Our latest Sound Off chat is with Andy Von Pip, founder of the Von Pip Musical Express music blog. He photographs and writes about gigs for his own site and for agencies. When he spoke to us, he had spent the previous evening doing the former.

FA: You were at a gig last night?

AVP: Yeah, I was shooting a Dreamwife gig. They’re a hotly-tipped new band based in Brighton. There was no pit in the venue, so it was just a case of getting right to the front and trying not to get squashed. I was rammed right up against a speaker - don’t worry I had my earplugs in!

You do photography, writing, podcasting - what’s your main focus?

I’m mainly a photographer and a writer. Back in the day when I used to get paid to write, I started doing photography as I'd always loved it and wanted another string to my bow. Over time, the photography sort of took over.

But nowadays everyone’s walking around with cameras and it has become harder to get paid. Lots of publications expect to be able to source photos for free. Sadly it's the same for many artists in the music industry.

I shoot for news agencies, like Rex and Zuma, and the press, which often involves going to gigs I wouldn’t ordinarily have gone to. And being a music photographer isn't simply about shooting bands you love.  For example, bands I’m a fan of sonically often don't have a huge budget to put on an incredible show, whereas artists whose music I'd not want to listen to may be in the position to put on a spectacular show, which looks incredible and is amazing shoot. So my earplugs serve a dual purpose in those cases!

Tell us a bit about the Von Pip Musical Express.

It’s the 10th anniversary this year. I had stopped writing and going to gigs because we had two small children. To be honest, I probably started it in reaction to the mundanity of having shows like the Tweenies on 12 hours as day! That made me think it would be good to get back into writing again, and the photography followed.

A music blog seemed to be the way to go at the time. I was finding new music, especially from MySpace in those days, and sharing it with people. It got picked up very quickly by 6Music DJs, like Tom Robinson, and a few years later I found myself backstage at Glastonbury shooting a Stevie Wonder press conference.

How did you first hear about Flare?

It was talking to a couple of musicians backstage at a festival. One of the roadies had really bad tinnitus and we were chatting about the importance of protecting your hearing. They were saying how dangerous it was for me being in the photo pit and so close to the speakers.

I wasn’t happy with the rubbery ear plugs I was using at the time. They came in a tin and were often stuck together when you opened it, which meant you couldn’t get them into your ears in time. They also blocked out too much noise. You couldn’t hear anything and it felt like you were underwater.

The guys I was talking to recommended ISOLATE®. They looked good, so I decided to give them a go, especially since I’d lost one of my other pair. And when musicians and sound guys are recommending them to you, you expect they’ll do the job.

To be honest, they are the best I have had. You can still hear the music, but it is like the volume has been turned down.

Have you always protected your hearing while shooting gigs?

Since I’ve been shooting them, yes. When I was younger and going to gigs, it wasn’t really an issue. People didn’t talk about protecting your hearing. 

People are more aware of it now. I’ve noticed friends who aren’t necessarily photographers or music writers, but are going to gigs most nights, are now wearing ear protectors.

Certainly for people spending a lot of time at gigs, it is one of the best investments you can make because without your hearing you’re buggered.

You can find Andy on Twitter @VonPip.