even if you’re not quite there yet. It will affect your confidence and how you approach your new opportunities and it definitiely influences how others will percieve you in various roles.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Fake it until you make it”. Well, that is essentially what this is all about. When others expect more from us we are likely to rise to the level that will meet their expectations. So why not do the same for ourselves by raising our standards? Watch Vaughn Kohler, professional author, coach and public speaker, give a quick video explanation with a very interesting personal anecdote about how powerful it is, in the link below (or you can read the transcript). And then let’s get back out there and make the next gig even better than the last one!


Opportunity is Everywhere When You Truly Engage with Others

February 28, 2017 • By

Vaughn Kohler, author and professional speaker, shares a very valuable perspective in this article and it very much relates to my recent video, “THE ESSENTIAL MINDSET FOR MASSIVE SUCCESS IN LIVE SOUND”. Too many sound engineers are either indifferent or downright rude to the performers they work with. We, as sound engineers, should look forward to meeting all the unique people we get to work with and treat those interactions like an opportunity for something great, not an inconvenience we have to grudgingly endure.

Please read his article and if you dig it follow him on your preferred social media platforms and also check out the awesome podcast he co-hosts, The MFCEO Project.



Personal Branding Is Important

February 1, 2017 • By

TODAY’S LIVE SOUND TIP: Recognize that you are not “just” an audio engineer, you are a _brand_ and you need to think creatively, work hard and behave ethically to build brand recognition and create demand for the skills you have to offer. Just having business cards and a resume on LinkedIn isn’t good enough. You need to take it a few steps further if you want to survive in the current marketplace.

Listen to this episode of Andy Frisella’s MFCEO Project podcast for a better understanding of how and why many people are getting overlooked or left behind when it comes to hiring. #TheMFCEO #MFCEOproject


Long range thinking

January 20, 2017 • By

Hey Friends, take a look at this old Bottom of the Hill calendar. 10 years ago this day I mixed Portugal. The Man for the first time. The next two times they came through the B.o.t.H. on tour I specifically asked to mix their shows again cuz I loved working with them so much. Exactly 5 years later (Jan. 2012) they were taking me on tour as their FOH Engineer in Europe (opening for The Black Keys) and Australia.

You always gotta think long term, people. Maybe right now you’re just mixing (or performing) in small bars or clubs but think of what you could be doing in 3, 5 or 10 years if you keep honing your skills and building positive relationships along the way. There are no shortcuts or get-rich-quick schemes that won’t leave you full of regret (and embarrassment) in the long run so always do the right thing and keep working on being your best version of yourself, even if you think you should be further along the path than where you are now. Just be patient. Like Gary Vaynerchuk always says, “Legacy is greater than currency.” 🙂


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.