Here I describe an idea for a method whereby audiences could have a say in the volume of live gigs. I don't intend to implement it myself so I'm putting it up here in public for all to see, in the hope that someone might decide it's worth doing. I don't require anything in return other than a "thank you" for the idea.
I attend live gigs from time to time and often everything is fine. But there seem to be some sound engineers who think that louder is always better, so the music is sometimes ear-splittingly loud. It might well be that the great majority of the audience would like the volume to be turned down, but they have no way to express this wish to the engineer. Of course there can also be gigs where the majority would like the volume turned up. So here is my proposed solution.
We will suppose for the sake of argument that the system is called TweakTheVolume.
There would be two apps available for download on iOS and Android. The first would be for audience members, called TweakTheVolume. The second would be for use at the mixing desk, called TweakTheVolumeVenue. There might also be an in-browser web interface to the venue system, which would allow management to see what is going on without necessarily being present at the gig, e.g. to see whether the engineer is paying attention to the audience's views.
The people responsible for mixing the sound would need to create a TweakTheVolume "venue account", and during a gig the engineer would be running TweakTheVolumeVenue on a phone or tablet at the mixing desk. Location information on the device might be used to help ensure that the device is indeed present in the correct venue. This device would display what the volume level currently is (using the device's microphone) and would display a report of how many audience members are logged in, and would display the median of the audience's desired level, in comparison with the actual level they are getting (I think median would be correct, rather than average). The engineer would use their discretion in deciding how to respond. Naturally when the system is first deployed there would be very few audience members using it, so the engineer might not feel compelled to take any notice. But if half the audience is logged in and they all want the volume changed in the same direction, then... change it!
Tickets and programs for the event would have a message saying "If you want to have a say in the volume level of the gig, download the TweakTheVolume app and launch it during the gig". There could be signs in the venue itself saying the same thing. The TweakTheVolume app would be able to tell what gig the user is attending by using location information and also by matching the sound profile (the moment-to-moment dynamics of the music) with the sound profile from the device at the mixing desk. This would guard against malicious people trying to manipulate the volume level of gigs where they are not actually present.
The TweakTheVolume app would display to the audience member the current level, and allow them to specify their desired level. It could also give them information about how many other people are logged in and what they are asking for, though this wouldn't be essential.
The main drawback I see is that people would have to use their phones while the gig is in progress, something which is often frowned upon. Hopefully once the user knows what their preferred level is, they would simply need to log in at the start of the gig and then put the phone in their pocket (note that the measure of current volume level is coming from the device at the mixing desk, so the reduction in volume at the microphone of the audience member's device when it's in their pocket, doesn't matter). The app would need to keep running during the duration of the gig, e.g. checking in periodically to confirm that the user is still present at the gig, but it need not drain the battery too much as it only needs to wake up periodically.
Then there's the question of how to make money from it. I leave that to you, though I think it would probably be a bad idea to charge audience members for downloading and using the app. You want as many audience members as possible to use it, and they might resent paying more, when they have already paid for a ticket.
Andy Robinson, Seventh String Software, firstname.lastname@example.org, October 2019
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