The main comment I get when people find out I am a live sound engineer is “Your job must be so cool.” And it definitely is cool, but it’s probably not what you think it is.
The article from Berklee Online, written by Ken “Pooch” Van Druten, provides an insightful glimpse into the life of a live sound engineer on tour.
Van Druten, a seasoned professional with experience working with artists like Jay-Z, Justin Bieber, and Linkin Park, shares the realities of his job, which often contradicts the glamorous perception many people have. He describes the demanding nature of the role, involving 18-hour workdays in challenging conditions, extensive travel, and repetitive tasks that test one’s endurance.
The typical day for a sound engineer on an arena tour starts at 6 AM, with the setup of an empty venue. This involves rigging equipment, using computer prediction software for speaker placement, connecting cables, and setting up the stage. The process is meticulous and requires a lot of physical strength, technical knowledge, and coordination with other departments.
Mic placement and line checks are critical, as everything is disconnected and reconnected daily. Troubleshooting any issues with the lines is a systematic process, ensuring everything functions correctly. The PA system is then tested and tuned, often using virtual soundcheck to anticipate how the band will sound in the venue.
Despite the long hours and physical demands, Van Druten emphasizes the rewarding aspects of the job, like being part of memorable shows and bringing joy to audiences. However, he also acknowledges the personal sacrifices involved, such as being away from family for extended periods and missing significant life events.
The article concludes with Van Druten reflecting on the unique satisfaction of contributing to a live performance, a feeling unmatched by any substance. His passion for his work is evident, despite the challenges and sacrifices it entails.
This article is well worth the read.