As part of our monthly On The Road With… series, I recently had the chance to catch up with Zach Snyder, the Monitor Engineer and Production Manager for Hot Chelle Rae. Here’s Zach’s thoughts about pulling double duty shifts and about how and why a band chooses to go on in-ears.
Hi Zach - thank you for taking the time to talk with us. We all know how busy you are and we really appreciate your expertise. Say, speaking of busy. I understand that you’re wearing 2 hats, no? Are you doing production management and monitors for Hot Chelle Rae?
Yes I am full time production manager and monitors for Hot Chelle Rae. I occasionally even handle the drums…
Let’s get into this a bit more because this is a pretty common situation and we haven’t talked about it yet. Can you please tell us, in your own words, what a production manager is responsible for?
This is a very common question for people who aren’t too involved in the music industry. I am the one who advances production (IE: anything stage, sound, or lighting related.) I handle the crew and load-ins and pretty much anything day of show that has to do with the stage, venue, security, and the actual show.
And how many hours a day do you devote to this aspect of your job?
I’d say I’m usually busy from 11am to 12pm. So 13 hours a day.
OK - and how many hours behind the desk?
Monitor desk is about 1.5 hours. 5 hours behind the desk in my office. The rest is me running all over the place.
Yep - so that makes for a very long tour with really no days off. So why double up? Why not just hire 2 positions?
Eventually we will reach the level where we hire two positions when it's just not humanly possible for me to handle both. But right now it works and the band likes it this way. I also enjoy being busy throughout the day.
Say - since your both the production manager and the monitor engineer, you are in the perfect position to help us answer this question. And I have to be honest, I’m not sure that we as a company have even figured this out yet. So here we go… who is the decision maker when it comes to buying in-ears? I’ve heard it all before. I’ve heard that it’s the engineer’s decision. I’ve heard it’s the PM’s decision. But I think there’s much more to it.
I would say the decision is ultimately made by the band. The engineer and PM can sway the band and convince them what to get and which company to choose. I can say it almost always depends on what the band wants at the end of the day.
Well, how does the process even start? Who initiates it? Who is the first one to say “I think we should try in-ear monitors?”
It started for us when we realized our fly date schedule had gone from not a lot of shows to at least 50 a year now. Our tour manager brought the idea to the band that we should get used to using the same monitors at every show. The only way to use the same monitors every day 100% consistently is by using molds.
And from there, let’s assume that there is interest from the band. Then what? Who needs to be convinced?
If there is interest from the band, usually the last on board is the bass player. Bass players always want to feel the bass.
Well, let’s talk specifics. From a monitor engineer’s perspective, I know the pros and cons about switching over to ears. Are there any benefits for a production manager if your band is on ears? Does it speed up set up times? Less gear to haul?
You said it exactly. No wedges saves a lot of time. It also makes the stage look much much cleaner. I always like to look at things from the PM aspect though and not as much the engineer aspect.
I guess the biggest question that I’m getting at is are there any cost savings to the tour if the artists are on ears?
At the end of the day an expense is an expense. Wedges aren’t too expensive to rent but neither are IEM transmitters.
Are we helping in ways that we don’t understand or are we creating more problems that certain people end up having to deal with? To me, it makes sense that the less gear that needs to be hauled around, the better for everyone. Is there any truth to this?
I don’t think any problems are created or destroyed. At the end of the day, everyone has a job to do and to make their gear work.
OK. Enough on that topic. Thank you for helping educate all of us. So what’s next? How much longer are you out with Hot Chelle Rae? What comes afterwards?
I am currently with HCR indefinitely, we have a very busy year ahead of us with shows around the globe.
And with that my friend - many any thanks! We’ll see you on the road.
Zach Snyder has been on the road for 4 years. He’s been doing FOH/monitors/TMing/ and PMing. He met the Hot Chelle Rae guys last summer and has done 150+ shows since.