Study Hall

The Old Soundman: Nicknames & Advice For A Youngster

Getting on the name train and suggestions for when (and how) to charge for sound work

Dear Old Soundman:

I don’t have a nickname. How do I get one? Do I need one?



You absolutely need one! Everybody needs one! How about if I call you “Sco?” That is what aspiring young “yo-cat” fusion musicians at the Berklee School of Music in the 80s called guitarist John Scofield.

These are the same obsessive characters who smugly referred to Charlie Parker as “Bird” and John Coltrane as “Trane,” and sat around discussing “Chick” and “Herbie” as if they actually knew them.

The guy who mixed Primus was known for years as The Shamblin’ Bear. Isn’t that great?! A stage tech for Santana is named Stubby (probably refers to the size of his broccoli, obviously), and their lighting director draws cartoons of characters named Buttface and Tipsy Poodle.

The traveling mixers of the UK rule when it comes to nicknames, like Knobby, Spoon, and the absolute winner, my man Ferret!

C’mon, get on the nickname train!


Hello Old Soundman –

Hi, pal!

My name is Chris, and I live in Little Rock, Arkansas.

You can dream of becoming president of the United States!

I’m currently 14—I know, a young whippersnapper, but I’ve been experimenting with bands and sound stuff for a couple years, and people started telling me it really sounded great.

You’re kicking butt! Many guys live until they retire without ever hearing that it sounded really great… maybe because it never did while they were at the controls!

Well, through many good friends in the industry telling me techniques and approaches to different situations, I’ve worked with a good number of bands, probably 75 in the last six months.

Are you an emancipated minor? Do you never go to school? And are there really 75 bands in Little Rock? (You don’t need to answer these questions, I’m just having fun here.)

I do this because I love music, and I like to make bands sound good, and as a whole I like working with many of the musicians I come in contact with… and just disregard the jerks.

Can you teach me how to do that?

But now I’m interested in $$, not for personal pleasures, but mainly for gear so I can compress, enhance, effect, etc.

What’s wrong with personal pleasures?

Oh… you’re underage. OK—later for those!

I recommend buying the Stereo Aetheric Artifact Enhancer from OSM Audio Industries. It makes the music sweet and low-down, and we offer easy payment plans for any budget!

Whatever you do, don’t buy the Gagger 9000 from Eerie Zombco of Daly City, California—that thing is a rip-off!

I was just wondering how I go about charging for shows? (And when taxes start.)


Chris, the contrast between your youthful sincerity and nasty, cynical, fault-finding smartasses –- it’s almost too much for me. I need to face away from the camera for a moment, and shed a quiet tear…

Taxes usually start when a law-abiding entity pays you, but I’m not an accountant so do your own homework on that one.

Now, about when and how to charge…

Each region has its own market realities. My advice to you is to speak to business persons in your area, such as nightclub owners (not that I would ever advocate you working illegally in such an environment), band managers (a simple wash with a hospital disinfectant such as Betadine after meeting with them should suffice to protect you), and sound company people, and ask them how things work in their worlds.

Also keep checking out the Live Audio Board for sage counsel.

Learning is good. Working is good. Knowledge is good.

Best of luck!

The Old Soundman

There’s simply no denying the love from The Old Soundman. Read more from him here.

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