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Do smaller local bands generally have sound guys?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Balog, Jan 9, 2013.

  1. Balog


    Mar 19, 2009
    Bothell, WA
    So, to preface, I am not a professional sound engineer. I volunteer at a church, and have helped at professional shows a couple times. However, over the 4ish years (generally at over 40 weeks a year) I've been doing it I have received extensive training from several professionals: my mentor spent years in LA with a multi-thousand seat venue, and I've worked with and been trained by one of the partners at a local pro sound reinforcement company as well as a degreed recording studio engineer. So I'm not a full on pro, but I'm considerably better equipped than the average guy that just volunteers at his church. The sound guy equivalent of a guy playing the infamous $400 a night bar gigs.

    I'm hoping to find a local band/venue who I can work with part time for some extra income. But it seems like at the "local bar/festival band" level most acts don't have a dedicated sound guy. Lower level venues either don't want a sound guy, don't want to compensate him at all, or want to do a "be our sound guy and your band can be the openning act sometimes" arrangement. Better venues want a guy who can show a degree in audio engineering.

    Am I being unreasonable to think I can find an act or venue at the lower levels who would want to make a sound guy part of their team? Am I just looking in the wrong places? Any advice on breaking into this?
  2. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal
    Our band does not. Most of the places we play provide a PA and will have someone there (not always a sound guy) to run it. We're a small local band playing original music in the LA area.
  3. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    No. But as regarding a band, you will need to find the right band - a group of players who have a much more focused, professional, and ambitious approach to their music and to their sound than is likely to be the case with your garden-variety band of weekend warrior yahoos.

    Good luck,

  4. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Tampa, FL.
    At the $400 level I doubt you'll find a band willing to pick you up. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't make yourself friendly with local bands at that level in the off chance they start to become a bigger fish in the pond and want a dedicated guy.

    The better music venues that I've played almost always have their own house staff. These venues can be as big as a 200-300 person bar or a music hall that can host several thousand people. Personally, I'd start hitting up those places (especially the bars, because that's how you'll get to network with bands the best). I can't speak for whether or not you need a degree, but I'm sure if you do an internship of sorts for a month of two and show them you can do it you can probably still land yourself a gig. Otherwise, start networking with bands. My own group already has two guys in mind to pick up if and when we ever make it to that level (but you should know these guys can also do lights, which will be important for us if we ever get to that level. That might not be a bad skill to learn, too).
  5. No, most smaller bands that play bars and small clubs do not have sound guys. In my area a few clubs have there own sound man they provide for the band, but not very many. Most bands just don't make enough to want to include an extra person in the split.
  6. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    You guys must be talking about originals clubs.

    There are no cover band clubs in Milwaukee that provide sound.

    Most $400.00 a night bands don't have a dedicated sound guy.

  7. niki z

    niki z Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    I say it depends on the venue. Where we play there has to be a sound man, and we half to pay "him" out of the cut either way. We found a guy we really like so we hire him for the night, and he mixes all the bands playing. We have always taken "whoever" was there for the night, and after he mixed one of our shows we had multiple people come up and tell us how great it sounded - He got the job.

    I say get your foot in the door to a local club and impress the bands with what you can do. Hopefully they will request you for their next gig and you'll be able to start building clientele.
  8. craig.p


    Sep 28, 2008
    New Hampshire
    Not around here, either. At least not the small-average 21-30 cover club, though there is the occasional exception. If you do see a band with a sound man, it's usually in name only, 'cause it's typically someone with little to no proper theory or professional experience under his belt. Sort of a shame, because it's the financially-strapped cover bands who have the marginal PAs and therefore have the greatest need for someone qualified at the board. But because of that marginal gear, it's sometimes tough for them to attract competent help. Sort of a Catch 22 there.
  9. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    Most sound guys around here want to charge so much they price themselves out of the market. A local band cannot afford to pay a sound guy the same price the entire band is making to play a gig. And that's the scenario here. If sound guys would work for an equal split of the pay out they'd probably have to turn down work.

