To Be Or Not To Be… A Part Of The Band

We are either creatively involved and sharing our passion, or we are just another tech.

By M. Erik Matlock September 1, 2016

Image courtesy of Tom Harding

One of the few bands I did regular shows with had a guitar player that may have been more obnoxious than me.

Granted, it’s not likely, but just play along for the sake of argument.

After sound check on one particular gig, he reminds me to turn his guitar up during the solos. “Bud, I’ve you covered. I’m in this with you. I mix like I’m part of the band,” was my response.

For some reason, that irritated him. He asserted that I was not part of the band.

However, when I asked him where that solo will be if I am not actively involved on some creative level, he eased up a bit.

That brought up an interesting argument that still seems to run through the industry. Are we part of the band?

I guess there are two schools of thought on this one.

No. The same way we are not technically part of whatever corporation hires us for a corporate gig, we have no real connection except as contractors. We simply work for them and detach when the check clears.

For most “hired gun” gigs, it’s cut and dry. We do the job and move on to the next one. But every gig isn’t like that. Some are more like thought number two…

Yes. Whether in the studio or at front of house, we add a creative element to the band that wouldn’t exist without us. We, as engineers, make decisions about improving the song, the presentation and maybe even the way the band is perceived.

This is especially true for engineers who are with the same band for years. Signature drum sounds, vocal effects and even image placement within the mix are rarely developed by musicians. If we are actively engaged, we will become an asset and a creative force within the band.

Both schools of thought seem to be influenced by the attitude of the engineer. If the job is seen as nothing more than another paycheck or a tag on that resume, the answer is probably “no.” It is basically the decision of the engineer, as to how he sees himself.

If the engineer has a sincere passion for the job, it creates a connection with the band.

Making sure the technical details are flawless builds confidence that the engineer is taking care of them. Monitor mixes dialed in so everyone hears and isn’t distracted, triggers better performances. Building a house mix that is “felt and not just heard” engages the audience and makes future ticket sales improve.

All in all, it becomes a partnership. They provide you with the opportunity to be paid for doing something you already love; you provide them with more than they are paying for. You are making them sound like professionals. You are giving them an edge that they can’t create for themselves.

So, the choice really comes down to our mindset. We are either creatively involved and sharing our passion, or we are just another tech.

Whether they agree or not, we have to make the choice to become a part of the band.

Senior editor .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years in live, install, and recording. Read more of his random rants and tirades here.

About M. Erik

M. Erik Matlock
M. Erik Matlock

Senior Editor, ProSoundWeb
Erik worked in a wide range of roles in pro audio for more than 20 years in a dynamic career that encompasses system design and engineering in the live, install and recording markets. He also spent several years as a production staff member and team leader for the largest non-denominational church in central Georgia, and served as an author for several leading industry publications before joining the PSW team.


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