As I move along in my position in life, philosophical questions and thoughts keep coming. For one thing, I wonder about whether or not to become a curmudgeon, you know, reminiscing about “back in the day” when equipment was real, when the challenges we faced became rites of passage.
But the question that’s been on my mind lately is “Do difficulties or challenges mean something was inherently good?” In other words, it was more difficult to move and set up systems 20 years ago than today, but does that mean it was somehow better?
One argument might be that we had to learn basic skills in order to even get a system working at all. Amplifiers and loudspeakers were separate units, connections were analog, and arrays were more complicated to configure. These taught a generation of professionals in a way that might not be possible any longer.
On the other side, however, is that by removing some of the more laborious aspects, we open up our industry to a new generation of talent that does not – and perhaps even should not – have to worry about those things. It’s imperative that we attract younger folks to industry, with new ideas and potentially innovative ways of working. Of course, they should pay due respect to those that have gone before, but without necessarily learning everything the hard way like we did.
For those of us approaching the final chapter of our careers, our roles are changing. We’re not in the “gaining ground” stage any longer. Instead of being the ones to make every decision, have every idea, and tell every war story, we’re probably better off being mentors and helping guide the new generation to learn on their own, as we once did, but differently. There’s still nothing like hands-on experience even if we can’t “touch the knobs” in the same way we once did.
As these younger folks start driving the bus, we must be there to make sure they don’t take us over the cliff. This is where our experience counts, since we’ve “been there and done it before and have the T-shirt to prove it,” but it doesn’t mean we have all the answers, maybe only some scars to show for it.
What we can and should teach is respect for the craft. Clearly, we’re in market that’s fairly small as “industries” go. In many ways, we’re more like an extended family. People come to pro audio not necessarily to make money (there are other ways to make more money more quickly), but because they love something about all this. They love sound, they love the gear, they love music, they love the thrill of the show.
What they don’t yet know (because how could they) is how much work it takes to get really good at it. Just as with any melding of technique and art (like photography, architecture, playing music), getting great at audio can take decades of work and dedication. And practice, lots of it. And failure. The only way to make it through all that is to love what we do and maintain the flame of desire to get even better, no matter what obstacles lie in our pathway.
So, we’ve earned the right to be the ones telling endless war stories and wishing for the days when “things were as good as they were going to get,” and take satisfaction in knowing that not everyone could do what we did. And at the same time, we can relish seeing the technology we once dreamed about become standard on modern equipment.
If we could’ve had delays on every input back in the day, wouldn’t we have wanted them? What about unlimited DSP power? Or light weight, small and great-sounding consoles? I know I would have wanted all that and more, and now it exists! Even better, the people coming up in the business today are the ones who will dream up the next generation of technology.
I’m inspired by many of the young professionals I meet now, and because of them, I know our craft will be in good hands. People like Michael Lawrence, Willa Snow, Nathan Lively and Nicholas Radina, just to name four, are all doing good work, writing articles, and developing their network of friends and associates within our chosen business. There are hundreds more like them. Our job as “tribal elders” now should be to provide them with guidance, employment, a confidential ear when needed, and a friendly word of encouragement.
The most prevalent thought occurring to me lately is, “If we ever wished for someone to show us how to do something, or to say something encouraging, or to provide help, now is our chance to do that for others.” A word of encouragement goes a long way. It feels incredibly good to both parties, and it’s basically free. How many other things in life can you say that about?