Blame the Sound Person

Pity the poor sound volunteer. Often pressed into service to do the seemingly impossible: make everything sound good.

If it sounds bad? It’s their fault.

If it sounds too loud? It’s their fault.

If it sounds too soft? It’s their fault.

The switch to livestream made an already challenging role even more challenging. Many churches do not have the resources to hire experienced audio people. And fewer still can run two mixes, one for in-person and one for the livestream.

Even if they do, the basics around acoustic treatments and proper monitoring systems for the livestream mix can be left out due to cost or space constraints.

And when it is apparent that the livestream doesn’t sound very good, who gets the blame?

You guessed it.

The poor sound volunteer.

I’ve done numerous seminars over the years. And I’ve trained hundreds of sound volunteers. For the most part, they are all good servants wanting to do nothing more than to help. The same basic elements that can help improve sound still apply: decent equipment, workable listening environment, appropriate skills and training.

Larger churches will usually invest in good equipment. And many of them will treat the listening space — whether in-person or the mix room for the livestream. Those churches that can will have a staff role for audio production and that person will develop the volunteers.

For small to mid-size churches it can be hit and miss. Budgets for audio systems may be limited. Listening spaces may be less than optimal. And the lead audio person might be the individual who raised their hand to help without the benefit of a lot of audio experience or training.

Is it worth the effort to improve the quality of sound for a livestream? Does it really matter?

In our technological age, production has become a thing for churches. This is a relatively new development and it is unclear to me whether worship is more or less geniune because of the level of production. My take is that we should always do our best whenever we gather — in-person or online.

One thing is very clear though. Bad sound gets noticed. As does good sound. Just not in the same way. Bad sound is distracting.

Here are some examples from a training seminar I did a few years back. It takes you from highly polished livestreams to, well, let’s just say, less polished livestreams.

These examples attempt to show the variance in audio quality in church livestreams. My voiceover shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Each clip shows people expressing their worship. Regardless of the quality, ultimately it is the heart that matters most.

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