Monday, August 14, 2017

If You Post a Protest

Feedback from a Sound Guy on being inaudible...

Yesterday I attended a protest in solidarity with Charlottesville at Portland City Hall.  It was well-attended given the short notice, but it otherwise had at least one very common and sad shortcoming -- there were people speaking and singing through some kind of amplification device, but they were both inaudible and invisible from where I stood, about fifty feet away.

If you leave the house, you usually put clothes on first.  If you throw a birthday party for your child, you usually make or buy a cake in advance of the kids coming over.  If you're going to meet someone to play tennis, you bring a racket.

By the same token, if you post an Event on Facebook and you say you're holding a protest that will involve people giving speeches and singing songs and such, you should bring some kind of a sound system, or make arrangements for someone else to do that.  Otherwise, why would you make a public announcement that you're holding a protest?

That's a rhetorical question, I'm not going to try to answer it.  What I can say is that if you want to mobilize people, to build a movement of any kind, or even just to be taken seriously, you need to know how to project the human voice so that a few hundred people can hear it clearly.

This is not rocket science, but it is more complicated than turning on a bullhorn.  Rather than going into detail about what's involved with this on a technical level, I'll just cut to the chase:  in every major city in the country there are many thousands of musicians who are sympathetic to the cause (whichever cause) and who are acutely aware of how to operate a small sound system.  Musicians who habitually play in bars often own sound systems themselves, and they can also be rented cheaply from music stores.

You don't need to know about sound systems.  But you do need to know someone who does, and if you're the host of an event, you need to coordinate that -- just as you need to line up the cake for the birthday party if you're going to throw one.

And lastly, a shameless plug:  one of the musicians in Portland, Oregon that you can ask about providing sound for free or cheap for your next protest at City Hall is me.

1 comment:

mazzaus said...

O M G so much this. I have sung at countless protests (and attended many more) and I am still and forever stunned by the basic lack of what is necessary for people to hear speeches that go on for far too long. Then the expectation that I will sing without amplification (who cares if no one can hear me), a vocal mic but no sound for the guitar. Then the response that I am asking far to much if I ask about sound or provide a list of basic requirements and tell the organisers I won't sing unless they are provided. I've given up on that because I often get less than 48 hours notice. We need music in our movements--and we need decent organisation. I care that speeches and music can be heard. They are, after all, acts of communication and inspiration. BTW--writing from Australia, another place where this basic point is apparently not understood.