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Etiquette / politics
Old 30th April 2015
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Etiquette / politics

Hi all. Looking for advice here.
Sorry if this is long.
Scenario: you're the lead sound engineer at a small yet very well known/respected venue. Random local acts fill-the-calendar some nights, big names every now&then, average in the middle, maybe a really good touring band supported by whoever is better at kissing the booker's ass. Max capacity about 350, and that's really pushing it. Challenging room, very little margin, if you suck you're gonna suck really bad but if you're good and you get enough meat baffles in there it can sound ****ING AMAZING!
In 2 and a half years you feel you've contributed to the place, you do about 9 outta 10 shows that happen there, eventually you find the recipe that works for the room, bands compliment you every ****ing night to the point where if compliments paid the bills you'd be a rich man,outside promoters request you 'cause they acknowledge the difference, etc, everything is great.
You have to leave for a few months, they struggle/go through sound guys like a hot knife through butter (everyone good has got better paying gigs, typical flaky ****, not committed, etc)
You come back.
Management understands they need to have some sort of reliable backup plan/go to guy.
You happen to play in a ****ty band yourself.
First time you play the place you get one of the potential back up guys, it sounds like total ass. That's the last time the guy gets a shift.
A few months later, you play there again, you get to guinea pig another potential replacement/back up sound guy. (After you've trained him/given him the tour. He talks the talk like he knows his ****)
You check him out during the 1st band set, and he's struggling and making some fundamental mistakes. We're not talking personal taste or subtleties here. We're talking inserting a comp on lead vox and focusing on that (when you got a bunch of other major issues going on) without even realizing the comp was bypassed.
I guess what I'm asking is, what is the etiquette or the fine line between stepping on someone's toes, someone who's working but who's ultimately doing you a disservice by making your band sound like **** (when you're in there every ****ing night striving to make other ****ty bands just like yours sound as good as you can) and giving him tips? Pointers? Physically shoving him aside and doing what needs to be done?
I don't know anything, I got everything to learn but I feel that i really got that room dialed, if he's to be a potential replacement I want him to do well but how do i go about showing him what works for me in that room without coming across as a prick?
How do i communicate this with management without putting emphasis on his mistakes/lack of fundamentals but rather on the need for further training?
Thank you.
Old 30th April 2015
  #2
Lives for gear
 

You have just described the perfect senario to justify artist controlled sound mgt on stage! I've been doing it for a long time for the very reasons you are describing.
Old 30th April 2015
  #3
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edva's Avatar
There is unfortunately no "one size fits all" answer to this. It is more common than you might think. Unless there is an immediate danger to life and health, usually you can "catch more flies with honey than vinegar", i.e. usually it is better to not piss people off, but to try and reason with them in a positive way, and to show them how it is to _their_ benefit to do a better job. If you can show them it is in _their_ best interest, not yours, to perform better, you may be able to reach them.
Having said that, sometimes some people are simply "un-reachable", and in those cases you have to pick your battles, weighing the upside against the downside. Sometimes you do have to fight for what you believe in, usually figuratively, but on rare occasions, literally. Last resort type of thing. In about four decades of mixing, only two or three times have I had to physically remove someone from behind the console. Not a pleasant experience, and very situationally dependent. If you can get the point across in a civil manner, and instruct them on what you want done, and get them to stick to it, that is obviously preferable. If you can, find an engineer you like and trust, and get them on the schedule. If you know someone is incapable, try to replace them.
Take the high road, do not embarrass yourself in the process. Showing is better than telling. Conversation is better than sulking. There is strength in numbers, try and recruit more people to your point of view, and bring pressure for the changes you seek. Usually people will respond if they see that everyone else agrees with you. If the problems persist, keep up the pressure.
It is a difficult situation. Not the end of the world though, so don't let it ruin your capacity to enjoy what you are doing. Sorry I don't have a better answer for you. Good luck.
Old 30th April 2015
  #4
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edva's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
You have just described the perfect senario to justify artist controlled sound mgt on stage! I've been doing it for a long time for the very reasons you are describing.
Good post. Absolutely, if you can afford to have a manager, who actually has good ears, and the necessary "people skills" to stand at FOH and direct the mix, that can sometimes be an effective way to force an improvement in the mix. Good luck.
Old 30th April 2015
  #5
Gear Head
 

Can you go up to the guy and say, 'hey, we've played this venue before and our band sounds great when it's mixed like this'?

I mean that way there's no confrontation, you're just stating your preferences and can even give a subtle bit of 'this is how it's done.' Surely as the band, if you come across as having some input as to how you want to sound, rather than (as you fear it might come across) punting him across the room and handling it yourself, that's seen as a good thing yeah?
Old 30th April 2015
  #6
Lives for gear
My question is why management is not addressing this themselves? Do they just not hear the problem? Do they not pay enough to keep decent operators?

