What do sound techs and band managers actually do?
April 18, 2008 9:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in understanding what a sound tech's duties entail during a concert setting, and what goes into managing a band.

I'm not looking for a career, I'm just trying to understand these jobs and how they fit into a touring band.

If you do sound for concerts, what do you do? And can you break it down to what you do pre-concert, during, and then after?

What does a band manager do, and if/while on tour with the group, what do they do on a day to day basis?
posted by FunkyHelix to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

And make sure you know the difference between a

Band Manager and a Tour Manager
posted by rooftop secrets at 9:37 AM on April 18, 2008

Response by poster: Wow, that's a lot of information. I didn't think to use wikipedia. Do you know if a click track can be played through a drummer's In Ear Monitor?

And I was thinking more band manager, which is why I wondered what he did on tour if there was a tour manager present. Probably should have worded that better.
posted by FunkyHelix at 9:52 AM on April 18, 2008

Yes indeed you can play a click track that way. HOWEVER - there are many drummers who have problems playing to a click. How these problems are exactly defined from drummer to drummer varies... not to mention those that just plain hate it, whether they are capable or not.
posted by bitterkitten at 11:35 AM on April 18, 2008

The wikipedia article is pretty good for live sound. In smaller venues, the FOH engineer often has to deal with the monitor mixes as well. It's trivial to run a click track through a drummers in-ears, but in my experience many drummers don't like / can't play with one.

Things go a little differently depending on if its a tour or a one-time show, but a typical show breaks down very roughly like this:

- set up mixers, processors, amps, speakers, etc.
- sound checks & rehearsals
Show Time
- run the board

- pack everything up

(on preview: bitterkitten beat me to the click track question)
posted by jjb at 11:53 AM on April 18, 2008

I worked as a FOH for about a year and it was the best work experience of my life.

In addition to what jjb mentioned, you also are the morale booster (' yes, you sound good '), conflict mediator (' we need to have the bass cabinet here '), AND basically have to do everything within your power to make the band sound good.

This requires a good deal of technical & social understanding, as well as an intuitive confidence because when the drunk in the audience wants to sing along, you have to lower the mike so it doesn't sound like crap. It's not just a set it and forget it type of thing, every song, every vocalist, every guitar solo, has a specific feel which you can dial in using your equipment. You direct attention, by making various parts of the mix 'pop', then fall back again into the jam. You blend the various tonal tonics, accentuating beauty in all of it's forms, until the sheer weight of the aesthetic appreciation becomes so great that you don't dare adjust a half decibel, lest you lose the experience.

Apart from all the setup and teardown, the actual mixing, I have found the experience to be very powerful. There are the musicians, and there is the audience. One side creating, the other recieving, and YOU, the mighty mixer, lie at the vortex between the two. In your hands is the power to inspire dance, and the ability to bring chills to the spine.

You can turn gold into mud, or you can shine it and make it sparkle.

But if it's mud to begin with, there's not much you can do.

PS: If you're doing a show with heavily sequenced parts, ie, ableton live, then a drummer in-ear click will be necessary unless they're clockwork.

PSS: In ear monitors and feedback cancellation boxes are the best thing to happen to live music in the past 20 years. If you can afford them, use em!
posted by emptyinside at 3:47 PM on April 18, 2008

It's important to keep in mind that this varies greatly depending on the band and the venue. When you're a band that doesn't have a lot of money playing at some hole in the wall bar, you're not going to get the finely tuned mix and perfect monitoring that folks are describing. You'll get some mics to sing into and two monitor speakers that probably share a single mix. You can ask for adjustments to the monitors between songs and the engineer might make them.

You blend the various tonal tonics

posted by ludwig_van at 7:25 PM on April 18, 2008

Late to the thread but here's how our engineer does things:

Day before show: Load tour bus with stage gear and P.A. in trailer which we have attached to rear of bus. Some shows have a backline and/or sound man. We take everything because nine time out of ten what was promised per the rider isn't what we get. Better safe than frustrated!

Day of: Always get to venue early and note any possible problems. Usually they have to do with breakers, power sources and logistics. Amazingly, a lot of music venues have shitty setups (no power drops on stage - everything on one breaker - nowhere to run a snake). This all has to be worked out. Our sound guy does all of this.

It take about an hour for our band to get set up (quicker if theres a backline). Typically the P.A. will go down first and we set up around it. We have a specific stage plot and everyone in the band knows where everything goes. Its the same for every show except when we open for national acts. We are at the mercy of the opening act's crew and we take what they give us.

Sound check: All instruments and vocal mics are line checked to insure a clean signal to the board. We don't worry about the sound so much as the signal. We play a song. This is when the overall sound is dialed in. Sometimes it takes a couple songs. We run in-ear monitors so these are checked when we do one last song. Our sound engineer knows our mix and can get us dialed in pretty quickly.

For the rest of the evening, our engineer puts our fires here and there. Sometimes shit can come out of nowhere (feedback, etc.,) so he has to be ready for all of that. He'll also change a guitar string, bring water, whatever. He's a jack of all trades. He's indispensable.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:55 PM on April 19, 2008

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