Imagine for a moment that your job’s sole requirement was to make live bands sound great every night. Pretty awesome right? Late nights, live music, and an endless supply of nightlife encapsulate a typical day at the office. Then after actually doing it for a few minutes you start to realize something: being a sound guy, even a good one, is typically the most thankless job in the entertainment industry. Just ask Doug Siebum. Honing his craft since 2001, the aural engineer has done sound for some pretty big names, including Katy Perry and Coachella, but he still makes his bread and butter at local clubs. And for every night when things run like a dream, there’s a night when he probably wishes he could strangle a band with their own ill-functioning guitar cables.
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“Sometimes when a band walks in and they’re being super demanding, they start requesting stuff and they aren’t using the right terminology, you know pretty quickly if they haven’t been around. And at that point you’re like let me just deal with this and get the night over with,” he says. But often times the band is only a slice of the chaos that can really irk a sound man, whether he’s working behind the booth or trying to live life a lot more quietly off the clock. With that in mind, Siebum was kind enough to share with us a list of the top 15 things that will definitely annoy the shit out of your local sound guy.
15. When a drunk person I don’t know wants to stand next to me and talk to me the whole time I’m working. I have a job to do which requires concentration and me paying attention to what’s going on and it’s a lot harder for me to hear what’s going on in the room when someone is constantly jabbering into one of my ears.
14. When people ask me for a table or try to place a drink order with me. You’re talking to the wrong guy.
13. When people expect me to be as excited to be there as they are. Where this might be their every once-in-a-while night on the town, I do this 3 to 7 nights a week every week. Forgive me if I look bored.
12. When people expect me to want to go to a club on my night off. Can we just go someplace quiet and peaceful instead?
11. When random people want to tell me how they think it should sound. They don’t know the sound of the room, what the band wants, what the club management or owners want, or about potential noise complaints from neighbors. And really, I do this for a living. If you’re not the sound guy that’s traveling with the band, keep your amateur opinion to yourself.
10. When people touch my mixing board or audio gear. You can blow up a speaker or amp or potentially damage someone’s hearing. This is expensive equipment so if you don’t own it, don’t touch it and keep your drinks away from it.
9. When bands ask me to turn the monitor up. Each monitor is a separate mix. Tell me what instrument or vocal you want to hear in the monitor and I will turn that up for you.
8. When bands tell me they want to hear everything in the monitor. If I put everything in the monitor it’s just going to sound like mud because it’s a mono mix and everything is on top of each other. How about you tell me the two or three things that are most important for you to hear and we’ll start there.
7. When bands don’t bring what they need to play the show. If you need adapters, cables, batteries, etc to make your equipment work, bring it and bring backups. If you break a guitar string, the show can’t end because of it. If you need a special adapter don’t expect me to have it. Although you might get lucky and I do.
6. When bands ask the crowd how it’s sounding out there. That’s insulting. I do this for a living.
5. When people call or text me before 10 a.m. I just went to sleep a few hours ago.
4. When a band knows that their set time is up, so they try to get the crowd involved by asking the crowd if they want to hear one more. I will cut off your mic and bring the house music up.
3. When you give the band one more song and they try to play two more.
2. When people blame the band’s lack of talent or poor equipment on the sound guy. It’s amplified sound. If it sounds like crap, it will be amplified crap.
1. When people call me a DJ.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 20, 2013