Need opinions on situation with my band and ownership of live sound; How would you handle?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by npbassman, Jul 29, 2019.

  1. npbassman

    npbassman Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2002
    Apologies ahead of time for the long post. Scroll to the bottom for a short summary if you want the quick lowdown.

    I’m in a band playing RB, Soul and Classic Rock. I’m fairly new to the group having been here for only three months and so far I’m having the time of my life. The ‘music, money, hang’ rule has all three boxes checked. I love the setlist, we’re getting tons of gigs and up to now everyone gets along really well, which at this point of my musical life is the most important thing to me.

    Well, I knew it had to happen eventually but we’ve hit our first ‘bump’ and I’d like to get everyone’s opinion on it. This is a fairly “non-techie” group with the exception for me as I’m an IT engineer by day. I’ll get straight to the point. The bassist I replaced used to run the sound and he owned the PA so he took with him when he left. The band decided to purchase a Soundcraft UI24 digital board but the problem is, they don’t know how to operate it. The first gig I played with them was feedback city and they had no idea how to take corrective action. Being super excited about the new band, I chipped in when possible and it didn’t take them too long to figure out that I’m a pretty fast study when it comes to understanding software UI’s so I figured out the board quickly. However, I made it clear that I’m a rookie sound man at best. I understand the concepts but I've never actually run live sound before however it's apparent that I'm the most capable in the group to do this, even given my limited experience and skills. So, the band asked me if I’d be willing to take a stab at running sound and I reluctantly said yes. I kind of figured it out and it turns out that I can get a pretty good sound and ring out the system if given enough time but, I’m still running this thing from the seat of my pants as I have no formal live sound training. It takes me a while to hunt down stuff like problem frequencies and troubleshoot tough rooms.

    Fast forward…what started out as a “thanks so much, just do what you can” scenario has turned into a “I need this in my monitors, the FOH sounds muddy, I need this, I need that, etc. The others help load in and break down but it’s gotten to the point where the management of the sound is ALL on me and I don’t even have time to setup my bass rig until 5 mins before downbeat. I’m then basically stressed out the first set of every gig worrying about the sound, listening for possible feedback and making adjustments on the fly all while playing. Compounding the issue is that the board belongs to the drummer and even though he has no idea how to run it for live sound, he likes to ‘fiddle’ with it live while I’m trying to do my work and we sometimes have a little PA power struggle going on sometimes.

    The tipping point was this past Friday. I basically spent over an hour tuning the room and I had the place sounding GOOD. Right before I had the chance to save the show on the board (and 15 mins before showtime), someone unplugs the mixer to make room for their wall wart AC adapter on the power strip and I lose all the work from the past hour. I kept my cool on the outside but in my head I’m saying ‘freaking Melon Farmer’ (The Goldbergs reference for anyone paying attention!) . Anyway yes, shame on me for not clicking save earlier but I was just about to, as I do before every show starts. When the board powers back up, all of the feedback returned and the room sounded like dookie. I had to take a walk outside to cool off. I return and it’s time to play and now I’m trying to chase gremlins on the fly. At this point it's also affecting my singing and bass playing as well because now I’m extra stressed plus I’m pretty pissed off.

    The final straw is during the first set - drummer guy starts to yap at me that his monitor mix is horrible and that he can’t hear anything. I basically snapped internally. It’s his mixing board and he has his laptop connected to it. If he has an issue with his sound he has the tools in front of him to make the corrections. The problem is, he doesn’t know how so he decides to complain to me about it. I finish out the rest of the gig and I politely and in a civil manner tell these guys how I feel and that we either need to either do this as a group so it's not all on me (which is unlikely to happen because of the skillset required) or that we need to hire a real sound man and pay him as a band member. We’re busy enough to be able to afford it but now I’m hearing grumblings about having another mouth to feed and how it’s going to affect the band members pay, etc, etc.

    I guess the reason for this post is1) to vent and 2) get everyone’s opinion on the matter. Keep in mind that I meant what I said at the beginning of the post. Dispite the picture the above paragraphs paint, I really do get along with these guys and I genuinely like them all so I need to handle this carefully while I try to balance that dynamic. However, I feel like I have gone above and beyond and now that this has taken the fun out of it and quite frankly, now that I feel like I’m being taken advantage of a little, I need to find a solution here. The BL has agreed to look for a dedicated sound guy but again, now people are complaining about having to give up a portion of their pay for one. I actually received a 'friendly' text from one band member who thanked me for my efforts but then followed up with 'I hope we can find a solution to this problem without affecting our (his) ability to make money'. Again, why is this on me? My position is..we’re either going to rotate the PA duties gig to gig, you’re either gonna (preferably) pay a real sound guy or you’re gonna pay me to do it because this is basically a second job and one that I don't really enjoy or signed up for.

