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Be nice to your sound engineer.EXPAND
Be nice to your sound engineer.
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Hey, Musicians, Don't Be An Ass. Be Nice to Your Sound Guy.

David Wilson, sound engineer, venue manager and talent buyer for Double Wide, has always joked about teaching a class on stage etiquette. Hopefully, enough people will read this, and he won’t have to.

“Don’t piss off the sound guy.”

It’s a pretty common mantra in nearly every music scene. Most up-and-coming musicians, and even long-time performers, don’t realize that the fate of their performances rest in the hands of sound engineers. Most engineers won’t be so harsh as to kick bands offstage in the middle of performances.

But performers who are difficult during the 30-45 minutes they have onstage can garner them a bad reputation in the scene and potentially get them banned from a venue. Here are some of Wilson’s pet peeves that bands should avoid to maintain a good standing with the venues they play.

1. Know your gear and be organized.
Wilson says most sound engineers are there to do the best job they can and assist in any way possible. However, some bands show up to a performance not knowing how to use their amps or who will be singing onstage that night.

“Not being prepared, I guess, in general,” Wilson says. “Bands show up, and they don’t know how many vocal mics they’ll need because they don’t know who will be singing that night, or they don’t know how to plug in their own gear.”

2. Be on time getting on the stage or off.
Wilson says he is a stickler for time and thinks most sound engineers are the same way because it’s their responsibility to keep the show going. It’s not just about getting performers to play on time, though. If a band shows up late and has to rush through its setup and soundcheck, there is no guarantee that it'll sound as good as it wants or should.

Additionally, unless a band is the headliner, when a set is over, Wilson says the only thing it should be doing is getting its stuff offstage, which is the main priority at the time.

3. Let the engineer do his or her job.
If performers show up on time, they’ll get the most out of their engineers. They’ll have time to work through any foreseeable technical difficulties and get the sound they want. Wilson says it’s a little frustrating when performers ask the crowd how everything is sounding.

“They’ll ask the guy that’s three feet in front of the guitar amp if he can hear everything,” Wilson says. "That guy’s not going to hear your vocal probably because he’s, you know, practically on the stage. [That’s] my job.”

4. Know how to communicate onstage.
Wilson says some people aren’t familiar with the signals to use onstage. Most engineers will assume performers know to point to what they want and then up or down to indicate their desired volume. He says just waving to him in the middle of a set doesn’t really help. While Wilson tries to work out these kinks and explain to bands how to ask for adjustments, he says he still has people coming offstage complaining about their sound.

“People just step off stage and are like, ‘You’re a terrible sound guy cause I couldn’t hear anything all night,’ but they didn’t say anything [onstage],” Wilson says.

5. Don’t destroy the venue’s gear.
This is probably the most important. Wilson says any damage done to the gear provided by Double Wide could result in being banned from playing its stage. This is because the equipment is property of the bar. Wilson explains that if the performers provide their own gear, he doesn’t care what they do with it.

“I’m all about a performance and a band doing their thing, as long as they’re not destroying our property,” Wilson says. “I would treat it as destruction of the bar in general, [which] carries over to the stage as well.”

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