When we started in live sound, the first stage monitor had not yet been used.
Since that time, monitors have become more and more important to performers, many of whom decided to use them on the basis of magazine articles telling them how much they need them.
A few years back were asked to rehabilitate the reputation of a band that had been vanquished from a venue because their sound was offensive. Customers held their hands over their ears, then left when the band performed; a bad model for a bar/restaurant.
The room, 25’X40′ with an eight foot high ceiling, doubled as a dining room. The stage was 15′ wide by 8′ deep. The six person band, keys, drums, bass, rhythm, lead guitars and a vocalist was crammed into that space.
We talked about gear and settled on replacing the four fifteen inch, 250 watt, 95 db SPL floor monitors with five, 6.5 inch, 170 watt, 100 db SPL (potential), microphone stand mounted monitors. These permitted lower real levels by placing the monitor speaker two to three feet from the musician and aimed at the ears, not their genitals. We still had a proximity problem with so many microphones and monitors placed so closely to each other, and it was impossible to get the three principle vocalists to move beyond thirty-six inches from each other, requiring a reduction of monitor volume levels to avoid feedback.
The house sound was wonderful! Without all of the extraneous monitor noise on the stage, the patrons and fans were treated to the talent of the performers presented through speakers appropriate for the space and musical presentation. It might be fun to say, “We’re LOUD,” but it is never fun for the audience when that translates to, “We will HURT you.” The band subsequently used several tracks recorded on mobile devices as promo materials for as long as they lasted.
We deployed the same monitors for a bluegrass band and for a country in the same venue with great results for the bands, the audience and the venue’s receipts! Its amazing how much more food and drinks can be sold when the servers can take and fill orders.
Choosing the correct equipment should depend on the needs of the performance, and not be limited to whatever the band members bought for their earlier ventures. Professional sound starts with the assessment of the sound reinforcement needs of the band, the venue and the audience. One size does not fit all.