Audio Equipment: Plan for the Expected!
Yesterday, Tami handed me the microphone before our class. "It's not working again" she said, then looked up at the clock. Neither battery replacements, knob adjustments, nor fiddling with the cables did any good. This mic - the second in as many months - was well and truly dead.

We've taken to carrying our own personal backup mic - an older unit that I managed to fix by soldering the contacts of the minature power switch in the "on" position (sweat has a tendency to corrode switch contacts - and we BodyPump instructors can be a sweaty bunch sometimes!) Fortunately, I was able to get us broadcasting over the sound system after a short while.

The demise of our club's unit, however, will once again set off a series of events that our GFM (Group Fitness Manager) has had to repeat far too many times in the last twelve months. These microphones ought to last longer, especially for what they cost - yet a studio running 3-5 classes per day seven days a week is lucky to get 8-10 months out of one (lately it's been more like 3-4 weeks, in our case). CD players do a little better, with some lasting two years or more. Amplifiers and speakers are a mixed bunch - usually they just degrade over time rather than quit altogether like microphones and CD players. There's always exceptions of course, but it's hard to argue that sweat and a fair amount of jostling don't exact a heavy toll on electronic equipment.

So it's a virtual certainty that over the course of any given year a busy studio will require replacement of at least one of these components. And although there's little that clubs can do to control equipment failure rates, the one thing they can control - yet seldom ever do - is their level of preparedness for that eventuality. It's a fact of life: Microphones, CD players, and yes, even amplifiers and speakers are going to die.

Here's a few things I've learned in my career as a BodyPump instructor:
  • It's hard to teach a BodyPump class without a mic
  • It's even harder for participants to hear
  • It's practically impossible to teach BodyPump without music
  • Very few clubs keep spare microphones or CD players on-hand
My evidence (if you can call it that) is anecdotal at best, but it's a never-ending source of amazement to me that clubs consistently wait until these vital pieces of equipment break before procuring replacements, while paying members have to settle for classes compromised by a lack of proper equipment. Stealing the mic from the cycling studio isn't a viable backup plan, nor is borrowing the GFM's personal CD player or relying on expensive overnight shipping for replacements.

Seriously, how many clubs - knowing full well this equipment breaks with almost predictable regularity - actually keep even a spare microphone on hand, let alone a CD player? What happened in your class the last time one of these things broke? Click the Comments link below and tell us about it!
8 Comment(s):
On 11 October, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the local club there's only one mic, which was dying for over a year. The wire in the mic jack was torn all the way quite a few times and GFM never provided a full repair or replacement. It was up to instructors to make it (barely) work. Two weeks ago mic finally died with a bad smell coming out of it. It burned out, literally! And it took a whole week to get a new one. Unbeliveable!

On 11 October, 2006, Blogger Fitshit said...

Wow.......I remember those days!! We have 2 mics equipped for each room (land, RPM, & pool) and always have at least 3 to 4 back-up mics available. Each room also is equipped with 3 to 4 CD players. There is of course hook-ups for those that use the IPOD. And just in case the power goes out...we are equipped with a boom box for emergency. We are very fortunate to have top of the line equipment and if anything ever goes usually is replaced within a few days. By the way, we are located in Arizona - 4 locations........are you interested in moving and teaching someplace else???
But seriously....we are fortunate to have owners that "get it". I personally have had my own microphone for the past 4 years and have not had any problems. It was an investment of $300 that I believe is well worth it. I don't have to share sweat, exchange germs and stress about technical problems.

On 11 October, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amusing anecdote about audio emergencies: this summer we had an electrical outage caused by a pop-up thunderstorm common to Atlanta afternoons. Lights, A/C (ouch!), everything went out right at the beginning of the squat track. This is a tenacious bunch and they wanted to get the workout in. We solved it by having one instructor listen on the iPod (battery operated) and call out the counts. Class couldn't hear the music, but they powered through. Electricity came back on at the beginning of the cool-down and we had all but about 3 members! The universal comment was that the workout is ALOT harder without the music.

On 11 October, 2006, Blogger Tami W. said...

Arizona? Thanks for the offer but my hubby tells me we will retire in good ol' Newport, VA! Besides - it's too hot out there!

On 13 October, 2006, Anonymous Mr. Mitchell said...

I completely agree with this post. Last year, my club had some drama unfold when our sound system kept cutting out. The speakers would die in the middle of nearly every track. One instructor was fired shortly after complaining to the class (as well as having other offenses). But it's true. In order to save money, many club owners believe audio equipment rarely, if ever, breaks down, after being used up to ten times a day. I wonder how often dance clubs or other venues replace audio equipment?

Maybe I'll move to Arizona. I love the desert.

On 13 October, 2006, Anonymous scoxsmith said...

Our current drama is a CD player that skips continually. It's not so bad during BodyPump, but during BodyStep, BodyAttack and any other cardio class it's a real bear. The reason——it was recently moved from the stage (that has a springy floor) to the main floor just off the stage (to make more room for the instructor ???) and all the pounding on the floor makes it skip.

I've mentioned to the GFM several times it might be wise to move the system back up to the stage, but despite a desperate participant bringing in some acoustical foam and instructors placing two 9lb weights on top to hold things down, it remains 'unfixed'.

On 16 October, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been bugging my GFM - to have an extra mic - but I have been doing it from a launch perspective (but my goal is the to have backup mics).

When you TT during a launch - I think it is unfair (esp. during BA or BS) to stop - the work out - have the instructors trade one mic between each other - then start up again. HRMs go down.

This is the push I have been making with the - "Oh by the way - if you had two mics per studio - it woudl be great for backup purposes".

On 29 November, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an instructor and an owner of the gym, let me give the other side of the equipment issue. First, I do have replacement equipment because the members come first. But is it too much to ask for the instructors to help take care of the equipment. My clubs make money but not at the rate that instructors break things. They don't wipe the mic off after use and what do think sweat is going to do to electronics (even with the sweat covers I provide). We run through batteries because they don't turn off the mic. Set their drinks on top of the stereo. From my experience it takes everyone to keep the equipment working properly and one person can ruin it for everyone. So keep in mind that with some clubs the money isn't growing on trees and we do our best.


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