    And just a bit of advice...it doesn't take an 8000 watt system with dual subs and dual stacks to put on a small pub show. The sound guys we've worked with bring way too much gear. They could easily get by with half of what they haul in. Probably even less. The last guy we worked with said, " I bring all this to every gig ".
  10. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I've always had a sound guy in all my bands. They get an equal cut like any band member, and set up and tear down is shared by everyone.

    Someone out front with volume and tone control is invaluable IMO.

    They also come in handy for monitor adjustments when your hands are full.

    They kill feedback should it arise.

    If the mic stand is droopy mid song, they're Johnny on the spot with a screwdriver.

    They get drunks right the hell out of your face if necessary.

    When I'm playing, that's all I want to pay attention to. The sound guy is a pair of eyes, ears, and hands that I don't have.
  11. ChrisB2

    ChrisB2 Bass... in your fass

    Feb 27, 2008
    TalkBass > Off Topic
    He can also possibly help out with money at the door at a for-the-door gig, if the setup allows for it.

    My band had a dedicated sound guy for a while. We're your garden-variety weekend warrior yahoos, but we felt we needed someone to do all the above and make us sound good while at it.

    Problem was, the guy we got was a "set it and forget it" guy. Who needs that??? He really didn't know what he was doing, i.e., couldn't kill feedback. Then, when you NEED him to boost the drummer's mike for a harp feature, he's outside smoking a cigarette!!! :mad: So, he eventually didn't get called back and we went back to stage-managed sound.

    My problem with the concept: a sound guy is the final finger on a band's product... if he doesn't know what he's doing, he can do a lot more harm than good. It would be difficult for me to feel comfortable giving someone that power. If you can somehow sell yourself to the right band, you may have a shot at this....
  12. Balog


    Mar 19, 2009
    Bothell, WA
    This is exactly what I'm hoping for, although for an equal share I'd be happy to set the PA elements up myself.

    jmattbassplaya: that is a really good tip on the lighting, something to think about.

    To everyone pointing out that at the $400 s et level folks can't afford to cut in a sound guy, how would I go about reaching out to / networking with better and/or more successful bands?

    Kind of the same question with clubs. Do I just stroll in and ask to talk to the manager? Any local Seattle/Snohoco bands want a free sound guy to run your PA in exchange for a friendly intro to local club owners?
  13. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Again, cover club or originals club?

  14. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Banned

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    My band gets $400-$800 a night. We have a sound guy and he gets an even split. Even though I am not real happy with him, until I find a replacement I will use him. Even at the $400 range, I would not want to go back to running sound from the stage myself, even if it means less money.

    Too bad you aren't in STL.
  15. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    You might find a market for your skills if you're willing to do all of this:

    Buy and own as much of a full PA as you can. Speakers, monitors, board, cables, snake, mics, etc. Have enough for a 5 piece band, including at least a 5 pc drum kit.

    Be willing to haul it, set it up, make it work, and run sound all night.

    Then break it all down, and pack it up.

    While I put my rig in my car and leave.

    The sound guys that do that, get a great rep, and they get lots of work.

    The problem is, they want way more money than $400 bar bands can afford.
  16. Marko 1

    Marko 1 Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    If I had to provide even a smaller bar PA, like one sub, two tops, four monitors and minimal lighting, it would be difficult to do it for the typical cut of $100 or less.

    Just hooking things up and riding faders/EQ, yeah, sure I’d do it for an even cut if I didn’t have anything else to do.

