31-Mar-2003 (Mon)
Wherein I fire our sound company.

Today I'm going to bitch about our now-former sound company, in the form of a few recent anecdotes.

A couple months ago, the master fader (the vertical volume slider) on our DJ mixer was starting to get noisy (it happens: they get dirty, they wear out, you replace them.) So we called the sound company, ``can you come fix our mixer please?''

Now, of course, we could have managed that ourselves. We could have taken the time to figure out what the part number was of the fader we needed; we could have ordered it; one of us could have installed it. But we called our sound company to do it because it should have been cheaper and easier to do it that way: they probably already have the part, or if they don't, they already know where to get it. They do this all the time, so they wouldn't have to waste the time researching it that we would. Also they'd probably get the part cheaper, since they buy in bulk, and even with their markup, it would end up being cheaper for us, especially when you factor the extra time and hassle it would take if we did it ourselves.

Well, except that it never actually works out that way. It ends up both costing more and taking up more of our time when we get them to "help."

A full month later, after a number of calls, they finally showed up with the new fader. ``Oh wait, this is the wrong part. We can make it work, though, we just need to take it back to the shop to scope out the pin-outs.''

The next day, they came back and tried again. This time the answer was, ``Oh, this is harder than we thought, we'll need to take the whole mixer back to the shop.''

Two more days went silently by. Now it's the afternoon before before a night when we are open for business, and there's a big empty hole where our mixer should be. ``Where's our mixer?'' we ask. ``Oh, it's not at the shop, I think _____ took it home with him. We'll bring you a loaner.''

They showed up with a purportedly-identical mixer, installed it, and left. David then wasted an hour determining that this new mixer has a dead channel in the (horizontal) A-B fader! We've traded a minor problem for a critical one. He called the owner of the company and commenced with the yelling. His minions showed up just before doors with three different mixers in tow, in the hopes that one of them worked. Fortunately, one did.

So, a week or two later, Barry and Alexis had a meeting with the sound company's owner to have it out with him about this continuing level of incompetence; about the fact that the only time anything, no matter how trivial, ever gets done right is when we get him personally on the phone; and how every time we get an invoice from them, the numbers have changed seemingly-randomly.

One of his defenses was, basically, ``well, we might not be very on the ball, but we do you all kinds of favors. For example,'' he said, ``you have one of our compressors that we're not even charging you rent on.'' Barry said, ``Right, the compressor. You loaned us that while you were repairing our compressor. You do still have ours, right?'' ``Yes, I saw it on a shelf today.'' ``Any idea when that repair is going to be done? You've had it for over three months.'' Tap tap tap. ``Oh. It doesn't seem to be in our system at all.''

Also in this meeting, Barry said, ``I understand we owe you some money. Can you show me the invoices?''

Tap tap tap. ``Here you go.'' Barry reads. Then he asks, ``Uh, what is this for?'' The owner reads. ``Uh, I have no idea.'' Barry says, ``Well, when you can tell me what we bought, I'll pay it.''

So, despite all this, we just spent thousands more dollars with them, having a second Soundweb installed (to fix a bunch of the problems I talked about last month). They were supposed to have it installed on tuesday, and if they didn't finish on tuesday, then on wednesday. Well, they didn't finish on tuesday, and didn't show up at all on wednesday, and finally finished the installation on thursday afternoon. We had a live show that night (Halou), so the guy who installed it was supposed to have been here before doors and through the show to make sure that they had actually done everything right.

9pm came and went, and there was no sign of him, nor was he answering his phone. The webcast seemed to be working, though it was way too quiet.

Then 10pm came and went, and as soon as the band went on stage, the webcast went completely silent. And still he didn't answer his phone.

I understand he finally meandered down here some time after 11, but I'd already told the door guys that he was no longer welcome.

That was the last straw. That company, who designed and installed our entire sound system, won't be gettng our business again.

So, now we've found someone else to finish programming the Soundweb for us. I really want to just do it myself, but the software you run to program the device only works under Windows, which is Against Policy (and I can't get it to work under WINE, the Windows emulator for Linux.) I feel dirty enough already just allowing a consultant to use Windows to adjust our sound system, I surely don't want to have Microsoft software tainting one of my own computers.

4 Responses:

  1. krow says:

    Have you looked into using Apple's Streaming Server?

    • jwz says:

      Of course not, Quicktime is not even as "open" as RealVideo is. And what has that got to do with anything, anyway?

      • krow says:

        Yes it does stream Quicktime, but it also streams mp3 using the icecast protocol.
        Oh... I didn't look and see what SoundWeb actually did. I thought it was just an icecast server replacement (and I know a while back ago you were looking for one). Oh well.

  2. mattholland says:

    oh cool. a fellow not breathing fan.