I’m going to talk about attitude. I know, there’s been a thousand pieces written on this topic in the audio press.
But my piece is different, dear reader. You see I have a degree in “attitude.” Actually, two of them. The first was bestowed when a prominent guitarist punched me (very hard, actually) in the upper shoulder saying, “I like your 'tude, dude.” It was not clear if the statement was ironic.
The second degree came to me in a dream. It appeared as a white bird, bathed in light, explaining to me that most people (especially divas and wannabe divas) would respond to kind, carefully worded statements that help them get their jobs done (and their paychecks flowing) instead of “I know better than you” forms of sly criticism. Who would have thought?
So I implemented the white bird’s strategy forthwith, and soon all sorts of other magic began to occur. What I really mean, however, is that it’s never easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Yeah, sure, we try to do it. But to what extent?
Imagine being 19 or 20 years old and suddenly confronted with the money, social power, and magnetically attracted hangers-on that are everywhere you turn, and also, at the same time, trying to write, or sing, or play something that resembles music. And more so. Being constantly under the firm guiding hand of your record label / road manager / business manager / attorney / CPA / father / mother / brother / house sound engineer / monitor sound engineer / et al. It’s no wonder that you might want to break loose at times.
Stardom is not an easy task.
I’m not defending reprehensible actions of 19-year-olds here, but rather, acknowledging that such actions do exist, and are not going to go away anytime soon. It’s the nature of the beast. Assertive young people who possess musical desires will, at some time or other (in limited quantities, thank God) become pop stars. And in the future, those that achieve such status, will be equally befuddled as their current counterparts are. It doesn’t make them bad…just difficult.
Our job as servants of sound, my brothers and sisters, must also include being practitioners of patience. We may make jokes about Him or Her behind their back, but that does really serve us? It certainly doesn’t serve them and what does it do to us? It separates and divides the energy that can make a show be the best it can be. And ain’t that what we signed up for? To make it all as good as we can make it? Or was it just to collect a paycheck? You tell me.
Our world as sound engineers can indeed span beyond the simple matter of making sound louder. As time goes by, and it certainly does alarmingly fast, we can take advantage of plug-ins to shape sound, and/or the decreasing cost of hardware helpers that do the same. But how do we know ‘how to do this’ if we don’t first understand the artist’s intention? Or if the artist is clueless, then we need to understand the producer’s intention, right? When you sign on for a tour, get in-bred (wordiness intended) with as many people as you can; all those who played a part in crafting the sonic experience that drove the record sales that ultimately fuelled the plan to tour.
Message to sound engineers – we are part of the creative process! We can, and should be, a trusted voice that assists the artist in achieving his or her best! We should help to refine the show, the presentation, the message, the ‘word’ (in religious environments), and in large part be able to report back about how the audience perceives that which is delivered to them. Is that not a more rewarding and personally gratifying way to approach your work than to make snide remarks behind the talent’s back?
Ken DeLoria has had a diverse career in professional audio for over 30 years. He has extensive experience of touring, product design and system engineering, and was most notably the founder and CEO of Apogee Sound Incorporated, a leading manufacturer of processor-based loudspeakers, amplifiers, and related equipment during the 1980s and '90s.
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