Instead of being arrogant…communicate!
The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.
Maybe you’ve seen this comic from Q2Q. In it, an unhelpful audio operator flatly refuses to increase a monitor send, and then condescendingly justifies himself by claiming that doing so will make the show sound bad.
To quote The West Wing: “This is why good people hate us.”
It’s been pointed out that Q2Q is a comic about theater, which has different norms for sound reinforcement than Rock And/ Or Roll. It’s been pointed out that the omnidirectional microphones commonly used in musical theater productions aren’t so great for “folding back” into monitor world, because they’re…you know…omni.
I know all that. It’s irrelevant.
What’s on display in the comic is crap behavior and poor attitude that should be unacceptable on any professional crew. Folks, if you are an audio human, your job is TO HELP PEOPLE PERFORM. It is not to get your own definition of the perfect mix at the expense of everyone else, whilst simultaneously acting like you’re the grand ruler of the universe.
If your defense for flatly refusing a change on deck because it will make your precious, FOH mix sound “bad,” I have some words for you: Cowboy the heck up. Work those channel EQs to find a decent compromise. Roll those high-passes up and create an acoustical crossover between the stage wash and the FOH PA. Bus your vocals together and insert an EQ there. Audio craftspersons are paid to deal with the difficulties involved in making as many people – sometimes with conflicting needs – as happy as possible. (Within limits, of course, but the more-monitor issue is 100% within those limits.)
Further, if you are physically unable to make a request happen, I can assure you that treating your performers with contempt for making the request is the wrong idea. Get your butt out from behind the console, and go talk to someone. Take 10 seconds to explain why there’s no more gain-before-feedback available to the system, or that you’re out of sends, or…whatever it is. It’s not their job to know all that stuff by heart – it’s yours.
…and yes, it is your job to be able to interface with the players and kindly educate them when necessary. In other words, you have to recognize them as human beings who are actually capable of understanding what’s going on. If, after doing so, you’re still getting ridiculous demands, you still have to be a professional about it.
After 22-ish years of doing this, I’ve learned many things. One of the most important things is that top-shelf production support is really not about having all the biggest toys, newest whiz-bangs, and being able to say that you’re a crack operator of [insert large-frame console here]. Those things help. They are sometimes necessary. But they matter very little without the basic elements that so many people alarmingly miss: Showing up on time. Doing what you said you would do. Caring about the show. Taking the performers seriously. Being pleasant. Treating people like actual people.
I’ve walked away from shows that I didn’t think went very well with people still being all smiles, not on the force of “mad mixing skillz,” but just being willing to give a thumbs-up and take a crack at whatever was asked for. So, be nice. And if someone asks you for more [something] in the monitors, at least try, please.