Shit Bands Say.. the blog of a FOH/studio engineer
No, I won’t run your franken-PA.

Here is an interesting conversation I had with a member of a local band last week:

Band guy: “Hey man we were wondering if you could come run sound at a show we are putting on at our practice space.”

Me: “How big is the room? What’s the budget for audio? I need proper gear to put on a good show, and a lot of sound to fill a big room.”

Band guy: “The room can easily hold a couple hundred. There pretty much isn’t a budget. We will have to scrape together the money just to pay you.”

Me: “Ok, well are you going to rent a PA for the show?”

Band guy: “We have 3 boxes with 2x15” speakers and 3 powered heads. We can get more too.”

Me (LOLing in my head as I already know where this convo is going): “Do you have a mixing console, monitors, and 31 band EQs for the mains and all monitor mixes? Do you have amps for the 15s?”

Band guy: “No” 

Me: “I’ll pass on the gig.”

I get that a lot of people don’t understand what sound gear is necessary for putting on a rock show, but guys if you’re gonna put on a show that you charge people to watch, even if it’s at a practice space, do it right!!

'Don't assume things on my behalf. Stuff like: “It's going to be alright once he puts a compressor on it and some reverb”. If it sounds like shit now, it's still going to sound like shit when it's done.'    -Tue Madsen

If you steal gear at shows, you’re an idiot.

This post is in honor of a really weird experience I had recently. SM58 vocal mics get stolen all the time; I’ve had at least 3 get stolen during the time I’ve been running FOH. I’ve never had one come back to me until last weekend.

My stage manager returned a stolen SM58 to me. The guy that stole it was one of his roommate’s friends. He stole the mic thinking that it was Max Cavalera (of Soulfly/Sepultura)’s microphone, and when he found out it was the venue’s microphone, he just wanted to give it back.

Ok, first off, how stupid are you? If it was his mic, how would he do the show with no microphone? Do you think he’d appreciate you stealing his stuff because you like him so much? What the fuck.

So basically, if you see a microphone lying on the stage, leave it alone. Someone has to pay for that shit when it gets stolen, and usually it’s me. If you see someone in the crowd grab a mic off the stage, do the right thing and tell someone.

The bottom line is you’re at these shows to support the bands (and the venue if you like the venue). Don’t fucking steal from us! 

While I’m on the subject of ownership, be nice to the gear that you use at venue. Sometimes the venue owns the mics, but at most smaller places, the sound engineer owns all the mics. So if you fuck up/destroy a mic, it’s basically a giant slap in the face to the person that makes the show happen in the first place. Be respectful of the gear! I’ve watched people kick holes in the stages of smaller venues and knock shit all over the place. So stupid and ridiculous.

That’s all I’ve got for now, til next time…

You know you’re dealing with a shady promoter when…
  1. The promoter doesn’t pay taxes. Any company that is legit pays taxes on their income. You can search for a company on knowx.com, and if there are records found, chances are they are legit and pay taxes, and if not, well, you get the idea…
  2. However, just because they pay taxes doesn’t mean they’re not shady. Ask for references of bands they have worked with before to make sure you’re not gonna get screwed.
  3. If the promoter jets before the show is over=shady. They probably screwed someone out of money; either the band(s) or the venue. The alternative being that something bad was about to go down with the show (headliner not showing up or something) and they didn’t want to deal with the heat.
  4. If they put a TON of bands on the bill without even checking on the bands to see if they are any good. Someone who prefers quantity over quality is only after your money. Good promoters will put good bands on the bill that people want to see.
  5. The show is poorly organized. Good promoters will have a day sheet with set times (that they will have organized with the tour in advance, if this is a touring date), or at least a lineup and let the FOH engineer/stage manager/tour manager hash out the set times. “The show will be over when it’s over” is not an acceptable way for a show to be run.

Things you should do/not do at your band’s shows (aka how you should act when working with a good engineer)

I really feel like I could write a book about this but I’ll try and pin it down to the most important details. I’ll add to this post as I think of more stuff.

