Sound companies are an obvious place to start if you want to work in live sound. From small local companies to the big players who provide sound systems for all the major concert tours. Below I talk to Taylor who works as an audio tech for one of the biggest touring sound companies in the U.S.
Tell me about your experience working for the company.
I’ve been working for the company for almost three years now, and I love it! It’s been perfect for me as an up and coming freelancer to get my feet into the industry and start making a name for myself. It’s provided me so many opportunities to meet new people and work some really awesome shows.
What are your typical duties on tour?
For most tours I’m the stage patch tech, meaning that I handle running XLRs and multipoint cables from monitor world out to the stage. I also handle placing microphones on instruments.
How long did you work for the company before doing a live show? How long before going on tour?
It took me about 3 months working for the company before I got onto a job site, and it took me about a 6 months before getting onto a tour.
Can you describe a typical work-day in the shop? On a one-off?
In the shop, I usually jump in with QC-ing gear. We check every piece of rack gear, speakers and microphones to make sure that it is working properly before sending it back out on a job. And depending on the week, I could be de-prepping cables and racks that had been out on a gig so it’s easier for the shop guys to QC the gear individually, instead of in racks.
A typical one off day consists of loading in in the morning, taking a few hours handle all things audio: flying PA, setting up monitor and FOH worlds, patching the stage. Once everything is set up, we’ll do a line check to make sure every channel is showing up on the consoles where it needs to be, and addressing issues if they are any. Then, usually, the artist will show up and do a sound check, which can take 20 minutes to a couple hours long, depending on the artist. After soundcheck, we reset the stage to ‘show ready’ conditions and wait for the start of the show! Then after the show is over, we start the process of loading out and packing up trucks.dd
What are the perks of the job?
One of the obvious perks is getting to work in the music industry and travel the world while getting paid. Others perks include meeting awesome people that could be lifetime friends.
What’s the worst part of the job?
I think the worst part about the job is it’s hard to keep your home life stable while you’re on the road. Maintaining good relationships with friends and family can be hard to do when you’re constantly busy.
What skills and experience should you have before applying for this job?
It’s helpful to know and understand signal flow from a FOH perspective and also a monitor perspective. Knowing where and how audio is getting from point A to B and understanding how to fix something when issues arise is extremely important.
It’s also helpful if you have done past work in venues or festivals and know the flow of load ins/outs. But if you haven’t had any experience before but show a great attitude and show that you want to learn things, you can get started working.
Does the job offer much of an opportunity to gain mixing experience?
I’m sure like other jobs, the opportunity of mixing is something that you have to seek yourself; meaning you have to show initiative and ask questions to the right people that could help you get mixing positions.
With bigger national companies, it takes years to climb up the ladder from PA tech to FOH engineer. But with smaller companies, it’s a little easier to make that climb.
What are some of the things you gained from this experience?
I’ve learned so much about trouble shooting different issues. I feel like it’s hard to teach trouble shooting, so that’s something that I’ve gained a lot of experience with on a gig. I’ve also gained a lot of connections while working. And with a tight knit industry like this, I feel like it’s important to have a good attitude on and off a show site. If people see how hard you work and have a good attitude about working, they’ll want to work with you again!
What kind of training did the company give you, if any, when you started?
They offer a year long training and it’s split in two sections. The first six months our “class” spent working in the different QC stations and learning the standard of QC and also learning how to fix things if a piece of gear returns to the shop broken. Meanwhile, we also had dedicated days where our boss would teach us the rigging of different PA boxes and how to use their amplifiers, if required. We also had different classes on RF and stage patching, with some exercises to help with our trouble shooting skills.
After the first six months in the shop, you spend the other six months on the road. In this period, you don’t really have a job title. You’re sent out on a tour to help with all things audio. My first tour I helped fly PA, patch the stage and help with anything else that needed to be done for the audio crew. In this time is where you can learn which parts of audio you enjoy and which “side of the snake” you want to specialize more in. My first tour helped me realize that I like doing more monitor type things, like stage patching and RF.