Photo courtesy of Flaxe

Photo courtesy of Flaxe

Back in the day, Heinz ran an ad campaign for their ketchup called “Anticipation.” If featured all sorts of people eagerly anticipating something, which of course, ran parallel to their eager anticipation of the delicious red sauce coming out of the bottle. It was clever, and by licensing the classic Carly Simon song, memorable. 

The Mac Dictionary App defines Anticipate with the following two possibilities:

1) guess or be aware of (what will happen) and take action in order to be prepared: they failed to anticipate a full scale invasion.

2) look forward to: Stephen was eagerly anticipating the break from the routine of business.

Heinz was referring to the second definition. Today, I want to focus on the first; to guess or be aware of what will happen and take action in order to be prepared (especially the last part).

I am becoming convinced that one of the keys to being a great tech leader is to anticipate. We need to be aware of what will likely happen, and prepare in advance for that eventuality. This is not nearly as hard as it sounds.

For example, take a look at the service order around Wednesday or Thursday. See an interview on the list? You know that means you will likely need a handheld or two prepped and ready to go for service. Don’t wait until 5 minutes before service starts for someone to tell you that they will need two handhelds for the interview. You know what is going to happen, and what will be required. Prepare ahead of time.

If your worship leader sometimes (but not always) stops and prays between songs, get in the habit of dumping the effects on her voice at the end of a song so if she does pray, there won’t be 3 seconds of reverb at the beginning of the prayer. Prepare in advance.

If you always do a big Christmas production that requires extra wireless mics and lights, start booking them in late October; don’t wait for someone to tell you about it in early December. 

When I was a TD, I was told on many occasions by my boss that he appreciated the fact that he didn’t need to manage me. I hear from a lot of tech guys that they hate how much “management” their boss exerts on them. The reason I didn’t have that issue is that I anticipated what needed to be done, and got it done it before he had to say anything. Thus, he never felt the need to track my movements and monitor my time. I just got it done, and he didn’t worry about it.

If you want to enjoy the same freedom, anticipate the needs and deal with them before someone else has to tell you to do so. This works in concert with one of my earlier posts, Do a Good Job. If you learn to anticipate well, and then do a good job, you will enjoy a level of freedom in your work that will make your job a real joy. Fail at those tasks, and expect to have a lot of micromanaging in your life. The choice is yours.


Try New Things

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine

One thing about working in the church is that it happens pretty regularly. Every week, in fact. That can be good because you get plenty of opportunities to practice and hone your craft. But it can also be bad because it’s so…routine. For the most part, church services don’t vary much. Most churches get into a rhythm and stay there. Three songs, announcements, offering, message, dismissal. It’s a formula, but it works. People know what to expect. But it isn’t necessarily a breeding ground for growing your skill set. That’s why we as technical artists have to stay self-motivated to grow. And the best way to grow is to try new things. 

Can The Best Get Better?

When I was in high school, I really liked the band Rush. Still do, in fact. I remember listening to Moving Pictures, Exit…Stage Left, Signals, Hold Your Fire over and over again. I saw them live during the Moving Pictures tour, and was blown away. Neil Peart, the drummer, was particularly notable. I’ve always been fascinated by drummers, and Neil is arguably one of the best in the business. The guy is simply a monster and has a seemingly unbelievable ability to disconnect his arms and legs and play four completely separate rhythms at once. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s amazing.

While watching a documentary on the band a while back, I learned that about 15-20 years into his career, a time when most would consider him one of the best rock drummers in the world, he decided he wasn’t playing up to his potential. He found an instructor and started taking lessons. He changed his entire technique and sure enough, became a better drummer. It takes a rare mix of drive and humility to want to improve when you’re already that good. 

We Have To Try

The thing that struck me the most about Neil’s story is that he was willing to try to get better. It’s completely possible that it wouldn’t work. It’s possible that messing with his technique would make him a worse drummer instead of better. But he tried anyway. He tried something new, and he grew. 

I have found that most times, when I try something new I grow. Not everything I try ends up the way I thought it would. I’ve tried mixing techniques that have failed miserably. But I learned from them. No matter what the outcome is, we always learn when we try something new. Sometimes all we learn is to never do that again. But that is a lesson. 

Some friends of mine recently had a baby. We visited them the other night and it was fascinating to watch her crawl around the floor. She tries everything. Usually, she tries to eat it. But she’s learning at a tremendous rate. The other night, I think she learned that a remote control has no nutritional value, but is fun to chew on. That’s something. 

We should have the same innate curiosity as a baby. Try a new audio effect. Try a new lighting look. Try a different font for your lyrics. If we are serious about getting better at our craft, we should be constantly seeking out new ideas to try and trying them. Simply reading about something on this or any other blog but never trying it defeats the purpose. 

I am a demonstrably better audio engineer than I was 5 years ago because I’ve spent hours talking with other audio engineers and trying things out. 

Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t ever be afraid to try something. It might work; it might not—that’s not the point. Try, learn, grow, repeat. Do that for a few years—or better yet, the rest of your life—and you’ll be better at whatever it is you’re doing. If you’re not getting better at what you do, what’s the point?

