How To Fix The Sound Guy Problem

I’m fed up.

I was out for a week of fly-out shows and on my way back to LA made a quick stop in Milwaukee to catch one of my favorite up-and-coming, metal-pop bands’, Lost In A Name, CD release show. Their new (PledgeMusic funded) album is outstanding and competes with every other band in their genre. They released it a few days before the show, giving their fans just enough time to prepare – familiarizing themselves with the new material.

+PledgeMusic Looks To Change The Future Of The Album Release

The place was packed for this powerhouse two-piece. There was your typical buzzing energy throughout the crowd of fans, friends and family gathered to celebrate this momentous occasion. Lost In A Name (LIAN) t-shirt wearing fans traded stories about their first LIAN concert. Each tried to one up the next with their show count or longest fandom. One fan I spoke with had grabbed one of LIAN’s first burned demo CDs that the band convinced the clerk at Hot Topic to leave on the counter back in 2009. I think he wins.

The guitarist and lead singer, Danny Schmitz’, mother baked 200 chocolate cookies that were handed out at the merch table. Gone before the end of the set. The drummer, Geoff Slater’s, 9 year old daughter made her way (with mom by her side of course) to the front of the crowd for the start of their show.

Schmitz and Slater hung out in the house pre-show shaking hands and meeting fans. They enthusiastically cheered on their opening acts. Very few headliners are this supportive and down to earth. And their fans noticed.

I sat back by the bar and enjoyed an exclusively Wisconsin brew (yes they do not ship outside of the state), Spotted Cow.

The lights came down. Everyone started cheering. It was deafening. The bands’ epic light show was in full effect as they powered into the opening track off the record “Avert The Apathy” (co-written by Clint Lowery of Sevendust).

However, something was off. Slater’s vocals (singing harmonies) were nearly twice as loud as Schmitz’ – the lead singer. The drums thrashed through the system, but the guitars were buried. Piercing feedback riddled the mix song after song.

I thought the sound guy would work out the kinks during the first song. I went and stood by the sound booth and he was working away, but didn’t seem to realize that the drummer wasn’t actually the lead singer until five separate people came up to him and told him to turn the drummer’s vocals down and the singer’s up! Finally, by the 7th song, things seemed to settle into place. But by that point, it was too late. Lost In A Name is a two piece. Guitar, drums, vocals, tracks. How was this so tough?

Schmitz had to ask for more vocals in the monitor three times during the first couple songs. To no avail. He told me after the show that he couldn’t hear his vocals the entire performance. And at one point his guitar got cranked in the monitor so loud that it affected his playing.

The band was so confused post-show. They said their soundcheck was great. It took the sound guy awhile to settle in and to get the monitor mix right (the drummer has in-ears), but Schmitz said by the end of the check everything felt great and their crew at sound check said the house mix was good.

+Why Live Music Sucks

So what happened?

Well for one, there were 3 openers and an analog board. Meaning, the sound guy used the same channels for the openers and obviously doesn’t know how to take a photo of the board with his phone to reference (and reset) the settings. Or is just too lazy.

He didn’t know the band’s music and obviously doesn’t know music very well that he couldn’t understand that harmonies are not supposed to be louder than melodies.

+9 Things Every Sound Guy Needs To Know About Musicians

The mix was super loud and top heavy. Top heavy isn’t out of the ordinary, though, for most older sound guys – because those frequencies go first (from years of cranking it up) so they overcompensate with too much treble.

But what’s the bigger issue here?

Schmitz said that they’ve been scouring Milwaukee trying to find a good sound guy to hire, but they can’t find any. He mentioned they’ve been to club after club and most of the engineers crank it way too loud (even for rock) and the vocals are almost certainly buried.

Lost In A Name wanted to hire a sound engineer to come mix the show, but in the end, out of necessity, had to rely on the house engineer.

Nothing is more infuriating watching an incredible bands’ sound get botched coming out of the system. And it happens far too often. I wanted to reach into the sound booth and take out this sound guy’s legs. Dude, the lead singer’s on the left holding the f-ing guitar!

Milwaukee is a big city. They host “The World’s Largest Music Fest,” Summerfest, every year – for 46 years running. There are great sound engineers in town. But why can’t bands find them? For one, they’re most likely not working out of the rock clubs who pay them $50-75 a night. Why would any great talent settle for that? Most likely, they have settled into sound companies that provide equipment and engineers for big festivals and corporate events. But will they freelance? For a band they like? Can these engineers take time off to tour?

Where is the site that connects great sound engineers with bands?

A great sound engineer is a hot commodity and worth a lot. I’ve known bands in the past in various cities around the country to hire the same engineer to mix every show starting from their local shows and then bring them on tour. But typically it’s a stroke of luck if a band can find someone with great talent.

Where is the Yelp of sound engineers?

After a quick Google search, came up listing 2 sound engineers within 100 miles of Milwaukee. Mind you, Chicago is only 90 miles away.

This seems like the only current resource out there, however, these engineers are mainly looking to provide full package services for weddings and corporate shows. Most engineers on the site don’t have reviews.

Indie On The Move provides a classifieds section, but there are no sound engineers listed (and sound engineers are most likely not even signed up to the site).

SparkPlug seems to be the closest company to help fill this void, but they (currently) only offer equipment rental. No stand-alone services.

Want to know how to fix live music? Fix the sound guy problem.

Someone, please create a service that connects great (reviewed, rated and vetted) sound engineers with great bands. Bands would pay way more than the clubs do and there would be a hell of a lot more respect reciprocated.

