I had a really bad experience with a sound technician a few months ago.
Ever since my EP came out, I have been super lucky to be able to play shows in different venues across the country. I feel like I should preface the following rant by saying that most of my venue experiences have been totally fine, if not great. I have played at venues where I have been fed delicious food, given delicious beer, and met some wonderful and friendly venue owners and staff. There are so many places that go above and beyond to make sure musicians feel welcomed. I think that the fact that venues even let me play at them in the first place is amazing enough in and of itself. And if the venue comes with a friendly sound tech? Even better.
I have met so many great sound techs who are there to help you and support you on stage. I just want to be clear that I know that there are so many places like these not only in the city I live in, but across the country. I think that it is so important to support these establishments because I think so often as city dwellers we take them for granted. The following story is not at all representative of the experience I have had at 90% of venues where I have played. Sure, sometimes the bathroom is covered in more graffitied penises than my personal taste and has no toilet paper. However, I'd take that over outright misogyny any day.
Yes, this is a story about sexism. In the music world. Shocking, I know.
When I was younger and learning how to play the guitar, I was scared to go into music stores. Sensitive and self-conscious, it only took a few (older and male) people to tell me that they "didn't realize so many girls played guitar" or to mock my questions to convince me to stay far, far away. As somebody who primarily listened to female musicians, I was already very aware of how uncool it was to be both a music maker and female. This awareness was a big part of the fact why it took me years to start recording and performing music. Over the years, my skin has gotten much thicker. But that doesn't mean that things cannot get under it. Which brings me to my story.
It seemed like a normal sound check at first. As we unpacked our instruments on stage, the sound tech asked my bandmate if she had a DI for her violin. When she said that she did not, his irritation was palpable, and his tone was snappy.
"Well, you might want to think about that!" he said, as he turned his back to us and walked towards the back of the venue.
My bandmate and I exchanged glances. I felt relieved but also embarrassed to understand that she had also found his reaction rude. I am by no means super comfortable with the technical aspects of playing in a band - it's something that I am working on - but I have played with a few different violinists before, none of whom played with violins that plug in. The venues we play are generally small so it was never a problem.
Unfortunately, as the soundcheck went on, this tech's tone and attitude only got worse. Any request or suggestion that we had was ridiculed and shut down. For example, I asked for my guitar to be turned down in the monitor. This is a request I usually make because I am a performer who prefers to hear emphasis on my vocals when I am playing live. After tsk'ing and sighing for what felt like an eternity, and asking me numerous times to clarify what I meant because he "didn't understand", the sound tech flat out told me that he thought he just "didn't think I wanted to be amplified." Any request or question I had he would react to with a dismissive sigh and the same exasperated tone.
While I guess this could be written off as a sound tech having a bad day or just having a bad attitude in general, I am hesitant to accept this as the case. Not only have I experienced enough to know better, but I also had the opportunity to watch him perform the soundcheck of the other bands who were playing that night, who all happened to be male. And guess what? He was more than polite with them. He even told them they "sounded great!"
I wish I could say that things were different for more established musicians, but I don't think it is the case. Here is an unfortunate mini collection of just a few of the sexist YouTube comments that I've personally come across in the past little while:
Yup, there's something about us, and that something is that we are sick of your TOXIC MASCULINITY.
Anyway, I do think that things have probably gotten better compared with earlier decades. I just don't think that better is good enough. If you're a man, one of the things that you can do to help as an ally is to listen to music. If you don't have a lot of female artists in your library, seek them out. And if your friends still think it's uncool to listen to non-dude musicians, tell them how silly they are. There is so much good shit out there, guys. And a lot of it is not being made by guys.