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JMH Sound Design

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Lessons from Melbournes live event industry

As the gig life begins to flourish once again around the world, there has been a realisation that there is a severe lack of staff across the live events industry. Many would know that over the past couple of years, sustaining an income in this industry has been nigh on impossible. A not-for-profit organisation named Crewcare has decided to address this problem through initiating a training program, designed to find work placements for reasonably young and skilled persons looking to find their path into the industry.

The Weasle Eicke Scholarship

Named in honor of the man of the same name, Weasle Eicke, who tragically passed away last year, this scholarship aimed to extend his kindness and willingness to teach young and keen trainees when out on the job. Weasle was a veteran of the industry, and found himself heading Gig Power, a crewing company. Despite his position, he never declined the opportunity to teach someone something new. I never knew him personally, but from those who knew him, he was a good man who left too soon. After partaking in this scholarship, it is a pleasure to say that it has carried his name well and in good faith to his character.

After receiving funding from Creative Arts Victoria, Crewcare devised a program to train non-formally trained skilled individuals in the industry, or those from universities looking to find work placements. The program consists of 2 phases, a training phase that occured from 20/06/22 until 01/07/22, and a mentoring phase that spans 6 months after the first phase.

During the first phase of the program, a group of 20 trainees went around to various companies and venues, learning the basics of how certain companies operated, and how to perform basic tasks relating to said companies. Rigging was covered by Showtech, staging by Pro-stage, video by Woohah, audio by JPJ Audio, lighting by Resolution X, and venue skills at The Forum and RMIT Capitol Theatre. Being lucky enough to partake in this program, I went into this opportunity with the intent of uncovering new pathways, meeting new and interesting people, and learning all I can to better my skills and knowledge.

My learning lessions

While there were many individualised instances of learning throughout the scholarship for myself personally, I would like to discuss the main overarching themes and points that were drilled into the group.

Across all the companies that were a part of this training program, safety was of upmost importance. I’d say anyone who’s been around any veterans of the live industry would have heard stories of buggered backs and various other injuries. Safety on live event work sites is appreciated by all, and will make you stand out as someone professional and reliable.

Understanding relevant Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS), attending and paying attention to toolbox talks, carrying the right equipment (hi-viz, steelcap shoes, hard hat, etc), and being alert on the work site all help to make sure everyone can go home at the end of the night, and not just the people in your team. 

Closely tied to safety is teamwork, which is also vitaly important. Live events occur through many specialised teams coming together to make a memorable gig. If you aren’t able to function properly in a team environment, then the final product may not be realised. In all teams, everyone has a role to play of equal importance. From crewing to the front of house engineer, without any aspect of the overall team, the event can’t run. It is important to approach team environments with a good attitude, willingness to learn and try new things, and an understanding of your place and importance in the big picture. Show kindness to those around you, be grateful for everyones hard work, put your hand up to do the bad jobs, and you will be noticed.

The live events industry is a big family. You will see the same people very frequently, not just from your particular company. That lighting guy you talked down to last gig? Well he will be working with you a week later, and remember you. Point being, you have to get along with everyone regardless of if you like them or not. Don’t be the person who creates enemies in this industry, it will not help you in any way at all. Your peers are the ones who will provide you with work opportunities, the ones who will support you in tough situations. The larger your network, the better. In stressful times at events where everyone is under the clock, emotions run high. It is important to remain mindful of the situation, and ensure you treat your gigging family well – as you should find that the kindness you show will eventually return to you.

What about audio?

The scholarship was designed to open up the realm of possibilities within the live events industry, to show different aspects of the industry that many close minded audio engineers (such as myself) would not have considered. But of course, I have to discuss my time at JPJ Audio, a leading audio production company in Australia’s gigging industry.

The first thing that struck me within their warehouse was the remnants of the analog era. Studio engineering can still be heavily centered around analog equipment, and there is a love for the old. However, within the warehouse, I witnessed walls of rarely used analog equipment. A Smart C2, an API 2500, Bricasti M7, Avalon preamps, etc – studio engineer heaven. The boutique equipment remains for those who still seek the sound, but most touring acts who are after such equipment usually tour with said equipment. As the industry continually advances, JPJ remains with the times. The majority of their equipment is quite modern, regularly serviced, and upgraded.