The shitty sound guys would get weeded out very quickly (or remain to be disgruntled house guys) and the great ones would get regularly hired by local, regional and touring bands who care about the quality of their live show.

Who’s gonna do this?

Listen to Lost In A Name’s new album on Spotify or download on iTunes or BandCamp.

Photo by Peter Murphy and used with permission


Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

55 Responses

  1. Neil T

    Make your sound a priority not an afterthought. Bring your own, and if you can’t send information, songs, cue sheets ahead of time. Sound is the only way the audience hears you, it’s important.

    • kylesoundman

      Crewspace is for vetted and referenced members only, it is not open to the public.

      • T. Magee

        Exactly what the author was asking for!!! GO FIGURE!!!
        That being said, I am a member of crewspace, and the majority of tour postings pay no better than what I can make staying home sleeping in my own bed.

  2. Simon Kemp

    Ari, nice post and reminded me of the problem of playing in clubs and bars with the house engineer and PA and not getting a good sound once the sound check was done.

    I created a site that should solve this problem. Bands and Artists will be able to rate Venues and Sound Engineers, exactly as you describe above.

    Bands – contribute! Signup now at and always be prepared for your next gig!

  3. Jason Grooms

    Fixing live sound is a exercise on the part of both the sound guy and the band.

    I am a sound guy and I know what I am doing and in small clubs 9 times out of 10 it’s the band who ruins the sound. Your Marshall on 11 and drummer hitting his drums so hard he is breaking heads is typically the problem.

    If you are going to play with stage volumes in excess of 105db A weighted there is nothing I can as a sound guy in a small club. You have fulfilled your own destiny. Loud = crappy sound, period.

    If the sound engineer asks you to turn down, turn down or shut up about the quality of the sound. I don’t care if your amp is on 1 already, put it on .5 or bring a different amp.

    • Simon Kemp


      I totally agree with you.

      Most of my adult life I have played Jazz and these issues don’t tend to occur when the band is playing at a decently low volume on stage. It’s when the volumes get high on stage that problems occur.

      We will include profiles for Sound Engineers to add their comments and even review the bands for professionalism on

      As you say, live music production is a partnership between band and engineer (and club and promoter)!

      All The Best

      • Jason Grooms

        It is and unfortunately most musicians want to act like complete asses when the sound guy is actually trying to help them sound good, listen to him.

        I am not even going to get into the problems of crappy gear, horrible tone, being late for sound check, playing grab ass during sound check and the countless other examples of amateur behavior on the part of musicians that ultimately gets put on the “sound guy” not knowing what he is doing. Wrong.

        Most musicians walk into a club thinking they are Metaliica but guess what? I guarantee you Metaliica listens to their sound guy. Pay attention.

        • Pro Soundguy

          I’m contracted over 100 nights a year to mix. I concur with Jason. Loud bands in small rooms do not generally work well. You’re always mixing to the loudest sound coming off the stage. Mixing multiple bands in a night is no problem. I was doing 125 bands a month, and rarely ran into major issues as described.

          I had a situation where I mixed a folk act. The guitarist tried to convince me that the violin tone to cut was 8k. I asked, 800? He said 8k. LOL.

          Bands are their own worst enemy when it comes to knowing souond.

          • also pro soundguy

            Dude was right, I always notch out 8K on fiddles……..800 not so much, need the tone baby…..not the screech. Folk is about tone, not volume.

          • Pro Soundguy

            Well, considering I mix bluegrass and folk primarily, I’ll bow to your expertise 😉

  4. Joe England

    Check out Recalcitrant Productions LLC Owned and operated by the band Recalcitrant. We are a band and a sound and lighting company. We cater to this very situation. Reach us through our web page Go under contact and hit us up. We have full scale production all the way down to sound engineers that will do exactly what your asking about and at great rates. We understand musicians because we are musicians!

  5. D'Man

    I’m sorry, but if you want great sound engineers for live shows…well you better be a professional band that is going to pony up the $$$. I would think that’s their “dream job”.

    Every band will complain the sound guy sucks. Every sound guy will complain the band sucked.

    But the real issue is… only musicians care. Ask a normal dude who goes to a show twice a year. They aren’t picky. And the “normal dudes” pay the bills.

    • Rich the fist

      Bobnet offers are typically low paying, last minute gigs. I don’t know of many career engineers that find work through that database. You want experienced engineers you look into the large production houses and hire their guys. Will run ya around 1400 a week.

      • Bobnet

        Bobnet also has $5,000/week audio engineers and $3,000/week gigs offered on it. Each day and each gig is different. Bobnet has filled almost 700 gigs this year alone.

  6. The Sound Guy

    I do sound in a 49-capacity bar that I own. I have done everything from solo acoustic shows to balls-out metal, at every level of experience from total newb to seasoned road dog. Almost without fail (I can think of a few occasions where it was totally my fault) a bad sounding show is the result of the band not listening to the sound guy. Especially in a venue with the same sound guy for every show.

  7. AJ

    This great post inspired me to respond as both a performing musician and as a sound production company owner. I’m kind of echoin Joe England’s response above, who is clearly ‘doing this right.’

