Live Sound Survival is an eBook that Björgvin Benediktsson sells on his excellent blog, Audio Issues. He is definitely passionate about helping sound engineers like you and me master our craft, but he also scares the shit out of me. This seems to be a common theme in pro audio media–more on that later.
Is the book for me?
Maybe. If you are a beginner or hobbyist working on open mikes or birthday parties, then yes. If you already work regularly in professional audio, then no. The book doesn’t get into theory or explanations of science, it just provides directions and short recipes for specific situations.
That being said, this book does a great job of introducing general ideas on best practices and standards of quality. For example, instead of telling you exactly which vocal microphone to use, Benediktsson explains that there is no bad microphone. Benediktsson doesn’t explain why he chooses certain mikes or speakers in his templates, but you can trust that if you use them everything is likely to work out fine.
This is a great quick-start guide for someone who wants assistance plugging things in. I can imagine a musician who wants to put together a live system for herself or an event producer who wants to take their show on the road finding it useful.
Unfortunately, some things Benediktsson writes in an effort to simplify and explain concepts are just plain wrong. For example, in the section on mixers he writes that the line input is for guitars. That’s a complete level and impedance mismatch! Electric guitars with passive pickups are expecting 1MΩ while most line level inputs are rated at around 10KΩ. We’re talking serious high frequency loss. You should only do that in a pinch. In our interview he explained that he is writing for an audience that is always in a pinch. I get where he’s coming from and I can even imagine a scenario where it makes sense, like with an active guitar pickup 6ft from the mixer, but I still find it a bit irresponsible.
A couple of more complaints: His explanation of channel gain makes me cringe. He also recommends a graphic EQ for system tuning and feedback reduction, which we know is a weak tool for the task (see my interview with Bob McCarthy). I could go on, but I think you get the point. Benediktsson isn’t trying to advance the state of the industry here. He has a clearly defined goal of helping those with little to no experience interact with bare bones systems, and he succeeds on that front.
Helpful and direct or just scary?
Benediktsson’s book is direct and raw. The first chapter is a list of the top reasons why being a sound engineer sucks. My hope was that he would go through each obstacle line by line and tell me how to overcome it, but instead it reads like a warning. Take a look at the opening passages from the last three books I read and see if you see a theme.
[one_third padding=”0 15px 0 0″]Live sound is difficult, frustrating, has long hours, and often commands very bad pay. Even though mixing live sound might be an awesome job, it’s just a small part of what you do as a live sound engineer. Sometimes running live sound just sucks.
Live Sound Survival by Björgvin Benediktsson[/one_third]
[one_third padding=”0 15px 0 0″]This is not a very nice book…But, it is a truthful one…Every single thing that you manage to acquire comes at a price – usually your own blood, sweat, and tears.
Getting A Foot In The Door by Darryn De La Soul[/one_third]
[one_third_last padding=”0 0px 0 0px”]If you like semi-darkness, long hours of boredom, long hours of work, no social life, no love life, heavy lifting, getting your white gloves dirty, and a good laugh, this is the job for you.
Live Audio by Dave Swallow[/one_third_last]
And here is the title of Benediktsson’s sales page:
How Can the Worst Job in the World Also Be the Most Fun?
It’s shitty. I get it. If you look back at everything I’ve written on Sound Design Live you will see plenty of examples of me deploring the conditions that live event professionals are forced to endure. I think we all get it. I guess I’m just getting tired of everyone bitching from the rooftops without making any real moves for change. Instead of inviting newcomers to tackle these problems with fresh eyes, we maintain the status quo.
Maybe the duality of the pleasure of musical adventure and the pain of crap working conditions is what makes the job so strange and enticing. Or, maybe we can do better. What do you think Pissy Sound Guy?
I'm gonna build a time machine, travel back to this a.m. and smother myself with a fucking pillow before I get up & come work with this show
— Pissy Sound Guy (@pissysoundguy) May 11, 2014
I'm just gonna turn off all the lights at FOH and hide in the dark. Any new iPhone games I should check out?
— Pissy Sound Guy (@pissysoundguy) May 11, 2014