By Chrissie Ferguson
Have you ever stopped and just listened – truly listened – to your surroundings? Go ahead and do it now. Take a moment to pause and listen.
What do you hear? Maybe the sound is quiet, like the pitter-patter of little feet or the rain falling upon your roof. Maybe the sound is soothing, like the crackle of a campfire or crickets performing their nightly lullaby for all to hear. Or maybe the sound is a little less desirable, like an angry leaf blower outside your window or a loud talker sitting at a table nearby.
Whatever it is that you hear – from the moment you wake up in the morning until the moment when your head hits the pillow, your world – our world – is surrounded by sound.
Those of us who are blessed with our hearing take this gift for granted on a daily basis. We are not tuned in to our surroundings. We are not tuned in to the sounds of our everyday lives.
But there is one woman – Beckie Campbell – who has never taken sound for granted.
Campbell – owner of B4MediaProduction and the FOH Engineer for the folk-rock music duo, the Indigo Girls – has been tuned in to sound since she was five-years-old when she began listening to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings on her dad’s stereo.
With her ear close to the stereo, Campbell listened carefully to the music, identifying every instrument and sound that she heard resonating through the speakers.
While it was clear that Campbell had a love of the sound of music at a young age, it wasn’t until she was 18-years-old, working at a radio station, when she knew that she wanted a career in sound.
But becoming a sound engineer wasn’t Campbell’s first dream.
“Honestly, if I could sing, I would be on stage; I would be a performer,” says Campbell. “But I know I have a horrible voice, and I could hear that. So I always had the dream of being the roadie and following people around and helping out.”
“My first show where I got to stand backstage and assist a monitor engineer…I couldn’t think of another thing cooler than that to do for a job,” continues Campbell. “So I dove in headfirst, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Campbell has had a successful career since the day she decided to pursue her dreams. One of her more recent successes includes being the owner of B4MediaProduction – a live event production company specializing in audio, video, lighting, and crew.
“We started B4MediaProduction about six years ago,” Campbell says. “We do a lot of small festivals and hometown concerts all up and down the Treasure Coast of Florida. Nationwide, we are doing a lot of corporate events for people…or have in the past (due to the pandemic)…for nonprofit organizations.”
In addition to her work with B4MediaProduction, Campbell is the Front of House (FOH) engineer for the Indigo Girls and looks forward to getting back on tour with the duo soon.
As you can imagine, with Campbell’s impressive resume, she has a lot of great memories to share from her 19 years in the live music industry. But Campbell says that her favorite memory has to be when she took a job as a favor for a friend.
“My friend told me that the job was for an acoustic artist, and he’s going to wear a headset, as well as play and sing because he’s going to talk…kind of like a fireside chat,” Campbell explains. “And I thought, ‘I’ll go do that.’ When I got there I realized that the artist was Paul McCartney. And that blew my mind. I got really nervous. It was the greatest day of my life.”
Unfortunately, the live music industry has been shut down, due to the pandemic, and thousands of sound engineers and techs are currently out of jobs.
“We’ve been shut down both businesswise and also with freelance work,” says Campbell. “Nothing really has been going on. I’ve been able to help a few churches with streaming and getting that online. But as far as clients go, nobody’s doing giant corporate shows as we had been monthly. All of that is now on Zoom. Touring is shut down as well, so even my backup for my backup is gone at this point.”
While the situation is quite serious for many, Campbell explains that our community can help those who are struggling by reaching out directly to sound techs and engineers.
“A lot of people are at home Zooming and Skyping, and they’re frustrated with their sound or their lighting,” Campbell says. “Reach out to people. Throw it on Facebook and say, ‘Hey, is there a professional engineer out there who can help me?’ We are all sitting at home. We know the skills. We have them. We can show you…even with a Zoom call.”
“That way, we are making a little money when there is no money to be made,” continues Campbell. “And they are getting a little bit of knowledge when they don’t have any. So I think it’s a really good trade-off.”
Pearl Jam community, we know how important the wizards behind the curtain are at every Pearl Jam show. Each of us is a part of something bigger. We support each other, and we lift each other up. And the only way that our community works well…that our community will come back…is if we continue to support each other—not just Pearl Jam, but our entire music community—during this time of great need.
Consider supporting SoundGirls and techs and engineers in the live music industry over the upcoming months with the Wishlist Foundation’s “Speed of Sound: SoundGirls Awareness Project”.
You can help in one of four ways:
One option is to donate to Wishlist’s fundraiser which directly supports techs and engineers in need through SoundGirls.
Or, if you would like to personally help someone, you can help to fill an Amazon or Target wishlist for a tech or engineer in need. Look for details in September.
If you are not in a position to help financially, please simply watch and read Wishlist’s interviews over the upcoming weeks to find out the details about what is happening to the live music industry.
Finally, all we ask is that you help to spread awareness by sharing articles, interviews, and announcements.