    First, from the sound engineering side of the fence, we tried this in the NW with a handful of other local sound companies, to make people available and keep them working when we didn’t have gigs for them and the problem was simple. Bands weren’t willing to pay more than $50, $75 if we were lucky, and that wasn’t per band, that was per event! Not a bad deal to white glove a 1 band show for $75 with drinks included, but if there’s setup or tear down, instrument micing, multiple bands, suddenly the per hour / per headache rate just wasn’t worth it for any of our engineers who were used to making $200-300 per event for the same work on a predictable system. Plus, who’s to say an ‘experienced’ sound engineer is really that good or more importantly, can step into an unknown venue and work with whatever quirky system they may have duct taped and rigged together, which leads to…

    Second, from the musician side of the fence. I’ve always believed that it’s in a band’s best interest to find a sound guy and make him a part of their band. Bands love to blame the sound guy or the equipment or the venue or anything that isn’t them, and it’s very easy to solve. Find a sound guy who believes in your band, get him to know the set list, to be at all – or at least most – of your rehearsals just like a band member, because he needs to practice too. Pay him with an equal share just like your band. If you have a 4 piece band, you now split profits (and losses) 5 ways. I’ve had *great* success with this for years, with the only problem being that sometimes you get a jerky venue manager who insists you use their sound guy. If you find a even halfway decent sound guy, their skills will grow on the job, and they become a part of the group. Considering how much every savvy musician agrees how important the sound guy is to the sound, this simple step is SO often ignored by the vast majority of bands out there, yet it’s win win for all. Sound guy has a regular job with the band and knows he has a monopoly on that band’s events, band has a predictable x factor solved 100%. The added benefit to this is that the sound production and the band become one synergistic group and you can get really creative with effects on the fly, with the engineer “playing” the mixing desk and effects rack to add their own special sauce to a guitar solo, to drop the whole mix for a talkover to the audience without breaking the groove, etc. I’ve even had my guys do lighting, pyro and effects too, it’s a no brainer and the sky’s the limit when you reinvent the band to include the one thing bands love to blame for why they sounded bad – the elusive and underappreciated sound guy.

  8. Willis

    This has always been interesting to me. You go to play a venue and the house sound guy should know the room. Maybe there are drugs or alcohol at work that prevent optimal results. The other thing could be that the sound guy is just burnt out and doesn’t care as much. These are things that I have run in to. I appreciate someone with the ears and skills to perform well. I don’t appreciate someone who takes away from a show.

  9. DaveMIX

    AJ nailed it.
    Plus way too often people hiring just figure what they want to pay for sound and then look for it. The gear and people cost money, so “shooting from the hip” guessing what they think they need to pay for sound and then telling the engineers to make it work within that esoteric budget – that’s stupid! Engineers know they can’t do the work if someone unskilled in their craft is ever defining their value, let alone undervaluing them.
    When such things happen it means bad gear, newbie sound system owners with novice ideas, and yes, the house sound guy who has been demoralized by underpay, bad situations, and less than considerate bands repeatedly.

    It is sad when the demoralized house sound guy runs into a great band that is on time and ready to go with documentation advanced months ago. Or the reverse, the great sound guy who really cares, listens, and reads manuals running into the band that doesn’t care about the sound of their show except to ask for more volume, when clearly it is they that should be turning down.

    We all have to better our skills, and many are successfully doing that all the time.

    I blame TV shows of the 60s where live bands performed on clean stages with no sound gear, no techs, wedges, or engineers in the shot. Yet they have been visible to the audience at every great sounding show – just look around, see the gear, see the people also part of the live band.

    If you think your band is just the people who play musical instruments, your band is destined to be small indeed.

    Bands: if you have a good sound engineer, keep ’em! Pay them going rates, not a share! They will be more loyal to your show than anyone else. The job done right is hard, the one who does this and is paid well, will do amazing things for you. Do pick just anyone, this requires a skillset.

    Venues: most of you are paying far too little, and don’t know how to evaluate the skills of those you hire.

  10. Billybob

    I agree with the engineers’ comments about most bands being too loud on stage at small venues. The sound guys in these places generally don’t know how to handle it, and don’t really care enough to argue with the band about stage volume. So it’s really on the band to know this and adapt accordingly. I’ve had this talk with my own guitarist and we’re getting better at managing our own stage volume. Our drummer beats the crap out of his drums, though, and it’s just part of his style – so we’re somewhat limited by that.

    That said, there’s no excuse for not remembering (writing down, taking pictures, whatever) the settings from the original sound check when the headliner comes on. If he does that, and the band keeps their same settings, everything should be great, in theory. Too often, it’s not. Again, because most of the guys in the small clubs aren’t paid that much and don’t really care. Musicians also need to be aware of the noise coming from their rigs – a little hum here and a little buzz there often add up and turn the whole mix into a wash – making the sound guy’s job even more difficult. Just my two cents from playing in a lot of very low-budget clubs.

    • Chez

      Anyone who believes taking a photo if your console at sound check, recalling those settings as best you can, at the same time as doing a set change in 10 minutes, produces good enough sound as soundcheck has obviously never worked a live show in their life. EVERYTHING changes when the water bags get in the room. Vocals that were loud enough during soundcheck in a completely empty room where you’re hearing the PA as well as monitors are gone as soon as the crowd fills in and absorbs the mains.

      Maybe this would work outdoors. But in a tiny club? nope!

  11. JvB

    I appreciate your plight. Been there, got the t-shirt… x4,000.

    I’ve been a gigging production mixer for 25+ years, and have mixed world-class acts in some of the best and worst venues. The problem you describe has many factors that add in, but if you don’t bring a knowledgeable sound person with you, your gig IS going to be much like asking a street guitarist to “sit in” and play lead while sight reading your music. And I bet that poor sucker is nearly as frustrated as you are.

