I’m not big on physical security for audio systems. Locked sound rooms and doors. Locking rack cabinets. Security Torx screwheads. Warning signage and sticky tape threats (Do not touch this knob!).
And we’ve all seen the locking rolltop desk that covers the entire sound system.
Why do folks do this? In a word – Fear. Fear of damage. Fear of loss of control. Fear of the unknown (if someone twiddles with the knobs – they’ll totally screw up the sound for this Sunday!!!)
Yes, a sound system is a significant investment by the organization, and it’s true that its misuse by untrained personnel could result in lots of financial exposure.
But it’s also true that the sound system is not a nuclear reactor. It is not rocket science or brain surgery. Running a sound system is a lot more like driving a car. It is a skill that can be learned with some training, observation, and experience.
It drives me crazy when I go into a sound room and see pieces of masking tape attached to the mixing board, the CD player, the video camera, or other gear with threats or warnings in black magic marker. Here’s some recent examples of ones I have seen: “NEVER TOUCH,” “DO NOT MOVE,” “ASK BOB BEFORE TOUCHING THIS,” “MAKE SURE FADER IS AT 1/3.”
I have to be honest here – if your sound room contains such messages, it is an indication of bad leadership. The sound techs running the console shouldn’t need those kinds of signs because 1) they’ve been trained, and 2) they know what those knobs do and what their optimal settings should be.
Here’s a wild thought. What if instead of trying to control everything and everyone, we instead fostered an atmosphere of freedom, learning, mentoring, encouraging, and trust? What if instead of investing in security hardware, we invested in the training and development of those who have an interest? What if our book of rules, administered by the cranky head deacon or defensive facilities guy were replaced by a much smaller set of rules, such as:
1. A single sign - “We only allow trained and approved sound techs to run our system. To sign up for training, please see John Doe.”
2. A requirement - All personnel who might have reason to enter the sound booth (music director, programming guys, theater operators, drama director, techs in other disciplines, maintenance staff, musicians, singers, etc.) must first go through audio training. This models the right thing to others, gives everyone a consistent baseline of learning, and prevents “accidents” from people doing ignorant things.
What’s the best way to learn how to run a sound system? The same way you learn to do anything else! Here is a great little system described by John Maxwell in the book, Developing The Leaders Around You:
1. I Do. You Watch. We Talk.
2. I Do. You Help. We Talk.
3. You Do. I Help. We Talk.
4. You Do. I Watch. We Talk.
Then you repeat these steps with someone else. This is how you build a team that is confident and capable.
Are there any circumstances where security hardware is prudent? Sure. The system processor is a part of the system that should not be adjusted except by a trusted professional. A security password or security cover is completely appropriate for this piece of gear.
Jeremy Carter is a veteran of the pro audio industry with extensive experience designing and operating church audio, video, and lighting systems.