OH yes, the politics. The dirty little secret of live sound mixing. I believe that, on any given day, 50% of our job is politics and 50% of our job is actually mixing.
The problem is that MOST times this is out of wack, one way or another.
Somtimes our job is 90% politics and 10% mixing ability and/or talent. Sometimes our job is 90% mixing, 10% politics. (this doesn’t happen very often.) I am often asked how do I get your job? Well, before you learn anything audio, you better hone your people skills. Before I even get an opportunity to show an artist “what I got”, I have to meet with them and they have to like me, and like what I have to say.
Early on in my career, I was sent by a prominent audio company to replace a monitor mixer that had been fired, on a large scale tour. I flew into Mexico City and took a cab straight to the gig. When I arrived no one paid attention to me, obviously I was one of many that had tried and failed before. So I went about my business of ringing out the wedges and guessing about what this artist wanted. The techs were of some help, but most (I could tell) were over it.
So after working all day long, I had something that I thought the artist was really gonna love. Soundcheck time. The artist walks over to stage left. He looks at me, and walks back to his dressing room. Five minutes later the production manager comes to me and hands me a plane ticket, and says “thanks for coming, the artist doesn’t like how you LOOKED.” “He hasn’t even heard how it sounds”, I said. The production manager shrugged his shoulders. I zero’d my console, grabbed my bags and was flying home the same day I flew in.
OFTEN it is not about sound. Obviously (once given the opportunity) you have to have the chops to back it up, but initially you better be able to get along with the artist (or in my case – LOOK a certain way.) My suggestion to kids trying to get into this industry, is to study books about audio, but better yet, study books about people skills, and how to read other human beings for correct reactions to them. I believe this is JUST AS important as having the basic knowledge of audio fundamentals.
I have been doing this job for over 20 years and I am still getting hit by the politics bus. Just recently I lost a gig with a well known band because of politics. Absolutely NOTHING to do withhow I made it sound, but EVERYTHING to do with the insanity of the “talent”. I was the management sacrificial lamb, and the band worshipped at the altar of my demise. Dissapointing, but it happens.
So definitely make sure you know your shit, when it comes to audio. But if you REALLY want to keep the gig… Learn how to interact with the guitar player’s girlfriend. She very well may be the key to your success.