The real source of the problem may not necessarily be the guy sitting at the board.
Old 30th April 2015
  #7
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edva's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
My question is why management is not addressing this themselves? Do they just not hear the problem? Do they not pay enough to keep decent operators?

The real source of the problem may not necessarily be the guy sitting at the board.
Could be several answers to this. On the plus side, they may be trusting that everyone knows how to do their job and how to be responsible for doing so. They may be more concerned with service and comfort for their customers. Etc.
However, especially in small clubs, on the negative side it is possible they simply do not know what they are hearing. Or, they may have other priorities, like getting high, drinking, and chasing 'tang. Or keeping a close eye on the cash register to avoid losses. Or...... Unfortunately, it happens. Good luck.
Old 30th April 2015
  #8
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Wyllys's Avatar
 

The problem in this case is that nobody really cares about the audio or knows how bad it is compared to what it should be. As long as they can sell alcohol and the bartenders/waitresses don't have to yell to be heard they'll be perfectly happy.

It's a bidness thang...
Old 30th April 2015
  #9
We generally have our own sound man when we play, but in those cases that we don't I'll typically take the time to go over our general setup and what we've found to work best for us ahead of time and during the sound check...pretty much tell him how to run the board for us. That tends to make things work out better and I don't really get a lot of resistance when I do that.
Old 5th May 2015
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by dunedindragon View Post
We generally have our own sound man when we play, but in those cases that we don't I'll typically take the time to go over our general setup and what we've found to work best for us ahead of time and during the sound check...pretty much tell him how to run the board for us. That tends to make things work out better and I don't really get a lot of resistance when I do that.
This is key - bring your own soundman, period. Some guys are great and many are not, but if you have a decent soundman of your own you will get more consistent sound which leads to more gigs.
Old 5th May 2015
  #11
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marQs's Avatar
 

I've given up long time ago when playing with my own band. If the dude on the desk is not capable of creating an at least bearable sound I won't be able to teach him in 30 minutes anyway. Good way to train humility

Luckily our music is pretty controlled, dr/b/git/vox with clearly worked out arrangements - actually someone would have to work hard to make it sound really bad. But it has happened and it propably will.

In the case described, with a location in need of backup soundguys it's probably a good idea to choose one or two of the best and do some real-life training with them. Get a willing band on stage and do non-public training where you can make suggestions, introduce the lesser experienced guys to some common problems and interdependencies, show them best practice. Major shortcomings often originate in uncertainty (how to handle this and that), are fed by myths and sometimes even education ('xyz does it this way'/'I've learned that...') or are simply lacking routine (fast troubleshooting in live situations).
Old 5th May 2015
  #12
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wado1942's Avatar
 

This is the problem when people have too many tools available to them too soon.

I would emphasize learning to listen and getting balance/tone correct without the use or EQs, compressors or any other tricks first. Those corrective tools aren't there to make the sound, they're there to help the sound.
Old 5th May 2015
  #13
Gear Addict
 

OK, since it was YOUR SHOW that the soundman ruined, I don't understand your hesitation/worries about getting in the guy's face and reaming him out. You're not being a prick, you're defending your interests. It would have been better in the long run for the guy, you and maybe even management (if they noticed) for you to have raised a fuss the instant the show was over. If you had gotten in the guy's face he would have known instantly that he screwed up and that there were consequences for doing so. I imagine in the future if he kept working there he would do anything to avoid a public reaming out. Since you chose to do nothing, the guy will probably keep working there. In his own mind, he might even think he did a good job. And he might even work a future show of yours. Part of this is your fault since you say you trained him. Obviously you didn't do a good job at that. Protect your interests! No one else will.

I hate to sound like the ex-New Yorker that I am, but since I moved to the West Coast I'm constantly amazed at the fear of confrontation in people, even when they've clearly been wronged as you were. People at restaurants who receive the wrong order would rather eat it and say nothing than raise a fuss and get what they ordered. And when you do raise a fuss to get what you ordered, people act like what you've done is bad manners when you're just protecting your interests. Just don't get that.
Old 5th May 2015
  #14
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MoneySound's Avatar
What if you put a standing offer to all the "guinea pigs" that you have experience with this challenging room and you're happy to help if needed? Hire the guy who swallows his pride and takes you up on it.
Old 6th May 2015
  #15
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Aisle 6's Avatar
You can gauge how teachable the new recruit will be by the way he responds to some positively spun questions.

How do you think you went tonight?

This question will let you know how much he wants to talk to you about the process and wether he/she deserves your time and input. No use wasting your time on someone who is not interested. You can usually pick the guy who has potential in this scenario.

Good luck.
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