    I do really enjoy being in this band and I like the guys so I want to resolve this as amicably as possible but something needs to be done. Thoughts?? Am I out of line? Did I wait too long to take a stand? How would you handle?

    Short Summary: I’m in a band that I love. Money, music, hang is there. Reluctantly took on PA duties but it’s not working out (see main post). Some band members don’t want to hire a dedicated soundman because of $$$ concerns. I feel it's unfair that it's on me. I want to stay in band but get out from under live sound duties while retaining friendly band dynamic.

    Last edited: Jul 29, 2019
  2. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    ^You have the correct answer. Pulling double-duty in a band is fine in a pinch, but not a long-term solution. Get a proper sound guy. Preferably yesterday.
  3. smurfco

    smurfco Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2007
    Norwalk, CT
    Ya need a sound man, ya done got to get one man.
    kobass, DJ Bebop, Engle and 2 others like this.
  4. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    I'm going to assume that money doesn't currently allow for the hiring of a permanent sound guy. Obviously, if you can make it someone else's headache, you're all set. But if you can't...

    I have the UI16. The Soundcraft system does have a built-in feedback blocker, AFS2. Instructions are in section 5.3.1 of the manual, page 57 (download at the soundcraft website). If you just leave your settings, it should already be there from one gig to the next, but you can always toggle it off and on again to be sure. They have instructions for detailed "ringing out" of a system but in my experience it was OK just to flip it on for live performance and it found its own settings automatically. On a phone you get to it from the Edit menu (also on a smaller android tablet, which is what I use).

    The other thing I've never done, but you can try it - every member of the band ought to be able to access the PA controls from their phone, just get onto the mixer's onboard wifi. This might be asking for even more trouble, but if they can be adults about it: there are four monitor mixes. Tell each band member which one is his, let him get on with his phone, and he can set his own monitor mix however he likes. Just click on the Aux Sends menu and they're off.
  5. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    SF Bay Area
    This is the best answer. You're not out of line.

    Rotating the duty doesn't make much sense, as you'd have varying degrees of competence and willingness, and it would be an extra burden for whoever ends up doing it at a given gig.

    It also probably isn't a great idea for them to pay you to do it, because (a) it would cost them nearly as much as getting a soundperson, in which case it's hard to see a win; and (b) you'd be just as stressed--actually, probably more stressed, because your bandmates are likely to be more demanding if they pay you, not less.
  6. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    solution is simple:
    hire someone to run sound.
    you play the bass.
    if the band bitches and moans about it, find a new band.
  7. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Maybe it gets presented as "I am happy to play bass, or I am happy to run sound, but I am unable to do both any more." And see what a statement like that (tailored to your specific situation) leads to.

    My only other question is whether it would be possible to get the sound system to a nearly set and forget state. If the other guys would do load in, tear down, and connections-disconnections (like, label every connection so anyone can do the hookup), and you could have everything preset so all you did was make some minor adjustments, would that work out better?

    It's been a long time since I played in a rock band except as a sub, but I've played with several bands in other genres where they had it so organized that basically it was a matter of putting everything in place, making all the connections, checking each microphone, and then doing a half a tune for a quick sound check to make sure nothing's too wonky. I have also played with bands that never stopped fiddling wth the PA. The quality of sound, as far as I can tell, was not noticeably better for a bunch of fiddling with it.
    Indexed and Nevada Pete like this.
  8. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Option c would be they pay you extra. It's totally unfair that you should be expected to do all this extra work and not get compensated in some way. I only raise it as an option because although it places stress on you (and you are within your rights to say you don't want that stress at all), it does sound like you are pretty good at it and over time could make it manageable. But I wouldn't do it out of the goodness of my heart (well, maybe, but not with them pressuring you to do it).
  9. Clark Dark

