Women in Pro Audio: Brittni Werner Women in Pro Audio: Brittni Werner...
“My favorite thing about what I do is that I really enjoy the collaborative process. Working with people to achieve a much larger goal has always been fun for me. I’m a helper, and I like to provide resources for others to succeed.” – Brittni Werner
For this round of our Women in Pro Audio series—an interview series highlighting the uber-talented and passionate women working in pro sound—we had the pleasure of catching up with Brittni Werner, RF and Monitor Tech for Clair Global.
Brittni expands: “I set up and coordinate all the wireless microphones and In-Ear Monitors for various tours. I’m also a stage patch tech, which includes setting up and cabling all the microphones or instruments on stage.”
When Brittni was in high school, she wanted to work in psychology but ended up working on sound for the fall theater productions.
“I guess, in a way, I’m doing that now—working in psychology—by working as a Monitor tech!” Brittni jokes. “Six years of school to get a psychology degree didn’t seem appealing to me when I started college. I went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and ultimately majored in Tech and Design Theatre after realizing psychology probably wasn’t for me. I asked about helping out with shows in the theater department, and that first show was what led me to switch majors. I also worked a bit with the local IATSE union during my senior year. The energy at those arena shows is what pulled me into the concert and touring industry. It was amazing.
“After graduation, I lived in New York City for a while and found that I didn’t enjoy theatrical production as much as I liked putting on shows in the concert world. At that point, I decided to move to Nashville, and I worked my way up through the Honky Tonks, stagehand companies, and regional audio companies before being hired in 2013 by Sound Image.”
Her First Tour
The most memorable tour for Brittni was her first: “It was one of the Cross-Canadian winter tours. You start out with rehearsals in January and travel across Canada for three to six weeks, depending on the tour. It’s the coldest part of the year, making bus travel difficult. We had buses that lost heat or broke down, and some of the roads had some pretty scary driving conditions. Looking out the bus window at a wall of snow almost as tall as the bus and roads covered in ice was unbelievable. We also had to work in many arenas that didn’t have loading docks and much fewer climate-controlled ones. I’ll never forget the day we had to keep opening the arena’s exterior roll-up door for our load-in and all the openers. It caused the building to never get above 32 degrees indoors, and that’s not even considering the load out that had a -45 degree wind chill! Needless to say, it was memorable.”
“I spend most of my time as a monitor/RF/ and stage patch tech, and the tours I have been on have predominantly used Shure products for their wireless devices. That makes Wireless Workbench (WWB) indispensable to me, although I’ve also started using IAS. Coordinating wireless microphones and In Ear Monitors has become a significant challenge in the U.S. because many TV stations transmit their signals in the same space as our equipment. Those two programs help to predict frequency placement around everything transmitting in a given city.”
Brittni’s advice for other women getting into the industry is to work hard, be observant, and always be willing to learn. “Pay attention to what people are doing around you because you never know when the opportunity will come to fill in or try something new. The best advice I’ve ever received is to do my job well enough so someone can walk in to take my place, and no one would know I’m missing. It means that you have everything documented, labeled, and laid out in a way that is easy to understand. Many people seem afraid of this because it means they could be ‘easily replaceable.’ Instead, many tours and crew members appreciate my thorough work and have recommended/requested me for many events requiring attention to detail.”
Also: “Be flexible. I really like having a plan for what I’m doing, but in this industry, plans change. Working with others and rolling with the situations placed in front of you is the best way to handle the constant pivots. Always be willing to learn. No one knows everything, and we continue to grow as we learn more.”
In Brittni’s words, the entry barrier can be tough to break, for anyone, because people often have to prove that they know what they’re doing before they will be taken seriously. “Showing you can learn and improve will help others see that you can do your job. For women, it can be tough to prove that you are capable when people immediately jump in to help when you don’t need it. People often perceive women as incapable of some of the more physically or mentally challenging parts of the job and will sometimes take over the task, work over the top of them, or take things out of their hands because they believe they are helping. It’s an innocent gesture, but not being given a chance to do things on my own has reduced my confidence in some tasks and made it difficult to prove that I am self-sufficient.”
