Live music production is not easy work. It starts in the wee hours of the morning, usually after working late the night before. The work is physically, intellectually, and emotionally demanding. Oftentimes, you are in a strange place, exposed to the elements, and dealing with problems you had no way of anticipating. You may be shorthanded, lacking necessary equipment, or dealing with interpersonal turmoil internally and externally. Big egos and big money often have their own opinions about how things should be done, and these opinions are often in conflict with what is actually best for making the show happen. As a stagehand or a tech, it's your responsibility to separate yourself from the madness, put your head down, and get results in spite of whatever challenges the day throws at you. How is this accomplished? The short answer is attitude.
Attitude is everything in the rock and roll business. By rock and roll, I mean any kind of live music, touring scenario. It could be country, Celtic folk music, dubstep, it's all fundamentally the same thing from a production standpoint, so I call it rock and roll because that's where this type of production came from. Van Halen, The Grateful Dead, these bands hammered out the particulars of live music production long before there were generally accepted practices and specialized equipment. Technical ability, creative inspiration, and big budgets are all secondary to a good attitude. Without a good attitude, little else matters, because without the right attitude, nobody will want to work with you, and if nobody wants to work with you, you won't work. Simple as that. So how do you manage to have a good attitude when everything could potentially be working against you?
Rule #1: It's only rock and roll.
Come on now, we're just trying to put on a rock and roll show. We're not trying to land a plane, we're not trying to deliver a baby, we just want to help a bunch of people rock out so they feel like buying some beers and a t-shirt. It doesn't have to be super complicated to show people a good time. Your average concert goer has no idea how anything that you do is accomplished. How hard does it have to be? Remember that the average person is going to have their mind blown by the experience of seeing their favorite musician strut around onstage for 90 minutes. Little else matters to them. They're not going to notice that you had the delay just right, or that you picked the perfect shade of yellow to convey the emotion of a particular song. Which leads me to number two...
Rule #2: Get your ego out of the equation.
Yeah you want to do a good job. You're highly skilled, you've been doing this a long time, you know your shit inside and out. Guess what? Nobody cares. Everyone who bought a ticket is there to see the band, not whatever your part is. Do your best, take pride in what you do, but don't let your ego interfere with moving the day along and getting everyone out the door at the end of the night. Embrace the fact that you are a gear in the machine, and try to execute your duties without making a bunch of noise. Remember, results are all that matter. Nobody cares how you feel about it.
Rule #3: Enjoy it!
If you're not having fun working in rock and roll, then rock and roll is not for you. Anyone who works in rock and roll and doesn't enjoy it is either stupid or insane. There are way easier jobs that pay as much or more money and you get to sleep in your own bed every night after a paltry eight hours of work. You have to be in rock and roll because you love it. If you don't love it, you will never have the right attitude, and you will never make it. If you keep smiling and hang onto your positive attitude in the face of challenges, your colleagues will bend over backwards to help you, because you're fun to work with because you enjoy what you do.
That's it for now. Remember it's only Rock and Roll, check you ego at the door, and have fun! Life is short, the great thing about live music is it reminds people how beautiful life is and how special are the memories we create together. Be grateful for the opportunity to participate in the process and let the world see your gratitude. Your winning attitude will open up plenty of opportunities for you.