    When you have a one-off with an engineer you haven’t worked with before- you have to advance with them.

    I’ve met very few people who do what I do- research their music, then call or find the artist BEFORE they come for sound check, sit down with them and get a sense of their musical sense, ask if they want it to sound like their album, what they like and don’t like. It’s amazing when you ask, some people will tell you- “hey, please don’t use my amp tone, take the direct and compress it a little”- or, “mic my amp, please!”, “can you give me reverb on my voice, 50% dry, 50% wet, and some in my monitors?”, “the piano is lead and the guitars and rhythm”. You’ll learn a MILLION tiny details. Derek Truck’s guitar tech was incredibly helpful for me the first time I mixed his band:
    “Guitar first, then lead vocal just under. Just straight up mic it, little or no EQ, -and then don’t touch it. He’ll do the work”- was great advice. Had I ignored it, my show would have sounded like sh*t instead of having the band’s manager come to FOH and asking for my card and if I was available for an upcoming show.

    Sitting down with a band and asking them for their set list, who plays what where/sings lead/backup where and sometimes asking questions (like who their musical influences are) can also tell you a lot about what tones and blends they like. If they say Metallica and Slayer versus Simon & Garfunkle/Cowboy Junkies, you’re going to approach things REALLY differently, aren’t you?

    It’s also important that the mixer knows what they’re doing, and that they’re NOT the star, but a critical part of the show support. When Lemmy comes out front during sound check and said to raise the high pass filter on his bass, you don’t argue, YOU DO IT. No ego, it’s THEIR SHOW FIRST.

    If you invest in a sound person, your experience at clubs can be significantly improved. At least when the PA or monitor rig sucks, that person can say “Please treat it like a rehearsal room where you’re not miked. Turn the key amp a little, please keep the guitar levels consistent, I’m only going to put the vocals in the mix to try and get the best possible blend and make it sound like the album” or whatever the best approach will be.
    Hopefully, you’ll find young & talented people with some real world experience that will assist your band to grow and show your best at every gig. Cheers!

  12. RyG

    In society there is a known formula that, whether you accept it or not, prevails over theorizing and hyperbole.
    Good fast cheap pick 2.
    I have toured as an engineer and performer. If you don’t educate yourselves and (most importantly) coax the house scumbag paid in cash to do an adequate job then you will be slave to mediocrity.

  13. Sound Tech Musician

    Aris take

    “Lost In A Name wanted to hire a sound engineer to come mix the show, but in the end, out of necessity, had to rely on the house engineer.”
    What do they mean by “out of necessity?” I would say it is necessary to hire a competent professional sound tech, especially for a big event like a cd release party.

    Yes, sound techs will freelance. No they won’t do it for $50-$75. In Indianapolis the going rate is between $100-$150 for a local “briefcase gig”. That is for the sound tech to show up and mix. No set up no tear down.
    For a little more we’ll bring in our digital board too.

    Google “sound tech” in the city or state you are looking in. Most of us have websites or Facebook pages.
    Ask local bands who the good sound techs in the area are. I have received many referrals this way. Many weekends I am already booked but I have a handful of sound techs I trust and I pass their names on to the bands. They do the same for me.

    There really are sound techs out there that truly care about the sound at a show. It does take a little research but it is really worth it. And asking other bands about good sound techs in the area is a great form of networking, something all musicians should already be doing.

    If you go with a touring engineer make sure he/she is competent. I’ve been part of festivals/concerts that sounded great until the touring pro came in and jacked everything up for the headliner. Touring techs: If the system sounds good all day long, don’t mess with it when the headliner comes on, just dial your guys in.

    Love your articles Ari. Would love you see you if you come to the Indianapolis area.

  14. Gary J Brunclik

    I’m from Milwaukee and have been a professional touring engineer for over 20 years. I am one of the engineers at the BMO Harris pavilion at Summerfest and mix FOH at the RIverside Theater in Milwaukee. I find that most local bands simply cannot pay for a good engineer. Much like musicians who spend years crafting their songs they should be paid. Like musicians we have invested in training, and been screwed many times by unscrupulous folks. Just like bands.

    Now that being said if a band really wanted a great sound guy in Milwaukee they can be found with a little investigation. However again, we are professionals who have spent years training and honing our craft. It’s kind of like that adage about the restaurant owner who offers a musician to play his restaurant for exposure. Most professional sound engineers don’t need exposure, and we sure as hell don’t need any more experience loading trucks.

    Gary J Brunclik

  15. Ari Herstand
    Ari Herstand

    So, am I wrong that most cities pro sound guys will come in and mix just the band’s 60 minute set (no loading, no setup, 30 min soundcheck) for $100-150? That is the going rate in LA for pro dudes.

    I would encourage every band, at every stage of their career to make this investment for every show. Once their show is SOLID (poop in poop out – no sense in hiring a pro when you’re not pro yet). A sound engineer can make or break the set. Even if a band is only bringing in $150 for the night, invest that in a great sound engineer. If you can win an audience of 30, that audience will double (as will the pay). And will continue to double. If you assault the ears of the 30 in the club, that audience will never return.

    It’s a smart investment.

    But again, where can great bands (like Lost In A Name – and the thousands more around the country) find these? Where’s the website with reviewed and rated sound engineers? I like how Gary lists letters of reference on his website. That would be great to include in a trade site like this.

