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My band plays events in small and large venues like a bar to a bike night outdoors. We pay for sound at large events which they bring sound equipment to setup and tear down. is paying 30% of our pay is a little high. That would be $210 for a $700 gig with each of the four member making $122.50. Is this a typical fee for bands?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Doktor Mayhem May 24 at 15:53

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  • 2
    Max. should be the same as a band member, providing they are good at their job. You still have to buy a p.a. for other gigs, but then you'd have to pay for time for someone to run it, perhaps. So consider an equal split with the personnel. Did they spend as long as you learning to 'play'? Of course not. So less recompense !! – Tim Sep 17 '14 at 19:36
  • Sounds good to me. But I have been in bands where the sound guy is making $300 and each member made $70.00! I'll take you advice and pass it along. thanks! – r lo Sep 18 '14 at 11:34
  • 1
    @Tim I would take exception to that 'of course not', many sound men will take on 3-5 gigs a week, they are handling the maintenance of the PA in between times and often loading in and out long before and after musicians are present. It's a skilled craft honed over years. My time as a sound tech was working with an experienced tech who had 20 years in the business. Quite often dealing with bands of school age on their first gig. So I'd pretty much guarantee that a good sound tech has put in, and still puts in, much more work than the band. – AJFaraday Sep 18 '14 at 13:42
  • @AJFaraday - I speak as having experience from both sides.It took me a heck of a lot longer to become a half decent muso. I used to do the sounds for jazz greats from all over the world. They were quite exacting, but I managed with not a lot of training. Maybe being a player, thus empathetic, helped.Yes, more time at the beginning and end of gigs is spent. Owning the p.a.etc., would put a different perspective on things, too. As a muso, I've found some sound guys are good, some bad. The bad ones seem to know what sound you're after before they even ask you. Telepathic? No, clueless ! – Tim Sep 18 '14 at 13:54
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    Think about this: when I do a live sound gig with my own gear, it can be as much as 12 hours of my time (4:00pm to 4:00am). The band might spend half that much time (maybe 8:00pm to 2:00am). The total value in equipment the sound guy is renting to the band may be the same or more than ALL the band's gear combined. I pretty much wouldn't leave my house for less than $200, and I charge what I charge, I don't take a percent or share. If the gig only pays $600, I'll be taking home more than each band member or not showing up at all. – Todd Wilcox Sep 17 '15 at 18:01
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It really depends and most sound guys will tell you what they charge per gig. Personally I would not go for the cheaper option, I would go for the better sound guy as a good sound guy always makes you sound your best.

It may seem strange to pay a sound guy more then a member of your band, but really do a lot for band including:

  • Setting up and tearing down equipment for you.
  • Providing a sound check to adjust the sound for the room.
  • Providing monitors for musicians and being able to adjust them for you while preforming.
  • Mixing sound live and adding effects like delay and reverb.
  • Most typically have lights to enhance the the look of your performance.

I would talk to bands in your area to see if they have certain sound guys they would recommend (or avoid). I look at it this way, while you probably can find a cheap sound guy a better sound guy will make you get more gigs and make your overall show better.

3

I've been lucky enough to work with monitor and FOH engineers who were being paid multiple thousands of dollars per week. The value they add is ridiculous. Having to go back to standard house engineers or beginners is really painful after that.

Your sound guys are pretty much the most valuable item/thing/asset a touring band can have.

In answer to your question: Pay what you need to if the guy makes you sound great (offstage and onstage).

2

The sound guy is not a band member. He may be friendly with a good attitude and have a cool job but: it is a job. He's not part of the musical creation process and unless he's been accompanying you to the studio and on residency for your show, there won't be much creative production on his side either.

  1. He's not a producer (His salary is not dependent on the gigs revenue; as opposite to a manager or a booking agent who make a bet on you).
  2. It's a profession, not a hobby. It's what he pays his bills with
  3. He'll be there long before and after the band members
  4. He works in the dark, not on stage with all the perks and glamour that may bring.

I read somewhere something very interesting: nobody will have trouble hiring a musician who works part-time in a bar. The general public knows how hard it is to make it as a musician. But who will hire a sound engineer working in a restaurant to make ends meet? No one, because he would be seen as unprofessional. And if you think hiring professionals is expensive, hire an amateur and put him in front of your best customers.

Also, standard rate is a minimum of 250 EUR per gig in Belgium (usually calculated on a 10hr shift) or 300 CAD (obviously in Canada).

  • 1
    I know 'sound guys' who have bought some gear and a van and make themselves available for gigs the same way a musician does. Just like musicians, they come at all levels of competence and professionalism. – Laurence Payne Sep 1 '18 at 18:45
1

This isn't about 'fair shares', it's about what it costs to hire in sound gear and an operator. Negotiate the best price you can for what you need. If this is more than the whole band is making, consider going into the sound-hire business instead!

1

I think the problem stems from the fact that most people think the "sound guy" or "Technician" is not part of the band. Just because I'm not on stage and under a spot light doesn't mean I have any less part of creating the picture and vibe of the band. Your instruments don't sound like any recording you'd buy today and my instrument ( Console and Speakers ) doesn't make any sound without you. typically when you're putting together a band you try to get the best players you can because you know it makes a difference. You need to consider the Mixer as part of the equation or part of the band.

