Performers put an enormous amount of trust in their band and their sound technicians when stepping onstage, sometimes in front of thousands of people. So much of a great performance can depend on band members and technicians doing their job properly. For band members this means knowing your music well, knowing your queues and if required following your soloist to where ever they go musically.
For sound technicians this means making sure that all instruments and voices can be heard but also mixed with the correct volumes and effects in terms of the overall sound. When producing your own gigs and performances, picking the right people for these roles is very important, and in some situations can make or break your show.
I recently premiered a show in the 2018 Adelaide Fringe Festival that I had been working on for approximately six months prior. I was very selective about the musicians that I picked for this performance because (as like many cabaret shows) it was only loosely scripted. I knew that I would be under pressure to keep the show funny and heartfelt purely from memory, therefore the musicians needed to be on the ball. For the record; the musicians that participated in my show performed very well. The sound technician was another story.
The image above pictures songstress Mariah Carey at the Times Square New Years Eve Bash on the 31st of December in 2016. She received a lot of backlash over this performance due to the fact that she barely sang and the sounds that she did make were pitchy and uncontrolled. It was later documented that she had complained before going on stage that her ear piece was not working properly and she couldn't hear the music. No one but Mariah, the producers and the sound technicians really know what happened in this situation but this is a great example of an experienced performer delivering a very average performance possibly due to 'sound issues'. In this case it was Mariah's reputation that took the social hit, though it is possible that it was not her fault.
I experienced a similar situation during the opening of my show in Adelaide Fringe Festival in February 2018. Unlike Mariah, I was aided by the fact that my show was on a much smaller scale and I was able to hear my musicians acoustically. Some other technical difficulties included a radio microphone that kept fading in and out, a guitar that was not amplified and an overall dry mix. Regardless of these technical failures the show seemed to speak for itself and audiences loved it anyway.
On the eve of the second show I spoke to the sound technician about letting my drummer (a sound technician himself) adjust our levels for the next performance. Sometimes technicians can have issues with others touching their gear (sometimes for good reasons), but to my surprise he said "sure, I am not a sound technician.". I was slightly taken aback. The agreement that I signed with La Boheme assured me that the venue would supply a proper sound technician. In hindsight, I regret not providing my own technician. I did consider this during the planning of the show as appose to putting trust in the venue.
Though to the untrained ear some of these technical flaws would have gone unnoticed, the entire band and the overall sound of the first show suffered due to these issues.
Performers; your sound technician is a critical part of the delivery of any amplified performance. Adequate set up and monitoring of sound in these situations can be the difference between a reasonable performance and something extraordinary.