  16. Sound Tech

    Call the biggest club in town, talk to their head engineer. Have him recommend a sound guy for you and be willing to pay him what him your region’s going rate ( generally upwards of $100)

  17. Sound Tech Musician

    Though I would love a website for musicians to find soundtechs, right now the best way to find a good sound tech is to network with popular bands in that area. It should take just a few emails to start getting the same answers. You will generally find that there a handful of freelancers doing a lot of the gigs in town.

  18. Matt

    Getting good sound from any sound guy is quite easy… it’s about respect. Instead of being snobby and ignoring the sound guy like he doesn’t exist, take a few minutes during load-in to chat with him. Let him know what you like, what you’ll need for mics, etc. Then, during sound check, make the noise that you’ll actually be making during the show… when the sound guy says “hey guys, let’s hear center vocal,” don’t just say “hello, hello, hello, check testing 1, 2” … instead, maybe sing a little!! It’s a good chance to warm up a little more, and then the sound guy and your band gets an actual feel for what you’ll sound like. It’s 100x easier to ask for a slight adjustment before the show than it is to stop in the middle of the set and ask for the sound guy to fix something… that’s just plain rude. You don’t need to hire a sound engineer to go with you on tour, in fact, most clubs hate that because your guy probably has no idea what he’s doing on every club’s specific board, room setup, and mics.

  19. We Get Networking

    If you’re in Houston, TX, you should check out We Get Networking. It’s an organization that brings all music industry people together in the city. It’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  20. long time mixer

    You make some good points. Let me address some of them:
    The first is your point about the analog board and photo/charting. It suggests, but not directly, that having a digital board where you can save mixes would have been a solution. This may or may not be true; sound check, the room is empty. If the house is full, the presence of all the waterbags (human bodies) changes the way the sound moves around the room; adjustments still have to be made. Even if sound dude had charted the analog desk, he still would have had to make adjustments. I agree with you that he should have charted the original position and, if he had channels available, he should NOT have put the openers through the channels he had set for the headliner.
    The second point. You mentioned the band had crew. Why wasn’t someone from the crew out front listening from the first song to see if the mix was ok? If there is someone with the band who knows what the band is supposed to sound like, why weren’t they giving feedback (sic) to the mixer? Why did it take seven songs for them to do something.?
    You mentioned all the folks coming up to the sound booth informing the sound guy that the mix was wrong. I have been mixing for 35 years. There is nothing more annoying than having some “expert” come and tell me how to do my job, especially if I don’t know them from a bar stool. I especially like the folks who tell me “it’s too loud (or there’s too much bass)” and I ask them where they’re sitting and they point to the row right in front of the subwoofers. Even if they are correct, it is annoying and distracting. It’s one thing when I meet them before the gig, they set up rapport or, better yet, the BAND introduces me, ‘This is Stephanie; I know you’ve never mixed us before and Steph has seen us 30 times. She knows what we sound like.” Which brings me to:
    Someone previously in the thread mentioned the band’s responsibility in all this. Not only have I been mixing a long time, I also play in bands. (Side note: I believe my nearly 40 ears of playing guitar, both electric and acoustic, is an aid to my mixing because I think musically. There are a lot of engineers who think technically; it’s a different mix). Whenever we have the luxury of someone mixing us (four piece acoustic band, three lead vocals- we switch off from song to song) I provide the engineer with a setlist and who sings what. What they do with that setlist is out of my control. But I make the effort to let them know what is coming; I can’t assume they will intuitively know my band’s material. Back in the 90s, I frequently mixed a band who had a world famous drummer. This drummer never wanted to soundcheck and then would bitch about his monitors all night long. I know if I told the drummer soundcheck was at 4 he’d show up at 5. So, I told the rest of the band soundcheck was at 5; he’d show up, we’d soundcheck (grumble grumble grumble) and we’d have a great night.
    I have always approached my mixing as part of a TEAM to pull off a great show. Yeah, I know, there are a lot of mixers out there who don’t give a crap; and there are drugs and alcohol involved. And girls (or guys) that distract the mixer from their job. I know there are a lot of mixers out there who think they should be on stage instead of behind the desk and their resentments leak into the mix. . I get it. I really do.
    Let’s talk about money for a minute: “But why can’t bands find them? For one, they’re most likely not working out of the rock clubs who pay them $50-75 a night.” So remember that 5 o’clock soundcheck from the previous paragraph? Yeah, we’d soundcheck at 5. The band would start around 9 and we’d go to midnight or 1. And I would get paid $75 to $100. In 1992. Guess what? 20 years later, I still get offered the same amount. Now, I’m loading in at 4, loading out at 1:30 (if I’m lucky) and I get my $75. Here’s what I don’t get: I don’t get a % of the bar; I don’t get a cut of the merch. So 9.5 hours for $75. That’s basically minimum wage. And you know, if I have a bad night, so will the band.
    So what’s the solution? I don’t know but I can tell you where to start: communication. That’s been the main thread through my response here; when there is communication between the band and the mixer; it tends to be a lot smoother.
    Thanks for starting the conversation.