SHOULD

  1. Thank the sound guy. We like to know we are appreciated and maybe one band out of 10 on a show says thanks. We bust our asses to make you sound good! If you think we did a great job, we love tips, beer, and a lot of engineers smoke pot.
  2. Have all your gear set up and ready to go before you play. Drummers, this means your kit should be entirely staged, cymbals and all.
  3. Clean up the stage after your set. Throw away your setlists, broken drumsticks/guitar strings, cups, etc. The next band shouldn’t have to play in your trash.
  4. If you have any special requests, like using in ears, wireless mics, etc, let the engineer before your set so they can get it set up without rushing during a 15 minute set change.
  5. Be specific about your monitor requests. “I NEED MOAR MONITOR” doesn’t help me at all… there are usually at least 6 instruments going to each monitor mix. Ex. “The drummer would like more guitar” Don’t say “a little bit of everything.” SPECIFIC.
  6. Use appropriate mic technique. Your mouth should be touching the grill of the mic. If you sing six inches away that drops the volume considerably and we will have trouble mixing you. Don’t pull the mic away when you sing loud, let us control the dynamics. Yeah it looks cool and people do it on TV a lot, but with a compressor we can easily control the dynamics of your voice. If you are a germaphobe bring your own mic. I clean all my mics with listerine after every show, if it makes you feel better about it. The number one reason you won’t be able to hear yourself on stage is poor mic technique.
  7. Double the last point if you are a quiet vocalist. If you are really quiet, it is probably not possible to get your vocals over a loud backline without insane feedback and you should look into in ear monitors. If you buy your own mic, one with a hot output (like a Heil PR35 or Shure Beta58) will help out the sound engineer.
  8. If you have backing tracks, try and make sure they are properly balanced (all the tracks close to the same volume). Having too much low end in your backing tracks can turn a mix into mud really fast, so use it where it’s appropriate.
  9. If you want a kick drum tone with lots of attack, cut a hole in your resonant head for the kick mic.
  10. Be nice to the monitor engineer. He is the one person in the building that can ruin your band’s show quicker than you can say “mute.” Seriously, all he has to do is mute the monitor mixes in the middle of a song and walk off stage.
  11. Give your monitor requests one person at a time. It’s hard to listen to 5 people yelling at once. If another member of your band is talking to the MONS guy, STFU and wait.

SHOULDN’T

  1. Tell the sound engineer how to do his job. Ever. Most engineers are familiar with all genres of music and know how to appropriately mix your band. This applies to band members AND concert goers. 
  2. Move the microphones. They are in a certain place for a reason. Moving the guitar mic 1/2” can drastically change the guitar tone.
  3. Play over your set time. You’re going to piss off the other bands, the sound guy, and the promoter.
  4. Play while the engineer is miking up your guitar cab or drums. I don’t like smashed fingers or 120dB to the face.
  5. Swing the mic, if you don’t have your own cable and microphone. It destroys the cable connection and can potentially break the mic if it accidentally smashes into the floor.
  6. Hang out and talk to people while you should be moving your gear on or off the stage. You can do that after you load out.
  7. Stand on the monitor wedges. This pushes the grill inward towards the speaker (not good).
  8. Bring water (or any liquid) near the monitors. If water gets inside a horn it will corrode and ruin it.
  9. Tell the sound engineer how to mix from the stage based on what your fans in the front row say. We seriously don’t give a fuck what people are standing in front of the stage think. Most people don’t understand that sound moves outward from the PA cabinets; if you are standing directly in the center of them you are hearing mostly monitors and stage sound. Back up a few feet and the sound will improve! Large venues have center fills to provide vocals to the people directly in front of the stage. Most small/medium sized venues do not.
  10. Use duct tape on the stage. It leaves residue and is impossible to get out of carpet. The only acceptable tape for on stage use is gaffers tape. You can buy it for $5/roll at findtape.com
  11. Expect the sound engineer to perform miracles, like making a terrible band sound good.