I’m writing from the plane on my way to Mix Nashville, packed in with 150 people but for all practical purposes alone. It’s about the only alone time I get these days. I can’t receive e-mail, can’t get a call, no texts on the Droid, can’t flip over to HuffPo or CNN to find out what’s happening in the world outside of audio. No requests for copy from the publisher, no pitches from writers, no Excel spreadsheets to keep me in line. No proofs to read, no Web story to update, no meeting on cover type. No calls from my daughters, no tickets to arrange for the concert next week, no updates on the family coming in for Thanksgiving. Just me and my book and my New York Times crossword puzzle. Four hours of quiet, four hours of bliss. But tomorrow, I’ll be back in my element. Organized chaos, with sponsors to greet, panels to run and 750 pre-registered attendees to get in the doors for a Monday morning downbeat. Next month it gets even more crazy, when 14,000 audio pros descend on Mix’s hometown of San Francisco for the AES convention. Products to see, friends I haven’t run into for a year, late-night dinners with a spontaneous group of interesting folks—it’s my favorite time of the audio year.
Events have faced a tough road in the down economy these past couple of years, not just in professional audio but across the entertainment industry. Are they smaller? Yes. Have they proven any less valuable? Not at all! Mix Nashville, postponed from May to September because of the middle Tennessee floods, picked up in attendance and sponsorship because, our informal surveys showed, the benefits of in-person interaction are a perfect complement to a Facebook, Twitter, Webcast-driven world. AES picked up exhibitors during the past two months and is expecting, if not record attendance, a solid turnout in San Francisco come the beginning of November.
People need the connection—the handshakes, the face-to-face, the introduction to a friend of a friend. Much of our lives these days is spent in isolation. A bass player lays down an overdub at home and sends a file across the country; a designer Skypes the client in lieu of visiting the site; a mixer finishes a hit song and has never been in the room with the producer. There is nothing wrong with remote production, and certainly great music can be made by a single person at home or by a team working in collaboration across several cities, or even continents; it’s convenient, cheap and fast. But it’s not for every situation. Sometimes you just need to be in the same room.
The audio industry is full of sensory people—people who love good food, good wine, good art, good sounds. They work hard and they play hard. Sometimes they work alone and turn out brilliant work. But they grew up with a crew.
So go to your local monthly AES chapter meeting, stop by the NARAS P&E event at a local studio and come by the Mix booth in San Francisco to say hello. My plane is about to land; by the time we start our initial descent into BNA, I’m bored. I need connection.
Mix Nashville begins and tomorrow I get to hang out with a few hundred Nashvillians. I couldn’t be happier.