It’s also no secret that there aren’t many women doing what she does. “I think a big part of that is that many people have no idea that this is a viable career path, and they aren’t introduced to the technical side of the entertainment industry unless there is a music or theater presence where they are.”
To address that lack of awareness that pro audio is a viable career option for women, Brittni points to outreach and mentorship programs like the ones offered by SoundGirls, Diversify the Stage, and Women’s Audio Mission. “They are introducing more women into the industry and providing educational opportunities. This is crucial for bridging the gender gap in this industry. It’s also a little astonishing, but I didn’t face as many struggles as other women have. I’ve been thankful to have some amazing supporters and mentors who’ve made sure I’m introduced to the right people, and they trusted me to ‘tech’ for them. The few issues I have had were with specific individuals that didn’t trust me or tours that were against women being on their tours. That caused me to be looked over for my first few mixing opportunities.”
It’s unfortunate that some people still harbor these inherent biases toward women, but it sure is encouraging to hear that the majority are moving past such a deeply ingrained issue by aligning with the ideology of solely acknowledging the work rather than the gender.
Working on tours and shows can be exhilarating, fulfilling, and crazy in a good way, but also frustrating with the occasional challenges. What does Brittni do when she’s proverbially stuck between a rock and a hard place? “I take a deep breath. It calms the body’s “fight or flight” response whenever we face something challenging. For me, it helps clear my head and focus better on the problem. If I can’t find a reasonable solution, I recruit help from people around me. Chances are they have encountered a similar problem or think differently than I do, and they can come up with things I haven’t even considered.”
This is sage advice for anyone in any industry. That fight or flight response is very real, and often those challenges just need a different perspective or point of view.
“The ‘accomplish anything, and everything at any cost’ mentality is also a big problem,” Brittni continues. “Yes, it’s amazing what we are capable of, and sometimes those challenges are gratifying and rewarding, but burnout and constant stress are detrimental to our health over time. If we constantly push ourselves beyond limitations, someone could get hurt. There should be a balance. We should watch out for one another by putting our health, safety, and sanity first. That way, we can continue putting on the best shows possible many years into the future.”
A few times, Brittni has felt like giving up due to her own expectations and barriers. “I’m definitely my own worst critic and can suffer from imposter syndrome because I hold myself to pretty high standards. I don’t like to do things halfway, and there are plenty of times when the best of my ability on a particular day doesn’t feel like enough. Our jobs are evolving, high-stress environments, and trying to do everything perfectly can be tough when you need more time or resources.”
And we’re glad she hasn’t given up. Many women can relate to Brittni’s journey and often mirror her introspection when they’re in the minority in a particular industry—and often simply for being a woman. Because of an unconscious societal and cultural bias, many women often feel they need to work harder or prove themselves even more than men because of that general lack of representation in male-dominated jobs and leadership roles.
Why She Loves It
Despite it all, Brittni loves what she does. The proudest moment in her career was working as the Audio Crew Chief for the Country Music Awards festival in Nashville, Tennessee. “TV crews and concert/touring crews work differently from one another, and being able to communicate across those lines can be tough. Once I understood the differences in what each side was expecting, I could share information, make requests for changes, and reprioritize our crew’s tasks based on what issues came up. Being recognized by colleagues on both sides for making things easier for them was incredibly rewarding.”
Another memorable tour for Brittni: “Kenny Chesney’s 2021 Here and Now stadium tour was a great experience. That crew has been working together in stadiums for so long that they have everything planned and dialed in. It made our days so much easier and left a lot more time to have fun as a crew. That’s one of their priorities. Enjoying what ‘What We Do’ is a big part of their motivation, and it’s contagious!”
What she loves most?
“My favorite thing about what I do is that I really enjoy the collaborative process. Working with people to achieve a much larger goal has always been fun for me. I’m a helper, and I like to provide resources for others to succeed.”