What's the most stressful, highest stakes, pressure inducing job in audio?

My guess:

Grammy awardee music playback engineer. This cat has to listen to the person at the podium in the Staples Center read off the winner's name and has to instantly with no delay start the playback of that artist's song that won. If you slip or hit the wrong track - ouch. Oh, and by the way, they keep the winners confidential until they are read from those little envelopes, so no rehearsal or list of awardees for you. No pressure!

"The winner is... Taylor Swift!!"

PA: "We gonna sip bacardi like its ya birfday..."

  • 3
    Haha, got a picture in my head of that guy supposed to play something Celine Dion but accidentally playing Merzbow or Brighter Death Now (non-tonal noise-music) instead... The horror! The horror!! :-) Nov 15 '11 at 5:51
  • lol .
    – Utopia
    Nov 15 '11 at 6:15

The fellas who aren't getting paid often enough yet!


I used to work as an audio assistant on a live to air morning news/variety show, and i have massive respect for the audio directors there. They have to deal with:

  • a rolling schedule that stops for nobody
  • various audio sources (satellite feeds, hybrid boxes, studio mics, tape playback) - all of which can, and do, drop out at the worst possible moment
  • a 5:00 am start and a 9:00am finish - during which they can maybe get away for a single 2 minute toilet break
  • a noisy control room where you have to yell to be heard
  • on air talent who aren't really sure how to work their IFB receivers
  • directors who ask for random music tracks with no advance notice

It's not as high stakes as the Grammys button press, it's more like a marathon of pressure.

Hats off to TV audio directors!

  • I worked as vacation relief for the Audio Mixers on ESPN's Around the Horn and PTI for about a year. 3pm call, 5pm satellite feed. Separate audio control room, predictable format/sources, ability to punch in changes after the fact. That was stressful enough for me, I can't begin to fathom the pressure of live to air. Nov 15 '11 at 20:21
  • @Steve I wish I could mix PTI. I love that show. Must be fun (and at the same time as you say, hair-raising).
    – Utopia
    Nov 24 '11 at 6:47

Rerecording mixers on big budget studio film gets my vote! When you look around the room during a playback & count up the hourly rates (director, producer, entourage, editor, compsoer, mixers, sound editors & support crew plus the dub stage) and then consider the deadlines that EVERYTHING is based on, then think about how its technically a VERY demanding job, but even more importantly it is an incredibly creative, intuitive job... Its like these guys fly to the moon and back every other week, without breaking a sweat... And when that deadline is imminent & VERY late picture changes/VFX updates are occurring constantly.... And despite the fact they haven't seen their families for weeks, maybe months, or slept properly for weeks, they make it all seem effortless - nothing is a problem.

Hats off...

  • Yeah - that is a tough job. Never really thought of it that way. Nice one!
    – Utopia
    Nov 17 '11 at 17:35
  • Very well put. When you lay out all the factors involved like that and then consider the mixers' considerable grace under pressure...wow. Pretty awe-inspiring.
    – Tyler
    Nov 17 '11 at 21:57
  • Yeah, and then take all of that and realize that most of them travel from dub stage to dub stage and don't have a week to fax check all inputs and outputs on the board and they are relying on the sound designers and pre-mixers to have done their job... Wow.
    – Utopia
    Nov 19 '11 at 4:27

Production rental mixers or house mixers in live concert venues.
You are mixing a different show each night, for large crowds, often with only a short sound-check to introduce you to the band.

You have just met them a few hours ago, the entire sound check has been spent getting the monitor mix right, and you only have had a few minutes with the full band to rough-in a house mix.

You've never heard these guys before, just got the set list a few minutes ago, and the show is about to start. There are no retakes, no re-shoots, and no post-production. You have to get it right the first time, 'cause it is the only time.

Then you do it all over again, the next night, with a new band.

The only thing higher-pressure that I can think of would be FESTIVAL live mixer, who is doing all of this with minutes of turnover time.


Haha! I've never considered that before but I believe you're right!

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