Thanks again to all who turned up at PLASA to hear me rant on about stuff. Apologies for running out of time and for having to shout over some very rude speaker demonstrations from just outside the lecture area!
For those who missed it, I was exploring the idea of creative input in a mix. My personal opinion is that it is an essential part of the process. For most engineers developing a mix goes beyond simply amplifying the onstage sound. As soon as you employ equalisation and add effects you are entering into a creative process. How much this process affects the overall sound of the show varies on not just the size of the show, but the music, and the act. Some shows lend themselves to creative mixing more than others.
My main point was that of responsibility. For the engineer the primary concern has to be to the client, which in most cases is the artist. You have to know what they want, what they are hoping to achieve, and work towards this goal. This relies on the engineer being familiar with the music and listening to what the artist has to say. Sometimes you don’t get the opportunity, but just grabbing a few minutes to chat to a band before a show can help guide the way you approach the mix.
The secondary responsibility should be to the audience. They pay for the show through ticket sales and without them we would have no industry! The audience deserves the best sound you can provide, and not just near the mixer but at all points in the auditorium. Most are just happy to hear a clear and comprehensible vocal, but surely a nicely balanced mix should be possible too?
Your third responsibility is to yourself. You should mix in a way that satisfies not just the artist, the audience, but you as well. If you enjoy the process it will show in your sound. I love mixing and hopefully this is apparent in every mix I do.
So get out there, talk to your artists, listen to the sound all round the venue and enjoy yourselves!