I’ve been in live sound for about 20 years now. This weekend is going to be another challenge as I’ll be mixing 3 gigs in 3 different places on 3 different equipment. Luckily on 3 separate days though…
The real challenge is to quickly adopt to every situation. Which is easier said than done. The first day you might have a really good PA system with ample headroom, the other day you might get some utterly hideous so-called system which is really only wood with some speakers randomly screwed in.
Sadly the second scenario is more likely, though I admit that the last few years have been somewhat more positive. But if you happen to have the worst case scenario, you’ve got two options:
- Remain calm, solve problems
Obviously the first option wouldn’t help. You’ll just trapped into your own anger, loosing control over things, even screwing up things by yourself. This leads to nowhere, or the end result is disaster.
In my experience that is the key. Your job is to figure out the best possible way to solve problems, to save the production. This is why you are there. It does not mean that I like these things, but let’s be honest, there are many things you simply cannot change. Instead of that, focus on the things you can change.
For example if the stage crew is not really cooperative, you can simply mic up the band yourself, put their monitors into the right positions, etc. I know many of you say that it’s not my job… Which might be true that it wouldn’t be your job, but right now, the whole scenario is very different from the one you’ve imagined before. This is the time when suddenly everything become your job!
The best thing you can do is to very quickly prioritise what need to be done, and start doing it as soon as you can. This is the only way to save the day.
Develop your professional calmness
It’s not easy. The very first and obvious reaction would be anger, but believe me, as soon as you let your feelings rule the situation, you lost the game. But you can train yourself. Without sounding like a Zen monk, you can create these imaginary scenarios before they happen, and with this you can think ahead. Plan the things you would do in a situation like this.
After this mind game and with some practice, you’ll be more prepared to fight these things. The first few occasions might not go that well as you’ve planned, but with each solved situation you become better and better at this.
Learn from the fellow industries
This is a great opportunity to learn a few things from the post production guys. In post, damage control is a “daily habit”. Solving problems that one might think of unsolvable is the part of the job. The calm, analytical thinking can help a lot. Breath and think it over. Never forget your aims and do whatever it takes to turn a bad thing into a good one. It’s hard, sometimes unbelievably hard. But if you focus on the things that really matters, you’ll prevail and solve the problems.
From the 3 different places the first one I met a very nice crew, but they were not full time professionals, so needed more guidance. There were a few mislabelled monitor lines, a few mics that was at the wrong place, etc. But with a little patience and a bit more active collaboration everything has been solved. We were short of wedges so we just positioned the musicians so they could heard the other better even without additional wedges. It took a bit more time, but it was a good solution, everybody had a good time.
This was an easy lucky day. When I arrived, all the things were already in place, working fine, sounding good. Nice, well tuned PA system, short soundcheck, good show. These are the rare days to be frank. Still hope the third day will be just like this, because that band is a bit complicated so I really need some good company who has seen things like this.
There are very, frankly, extremely few situations where you cannot radically improve things if you remain calm and professional. Those few occasions are the ones where you simply need the management to take care of things. All other occasions are solvable by you and you only. Most of the time if you keep a professional stance, others will help or at least try to help.
Know your stuff, be calm and nice, and don’t forget to solve the problems, do not create them.