Serious question: Small or large PA in a sports arena gig? -- And now the followup

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Bigskybassguy, Nov 11, 2016.

  1. Ironically, I'm the one who bitches about our band being too loud in small venues.
    However I just learned that we're playing in here next weekend:



    No! it's not a full-fledge like Chicago might put on. No! we won't get a PA system company.

    We are going to be the "background" music for the "Bacon Fest", with 3500 sold out advance tickets. People milling around, sampling hundreds of bacon treats. They paid $25 ea for advance tix.

    Again, it's not about the music. Just classic rock background filler. Journey, Heart, Benatar, Styx, Eagles, Blondie, type stuff.

    PA, 4 powered Mackie full range powered top boxes, and four 18" powered Mackie subs. We'll run our own sound, after copious sound checking.

    How would you handle the PA situation with what we've got. Try to "act big" and know you'll fail? In a lively giant room, won't that sound like dog squeeze?

    I'm pushing for moderately filling a 100x100 area in front of us, and leaving it at that. (My theory is, "If they want to hear us better, they can come closer to us."

    Please, your input, because my guys are gonna want to "fill the room," and I'm cringing. Need your input, experience in a self-PA'd arena venue.
  2. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    First I'd talk to the event promoter and find out whe they want. There's no way you'll make everyone happy but getting it 100% clear what the promotor wants and delivering on that is really all that matters. Chances are at an event like this you'll be asked to play loud enough to be heard but not so loud that people who aren't especially into the music will be annoyed at having to raise their voices to carry on conversation.

    Your Mackie system will probably be adequate but again get the promotor to sign off on it so that if there are any issues about not being loud enough you can say that it was discussed and ok'd by him. Honestly though I've played a few of these kinds of things and done rigging and lighting for a bunch more and I garauntee they won't want a stadium rock concert volume level. If you try to play to the whole room a couple of drunks will dig it and you'll royally piss everyone else off.
    delta7fred, okcrum, Al Kraft and 4 others like this.
  3. alembicguy

    alembicguy I operate the worlds largest heavey equipment Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    This is the perfect answer
    Al Kraft likes this.
  4. 3500 bacon munchers probably have a good few rock fans among them, which is why you got the gig.

    Trying to please everyone all the time is never going to work. The trick is annoying the least number. Like they said already, the only one who really counts is rhe guy running the show. Not your lead tatooist.

    The room is so big you could call it outdoors as far as PA goes. Even so, your PA could be halved and still be enough to be too much rock concert if you are set too close to the vendors.
  5. Pat C.

    Pat C. Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2005
    Tuscaloosa, Alabama
    This sounds like the right approach. Just let the clients know that's going to be the case so they're not expecting concert sound.

    Even if they wanted more sound throughout the venue, the best approach at an event like this is probably a distributed system. For which they should hire a dedicated sound provider.
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Agreed - definitely speak with the promoter. In general, especially on gigs like this, it's better to be too soft than too loud. It sounds like you have the right idea - those who want to hear you can come close, and the others will have you as background noise.
  7. Btw. At filling 100x100 level you are going to need to keep a lid on the stage volume or all your sound checking will go out the window. The only thing left in the PA will be a bit of kick and the vocals.
  8. Very thoughtful answers, thank you guys.
    It's perfect, because Tuesday, I do go meet with the event coordinator.
    Al Kraft and Passinwind like this.
  9. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Here's an account of what I went through in a similar situation last summer.

    Will this bar gig PA work for a small arena gig?

    In the end, we ended up adequately covering the middle third of the arena (about 80' x 80') with Yorkville Paraline mains and subs (2 mains, 2 subs each side). Sound guy was more of a studio guy than FOH and FOH sound was too boomy, bass and indistinct to my taste. Of course, echoes killed the clarity of the sound more than 80' away and with the ambient sound in the room (about 1000 ppl mingling) you could barely hear the band at either end of the arena.

    We tried to work with the folks organizing the event but they knew next to nothing about live sound nor how to elaborate on their expectations beyond "We want a bunch of live bands. Who can bring their PA?" We did the best we could with vague requirements. If I were to do it again, I'd focus on a smaller area and try to get the best sound we could achieve in that space.
  10. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Having a bigger PA isn't necessarily about being super loud, it's more about sound quality. It gives you a lot more headroom and more leeway with EQ. my advice is ring out the system as best you can before you start soundchecking. You should push the PA just enough to get a full volume in a decent area without clipping or being harsh sounding. Keep stage volume reasonable, but matched to the loudest level of the acoustic drums. Counter-intuitively, it can sound louder if you don't give it enough gas, because you get a ton of reflections from the room. Ideally you want to get over the volume of conversation but with 3500 people that's not likely with the PA you have.

    Really all you can do is listen to the room while you're getting things dialed in, but don't be afraid of the Chuck Yeager trick of pushing it right when you think you should be backing off, because sometimes that's just what you need. Definitely pay an actual sound guy to handle that end and keep things on track. Do you want 3500 potential clients hearing you sound lousy because you're focused on playing and have NO idea what's going on in the room? Of course not. Or having the egotistical guitar player mix from the stage so all anybody hears is guitar and maybe some kick? No again. Just make the investment, and you will be glad you did. If there are that many people at this event you have enough of a budget to pay somebody a few hundred bucks to watch your backs so you can just focus on playing. And if you don't have that kind of budget you got played by the event organizers, because I would be asking like $3k plus for a gig like that (4% of the gross revenue, aka nothing).
    modulusman likes this.
  11. Aftermath: It was a big arena event. Supposedly 3k pre-paid tickets, and from 11a-3P, people poured in, sampled bacon treats, listened to music, then filtered out as new people came in.
    For some reason, my band guys were "all about toning it down." Drummer judiciously used an electronic, and kept it down. Sound check, we sounded so good and tight, our sound guy was almost in tears.
    Crowd loved us (and they wouldn't have if we'd have cranked it). At break, I wandered across the arena to the bacon vendors at the far side, and made some inquiries about the sound. "Is the band too loud?"
    "Absolutely not. It's fantastic. Turn it up!" That's the kind of stuff you like to hear.
    Nailed two additional corporate Christmas party gigs. Plus got an assurance from the big guy that we'd get the gig again next year.

    Thanks for everyone's thoughtful input into what I was sure would be a disaster.
  12. The drummer gets it and the rest followed his emphatic lead of the e drums?
  13. Ulf_Hansson


    Apr 15, 2014
    Cool. Congrats to a well performed gig!
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