KEN DELORIA: Playing together nicely

I want to offer some kind words to my ‘extended family’ – those whom I’ve worked with over the years to make sound systems the best they can be.

Some of these folks I’ve gotten to know well, others were only there while the trucks were unloaded, the speakers rigged, or perhaps to merely deliver a needed piece of kit that didn’t make it on the original load.

But what I want to convey is this: over the last 20, maybe closer to 30 years, the cooperation that I’ve experienced within our crazy world of professional audio has been nothing short of heartwarming. People helping people. And not in a superficial manner. Real help, real competence, and real results when you most need it. Your back’s against the wall, your options are running out, and it’s five minutes to downbeat. That’s when a new colleague, maybe someone you met only an hour earlier, comes along and makes your day (and perhaps saves your career).

It wasn’t always like this. There was a hell of a lot of one-upmanship, game playing, and quite unpleasant maneuvering when I started out in this business. How much time was wasted playing childish games, I cannot possibly estimate. But for damn sure, it was significant.

Something seemed to happen a while back, in respect to the current crop of folks who have chosen to make professional audio their life’s purpose. Maybe it’s a growing spiritual awareness; maybe it’s just a better use of sensibilities. Or perhaps it’s an outgrowth of ‘something in the water.’ My generation had LSD – before it was illegal of course – as our shining beacon of hope. Those that came after are said to have had other infusions that seem to provide an entirely different experience; empathy, fellowship, and far less ego dominance than that which was the norm in those formative dinosaur years.

Whatever the causation, I for one am delighted to see the pro audio ‘nation’ coming together in ways that really would have been unimaginable in the past. Of course, there’s still competition among manufacturers, hire companies, and consultants/designers/facilitators, but even that seems like it might dissipate to some degree as the big boys buy up the small fry and at some point there’s no one left to compete with. Well, such musings are still far from reality, so I’ll put that thought on a rear burner for future consideration.

Going back in time: it used to be painful for me to walk into a music store, back when I was 16, 17, 18, or thereabouts. The over-amped testosterone blasting out from the unhappy employees – and make no mistake the owner was always a culprit as well – made the weekly visit to obtain some new strings, or catch up on the latest product offerings, as painful as anything I’d experienced in those tender years.

But Today! What a breath of fresh air it is to speak with a well-informed ‘sales engineer’ at any of the larger Internet retailers, or to actually have face time with a live organism who isn’t being overly rude because you don’t know all the details that he does, of all the possible product offerings that comprise his day-to-day life, while your life just might have certain other priorities.

So while human nature and human tendencies still must be acknowledged, and no one in my sphere of influence has yet managed to become an ascended spiritual master who works in a commercial pro audio position, I can emphatically state that during the last two decades or so, the climate has become much, much, much more positive. In ‘Today Speak’, it’s so much more about one person helping another to excel, whether in the music shop or on the touring circuit, than how it was in the past. Back then, it was every man for himself, even under the umbrella of the same company. How stupid is that? Maybe we actually are evolving.

And going into this a little deeper, it’s true that not every sales engineer in every shop is going to express heart-felt concern for your most critical needs, but then isn’t commerce the great leveler that forces a certain degree of civility on all of us? At least it’s no longer bordering on violent. I remember being concerned physically whenever I’d enter a certain music shop in Santa Barbara. One bad day a co-owner threw a furniture dolly at me. Because he could get away with it. Big fun for him, I suppose. I had a bruised shoulder for over a month. Thankfully, this sort of thing doesn’t seem to happen these days.

A couple of years ago I did a short tour in which I was confronted with a new digital console at each show date, and I hadn’t used any of them prior. If the timeframe had been the late ’70s, it would have been “sink or swim, dude,” with plenty of background laughter as the visiting unfortunate would have been painfully making his way through getting the show up and running.

But in these enlightened times it was as different as I could possibly imagine it to be. I got such an outpouring of practical help from the hire company people, I scarcely could believe it. It was an experience that made me feel that perhaps the world isn’t so messed up after all.

So Kudos to all who are in this business, who have made it their goal to be helpful, caring, and ‘of service’ to their counterparts who just got off a bus after a 20-hour ride, and need all the help that they can get. Keep up the good work, and never fail to think that at some point in time…maybe you can’t imagine it right now… you may be the gal or guy that needs a kind and competent helping hand to get through the night.


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