    • Kyle

      This article certainly makes some fair points, and long time mixer stated much of my response would be, but I’d like to add just a few things.
      First of all, please know that we take what we do just as seriously as you do your music. What comes out of those speakers is what builds our reputations and our livelihoods. We want your show to sound as amazing as possible, just like you do. But there’s A LOT you can do (or not do) that would help us do our jobs. And stage volume is probably the number one biggest sin committed by most bands.
      Guitar/bass players (or really anybody with an amp on stage)…consider the venue you are playing. Trust me…you don’t need your full stack to play any club, and certainly not for a 100-person-capacity bar. It would be so much easier for you to just haul your 30-watt combo to and from the gig, and you’ll probably sound better as a result. Also…consider your stage positioning and how it affects everything else. The amp that is behind you on the floor pointing at the back of your knees and sounds “just right” to you, is currently blowing the heads off of anyone in front of the stage where your amp is elevated directly to face level. If you’re being mic’ed into the PA, then it’s not your job to get your sound to the audience…trust the engineer to do that. Put your amp on a stand or a chair, point it at your head and turn it up just enough for you to hear. This will allow you to hear better with less volume and you will likely need less, if any in the monitors. I’ve even worked with some artists who just bring a small amp and put in it front of them next to their monitor.
      Think of it this way…mixing music is like painting. But if you keep dumping gallons of red paint onto my canvas it becomes difficult, if not impossible to paint well.
      Singers…often the problem with you is not being able to get enough to work with. The microphone is not a magic wand. It can’t distinguish your voice from all the other noise on stage. Even with the best engineer and the best gear, if you sing at speaking levels while your bassist and two guitar players have their stacks cranked to 11, there’s not a whole lot that can be done for you with the sound system. Also, some decent mic technique helps tremendously. If you stand two feet from the mic, or hold it by your chin and sing over the top of it, it’s not going to work as well as it can if you just sing directly into it. And cupping the grill because it looks cool, that actually contributes to feedback and screws up the polar pattern of the mic. Please don’t do that.

  21. Karrie

    Musicians, Artists, and Bands are welcome to post that they are looking for soundmen or women at SoundGirls.Org.

  22. Aubrey

    Easy solution, call any number of the local audio companies and ask if they have a freelancer who would be down for mixing a one off show. Also crewspace and bobnet are good resources.

  23. Michael J. Patrick

    Hey Lost In a Name, if you’re looking for a good engineer and are willing to pay contact me. You can see samples of my work at my website,

    Show Crew Network is where I pickup some freelance gigs and It has reviews of my previous work. It also shows my pay rate for local gigs as well as for weekly touring.

  24. Craig Montgomery

    Who does this? Typically band managers. They tend to have a “stable” of technicians, tour managers, merch sellers, etc. that they call on for their clients. If the managers are new, they ask other managers and booking agents.

  25. Dave Brooks

    Lot’s of comments here! Good!!! So with over 25 years at the FOH console under my belt, I’d like to throw in my two cents. There are many factors involved, so I’d like to start by saying what every FOH engineer knows, (or should know.) A great mix starts with the band having their shit together. If I may reiterate someone elses comment. Loud band’s in small rooms, are always going to be a problem!! Unless the band is willing to step off their soapbox for a moment and turn down. Bands often forget the concept of play to the room. (especially in small clubs) And if we’re talking about the engineer having to mix several other bands prior, on the same channels, and run monitors form front of house, we’re talking about a small club with an analog console. Even in big, well equipped rooms, arenas stadiums and festivals, it still starts with the band having their act together!
    And part of having your act together is having a budget!!! You want to sound great every time? Of course you do. And we want you to sound great every time. That’s why most of us spend an unbelievable amount of time making sure we’re up to date on all the latest gear, and tricks of the trade! We’re forever talking to each other, trading tips and checking each other out. We’re well aware of how much time we put into perfecting our craft, and what we’re worth. So when you’re shopping for an engineer to work specifically for your band, don’t come with some low ball number. We’re not greedy, but we gotta make a living too. Remember, you’re not paying based on how much actual work is being done. You’re paying for us to have all the answers, and to be assured that you will sound great every time, and that we are capable of handling any problems that may arise. And if we’re talking about touring, well then yeah you’re also paying for our time away from home, where we could be earning money doing other things. So don’t come offering a couple of hundred bucks and free beer and pizza.
    Now to answer the original question, there are plenty of places to find reputable, reliable and talented audio engineers. Here’s a few:

    The Audio Engineers Society-
    Recording industry association of America-

    There are also several facebook groups, and you can always look in, or post adds in the industry magazines, like Mix, and FOH. And like someone else here said, talk to the engineers ant your local venue, or someplace where you’ve heard bands sound good. If they’re not interested themselves, they will usually be more than willing to recommend someone to you. Oh yeah, and please don’t make the mistake of thinking that house engineers are disgruntled mixers who couldn’t cut it on the road. Touring is fun, but it’s tiring also, and sucks for trying to have a social life. Not everyone is cut out for the touring life style and most that do tour, eventually want to come home and still make a living. I have a house gig, but when I’m on the road, I always take the advise of the house engineer (as long as I believe they know what they’re doing. He (or she) definitely knows their room better than I ever will.
    Hope this helps

  26. kendrick

    like everything, until the people at the top decide to pay the workers, who are actually the ones who make any event or business or anything run, what they are worth America is going to be a pile of half assed garbage. Walk into any store, restaurant or business and it’s the same thing. People getting paid barely enough to live with little hope of anything better. Why should they care?

  27. Anonymous

    Or could just be that the band sucks and sound like shit and even the best sound engineer in the world can’t help. People don’t often consider that option. As someone on both sides of this (band and soundman) I can tell you that it happens a lot more than you think. Lay off the sound engineer. You can’t polish a turd!

