David Lefcort is the Production Manager at Mercury Lounge in New York City. He shares all about his daily responsibilities working at a venue as well as his experiences learning how to be an audio engineer and working at Pitchfork.
After The Show: What are your responsibilities as Production Manager at Mercury Lounge…can you describe what you do on a typical day/evening?
David: Wow, where to begin. My responsibilities, simply put, are anything production related. So everything involving sound, lights, stage, keeping the show running on time, etc is all me. At bigger venues, those roles may be spread out across a few people, but at Mercury it’s a one person job. A usual night at Mercury is 2 shows. 2-3 bands per show. We like to give every band an opportunity to soundcheck if possible.
I’ll show up around 2pm, which is usually when the first band starts loading in. I’ll talk to them about their input list and start setting up the stage – running cables, hooking up microphones, adjusting monitors, tweaking light placements, etc. Once a band is ready, set up and comfortable, I’ll start the soundcheck, get levels in the house and monitors for each instrument. Then the band will play a song, during which I will get my mix for the house. After the first song, I’ll make little adjustments for the monitors. The band will play one more song, and by the end of that usually everyone is happy. After the band is done checking, I’ll take pictures of the board for recall, help strike their stuff to the sides of the stage, and go over their set time and set length with them.
I’ll repeat this process for every band that shows up for their sound check (sometimes bands simply don’t show up for checks and I have to just throw and go). Then the show starts. I go track the band down 5 mins before their set and grab them when they’re supposed to go on. I mix the band, run the lights, do the changeover when the band is done and get the next one on.
After doing this about 4 times, the night is done. I pack up all the cables, mics and stands, lock everything up, power it down, and head home. I’m also responsible for maintaining all the equipment. So if any cables or mics run into issues, I have to fix them.
That’s a great, detailed description! What’s the different between being a Production Manager and a FOH Engineer?
A FOH Engineer is responsible for mixing a band for the audience. This differs from the Monitor Engineer who mixes a band for the performers on stage. A production manager is responsible for coordinating all things production. At Mercury Lounge that also means being the FOH Engineer. So I’m both heh. I’m required to work 5 days a week. So for the 2 days a week I’m off, I’m responsible for finding a substitute who will carry out my job. Any issues they have go directly to me and I’m responsible for them. As Production Manager I’m a full time employee, but when I was just a freelance FOH Engineer I could take shifts at multiple venues and also tour with a band.
How does it work logistically/technically when a blog like NYC Taper records a show – do you just give them access to a soundboard feed?
Dan and Jonas do such an amazing job. We have a great relationship with them because they’re super professional about everything they do. They make sure to get clearance from the bands they record before they walk into the venue. They introduce themselves and start getting set up…usually around the end of soundcheck I give them a stereo feed, which is my mix going to the PA, and they put up a stereo mic pair to capture the room sound in addition to that.
What did you learn at Pitchfork…I think you were there for a whole year?
Working at Pitchfork was awesome. Everyone in the office is super dedicated to music and loved what they were doing. I was there for a year doing mainly editorial assistant stuff. But fortunately after a couple months they started handing me various projects on the side, and that’s where I feel like I got the most out of working there. I remember after working there a few months they gave me a project where I had to sift through this box of CDs they just never got around to listening to. It must’ve been a few hundred CDs. And they were like, “You’re going to pass on 9/10 of these.” I had to be picky. It got my ear attuned to the essentials of a song. I had to make a snap judgment after about 30 seconds whether I liked a song or not. Most of what I do in mixing now is make snap judgments on instinct – fix this, fix that, etc. So being forced into that mindset was super helpful.
I was fortunate enough to have Brandon Stosuy ask me to help work a bunch of events they were hosting. I started out as a runner of sorts, being a liaison for the talent one moment then jumping over to help stage manage minutes later. I just said yes to anyone who needed help, and stuck my nose into situations even if they didn’t. I had been studying music production for a few years by that point so that environment felt way more comfortable to me than any of the editorial stuff I had to do in the office. It was there I convinced myself that working in event production was for me.
What made you decide to get your BA in Music Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology? Did that prepare you for your work as a Production Manager?
I started playing guitar when I was 10 and by about 14 I was pretty sure I wanted to work in music. My mother told me she didn’t want me busking in Penn Station all my life so I should find something in music which has a steady job behind it. I don’t know why I settled on Production because it’s just as unstable as being a musician but that’s what I came up with. I didn’t really have any training on classical instruments and most of the bigger schools that were offering production degrees wanted me to audition on a classical instrument or send in a portfolio and I really didn’t have any skills or material I felt good about submitting.
Basically everything I do as a production manager I learned first at Stevens. Working in the field definitely made me faster and allowed me to learn little tricks and short cuts here and there, but the foundation of my job came from school.
It seems that a lot of people who work in music (as non-performers) played in a band when they were younger (or still play in a band) for fun. When you’re not working, how immersed in music is your life?
Oh of course. I still play guitar a bunch. Working 50+ hours a week makes it pretty tough to practice consistently with a band but I still try to get that done. It’s therapeutic for me to play. Always has been. That being said, I don’t really go to shows casually anymore. I may go if a friend invites me, but it’s very rare I’ll go to one on my own anymore, and that used to be my life.
Thanks David! You can keep up with David on Twitter: @dlefcort