Working on the road can be an amazing experience in the Live Sound world.
You get to see new things and places all over the world, learn new stuff, meet interesting people, and all while getting paid. And in my experience on the road, I saved boat loads of money up that I used for fun, education, investing, and buying yummy tacos and rolls of sushi.
I had a chance recently to catch up with my friend Jeff Wuerth of audio production company Clair Global, to get insider strategies to land live sound jobs. Jeff has had an amazing career so far working on tour recently with Jay-Z on the Magna Carter US tour, Maroon 5 as their monitor technician, as well as previous jobs working live sound for Kelly Clarkson, Paul McCartney, Adam Lambert, Kenny Chesney and more. He’s also doing more work as the system engineer for live production shows.
We did a short 10 question interview where you’ll learn things like:
- Why working live sound on tour can be rewarding
- How to find live sound jobs and what to look for in companies
- Things to avoid in the live sound industry
- Essential skills you should have if your new to live sound or coming out of the studio
- What work days look like on the road
- Challenges and how to keep your edge
- And more…
If you’re interested in getting into the intriguing world of Live Sound Production then read on and learn more from Jeff.
1. What’s your favorite thing about live engineering/touring?
I love to travel for work. I don’t think I could ever have a job in one location for now, it would get boring for me. I like to put on shows, the energy level is high and it’s a fast environment. Every day is different.
2. What are your top 3 challenges? How do you conquer them?
I would say at this time it’s keeping up with technology at Clair. I’m not a book person but there is a ton of protocol that has to be followed with the company from gear to personnel. I’m not good at remembering all the functions of gear unless I’m using it and sometimes it can be months before I see a peace of gear I was trained on. Once I start using it every day it’s not a problem for me but it sometimes takes time to remember.
Challenge number two is keeping your personal belongings limited, like luggage and electronics. I love gadgets, but you can’t bring a lot of stuff, you have to live on a bus with 11 other people.
I think the last challenge is dealing with difficult people every day sometimes. You are sometimes on their bus, or sometimes just have to interface with them at load in and load out. Most people are awesome but all it takes is one grumpy person to being down a good vibe on a bus.
3. What does your average day working on the road look like?
Once the alarm goes off, I climb out of my bunk on the bus, carful not to disturb any of the other crew members who may still be sleeping while I’m
getting ready. I like to head inside about an hour before load in starts to grab a quick breakfast, then head out onto the venue floor to start measuring the room and inputting the info into software that can predict how the PA should be hung to achieve the best results. Once completed I will make sure everyone on the crew knows how we are going to hang the PA and make sure we know the paths for snake and power. While gear is rolling off the truck everyone on the crew directs stage hands so it ends up in the proper location.
Once the entire truck or trucks are dumped, we do as much as possible while waiting for riggers to pull up points. On smaller tours the points may be pulled before all the audio gear is in the room, on a larger tour, you may have to wait hours. With my current tour, I prefer to make sure the PA is hung before heading off to lunch. After lunch we will generally noise all the components and make sure everything is at 100%. Once the stage is complete, we will begin to actually tune the PA. Generally this takes about 20-40 minutes depending on the room.
After line check we have a break while waiting on sound check. With my current gig our sound check is done right before doors, so I’ll head to dinner after sound check, and then get back to FOH to babysit things while patrons are entering.
After show it’s time for load out, then shower and bed.
4. What are some essential skills one should know coming out of a studio environment transitioning into live sound?
There is no time to do things over, and everything is much faster paced.
There isn’t time to always troubleshoot a problem in a show situation, the problem just has to be fixed as quickly as possible.
Obviously the next day if a line goes down for some reason it will be checked, but you have to think extremely fast and produce results. You also need to be aware of the other people you are living with on a bus and working with on your crew.
If people like you and you suck at your job, you will probably do better than someone who is great at their job but everyone dislikes.
5. Can you suggest any educational resources/mags/blogs/books/people to study and learn from?
To be honest I have gotten rid of almost all my magazine subscriptions and dont read books on sound for fun. Live Sound is the best magazine other than Mix that I can recommend.
6. How do you find work/gigs and what do you look for in a company?
I only work for Clair so they tell me what gig I’m doing. They are the only real company I have worked for. I don’t see myself working for any other
company any time soon.
7. What do employers look for in hiring a FOH/monitor engineer?
I can’t honestly answer this one because I haven’t been hired to be a FOH or monitor engineer. I have done those things for the openers, but I could have been anyone and done that. You definitely have to get your foot in the door and show you a capable of the task. In most situations it takes quite a while and years of experience.
8. What are some things in the live industry to avoid?
Make sure to stay responsible, and always able to complete your gig. Everyone out here is an adult, and it’s up to you to make sure you’re able to function every morning and get your job done. No one is out here to baby sit you.
9. What position do you like better Foh or monitor engineer? Why?
Other than mixing opening acts, I have not really done much in the way of mixing. However, my career has steered me into working as a System Engineer, and I have really enjoyed that challenge so far. Learning how to work with the aiming software to predict how the PA should be hung and tuning the PA once it’s up has been great. I can’t wait to continue in the System Engineering position and work with larger, more complex systems.
And any other thoughts, pitfalls or suggestions would be great too..
Just know that starting in this line of work it could take years to get your hands on a desk. I know guys that have been with the company much longer than me and have not ever touched a console. I worked hard in school and that also shows in my work on the road.
I was offered a position far sooner than Clair usually allows their employees to move up into considering the amount of time I had been with them.
One last thing, in my personal opinion it’s not a great idea to tell people you came out of a studio and after you have been hired dont tell people you went to Full Sail.They will probably find out sooner or later, but don’t ever offer that information.
One thing that gets to a lot of people is the travel. Make sure you are ready to leave your home for months at a time and live only out of a suitcase with your work clothes and day off clothes. Give it a try at home and see how you feel about it.
Follow Jeff’s adventures on the road on Twitter: @jwuerth
And on his site: http://www.crankthevolume.net/
And watch this kick ass video Jeff made of what a Maroon 5 concert looks like in this time lapse video from scratch to finale.
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