    • Alex H

      MythBusters proved that wrong. You can polish a turd, it still smells like s*** though.

  28. Lance C. Phillips

    I’m an old school analog engineer…I’ve been out of the business since ’90. All my experience was on analog boards, some of which were very involved 48 channels into as many as 8 sub-groups. Each channel with as many as 4 different EQ pts,, full parametric with Adjustable frequency ,boost/cut and sweep. My point : it was very accommodating for the headliner on such an important night as their CD release to not severely limit what the support groups had access to ;that being said, how many channels does a two piece group utilize? Why even do a sound check ,then not in some fashion make note of all your levels and EQ settings? Shit yeah take a picture or I think, better yet, take a simple damn legal pad and make notes for each channel and what your settings were, When the house is full some tweaks will be necessary but that’s S.O.P.! Yeah I’m an olf fart from a different era(65 yrs old) but I still do one off gigs for bands in need of a good engineer, My only requirement is I need an analog board, Most band will comply if it means they’re going to get a pro mix. By the way my bonafides are FoH for Prince, Joan Jett, Arlo Guthrie and stage monitor for many more name groups. With the equipment available in 2014 a bad sound mix is inexcusable!

  29. Paul The TM

    How can you suggest it is a sound guy problem? Do you honestly think the best representatives of my favorite industry are showing up to run a 100 thousand to 500 thousand sound system for $75 or $100 a night including an early afternoon load in? You get a sound trainee for that rate, and yet that is what most 1000 seat and under want to pay. The result is gear that sometimes works sporadically or not at all. If you play venues that care (some still exist) they will have a great mixer man, and a well kept system. If you play a dive, you’ll get a burnt out jerk who is loosing his hair at 25, and only has 3 of his ten monitors working and they all share 1 mix.

    good day

  30. Liam G

    I was trained on FOH by one of THE sound companies, and ‘graduated’ to monitors (biggest mix was an insane 64 channels into 8 discrete mixes plus sidefills…that group actually used very little amplification on stage, depending instead on the monitors! Stage board was the twin of FOH except for the number of subs.)

    If the band can actually hear what they need to, keeping the stage under control is easy, spill is minimal, and the FOH guy can do his job. I suspect I did mine, because I was frequently asked to ‘do the tour’ in the hotseat. I also found that bands who would take the time to find a consistent monitor person tended to a.)listen to and cooperate to better the stage sound, and b.) pay well.

    I enjoyed the touring and gigging until the advent of the original in-ears, which required certification and some pretty heavy liability insurance. Well, that, and just getting too damn old to be traveling all over the country in a bus all of the time!

    I suspect I worked with that same drummer…worst experience ever…and his sound consistently sucked simply because his blown-out hearing made a clean monitor mix impossible, and the hideous spill made the (new every night) FOH guy’s job impossible. Even if it was a different drummer…this guy sucked. Ya can’t fix arrogant, deaf, and stupid!

    In short, Bands, listen to and work with the sound people; if your sound is good, your rep will grow, and ten years from now, you’ll still be able to hear!

  31. B. Ford

    MAN if I had the time, I would create this type of service! I would also love to be a church sound consultant. Half of these churches have no clue what they need or what to do with what they have.

  32. Geno Spiegel

    I have been mixing bands for 35 years professionally. I would sign up for a service like this because I do not run around town every night like I used to so I do not develop those connections like I used to. I still mix a couple of times a month because now it is a hobby instead of my career. It seems I have been stuck doing local cover bands which can be fun but not always. I also do not feel like I am getting paid what I should for the job I am doing but I guess that is because of the gig. This would be a good service and I would love to do walk-in shows or fly-in dates for National Acts. I have worked with around 120 National Acts assuming various duties from FOH, Monitors, Back-line, Guitar Tech but really I just want to mix, be treated with the respect I deserve and get paid an adequate amount. Depending on the show and location I would start at $150 for local acts in town. It depends also on how much of my day it takes up. I have worked on about a dozen different digital mixers so far and can run anything that is analog. I have my own box of nice microphones that will come with me and also some processing gear if needed. I have cables and stands too as back up. I live in a Southern Suburb of St. Paul, MN. If interested or you set up a service like this you can contact me at [email protected]. Great Idea!

  33. Jose B.

    I’d like to share. My dream job has always been, even at childhood,
    to run live sound for a band. Before my teens my first rock concerts in the 80’s were
    Van Halen’s 1984 Tour & Motley Crüe Girls Girls Girls tour. The productions
    were insane, big boxes huge sound, pyro intense rotating drum solos.
    That was life changing. Anyways I didn’t wanna just run sound, I wanted
    to find a new band i really liked and offer my services as their goto sound guy.
    And that’s what I got goin now. Nothing better than sitting at the best seat
    In the house and rockin out to the sounds youre familiar with every weekend.
    And knowing that YOU are the one responsible for the bangin-ass mix
    coming out of your 30,000 Watt Meyersound system (I wish). Through the few
    Years workin with these guys I’ve been able to offer some sound advice, and
    and reproduce their sound and get the absolute maximum out of any minimal
    system we’ve used. The band can mix themselves on stage well which makes
    my job easier. But my point is as a sound guy its your job to control the show,
    be able to give direction with a great attitude and be humble at the same time.
    I’ve worked with or seen (very seldom) some arrogant and lazy engineers out
    there which isn’t cool, but to each his own you know. I’ve got a killer idea for
    a service to weed out the guys and girls that make shit happen, from
    the ones that don’t know what’s happening. An Angie’s list for techs &
    engineers would be rad too.

