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The Shop Guy

Baker Lee • FOH at LargeJanuary 2020 • January 13, 2020

Illustration by Andy Au

Things to not put on a resume when applying for a job in the field of audio: “A2 to main engineer, responsibilities include helping set up the stage, microphone placement and providing feedback to the A1 during the show.” Next! Yes, this was on a job applicant’s resume. While I realize this person was trying to show they were a valuable part of a team with important responsibilities, their choice of words tells me the applicant does not know enough of the professional vernacular to understand how this reach for proven experience would read to a prospective employer.

‡‡         Entry Levels

I often contact schools such as Full Sail and SAE (School of Audio Engineering) for potential hires. While the curriculum of both schools center mainly on studio engineering, I’ve had a certain amount of luck finding decent hires for entry-level live sound positions. As resumes don’t always provide a complete story, it takes a bit of reading between the lines to discern who may (or may not) be able to fill the position. I have often stressed to anyone writing a resume to be as honest and straightforward as possible when listing past jobs and responsibilities — especially if the job and duties are unrelated to the job one is seeking. I would rather see a job description that reads: “Janitor at fast food restaurant, in charge of keeping the restaurant and bathrooms clean,” rather than “Maintenance Engineer in charge of the preservation and integrity of a refreshed dining experience and porcelain sanitization.” I get it, but it might just as well read: “providing feedback for the A1.”

A better way to represent oneself is to display the jobs that were held to show that one actually has a desire and need to work. State the audio experience simply and without embellishment, but add that though you might lack experience you are a hard worker willing to put in the necessary hours to learn all you can to further your career. Personally speaking, that would capture my attention quicker than reading about one’s porcelain polishing expertise, but even with that kind of direct approach there are still the intangibles that need to be taken into consideration. While it may state on any given resume, “Works well with others,” that may be so until the anger issues arise or a need to always be correct gets in the way of taking direction. Negative personality traits don’t always surface or express themselves immediately, and it’s hard to know how someone will function under pressure until the situation presents itself.

Interviews with the probable employees help, but even an interview does not fully denote how a person might fit in with the current team and company in regard to their own work ethic, quirks and personal agenda. Remember, this process is in regard to hiring for an entry-level position in the audio field, not an A1 engineer for the purpose of mixing shows. This is about hiring for the-not so glamorous, but very important job of shop guy. One thing I’ve noticed with most of the applicants that I see is that each one of them describes himself or herself as a music producer. This makes sense, since most of them have come to me via one school or another and their studies have been in the art of recording and producing. While they may get a chance to use some of their recording / production skills during their foray into the world of live sound it’s more than likely that they will spend most of their time pulling and setting up gear, filling cable trunks, loading trucks, maintaining equipment, doing inventory and unpacking returned gear.

‡‡         Un-Glamour Profession

It’s not a glamorous job, but it is fulltime, paid employment, and unless one is living off a trust fund, it is financially more rewarding than most entry-level studio jobs and, being that the work is closely related to that of the desired profession, it is definitely more satisfying than driving a cab or working in a retail store. If one is inclined and takes advantage of the opportunity, they will learn the correct way to put together a live audio event and they will also learn how to operate the equipment. In most audio shops, the shop guy is responsible for making sure that when the techs and engineers go out on their gigs all the required gear is accounted for and functioning properly to make their event a success.

As well as knowing the gear, the shop guy also needs to know how certain engineers work and what they require to make them comfortable for a show. The shop guy needs to be able to upgrade the various digital consoles and how to clean them and set them up for the next rental. The shop guy also needs to know how to repair and maintain as much of the gear as possible, as well as knowing the workings of the many different wireless systems. In between maintaining equipment, putting together and disassembling gear, the shop guy also is required to keep track of the inventory.

Inventory is our bread and butter, and broken or missing items can be costly in terms of time and money. The shop guy is pivotal in making sure events and rentals happen. The shop guy has to satisfy the needs of the engineers and clients as well as being the custodian of the company’s equipment. The shop guy has to be detail-oriented, and when multiple shows are going out — along with multiple rentals — they have to be able to work in an atmosphere of controlled chaos.

Running a shop is not necessarily a sexy job, but it is an important job. Forgetting a simple thing such as including BNC cables with the wireless paddles can make an event grind to a halt and cause unnecessary friction for all involved. The shop guy will not receive accolades from the band for a great monitor mix, nor is anyone going to applaud the brilliance of the shop guy’s great FOH mix. The shop guy won’t have a recording that lives on for posterity, but without the shop guy, everything would fall apart. A good shop guy is not to be taken lightly, and most shop guys go on to become excellent engineers and technicians, but until they do, they will remain the unsung, behind the scenes stars of any event or audio department. Just pack plenty of spares…

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