When I was 16, I was hired for my first front-of-house position. In my new role as “person in charge” I quickly began noticing all of the little obstacles that seemed to appear each night. They had been present before, of course, but never so obvious. The way that bands assumed anyone in the room except me was the sound engineer. The flashes of surprise that crossed their faces upon being pointed my way. The way I was talked over, dismissed, or needed repeated requests to get things accomplished when the same request from a male coworker was heeded immediately. The questions I faced about my knowledge of audio that sometimes turned into full interrogations. I had known that I would face challenges like these, but the relentlessness was getting to me.
Then, a few months after being hired, I did sound for a math rock band called TTNG. They walked in, immediately accepted that I was the sound engineer, and didn’t question my competence. They listened to me and treated me kindly, as an equal. I didn’t feel like I needed to prove anything to them. It was refreshing. Although I didn’t realize it at the moment, after the show I started to see just how much their respect for me had meant. How it had given me hope. And I decided to send them a message saying exactly that.
This started a habit. I now do my best to acknowledge bands that stand out for being exceptionally nice or easy to work with. I want them to know that I noticed and appreciated their behavior, and tell them thank you for making my job that much easier. If I can’t do this in person, I’ll usually send a message a day or two after.
I feel very strongly that it’s important to pass on these thank-you notes because it’s often underestimated how much weight a band’s attitude can have. How simply being friendly and rolling with the punches makes or breaks stressful situations, and makes all the difference between a rushed soundcheck being doable or downright miserable. I’ve managed to make lasting connections, friendships and may have even gotten my foot in the door to touring by doing this.
So if someone has made a good impression on you, don’t hesitate to let them know. You never know what might come from it.
Sydney Bolton is a freelance live sound engineer based in Seattle, Washington. She is a recent graduate of the Electrical Engineering program at the University of Washington, where she specialized in digital signal processing, but plans to continue with live sound for now. When not behind a soundboard she may be found in a darkroom, skateboarding, or playing drums.