  34. Ct sound Guy

    There are other problems that people don’t see when listening to the band.

    1. If you bring in your own wireless mic and the settings on the mic are wrong… ( Sennheiser has to much of an adjustment on their mics leading to the problem being in the mic itself. -30db on the mic is not going to let the person sing off the mic at all.) (Shure Pgx mics are for beginners, don’t waste your money they clip if you look at them funny.)

    2. Guitar players that bring in full stacks or more, Drummers that smash their cymbals…

    3. The PA having too small a system, or just completely set up wrong.

    4. Also the clubs budget may not afford someone other than a newbie. Hence using an analog board in 2014.

    Also, I’ve noticed that certain areas of the country the sound men mix different than others.
    I had a guy from New Jersey tell me that you have to clip the kick drum to “GET THAT SOUND”. Maybe if you are using a PA that is too small for everything. Not that a guy that works with these “traveling bands” don’t know the material. But they don’t know the gear. And rather than asking questions they come in and try to get every bit of sound they can get out of the PA they can instead of going for quality…. If you set the mood the wrong way before you start the show its going to be a bumpy ride… just saying. Think before you speak, try to listen to what the system is before you start your show or ask the house guy how it reacts….

    Ignorance tells you nothing, listen with your ears not your eyes.

  35. Aidan

    The following is an article I wrote and published a few years ago.

    Take a look back and calculate how many gigs you’ve been to this year… Now think back and try to calculate just how many bands that you’ve seen over that same period. Now ask yourself this… How many bands have been labelled as ‘crap’ because of really bad sound? How many talented artists have suffered at the hands of incompetent sound guys and inadequate sound? Seventy percent of the time, the venue’s sound equipment is blamed (That figure should be around 10 percent or lower) and I know that sometimes the sound system that is provided is older than your granny’s gramophone. Bands do have to deal with faulty and dodgy gear, but ultimately it is up to the skill of the in-house sound engineer to make your band sound good.

    The following is a little bit of insight as to what actually goes on behind the scenes: The job of a good sound engineer is to get a nicely balanced ‘mix’. This means that you can hear every instrument, vocal harmony, solo etc with clarity no matter whether your taste is classical jazz or hardcore punk. It takes a skilled sound guy to ‘mesh’ or slot in all the elements of a 5 piece band into just a left and a right stereo PA system. This system is what they call the FOH or Front Of House sound… It’s what the audience ultimately hears.
    More importantly, the band members have to hear themselves. The energy of the performance that you see on stage, more often that not, accredits itself to just how well the band can hear itself as a unit on stage. Remember that they are standing behind the main speakers and cannot hear whether the drums and bass are in time or the guitar is out of tune. Enter the bane of most musicians (and sound engineers) woes… the monitor system. You’ve all seen those wedge-like speakers at the front of the stage. Yup… those are the speakers though which each individual band members hear their own mix. If that’s not right, the result can be a shambles. I’m sure you’ve hear the all too familiar ‘More vocals in the monitor please’ shouted from stage! Too much and you get that sound like a jet on take-off… feedback.
    So you see, there is a lot to control from that board with all the knobs and dials that looks like the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise and the engineer has to concentrate on what is going on up on stage. For a band, eye contact with the sound engineer is essential. There are also certain venues that no matter what you do, the sound is going to get the better of you and that’s down to plain acoustics and sound treatment (try mixing a hard core punk band in a concrete gymnasium the size of a shopping mall!)… Sadly, there are those few ‘so called sound engineers’ who still screw it up regardless.

    So you go out to watch a good band in an established live music venue with a decent sound system and end up hearing an audio quality emanating from the speaker system that is tantamount to someone strangling a cat in a coffee can. You end up shouting over the din, the band is visibly not happy and the performance lacks energy. Band or music fan, we’ve all been there. The band could get their own sound engineer as that would be a logical choice, but it costs and some in-house engineers are anal about an ’outsider’ touching their equipment or, heaven forbid, telling them how to do their job properly. You come to the conclusion that many in-house engineers are just deaf. One sound engineer in particular spends most of the gig chatting to buddies or having a smoke on the balcony while the band battles on. Even when he’s at the desk, the cat and coffee can return for another onslaught!
    So what recourse does the band have to ensure a good gig? Here are a few tips which should improve matters somewhat: Always send a technical rider through to the sound guy a few days before your gig – this is a list of the bands technical requirements as well as a stage plan. Better still and where possible, go and meet with the sound dude at the venue to discuss your bands style. If you have one, give him a demo so that he will at least understand your style and sound. On the night, make sure you arrive early for a decent sound check. During the sound check, insist that the sound engineer join you up on the stage so he can listen to the stage monitor sound levels while you are playing at performance volume. Give the sound engineer a set-list with some notes e.g. ‘song 2 has a major violin solo halfway through, so please raise the level at that point’. Get someone who really knows your sound to stand with the sound engineer during the performance to help him anticipate what the band should sound like. Turning down the Marshall stack to an acceptable volume also helps as it doesn’t drown out the monitors for the rest of the band. Finally, although pricey, it is a good idea to invest in a good ‘in-ear’ type monitoring system as this eliminates any problems with acoustics on stage.

    Whatever happens, there is no excuse for really bad sound. Each venue and system has its own quirks and characteristics and it IS up to the sound engineer to make sure that the band’s performance is a memorable one. Now read on, go forth, play, listen… enjoy!


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