Play Too Loud And Well Cut The Power!

"Turn it down!"

How often have you heard that command in your musical lifetime? It's a plain fact that old people just don't like loud music. They should all be taken to soundproofed old people's homes where they can live out the remainder of their lives complaining about each other, and let us get on with some fun.

OK, exaggerating a little. The real fact is that unless a live music venue is out in the desert somewhere, it is likely to annoy people if the music is too loud and goes on too long. That's one reason why entertainment venues in most jurisdictions have to be licensed. If a venue causes annoyance and raises complaints, then the licence gets withdrawn. Suddenly the proprietor doesn't have a business any more.

So the venue owner or manager needs a way to control the volume of sound produced by musical acts, including both bands and DJs. Standing by the mixing console or amplifier rack isn't seen as a good option, and telling the performers to turn it down only works for about five minutes before they turn it up again.

So the only solution is to apply the ultimate sanction - cut the power. That gets the job done.

The problem with this is that cutting the power causes an immense amount of ill feeling. Would you play in a venue where the manager had cut the power on you?

So an intermediary is needed; an automatic intermediary that will give the band a warning, then cut the power if that warning is ignored. The performers won't like it, but if they know that the system is installed and how it operates, then at least they know the rules they have to abide by.

One such system is the Castle Electronic Orange. The 'orange' is an orange globe that illuminates when the sound is too loud. This is pointed out to the performers before the gig by the venue manager. If it comes on during the performance, then that is a warning. If it stays on for more than a predetermined time interval, usually a few seconds, ...

It cuts power to the stage.

This might seem like a drastic action, and it is. But it certainly gets the job done. For the DJ it isn't too bad as he or she can set the level to the maximum that the Electronic Orange will let them get away with.

For a band it is more tricky. Chances are that the loudest parts of the performance are where the lead singer is singing together with backing vocals. When no-one is singing, the level will be much less.

So the light flickers on and off during the performance. The eyes of the band become fixated on the dreaded light. Every time it comes on, they back off from the microphones until it goes off again. If the sound mixer is on the ball, he will take care of this with the master output fader. But his attention is on the light and not on the band.

The result is an uncomfortable evening for the band, and a lackluster performance. Maybe the Electronic Orange gets the job done. But there is a cost for both band and audience, and for the venue owner because his customers are not as happy as they really should have been.

Probably this is something we will just have to put up with until quiet music comes back into fashion.

David Mellor, Record-Producer.com

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