Saturday, July 21, 2012

Size Matters

My production group just did a week of events at the local county fair. Five of the members each came in and took care of different events. It was kind of a break for us because every single one was so much smaller than the stuff we're used to working on. It was actually kind of comical to see how much stuff we had to bring out to take care of a couple of the very smallest ones. The square dance was just a caller and his laptop.

But in that, there's a lesson on the value of an event. We got the contract because we're all home town sons who grew up and want to give back to the community. So it's pretty important for us to do a good job on this stuff. It was a challenge though at a couple points to deliver not just the gear but the customer service as well.

My part in it was to mix the Fair Queen pageant.  I'm pretty lucky to work in a situation where the gigs are advanced pretty well (information exchanged before hand), the players can call for changes to their monitor mixes with hand or even eye movements, and I can just push loud, clear sound right to the back of the room. This was not the case with this event. If ever there was a tiny event in a one horse town this was it. Then throw in a bunch of high school age girls who may or may not know how to use a microphone and won't complain about their monitor mixes until afterward when it's too late.
I got told the wrong start time but fortunately was there early enough to hit the down beat anyway.  The lady in charge dictated my speaker placement based on her flower arrangements. I had no idea at all what the contestants would be doing for the talent portion. And last but not least, last year at the same event, nearby exhibitors in the hall threatened to leave over the volume. I had to limit my coverage to just the seats in our half of the barn and everybody farther back was out of luck.

I was a little cross at the beginning but once the event started the organizer and I had a chance to offer a quick apology to one another and then I just settled in to do the best I could. After the interviews and the talent portion were over there was a presentation of an award from the parents of a girl who was the fair queen about ten years ago who had been killed in a crash. That was enough to wake me up a little. 

I've built my business on customer service. Give 'em what they need, not what they deserve. And I'm really glad I've gotten so I do it on auto pilot. Despite being a tiny pageant with only six contestants in a barn in a one horse town, this event meant a lot to the people in that room. Watching a father tear up as he handed over a plaque made the minor irritations seem microscopic. 
When it was all over I got one more lesson in decorum. While I was loading out the family of the winner was in front of the stage, loudly complaining that they couldn't hear the music very well when she was singing. I just grinned and choked down the urge to fill them in on how hard it is to mix in a barn and at least you could hear her voice and by the way you do realize she won right? Whatever, my britches aren't so big that I need everyone to love me. In fact, I don't care if they all hate me as long as I know I did the best I could and the check doesn't bounce.

So to get back to the title, the size I'm talking about that matters is the size of the ego of the sound guy. Keep it in a road case till you get back to the shop or you're having a cold one with your sound guy buddies. Nobody cares how much gear you have or how nice it is. They don't care what famous people you've worked for or how many thousands of screaming fans there were. The event that you're on for a few hours is the result of a lot of work on the part of the organizers. Even if they're not very organized it's still the biggest thing in their lives at that moment and they don't need your ego on the list of things they have to deal with.

Give 'em what they need Brethren of the Knob and Fader... not what they deserve.

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