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by Mark on 5/12/2004 (0)

Got American Idol fever? Wanna be in the music biz? I was a freelance soundman on the Cleveland circuit from 1992-2000. Thinking about a career in sound? Read on!

Jeeze, where do I begin? First things first. Sound mixing is largely a labor of love. Be prepared to work for cheeseburgers, if you're lucky.

1. Sound mixing don't pay much: The prerequisites for becoming a soundman (or soundwoman) are largely two fold. A strong aptitude for electronics, and a strong back. A love of music is usually what motivates one to delve into sound support in the first place, but once the seriousness and demanding technical requirements sink in, that love fades quickly, and can even turn into a wee bit of hatred. Be prepared to load and unload racks of very heavy amplifiers, main speakers, lights, staging, mixing counsels, cables and snakes into a rented U-haul at about 10:00 A.M. Friday morning, set up, run the show until 2:00 A.M. Saturday, tear down,truck the gear back to the wharehouse at about 4:00. If you're a rooky, or a freelancer, you'll make about 75 bucks for the job. The most I made ever, was mixing a stage show for the Painesville haunted house, about 180 dollars for the weekend. The reality is, so many jobbers are in the biz, the market is saturated by competent, well equipped 'amatures' who can do an ample job for about 50 bucks. Yikes!

2. If the band sucks, it's your fault: Get ready for this one. The reality of the live music biz, is that almost all of the bands you'll find yourself running sound support for, are, well...just o.k. talent wise. Fact is, they usually downright suck. Be forewarned: If the band members don't get a standing ovation, get ready for a beating; the Big Golden rule of music: the band will never admit to being lousy. If they get booed, it's because the sound guy screwed it up. It can get very lacerating, believe me.

3. Don't bullshit about your ability: He-he. Listen carefully, Jimmy. If you can't handle a gig, just say no! Start small. A Jazz trio or a solo guitar player in a small night club or Church are ideal for beginners. All you need do is set up the amps and speakers, fly a snake (cable bundle extension) to the stage and plug in the mikes and guitar. Nice and easy. Set it and forget it. Don't overmix or get too involved with the music. Nothing, -I mean nothing- pisses off musicians more than a dopey soundguy who tries to lay his own reverb, delay or other special effects on their scores. Talk to the musicians. Ask them what they do, how they do it, and what they expect of you. In 3 out of 4 gigs, just running a 'clean' show with no failures, cutouts or breakdowns is all they ask. Remember: You are not a member of the band, dummy!

4. Be prepared for equipment failures: Examine your equipment. You need to be able to problem solve on the fly. Most of the time you'll be renting equipment, and you'll find out last minute (last second more often than not) that the first 3 channels on the mixing counsel don't work, the wireless mikes aren't tuned correctly or the batteries are dead, cables are shorted and cut, etc. If a microphone cuts out in the middle of a song, you need to fly on the stage like Michael J. Fox, swap it out, and get back to the boards. Gotta be FAST skippy! Keep in mind, all the audience cares about is consistency. Most of the time, you'll be doing night clubs, and most of the people are there to get laid or get drunk, and really don't care much about the music, unless it cuts out altogether or repeatedly...and you can't figure ou

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