Why do they make concerts so loud you need to wear earplugs. Why don't they just make it less loud?

There are usually some instruments or sources of sound that are way louder than others. Think about someone playing a drum set and trying to sing next to it without a microphone. Pounding away on drums will usually be acoustically louder than most everything else. You have to help the rest of the instruments compete with that one, and often in a space that exaggerates acoustics more so than your favorite listening setting. There are a lot of things that can influence the sound and loudness used for a gig. A live sound engineer's job is going to be balancing this mix of stuff, and a lot of the times loudness and aggression are used just as much as a tool as they are a stylistic choice.

You typically don't think of a folk style singer songwriter performance as a loud event. That's partly because they don't have to be very loud for you to hear them. But there's also usually a more intimate spirit behind an acoustic performance, and that can be expressed by playing in a more intimate setting too, like a coffee shop. On the flip side, if that singer songwriter were on a big outdoor festival stage, a lot of people in the big ol' crowd wouldn't hear them well enough without them being amplifying, and on top of that, they may not get the same feeling from the performance without a lot of artistic help from the mix.

tl;dr A combination of the acoustic setting and style of performance usually has a lot to do with how loud a live mix needs to be. Obviously, there are plenty of situations that are overkill, but that would be the basic explanation for the ones that are necessarily loud.

/r/NoStupidQuestions Thread