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Baker Lee • FOH at LargeNovember 2019 • November 12, 2019

Illustration by Andy Au

Confidentially, I am confident that if I take you into my confidence and confide in you as my confidant that it will build your confidence enough to trust that I am not running a confidence game. That said, I will now reveal the key to success; a secret that should not be shared with anyone else because this information is confidential and — if widely disseminated — could lead to an influx of people into our profession, which in turn will jeopardize our existing status and job opportunities. As a vote of confidence on my part, I will take you into my confidence and relay this secret to you in the strictest confidence because the very secret to success that I am revealing is confidence itself.

Throughout my career in audio and production, I have found myself in the position of being in charge of hiring and managing audio technicians, stagehands and more for clubs, tours and audio companies. As I work for other people and not myself, it often takes me a while to gain the trust of my employers, and for them to have the confidence that I will do the right thing when given these responsibilities.

Before I take a pat on the back for a job well-done, I have to admit that I have not been 100 percent successful in my hires, as there is more to hiring a person for a specific job than just the required skill set. If I hire an engineer to mix live shows, I also have to know that they can relate with people as well as get a great mix, and these people include band members and producers as well as the engineer’s own production team. Is this person a team player who is willing to do whatever is necessary to make for a successful show or are they going to do just what’s needed on their part to get by?

‡‡         Team Spirit

In building a team, it’s important to recognize where each member fits in the grand scheme of things. Does the person being hired understand the position they are to fill? Is their lifestyle compatible with the demands of the job? If one wants to be at home with his or her family, then taking a road gig should not be a consideration, whereas if someone wants to freelance and not be tied to any job in particular, then a job with a local audio company or venue would not be the proper fit. In most instances, it’s easy to discern a person’s skills and needs, but there are certain things that don’t get revealed until the applicant is hired and has worked for a while. Capabilities, both technical and personal, become more defined as hires reveal themselves over time and concessions are made on behalf of the employer to allow for these strengths and weaknesses. This is not to say that the applicant misled the person doing the hiring, but it could be that they were hired to do front of house and they are better suited for monitors, or might perform better as an RF specialist rather than a mix engineer.

‡‡         Flex for Success

As much as we require the right person for the right job, it is also the responsibility of the person in charge of the hiring to be flexible and be able to utilize the strengths and weaknesses that each employee presents during their tenure. It’s imperative to be able to recognize growth or stagnation in both the employee and the employer and make changes where necessary. If someone starts off in the shop or as an A-2 and they advance in their knowledge and confidence, it’s important to be able to identify the growth and reward it with upgraded responsibilities. Otherwise the employer stands the chance of losing employees to someone else who might show more faith in their abilities.

Again, I refer back to confidence and the capability of distinguishing between real confidence and an ego-backed confidence. I have quite a few prospective employees come to me for work and many of them come with the confidence of youth, the power of their abilities and a lack of understanding regarding the real demands of live audio work. Quite often, their abilities are garnered by attending one audio school or another and, while these schools provide a good education, they are mostly geared to studio work and not live mixing or stage work. Running and wrapping cables on a stage containing multiple bands is not a skill that is usually focused upon while learning to navigate Pro Tools.

Mixing 48 channels of a live band can be a daunting task for someone coming from a studio background, but in many cases, these new recruits realize that live audio is a viable business and they prove themselves so they can better their work situation. By keeping open to learning new skills, they build their confidence, and by becoming more confident in their own abilities, they instill a sense of confidence in the employer, who can then hopefully grow with their employee and offer them new opportunities. Confidence is at the center of being able to perform whatever task is presented to us, whether it’s loading and unloading a truck, doing monitors for a demanding band, mixing front of house for thousands of people or mixing 12 lavalier mics for a corporate event.

Confidence is gained by knowledge — both studied and applied — but there is a balance one must respect. It’s good to be confident in one’s abilities, but it can often backfire if there is cockiness or overconfidence, as that’s when even simple can be overlooked. Try to achieve humility as part of your confidence, regardless of your working status. Don’t jump the gun and assume you are better than you might be. It’s good to be self-assured, but it’s not advisable to mix a coliseum show as your first assignment fresh out of audio school. Take your time and build up to it. After all, there is a reason a show goes on the road for a year playing community theaters before returning to New York and opening on Broadway. It’s not just to work out the stage blocking, but also to build the confidence of everyone in the show, from the audio engineer to the star.

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