Today's post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

SALT Special for CTA Readers

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Ok, so you guys know that Van and I are big fans of the SALT conference. Not only is it’s organizer and leader, Luke McElroy, a good friend of mine, it’s one of those special conferences that truly seeks to inspire and refresh technical and visual artists in the church. I love the sense of community that happens each year, and I have met many of you at the previous two conferences. This year for me, it has the added bonus of being 20 minutes from my house. I’m digging living in Nashville!

SALT is Coming!

We’re at the end of September, and SALT is just a few weeks away. The conference is almost sold out for the year, but we have a deal for you. Luke has generously made available a special discount code that will save you $20 off each and every ticket you buy. Use the code AUDIOROCKS to save $20. 

What Can You Expect?

If you’ve never been to SALT and you’re on the fence about coming, here are some things you can look forward to:

• There will be over 45 classes on topics such as ideation, creative leadership, audio and technical planning. The lineup of people teaching these classes is amazing. Luke and his team have done an incredible job of bringing in people who are not only great at what they do, but have a genuine passion for helping others get better. Hanging out with the instructors is one of the highlights for me. 

• Keynotes include Erwin McManus (Mosaic in LA), Blaine Hogan (Willow Creek) and Alex Seeley (former Planet Shakers). These are creative, passionate people. I don’t know about you, but I need to be inspired frequently. This is a great way to be encouraged and inspired.

• Hear from the brand new Art of Audio track including Andrew Stone, Brad Duryea, Van, me and more! This year Luke asked me to help coordinate an audio track of classes. I called in some favors of some of our favorite audio gurus to make sure you’ll learn something new. 

• Community groups. One thing we talk about over and over again is how much we need community among technical artists. SALT is about the only conference that I know of that not only encourages community, but schedules it. You’ll get to meet and talk with others who are just like you, offering encouragement and the opportunity to encourage. This is one of the highlights of the week.

You Need to Be There

Of course, you also have the chance to hang out with Van, me, Duke and many other CTW regulars. We love meeting you guys and always look forward to the conversations we have. Basically, it’s a few days of refreshment, encouragement, inspiration and fun. Plus, you get to hang out in the greatest city in the world, Nashville. 

So here’s what you need to do; go to and register. Use the code AUDIOROCKS to save $20. Then figure out how to get here and where to stay. The website offers suggestions on both. Then get ready for a few great days that will keep you going for a long time. And do make sure to say hi to Van, Duke and me while you’re here. And come to our classes, or we’ll be sad.

Brand Loyalty to a Fault

Anyone spin anything on an RCA anything lately? Image courtesy of Beverly

Anyone spin anything on an RCA anything lately?

Image courtesy of Beverly

I believe in being loyal. When I was a TD, I built several key relationships with vendors, manufacturers and reps and funneled as much business as I could to them. Rather than shop every single purchase, I went to one of my two vendors, got a price, and if it felt right, I placed the order. Same with gear. Once I found a company that made products that worked for me, I stuck with them. We had the same make and model of wireless mic in every ancillary room in the building. We used the same DSPs, the same speakers and the same accessories. 

There is a lot to be said for being loyal to brands. It makes support a lot easier because most companies do things similarly, which makes problems easier to figure out. You have to stock fewer parts. And when you buy more from a company, they take better care of you, being a larger customer. So being loyal is a good thing. Until it isn’t.

Times Change

One of the challenges of being loyal to a brand is that times change. So do companies. Sometimes one company stays put with a given piece of technology while the rest of the world is busy developing newer and better versions. The eponymous blue personal mixer is a classic example. When it first came out, it was the shizzle. But over time, more companies entered the market and produced superior products. Locking into that brand for the long haul would have meant you were not getting the best product in the category after a while. 

Other times, companies change. Or more correctly, the ownership does. More than a few companies have been sold and the new owners are not nearly as passionate about creating great products as the old ones. More often than not, the new owners are really interested in squeezing out as much profit as possible, which may be great for the owners, but less great for the users. 

We’re starting to see this with several big companies right now. Products that were once the standards of quality in the industry are now looking less shiny as the new owners off-shore production in the name of lower prices and speed. Lower prices are good. Lower quality, not so much.

Sometimes a product or company that has had a bad rep turns around and starts making great products. I’ve seen too many people pass up on great products because they have a brand anti-loyalty. They so dislike the brand, they can’t bring themselves to consider that it’s a new day. Don’t miss out because of past experiences.

Stay Loyal, But Evaluate Often

What’s a tech guy to do? My advice is to stick with what works, until it doesn’t or something better comes along. It’s important to be continually scanning the horizon to see if the sands have shifted. The world of AVL technology is a competitive and rapidly developing one. New companies and products come along all the time. It’s important to keep an eye on what is working and what is not. 

Don’t assume the company or product line you loved 5 years ago is still the front-runner. Also, don’t assume that a company that made sub-par products 5 years ago is still doing that. Either or both may be true, but don’t assume that because it was, it is. Don’t miss a great advance in technology because you are clinging to the past. You’ll not be serving yourself or your church well.