Fader Monkeys

Approximate 2 minute read

Humheads (sound/audio engineers), Sparkies (electrics), Rug Tuggers (convention expo workers), Vidiots (video engineers), Nail Benders (carpenters), Laundry Lepers (wardrobe department), Squints (lighting) …

One thing is for sure, people in the technical arts trade have always found endearing terms to describe their colleagues. The terms are meant to poke fun at our associates with, well, a wee bit of truth.

One derogatory term especially poignant is Fader Monkey. Although coined for audio people I think the “Fader Monkey mindset” can be exhibited by technical artists in all departments.

How do I know? Maybe a Twelve-Step confession is in order? OK, here I go.

“Hi, my name is Tom and I’m a Fader Monkey.”

[“Hello Tom.”]

I would define a Fader Monkey as someone who pushes buttons or fades faders. He/she may even do so on cue in a technically proficient manner. However a Fader Monkey often fails to comprehend the connection between hitting a cue and hitting a cue artistically.

Let me explain.

Years ago one of the first jobs I had was engineering at a Christian radio station. From 2:00AM to 3:00AM each morning (the last hour of my shift) I was supposed to play music. I was not a disk jockey or an on-air personality, so I didn’t need to speak on mic. I just needed to go back and forth playing music between two turntables and logging all the songs and commercials I played while also taking transmitter readings.

One night things were going as normal. I picked out music and played songs. This night however the studio direct dial private line rang. It was the station manager. He rarely ever called me, especially not at 2:30AM in the morning! What could he want?

The station manger proceeded to (gently) encourage me about transitions. I’ll never forget it … I knew immediately, he was right! It didn’t matter how matter how many people were (or were not) listening to their radio at 2:30AM.

The key signature of the two songs I was transitioning between was important. The two tempos as well. The message or lyrics were important. How fast or slow I made each transition was important.

His chat opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about something as mundane as playing records. The station manager emphasized the difference between just performing a cue and crafting a polished professional artistic product.

Are you a Fader Monkey? It’s OK. I’ll see you at the next FMA – Fader Monkeys Anonymous – meeting.

Tom D’Angelo has worked in television production and AVL corporate theater for nearly four decades. He has been nominated for a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award (Best Director) and has been part of various teams that have been nominated and won national Emmy Awards. As the Media Director at a megachurch in the 1980’s he developed a love for the Church and church performing and technical artists.

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