I wanted to throw out a few things that are pretty important. This is a crazy business to work in, but not known for being dangerous. Bad stuff happens in any job, but there’s a few things that this particular industry in known for. Here’s my list of things you need to be careful to protect.
Protect your hearing.
We all know about the sustained sound pressure levels and the damage it can cause. Well. We all SAY we know about them, but most guys don’t do anything about it. Tinnitus is a legitimate problem. Full on hearing loss is unimaginable. I think about Pete Townsend from The Who. Pete loved it loud. He now has almost complete hearing loss.
Personally, I have sustained some hearing damage. We know, from tests many years ago, that there is a dead spot in my hearing around 17k. Probably why my recordings tended to be slightly brittle in the high end. I write and sleep with a noise track to distract me from the slight ringing. It’s always there.
I carried my Sony headphones with me everywhere. Not just to monitor problems, but to use as earmuffs when the band refused to allow me to get the levels under control. Sometimes you just have to suffer through it. Try to keep earplugs handy.
Protect your back.
I can take you to the exact spot in the Columbus, Ohio convention center where I made a terrible mistake. We ground stacked EAW KF850s on a lot of shows. Those are 265 pounds each. I could hug those boxes and down stack them by myself. I could even mount them to the wheel boards by myself. Even when I didn’t have to.
There’s a tendency for guys to show off. To do stupid things just because we can. Even though we had a crew there to do the heavy work, I still did it. All the time. Part of the reason I advanced in the business, was being big enough to load my own trucks and stack boxes.
This particular day, I stepped back slightly pulling down an 850. There was a black extension cord on the floor I didn’t see. It rolled under my foot and my whole body twisted. I felt an electric shock run up my spine. It took three years for the pain to go away. Three years of stretching and aching. Not worth it. Get help for the heavy stuff.
Protect your gear.
There’s a million stupid ways to lose gear. Like… Not locking the truck or trailer, not strapping it down inside the trailer, not keeping a tarp on hand for outside gigs, loaning it out to idiots, renting it to someone without a credit card and ID, having a local crew push it into the wrong truck…. Etc.
I can’t express the value of a current inventory of your gear at all times. Know what you have and where it is. A stencil costs a few bucks, make one and mark your stuff. All of it. Even the cables. A sharpie marker is better than nothing.
This sounds obvious, but too many guys don’t do it. I can’t tell you how many cables I have returned to people, just because it was marked. I knew it wasn’t mine, even when our stuff got mixed up. I also have lots of wedding and local shows where the photographer captured my logo or stencil in a shot. Free promotion.
Protect your money.
There’s an old joke. You can always spot a jazz musician. He’s the guy putting a $5000 instrument, into a $500 car, driving 50 miles to make $5. It works out like that for production monkeys, too. We aren’t any better.
Learn to play defense with your money. Quit buying stuff you don’t need. Quit agreeing to work shows, haul gear, provide services, loan stuff, rent stuff, buy stuff or even borrow stuff that isn’t going to make you a solid profit.
Don’t get burned twice by the same pack of clowns. If they screwed you once, that was probably just practice for the next one. The guy who promised one thing, but did another. The band that couldn’t quite get all your money together after the gig. The promoter that paid with a bad check. The rental house that sent bad gear and screwed up your show. Those guys. It’s fine to make the mistake once, don’t do it again. Learn and move on.
Protect your family.
My other blog is all about this one. As best I can remember, the number of divorced professional techs was staggering. Guys who had lost their families. This industry puts you in one compromising situation after another. Long runs to unknown cities, one hotel after another, long nights, constant exposure to different people. If you can’t manage yourself, this is a dangerous world for a married man.
There’s a common trap inside a married man’s mind. We take on careers to support our families, then it becomes us expecting our family to support our career. We tend to search for meaning in our work. We want to do work that matters or makes us feel important. If it does, that’s great. If not, get over it. We work outside jobs to provide for that wife and kids we love at home. There’s your purpose and meaning. Them.
Don’t let the production world become some kind of idol, demanding that you sacrifice your family. If you can’t keep that in perspective, get out. There is no ministry, or event, or purpose out there that has more positive effect on the universe than a committed husband and father loving his family. You want to make a difference? Teach your kids what it means to love momma the right way and put her first. Make those kids an active part of your daily life. Give yourself to them. That’s the stuff that will still matter in twenty years.
Learn to play defense. Protect yourself, your gear and your family.