At JPJ there is a sizable selection of industry standard large format mixing consoles, including the now outdated Avid Venue. It seems there is still a need to supply to the engineers unwilling to adapt to new tech. There is no shortage of fantastic consoles in their warehouse, the Avid consoles – Avid S6l’s and Venue’s – and Digico SD series. As an engineer who mostly works small to medium sized events, walking around the JPJ warehouse has given me the urge to get some hours under my belt on these consoles that I am unfamiliar with.

During my time at JPJ, I was also introduced into the world of line arrays, line array theory, and how to configure their system for shows. If only I could casually set up a line array in my backyard and just listen to it. Briliant sound, just as you would expect for industry leading speakers such as D&B audiotechnik

JPJ uses the the D&B line array tuning software ArrayCalc to adapt their systems to the different spaces they supply their systems to. ArrayCalc creates virtual scenarios and system setups, allowing you to calculate the perfect setup for a venue or space. You can then store this setup and load it into the speaker amplifiers when you arrive at the place you simulated in ArrayCalc. JPJ will then also use Smaart to calculate system equalisation and phasing. With all this software however, the good old ears are not forgotten. These procedures are in place to attempt to get the same sound in every scenario, so an engineer can come in who is familiar with D&B boxes and hear essentially the same system.

I was lucky enough to volunteer with JPJ on an event during this period of training. I witnessed the cogs turning and was able to get hands on experience and knowledge. The success of the JPJ systems and setups comes down to fantastic preparation, organisation, a certain level of simplicity in signal flow (considering the scale of the system), and well trained and knowledgable system technicians. These attributes can be implemented into our own systems, and our way of operating them. I know that I will be spending some time during this winter down period of events learning every aspect of my kit, through and through, just as I hope one day to do with equipment such as JPJ’s.

Wisdom and guidance

The video aspect of the training program suprised me in many ways. The company Woohah oversaw the groups training in regards to LED screens (which was a new world for me and many other audio engineers in the program), but it wasn’t the hands on experience with their equipment that gave me the most value.

Immediately as I entered Woohah’s office space I knew that the company was different. We were taken to our meeting area, and greeted almost immediately by the company’s CEO. It isn’t everyday that you get to speak and connect with a sizable companies CEO, especially one who was so open, kind, and insightful. Due to promises of confidentiality I am unable to share some information that was discussed, but I want to share my own personal take aways from this time. You may find this extremely useful if you, like me, are an aspiring successful business owner.

Stay true to your passion and objective in the face of opportunity and growth. If you must prioritise business expansion over passion, you are not going to find happiness and fulfillment. Anyone can operate a business, business is just an exchange of money. However, not everyone has the passion for certain fields, certain projects. Your passion makes you unique, it makes your business unique. I wont be dishonest, during the startup period for my business right now it is easy to think of alternatives, easier ones. But I am here right now because of my passion, and that will not change, as it is a battle worth fighting, and a privellage to call myself an audio engineer. This lesson resonated with me, and affirmed by beliefs.

Another important lesson is to always try new things. Having a go is the most important aspect of any venture. Disregard failure and see it as an opportunity to grow. It is ok to fail, and failure should not prevent you from chasing an idea. Obviously, calculate the risk, but do not be discouraged by the chance of failure – you will gain something regardless of the outcome. I’ve been told this by a few people; your gut feeling is usually correct. Think big, there is a certain magic to ambition and truely believing something that you would like to come true. If you aim low you will hit your target. If you aim for the stars you may not reach them, but you will certainly have reached heights greater than if you had aimed for what you thought was possible. 

My time with Woohah inspired me to continue to aim for the impossible. It is easy to get overwhelmed in this industry, as my dream is one that many share and aspire to. But if you have stuck around this long, I emplore you to follow my jounrey and this businesses progression. I truely believe that I can achieve great things, and I want to share this passion and ambition with you. I want to inspire people to challenge themselves and think big, to try new things and experiment, to give back what I have learnt. Stay tuned for what’s next.

Let us know your thoughts through contacting us on any of our social media pages, or contact us directly. Your input is appreciated.