Ear Bud Blues

As tiny as they are, those ear monitors you see sticking out of your favorite artists are actually pretty vital to live performances. Some might think they’re used to block sound, but in fact they’re often used for just the opposite. Other than isolating confusing noises like cheering and screaming from fans, ear monitors are typically used for playback, catching cues, and more. So, when an artist has trouble with their ear buds, like Adele at this past weekend’s Grammy Awards, it can be a surprising turn of events. 

What Happened At The Grammys?

During her tribute to George Michael, Adele suddenly stopped singing and started over her performance. She claimed it was due to an ear monitor malfunction. While it was awkward for half a moment, Adele was able to start over and finish without a hitch. 

Why Are Ear Monitors So Troublesome?

Ear monitors are actually extremely helpful, especially during live concerts with thousands of people. Imagine yourself trying to sing and dance on beat with screaming fans just a few feet from the stage: to say it would be difficult, would be an understatement. 

According to a recent article at Billboard, frequency issues with ear monitors are often an issue. In this wireless age, frequencies are bouncing around all over the place during a live show, which can sometimes overlap and cause problems. You also saw it during Lady Gaga’s performance with Metallica, as they shared a microphone after one cut out. 

Today, a top-notch ear bud with full functionality can run up to $1,599 for a performance set. But when it comes to an artist on tour, they spare no expense to get the best experience. 

From Mariah to Beyonce

Until technology advances some more, our favorite artists are making do with what they have and rolling with the punches. Adele was able to catch herself before getting too far along in the song, but other artists like Mariah Carey and Beyonce weren’t so lucky. Mariah Carey infamously botched her recent New Year’s Eve performance, refusing to sing while on stage, and later chalking it up to ear bud issues. When Beyonce sang the national anthem at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2013, she can be seen tearing out the earbud in frustration mid-song.

Accidents like these can happen and that’s what makes live shows so unique. But when they do occur, remember that it’s not a sign of a poorly prepared artist, but rather someone who wants to present the best show possible. And sometimes you need a little inner-ear help to get it done.