I’ve noticed a trend appearing around my city recently. The bar/venue who wants to have live bands and live music, but doesn’t want to spend the money to hire a sound person or buy even a remotely decent PA system. But by all means! Come play here! All night! Don’t like our setup? Then bring your own PA! Problem solved, right?
Wrong. Unless you have someone qualified to come run your board you are now the band, the equipment rental agency, and the sound guy all in one cheap package! Wow! What a great deal, right? Wrong! What you get is bands trying to perform while attempting to be a sound engineer all at the same time. Watch as every member in the band argues over who’s better at it, when none of them know a damn thing about proper mixing. The end result? A band that is often times unnecessarily loud, out of balance, and sounds absolutely awful. Just what your customers want to hear, right? You could be the greatest live band in existence, but if your sound is awful, people are going to think you suck.
So I don’t understand this growing trend. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot. People aren’t going to come to your bar if you constantly have overly loud unmixed bands every night or weekend. So it becomes a lose/lose. People now think the bands all suck and they think your bar sucks for having bands that suck. Negative negative negative! All of it. I don’t understand this! You would think people in the bar would come up to the band and mention something like: “Hey, your bass is so loud we’re all about to soil our trousers!” or “You’re voice has so much high end in it that you sound like an amplified Alvin and the Chipmunks!”, but they won’t do it. No one says anything at all, until they leave. Usually, except maybe that one drunk guy in the back that got to stand behind the board once at an AC/DC concert, so he’s an “expert”. But that guy is always wrong and is usually the one telling you how much you rock and to TURN IT UP, DUDE!!! When everyone else no longer has skin or organs left and you’re playing to a bar filled with angry skeletons.
I’ve also noticed that there are usually no monitors provided anymore. Great! Now the band that’s mixing themselves to a room they cant hear, can’t even hear themselves! HELL YES!! GREAT IDEA! Better turn those amps up, right? “Hey, I can’t hear myself sing, turn up the vocals!” “What’s going on?” “I can’t hear anything!” Turn it up! More! More! Soon all you have left in the bar is a few def hobos and a very pissed off bar staff. Then what happens? They blame the band. “YOU GUYS ARE TOO LOUD!!!”, “EVERYONE LEFT BECAUSE OF YOU!”, “YOU SUCK!”, “WE’RE NOT GETTING PAID SO NEITHER ARE YOU!”. It may be that the band was too loud and drove everyone out. But is that really the fault of the band playing this stage of horrors?? If there is no one to control the sound equipment, how can they know? Not every band is a super experienced volume conscious band. If there are no monitors on stage, again, how can they know? If there is no one there qualified to mix a band properly, is that the bands fault? If not every band in town can afford their own PA and sound guy, is that also the bands fault? Many musicians can also double as sound engineers, but is that really what you want happening at your shows?
Then comes the sound equipment in general. If you’re not going to pay a sound guy to take care of and run your gear, you’re sure as hell not going to go buy an awesome PA system. You’re going to go get a garage/moms basement band setup, so you don’t care if it gets abused or blown up by musicians that have no idea what they’re doing. BECAUSE THEY DON’T! Even if they think they do. Many musicians have no idea about gain structure, EQ, general mixing, mic placement, how to eliminate feedback potential, or even how to setup a basic PA properly. So when the band gets there and has no idea how to set up your crappy PA after DJ Sit N’ Spin left it unplugged last night, it’s assured that they’ll probably do it wrong or backwards. Usually ending up in something blowing. Like a speaker or a power amp. But hey, who cares, right? If they blow something, it’s cheap and we can fix it later. It doesn’t matter if there is a band playing the next night. They will just have to deal with it (and sound terrible). But hey, make sure you bring a shit ton of people into my bar and have them all drink heavily so I make tons of money! Who cares if you sound like Donny Dickless and the Douche Canoes, JUST AS LONG AS YOU FILL MY BAR AND SELL MY BOOZE!!
Even if you’ve invested in nice gear for your venue, if you have bands running it themselves, it won’t be long before something gets horribly broken/blown up and you’re forking out the cash for a replacement or expensive repair. What’s the point of having bands if you won’t invest in them sounding good?!? It’s nothing but destructive to your business and to all the bands that have to play on your stage from hell. It just seems so silly to me. How much is a sound guy for a night to run your board? Seems the going rate around here is about $100 and maybe a free meal or a couple free drinks. Is that too much to ask for the service they provide? I don’t think so. Bands will also often times tip a good sound guy when they get the joy of actually sounding decent for a change. Negative feedback goes 100 times farther than positive, it sucks, but that’s how people are. “Hey, did you hear the Blue Beaver Experience over at Pat’s Pachyderm Palace the other night??”, “Man, they were HORRIBLE, and that place just sucks anyway, they book lousy bands”, “Let’s never go there again!” It happens, I hear it all the time from random people. It’s unfortunate, because ‘The Blue Beaver Experience’ is a quality band and Pat’s Pachyderm Palace is an awesome venue with great potential, but it has a terrible cheap PA and no sound guy to run it. So the negativity flows, booking slows for the Blue Beaver Experience, and Pat’s Pachyderm Palace is struggling to bring in a crowd anymore when there is a band playing. It’s an unfortunate thing and I hate that I’m seeing it more and more.