    Clark Dark

    Mar 3, 2005
    The band purchases a new PA system but places the operation of it on an individual....
    The "band" needs to put aside some time to learn from the individual how to operate their new PA
    The band needs to get a hall that they can use for a few hours so they can make then kill feedback and put the new PA thru its paces.
    Each member needs to be proficient in the operation of the PA, it should be "music, money, hang, and know how to run the PA"
    If none of the members are mentally incapacitated there should be no problem getting help running the board.:cool:
    Bassngtr, pcake, 2tonic and 1 other person like this.
  10. If you are doing two jobs then you should be getting paid for two jobs. If they decide to pay you a soundman share I'd suggest giving the crew a primer on controlling their own levels etc so you can focus on your primary job.
    chupacerveza likes this.
  11. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    I think you’re completely justified feeling this way. Been there, done that.

    I don’t have a solution for you. I ended up retiring from gigging!
    Oddly likes this.
  12. This is a tough situation and the only way to head off issues and stay with the group is to "demand" that there be a discussion followed by a decision.

    I own the PA and lights for our group, I set up the PA and run sound/lights while playing bass and singing for 98% of our gigs. I say 98% because we have one annual gig with a dedicated sound guy, otherwise it's our system and I'm up. That being said, we are small, 3 piece, and have a cajon, no drums. So our system and our setup are pretty simple. And the other two members defer to me to do the best I can in every situation and I'm paid more at each gig for the extra work. If there is an issue, there's a polite "request" asking to turn this up or this down, all made with the knowledge that I may be playing/singing at the time. It works for us. We have Mackie powered full range, Behringer subs and monitor, Mackie board, none of the software stuff, simple adjust and go.

    In your situation, this may/may not work. Sounds as if you don't want to keep the task even with the extra pay and that's your decision all the way. But the other option to paying you to do it is pay someone else so it should be something adults can understand.

    If they refuse either option than you just need to clarify that your time with them may be limited. It's a crap situation if the music and the "hang" are great but doing sound is WORK and depending on the attitude of other band members toward that WORK it's really easy or really difficult.

    Best of luck.
    Mr_Moo, chupacerveza and Oddly like this.
  13. there's your problem. They are used to being spoonfed.
  14. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg , Conquest Sound
    Unless I was playing in a Metallica Tribute, I wouldn't want a "dedicated sandman" either.
    No Malarky, DJ Bebop, Beej and 2 others like this.
  15. fjbass78


    Jun 21, 2007
    what are you putting through the PA? i do this for my bands but we play local bars, and the PA is mostly for vocals, our keyboards, and sometimes I'll mic the guitar cabinet. We use power monitors and mains, and I use two monitor mixes. Pretty easy and straight forward.
    TomB and DJ Bebop like this.
  16. Sorry to hear that |c:

    Personally not a fan of touch screens or GUI (this is one of the reasons), but time marches on...
  17. Vanceman


    Feb 14, 2007
    So. Cal.
    I do sound for my band, as well as power. I test/find a good receptacle to plug into, and run extensions to those who need power. This way, nothing ever gets unplugged without me knowing about it. Eventually you will get a good number of scenes saved into the mixer, and your duties will become less invasive and more predictable. I have accepted that I must arrive early, setup the PA and power requirements, and attend to my bass needs before I get distracted. That lets me 'pace' myself, and rest up physically and mentally before the gig starts. It what a bass player does; makes everyone else sound and play better.
    chupacerveza and dirtychinchilla like this.
  18. I've done double duty in a few bands and doing sound is a thankless job but through experience I've got pretty good at it. I always kept the board next to my amp so nobody would mess with it.
    In my current band we have a digital mixer so everyone can control their own monitor mix from their mobile phone or tablet so nobody can complain about their mix. We then trained a dedicated soundman that all band members were in favor of adding.
    Bottom line: Get a soundman - It's worth it if you want to sound your best!
    Wasnex and Nevada Pete like this.
  19. Ravenblack67

    Ravenblack67 Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    South Carolina
    I’m in the same boat. I’m in a small praise band and I’m doing sound. I have reached out to the congregation for assistance in finding someone I can train. My recommendation is to hire a sound tech.
  20. Ampslut


    May 15, 2017
    Barrackville WV
    The only solution is to hire a sound tech. or tell them you "if you expect me to do double duty, then I should be compensated for it." (good luck with that one) You need a sound tech
    Nick Danger, 2tonic and Nevada Pete like this.