It is that time of the year when most venues are having the annual end of year concerts. Lots of dance schools are coming in and putting on shows, showcasing the years’ work for the people that are paying the bills, the parents. At least gone are the days of cassette tapes badly cued and stretched, with more noise than a Mack truck. We went to the CD, with lots of disc swapping and badly burnt discs. We have now laptops and iPads connected to the PA with soundtracks at the ready. Another problem seems to have reared its ugly head, the constant can you turn it or down. It seems that the people putting together the show are not thinking about the overall level and trying to get the tracks to have a similar level. Therefore, the venue tech spends his time adjust the desk level, so the audience does not leave with bleeding ears. When people burnt CD’s the software they used would normalise the various tracks so there was not a large discrepancy in the levels of each track. These days the play straight out of their playlist, sometimes with two or more devices. This has happened to me recently; a client decides to swap from one device to another during a show. So, as you can imagine the levels were different plus the noise from unplugging and plugging in. It seems the concept of putting a show soundtrack together in one place had escaped them. Each device plays back at a different level. Also, maybe when you are assembling the soundtrack invest in some decent speakers or headphones so that you can hear if the recording is bad. Often clients listen on a pair of crappy computer speakers and decide to add a b it more bottom end as it sounds nasty on their speakers. Then when the track gets played over the venues expensive PA it sounds even worse all bottom and distortion. Which we cannot do much with. This also reflects badly on the venue as
So what can we do? maybe we all need to remind clients that to make the job easier for all involved, we would like the soundtrack normalised so the single tech is not jumping from lighting console to audio console to sort out the level problem. We would all be much happier. Maybe when the venue sends out the contract and tech. requirements that needs to be filled in, we could include some information that might help them put together a better show.
Now most playback software programs should have a way of normalising the sound level. I know with iTunes and Windows Media Player you can normalise tracks for when you burn a CD. So maybe encourage them to go back to CD’s. Or recommend some suitable software to use. Q-Lab for Macs and Multiplay for Windows spring to mind. With these pieces of software, you can adjust levels.
Since bad sound reflects on the venue and the staff we need to give the clients some simple guidelines and help them to achieve a great product. We could value add to the booking by offering a session on how to get great sound or do the soundtrack for the client. Therefore selling another service. It is not an us and them situation, we are all involved in creating a great product. It might cost a bit of time and money for the venue but it likely to result in a happy client, appreciative audience and therefore a repeat customer.