    At least when I’m playing and only making that, the whole band helps with everything, so it’s not so bad, and a bit more fun.
  17. Balog


    Mar 19, 2009
    Bothell, WA
    Yeah, even though I could get a good deal on used gear from a buddy the investment needed to get a decent PA would take too long to recoup.
  18. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    We run a 16 channel board from the stage, feeding two mains with built-in subs, and dedicated monitors for everybody. We have no snake, so we couldn't put anyone out in the audience, and we don't trust anyone at the club level to run sound "our way," which is vocals out on top; bottom end strong but not overwhelming; nice mids with no blaring shrillness or harshness on the top end; and stereo, with maximum sound placement. We do our sound check by doing songs that we can perform as the two three-piece bands we break down into, so that Krystal and I can take turns going out front to listen to mix; we all use wireless rigs so we can get out and keep an ear on the mix as the audience/temperature/room changes throughout the night. We do our sound far and away better than anyone we've hired, to the point that I have to be careful on these boards to follow the rule of "not bashing sound people," because in this town, we have been sorely disappointed, even in clubs that have a really nice house system. Guys putting heavy echoes where heavy echoes don't belong. Guys putting vocals just THAT much too low for a proper mix. And virtually EVERYBODY thinking that when you mic a drum kit in a small venue, (we always mic every drum and the high hat, no matter where we play, just to be sure,) that you need to do overhead mics for cymbals. (you never mic a cymbal in a bar, unless it's a HUGE bar, because cymbals are already bleeding into everything, and pretty much loud enough acoustically on their own.)
    Even at festivals we've just heard that farty bottom end sound, and just this overall tendency to make the mains too loud, and even try to make our STAGE too loud!

    So I would say trying to do sound for small clubs is not a very good use of your time/skills/equipment. If you're really good, you deserve more money than anyone here is going to pay you, and if you're not, you shouldn't be doing it at all.

    But that's Fort Wayne, Indiana.

    Other towns may vary.
  19. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Are you close enough to Seattle to do work there? If so, I would think you should be able to hook up pretty easily. If you are trying to stay in your small market, it will probably be harder. Everyone is cutting back. The music business is no different. So if any act can get away without a sound guy, they will. Even if that means letting a guitar player who knows virtually nothing about PS run sound from the stage.
  20. Churches... they always seem to produce the best musicians. I think the same goes for sound guys, especially for the bigger churches.

    It's not that you're looking in the wrong place, it's more that you're not looking in enough different places. Here's my take, as someone who briefly worked for both a side business sound company and even more briefly worked for a large, highly professional sound company.

    Venues that staff sound guys are common, but tougher to get into. I'd start looking at sound reinforcement companies. Often, venues that have PAs and that also are big enough need a sound guy will negotiate with the band as to who will engineer sound. Usually, it's someone that the band provides, and the venue may have stipulations like he has to have be certified, have a tech school degree in sound engineering, or something.

    However, some contracts have the venues provide the sound guy. They usually get a local guy with a side business to run sound. The next time you're at a show, a festival or somewhere, talk briefly with the sound guys and see if they're with the band or are hired out by the venue. Hand 'em your card, and toss up a quick resume-style website that indicates your abilities and history. Anyone who runs sound even as a side business will know that running church sound has value.

    I may suggest also looking into bigger pro companies. Most companies have their engineers travel all the time, and will require certifications or that you be a union member. However, there's some that have local contracts with smaller venues that don't need certified guys. You may be able to get in with them.

    I'd also aim as high as you can get away with. Massive concert PA systems at 30,000 seaters need a bunch of people to run 'em. On any given concert at a big stadium, I'd guess that at least 1/2 have less experience then you do, probably have only a high school diploma, and may have spent some time in prison at some point.

    Above all, I've noticed that this side of the music business, like many others, is based off of contacts. Both bands and venues use the same sound guys over and over because they trust them. Like most businesses, they usually have a pretty small pool of people they choose from. As such, it's always good to get known in those circles as much as possible. You may need to offer yourself as an intern for a few months, just to get that on your resume and/or get your foot in the door. You may need to offer your services a few times to a friend's band. If you have gigs where someone's running sound, chat them up! Best of luck!