I got a call yesterday for a friend in the pro audio business that I had not heard from in a while. He called to order batteries, and we were able to spend a few minutes talking about how things were going with his company. In the course of the conversation, he shared something with me that reminded me why I started working as a sound person over 30 years ago.
We were talking about in-ear-monitors, those little ear pieces that you see lots of performers wearing. In may cases, they have completely replaced the bulky and loud floor monitors that have been in use for many years to help musicians hear themselves and each other.
My friend was ordering batteries for his company’s in ear monitoring systems (iem’s) and I told him that I was surprised that they owned any, since I had been under the impression that most musicians carried their own systems.
He told me that performers still get their own custom molded ear pieces, but that fewer and fewer of them were carrying complete systems. Instead, they were choosing to have the sound companies provide most of the hardware.
One of the reasons that pro audio has become such a big business is because musicians were simply never very good at dealing with the technical side of the performance. They have a completely different set of skills.
I migrated from performing to being a sound person because I was the only one in the band who was interested in setting up speaker arrays, wiring stages and driving trucks. Being “first in and last out” is not high on the list of most performers priorities.
This attitude seemed to have extended itself into the area of personal in ear monitoring. My friend shared with me how often musicians were showing up with broken monitoring equipment, mismatched components and systems that they did not understand how to operate. It finally dawned on him that the only way to solve the problem was to invest on some systems himself and make them available to touring performers.
Problem solved and a new revenue stream created.
As long as concert performers require complicated technical systems to communicate with their audiences, the place of the pro audio company is safe.