Everybody knows two things: their job, and sound. Being the sound tech brings with it an open season on opinions about your mix. While most people will let lighting and video slide, any sound issue is fair game. For example, what happens when feedback occurs? The entire audience turns around and glares at the sound booth. I have a T-shirt that says, “Turn back around; I heard it too.”
So, how do you handle the constant pressure to be perfect in an imperfect environment? Here are some thoughts:
Don’t focus on the Negative Nellies
Back when we taught the Maranatha! Worship Leader Workshops and Integrity Seminars 4 Worship, all the instructors were evaluated by each class. Our reaction was universal in that we cast aside the 200 positive reviews and focused on the five negative ones. Then, we tried to go out and finish the conference on a positive note. After a while, we learned to keep the reviews away from ourselves until we were back home and could evaluate with an open mind. There may be validity in the negative, but it can’t help in the moment.
The best idea of ourselves is that we are worthless, but made worthy by and through His work. Everything we do can be done better, faster, and cheaper by someone else. But, we are there despite ourselves. God has a reason for you specifically to be there. So, take it and run with it the best you can, knowing as soon as you think you’ve arrived, the flight gets canceled. As Dr. Charles Stanley always says, “Look your best, do your best, and be your best.”
Realize they may have a point
Buried in the thorns may be a rose of enlightenment. Weigh the person’s perspective. If they are the former tech that you replaced, the comment may be covered in bitterness, but they might have an understanding of the system worth considering. If the person commenting longs for the good old days of pipe organ, the negativity will be about volume and tone, so think about the situation being reversed and maybe drop the level a few dB just for brotherhood’s sake.
Do not respond in kind
No matter the offense, we are not at liberty to nuke them. This is where the rubber meets the road. A great tech is made of thick skin and a soft heart. Yes, they are wrong and haven’t a clue, but we are there to diffuse situations, not enflame them. This issue comes up regarding OSHA standards for loudness. They will come at you with their free SPL app using their phone’s mic and tell you it’s too loud per OSHA regulations. They do not understand the cost of a true calibrated meter and a reference microphone, nor do they know OSHA numbers are referring to steady state industrial noise, not dynamic musical events. Instead of reducing them to rubble with tech-speak and charts, smile, acknowledge and, depending on your spiritual journey, either pull down the placebo fader or actually reduce some energy around 3-5KHz.
Don’t take offense to your team’s comments
Agreed; those comments hurt the most since you trust these people and work hard to meet their needs. Yet, they will say something that cuts right to your heart. Anger builds instantly and a true zinger is on your tongue. Don’t say it. In the worst case, just walk away, for whatever you speak in that moment will hang in the green room for years to come. Outside, get your head about you and bring a third party with you back in to respond in as gentle a manner as you can muster. Breaking a third string during the guitar solo isn’t the sound tech’s fault, until it is. Then you have to bring reason to bear after the initial emotions have ebbed. Welcome to spiritual maturity.
Criticism is supposed to be constructive, and it is, for the person giving it, but for the receiver it can be anything but helpful. Roll with the punches and focus on personal improvement. You know what you need to do better. Learn to find the positive in the comments and discern the wheat from the chaff. At the end of the day, all that matters is what God thinks.