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I hope this is acceptable - it is about musical practice after all.

In a band situation (where a lot of us are or have been), who is expected to provide the p.a? Obviously on quite large gigs, it's provided - that's not a problem. But there are many occasions when one's not available, so apart from hiring is the question.

All the instrumentalists will have to provide their own instruments, at varying costs and portability, but who owns the p.a. is a question that has just popped up again. A vocalist forming a new band has neither p.a. nor mic. and I'm appealing for experienced band players to share whether bands they are, or have been in, would have a shared p.a. or does the vocalist own it. If it's shared, surely it becomes problematic should one member leave? Or - worse still - "yes, you can join but it'll cost you for a share in our p.a..."

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  • Are you asking about gigs or rehearsal? Both the answer and the PAs are likely to be different. Or are you curious about both situations? May 16, 2023 at 1:22
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    Why are you asking about the vocalist? Don't the other instruments need PA and monitors too? May 16, 2023 at 5:50
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    @user1079505 - I was considering the bands I've worked with where the vocalist just turns up and asks "where's my mic?" My reply was usually "still in the shop, you obviously haven't bought it yet" And yes, others use the p.a. too, but in a way, they 'make use of' my k'bds, gtr, bass, drums, when I gig with them.
    – Tim
    May 16, 2023 at 7:00
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    Does "p.a." mean "public address system" here? May 16, 2023 at 14:32
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    This sort of seems like a survey question. Like you’re taking a poll to see how bands handle PAs. What am I not understanding that makes this question objective and answerable? May 16, 2023 at 15:21

3 Answers 3

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I guess it depends, maybe no two will be the same…

I used to work occasionally for a function band who commanded enough money for a show that they just hired a PA, lighting rig & engineer/roadies each time.
I mean, who's got room in their garage for a 5k rig & all the lighting too… who is also happy to lug it themselves to every gig?

Every smaller band I've ever been in bought their own, between them, then if anyone left or joined, the rig still belonged to the band. You leave it behind if you move on, but the guy replacing you gets free, temporary usage.
If the outfit disbands completely, whoever is left at that point who contributed originally gets a share of the sale price.

I've heard of singers owning their own; also I've worked solo, me plus guitar & backing tracks & had my own little rig that would work for pubs/small clubs, but I've never shifted it up to a full band.

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    Actually, I did just that! Looked after a big rig, for B'ham Jazz - artistes from all over the world - and humped it all, set it all up, ran the desk, and stored it! Younger then though... And never got a penny for it. foolish as well, maybe - but that was different, as BJ generated enough money to buy it all, so not the same scenario. I can imagine your 4th & 5th para. would cause many upsets!
    – Tim
    May 15, 2023 at 14:26
  • My nephew started out with a couple of lights he could use at the local am dram, for free, just so he could join in, as he can't act, can't sing & his sister can do both. She gave it up eventually, he runs rigs across half the big theatres in the North now. No longer fits in a garage, 40' trucks these days ;)) [I've never known anyone leave a band & want their share of the rig back, but I can imagine it happening]
    – Tetsujin
    May 15, 2023 at 14:31
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I have been in bands with a variety of arrangements regarding sound reinforcement equipment. Some rented PA systems for gigs where there was no house system. In other cases, one member owned a PA and shared while each vocalist (who also happened to be an instrumentalist) owned their own microphone. There's no "standard" approach, and each band member is likely to come to the table with their own tacit assumptions!

So, I think your question is a subset of a larger issue that bands need to be aware of: The need to have some kind of agreement in place when you join. In addition to equipment ownership issues, a band agreement can also cover things like:

  • Responsibility for storage and transportation of equipment.
  • Ownership of copyright on band compositions/arrangements.
  • Whether the band is fully egalitarian, or has "leader"
  • Whether the leader has the right to terminate other members.
  • Whether some majority of members can terminate another member.
  • Who owns the name, logo, etc.

Agreeing upon these things early in the band's existence can help avoid animosity, resentment, legal or financial battles, etc.

There are standard forms available online for band agreements. Here's one example (not an endorsement): Sample Band Agreement

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    I think this is the best answer so far, which is "there is no one answer, you need to figure this out between you and make sure everybody agrees and there are no surprises". May 15, 2023 at 17:48
  • @JörgWMittag - there probably is no one answer. I'm searching for the experience of contributors to this site, myself having been in many bands over the last 60 odd yrs, with many different arrangements. But the one that rankles most is a vocalist with nothing of his own. Reading ideas will also help others forming bands, and maybe avoiding the situations we find where some poor guy has the responsibility of their own gear, and then the p.a. on top of that. Pretty unfair in my book.
    – Tim
    May 16, 2023 at 8:33
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    @Tim If you think of it as a business arrangement, then the person on the losing end of the unfairness has a responsibility to themselves to work to mitigate it. Splitting the cost of a rental PA might help the members understand the value of one owned by a member.
    – Theodore
    May 16, 2023 at 13:55
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I'm appealing for experienced band players to share whether bands they are, or have been in, would have a shared p.a. or does the vocalist own it.

My experience is "neither". Either no one in the band has owned a PA or I’ve owned the PA, as the guitarist, or another non-vocalist has owned a PA in their house. In one of my bands, the only gear we used that I didn’t own was the drum kit (owned by the drummer) and anything provided by venues.

Specific situations include:

  • Every practice with drums is at a practice space with PA included in the hourly rate - rate split evenly among members.
  • One band member (usually the drummer) has a practice space in their house or garage and one member (usually the drummer or me) has a PA or at least monitors set up in that space.
  • We shared a practice space with another band and the other band owned the PA and let us use it.

For gigs it’s mostly been the venue has a PA already set up, but I’ve been in bands that had to hire a PAs for some gigs. Even if we had one at the practice space it usually wasn’t big enough and worth the hassle to gig with it.

I rehearsed maybe 2-4 times with a vocalist who had a mic and a powered speaker kinda like a musician with an amp, but he was a coke fiend and that last about two weeks.

Note that I was only ever seriously in one band that had a dedicated vocalist. Every other band the singer(s) also played instruments. So there wasn’t much split between singers and players. Most of us both sang and played. I owned a PA because I was an engineer, not because I sang. Add a mix engineer to the band and you should be set. ;-)

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  • Thanks for this. I was considering more the situation where the singer did just that. It complicates it more when the vox also plays an instrument! I have several p.as, but am reticent to add one to the gear I already have to lug about, set up, break down, and store. Let alone repair when something breaks.
    – Tim
    May 16, 2023 at 6:57

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