Sound levels at Events

Saturday 11/2, birthday party

The DJ’s sound at this event was so loud and harsh that I couldn’t even stay in the building. This was well beyond the threshold of pain, by far the loudest indoor sound level in my experience. And I’m a sound guy!

I was worried about the dozen or so little kids, including at least 3 babies, and 3 or 4 toddlers. The adults could leave, and many did, but the kids had no choice.

My SPL meter only goes to 125 dbA. It maxed out when I measured the sound level at this party. The rule of thumb is that for every 5 decibels the noise level increases above 85 (8 safe hours), the safe listening time decreases by half. So, if you’re listening at 90 decibels, you can only listen for four hours. This dj played over 125 db for 6 hours (Safe listening time = about 1.5 minutes).

I blame my own cowardice / wimpiness for not shutting down this dj. The best I could do was alert the guest, but this did not work. The sound stayed super loud.

One of the party organizers asked me “Are we good?” about halfway through the party. I told him about the harm caused by the high sound levels—— that it could cause hearing loss, especially in kids. “It is what it is” he said.

Then again: “Are we good?” I said yes except for the deafness thing. “It is what it is. Are we good?” he repeated, getting impatient.

I think we did one more round of this. I sighed and gave up.

As I said above, I should have done more.

The guest stopped by today and warned me that I would get a negative review! She said she wished I hadn’t stayed in the building. I usually stay elsewhere, but this event required elevator operation throughout the evening, some ongoing maintenance, and just answering normal questions. Plus a woman was roller skating on the pine floors and that concerned me a little. This overall vibe kept me wanting to be nearby. Mostly I stayed outside the downstairs lobby to protect my ears, but I did check occasionally.

I’m wondering if other hosts run into this, or similar issues, and what is the solution, if any? People at parties do not like negativity, but this kind of thing is hard to ignore.

The only thing I can recommend is to practice setting up very stern boundaries with guests.

I recently received a 3 star “would not book again” review with a guest who was pissed that my on-site coordinator and I were present…in my own home. They literally wanted me to leave my own home and hope that nothing got broken or stolen.

But during that rental, who was so adamant about their ‘privacy’ (in MY home), they attempted to light sage and do a pagan ritual, which they already knew was not allowed (for religious reasons and also because it would have set off the smoke detectors or sprinklers). Then they tried to light candles, which they also knew wasn’t allowed.

I’m mentioning all this because this is unfortunately the nature of the beast when renting private events. A frighteningly large percentage are looking to just party down and tear everything up, no matter what your house rules are. When you thwart their attempts to break your house rules, they retaliate by filing a negative review.

Eventually the review system will change, because it has to. But until it does, private events are going to leave negative review because many of the guests are entitled and feel that they should be allowed to do whatever they want. But until something changes, I recommend kicking people out when they get out of hand and if you aren’t comfortable, you can always hire a licensed guard for around $20 an hour. Just absorb the negative review and hopefully the next people will be better!

Hello Warren,

Our venue is inside a hotel, which makes it difficult for us to host large and loud parties to account for the staff working and guests staying at the hotel. This past July, we rented out our bar to a woman celebrating her 30th birthday. Although I tried my best to convey to her and her party that the noise had to be acceptable, there was a complete disregard on the night of the event. We ended up received a negative review, citing that we approached her DJ about lowering the volume too many times and about not giving her free valet parking. Even though she felt like the volume was appropriate, having a 150 person dance party on a Sunday night with a steady flow of Hennessy and bass-heavy rap made it difficult to fully operate other services inside our hotel.

But, since then, I’ve become more direct in the language that I use to describe our venue and the type of events that the space can accommodate. When I accept parties with live music or DJ(s), I provide hours in which the music must to shut off. I also state that as the facilities manager, I need to have a brief meeting with the DJ to ensure that they are mindful of the neighboring businesses or homes. Another condition for when the host of the party is unable to inform their DJs that the volume needs to be lowered, I must be able to inform the DJ to lower the volume a couple notches at a time, so that the volume change is not drastic. I would have your conditions stated in writing and agreed upon, prior to accepting the booking. You can always reference what was written when handling complaints.

I hope that this helps for future events!

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This loft sits on the third floor of a brick building and is amazingly soundproof. So noise leaking outside is not a problem— and there have been thunderous DJs and bands here.

And most of our Oakland party guests have been just great up til now, considerate and civilized. I never see the kind of intentional bad stuff that Deacon describes. My one problem review (so far) was of an offsite for a giant corporation.

So this party and its sadistic DJ were kind of special cases in the party sound category. The music was playing at a harmful degree of loudness, and indescribably shrill. My concern was over a dangerous situation: physical harm to people.

I guess the broader issue is this kind of hair-trigger response to anything negative from the host. I have learned not to point out piles of glitter after a party, even when a guest has agreed to the no glitter rule, or minor accidentally broken stuff, or permanent stains on the countertops; it just leads to heated discussions that go nowhere and only succeed in pissing off the guest.

Also, I will never be able to list the hundreds of bad things that guests could possibly do in the space and forbid them all. I mean— I never thought anybody would be roller skating around the loft!

Deacon, you seem to sort of have a slightly how-shall-I-say-it, severe relationship with guests, but it doesn’t seem to bother them. Also your place is a high-tech wonder with cameras everywhere, which is not something I would be comfortable with. I think a lot of the reason I get lots of bookings, besides the coolness of the loft itself, is the friendly attitude when we do initial walk-throughs. Maybe that’s why people get upset when I get strict!