Monitor Mixing at an Awards Show with Jason Spence

People often say to me, “You must get tired of going to see shows.” My answer will ALWAYS be “absolutely not.” I love music, and I love learning how these events come together. Whether it’s for a movie, a concert, a company, or an awards show, hearing about the intricacies of how things work “behind the scenes” is always fascinating.

The CMA Awards will broadcast on November 5 in Nashville. Behind the scenes, stationed at a monitor desk in an alcove inside the Bridgestone arena, you can find engineer Jason Spence. I grabbed a video interview with Jason to have him share some of the knowledge and preparations that go into a successful awards show. Here’s a preview of what he shared with us.

The Prep Work

“For me, it’s just getting into the mindset and getting my head up to speed with the show,” Jason explains. “There’s a lot of documentation: Mult-sheets, network configurations, making sure all the gear that you need is there. So I’ve had conversations within the past couple of days with ATK, the audio provider for the CMAs. There’s a lot of prep work. By the time we get onsite, between the audio producer and the audio coordinator, most of the requirements for each artist have been advanced. But I usually do a follow-up call because things change, and sometimes details fall through the cracks.

There are so many people and departments to interface with to make this show happen. Jason adds, “We’re primarily taking direction from the creative department. We have to take their vision and properly support with audio the artists and their performances.”

The Gear

When asked about his favorite PSM®1000 features, Jason had this to say:

“It’s very simple for us to program in all the frequencies into a pack that’s been set to Engineering mode. When an artist brings a guest engineer in, we simply switch that pack to what their artist is listening to, as well as the rest of the band. We hand them one pack, and now they can step through everyone’s mix. That’s also true of the stage crew. They can have a pack and pop through all of the mixes. It’s probably one of the most powerful, convenient, efficient feature sets of the 1000.”

Shure PSM®1000 packs

PSM®1000 packs

“And, as for RF performance, it can perform in extremely hostile environments like no other system out there. The first time I brought a system in was with the band Alabama to the Houston Rodeo. Anybody that’s done that show knows that it’s an extremely hostile environment. There are lots of ENG crews running around transmitting. Pretty much there’s not any bandwidth to operate. When I spoke with the audio coordinator and told him I was bringing 4 channels in J8, he told me, “There’s no way you can make that work.” He had never seen the PSM 1000 at this point. So we fired one on and I said, “Tell me where there’s some open space.” We turned it on and there were no harmonics [on either side of the main frequency]. We threaded the eye of the needle. At that point, the RF coordinator for the Houston Rodeo said, “We are not going to let any other bands in unless they bring these (PSM 1000’s) in. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood's Shure PSM1000 packs at CMAs

CMA – Brad and Carrie PSM1000 packs

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for the video interview.

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Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith

Ryan is a Regional Manager of Artist Relations at the Shure office in Nashville, TN. He started at Shure in 1993 in Customer Service and joined the AR team in 1996. Ryan has over 30 years of performance experience playing drums and percussion in various groups and genres. In his spare time he enjoys woodworking, watching movies, videography, and camping with his family. His Twitter handle is @ryan_smith1969.

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