Someone in this thread said " the sound guy is NOT the producer". In the traditional sense of the studio that sounds right on the surface, but I am doing this a bit. It's very difficult if not impossible for a musician on a modern stage (especially with IEMs) to be cognizant of every aspect of the sound and music that is happening while they're trying to play. I often will go to the stage and ask if a drum can be retuned to a different pitch or ask a bass player thin out a few notes in a couple bars because its fighting the floor tom part that's being played. I'll ask guitar players to back off reverbs or delays a bit because they're getting lost in the mix. I've had times where I'll tell the band leader a note that the keyboard player is playing is conflicting with a guitar part. Sometimes the band doesn't catch it. I won't do that on the first pass but if it happens a couple times in sound check and its obviously a mistake then I'll speak up. I have the advantage of a kind of third person perspective listening to the whole picture.

One thing to keep in mind is a lot of the time the band (volume wise) is not appropriate for the venue. This effectively takes away the ability of the mixer to do his job. A second part of that equation is most club systems are not adequate for the job.

What should you pay? What should a pro baseball player get paid? What should a rock star get paid? It's the same question. How good are they, what do they bring to the table? It's a free market.

The idea that any of us is more or less critical to the process is just uninformed. This is a huge topic and these few words cannot address all the scenarios and nuance it deserves. These are a few things I've learned from doing this for 30 years.

-2

Wait, you don't have your own sound guy? That seems a bit reckless to me, whether you set-and-forget for small gigs or hire someone for large ones. It also teaches bad habits that can drive a sound guy crazy, like sound-checking at less than full volume so you can all turn yourselves up by effectively different amounts during the show and make him scramble to get a good mix back. A sound guy that can do that seamlessly deserves to be paid more than one that just babysits the equipment.

You really need your own dedicated sound guy and sound system. They don't need to be particularly good at first, just a consistent place to improve from, and the sound guy needs to act and be treated as the important band member that he is. He plays the board with sometimes comparable intensity as you play your instruments on stage. If you hire someone else on occasion, your own guy should still be there to advise the hired guy on your desired sound and to learn what he can.

We'll figure out the wages later.

  • 1
    As a sound guy, there's not much benefit in hitching your wagon to a band unless they get fairly big. If you're with a band, then you have to go to all of their gigs, which is very likely to mean turning down a booking from a venue that pays more. Below a certain level, venue gigs are better than band gigs, since usually you just show up, maybe get a free meal and/or drink, do the show, get paid, and go home to sleep. – Todd Wilcox Sep 17 '15 at 17:57
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    From a sound guy's perspective, that may be true, but from a band's perspective, and from an overall production perspective, the sound guy (and lighting guy, and video guy, and all the other "guys" you may have) is a member of the band just as much as the people on stage. Trading him out is like swapping a bassist or drummer for someone who's supposed to be good but you may have never even heard of until you arrive at the venue. That's the scary part. And his equipment is like your instruments. Same deal there. What you described might be a good deal for a sound guy, but not for the band. – AaronD Sep 18 '15 at 5:13
  • Now there are times when a band can't use their own sound guy even if they wanted to, like if they're sharing a stage with other bands (playing together or one after another in quick succession). That's when the band's sound guy should do all he can to politely advise the venue's sound guy on the desired sound for his band and to learn what he can while he's there. – AaronD Sep 18 '15 at 5:17
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    My point was, there's no upside for the mix engineer in what you propose, only downsides. So while the band might want a dedicated engineer, generally an engineer doesn't want to be part of a band. If you could get people to work for the band for free (or for wages to be figured out later), it would make more sense to go for the roadies, guitar, bass, and drum techs, vocal coaches, business manager, and driver. But none of those professions make sense as part of the band and neither does a mix engineer. They all want to and deserve to be paid for their work. – Todd Wilcox Sep 18 '15 at 11:39
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I bill at $650/ day. Why on earth would I want to mix your band? What about your band would make me get out of bed? Reading these comments its understandable why I was poor for the first 20 years of my career. I was really good too. When I mix a band these days, you can be assured its for the fun. I expect to be paid, but my regular mixing gigs pay as much as you are charging (which is too low btw). If bands would stop giving it away, DJs would stop giving it away, sound and lighting techs would stop giving it away, we would all be making a living wage doing what we love. I mix for corporate events which is easier, but not as much fun. Music is my passion and its why I became a sound engineer. I am in the top 5-10% of skill level and worth every cent I make. It took me a lot longer to learn sound than it took you to learn your instrument. I promise you that. I noodle at various instruments and have had 3 kids in band. In school we had our own bands and all picked up instruments never having played them before and had it pretty much figured out in 3-5 years. There is a lot more to sound than what you get from your typical cheap or free bar soundman. These days in addition to all the acoustics issues, I also have to know networking! I'm a dang IT guy. That's what it takes to get the gear all working. I have certifications in this area. I teach a class on calibration of sound systems in acoustic environments. Sound guys pay $750 to attend this class. They leave having more questions than they did before they arrived. Before you can get a good mix you need good sound. Mixing in a studio is dead easy compared to live. If you want me to mix your band for $200, I would probably do it, but my conditions are that I be treated with respect as a professional, I get fed (could be a grilled cheese, not fancy), have plenty of water to drink, and your band better be tight. This was NEVER a hobby for me.

  • You say " It took me a lot longer to learn sound than it took you to learn your instrument. I promise you that." How can you make a ridiculous claim like that? You know me and everyone else? – r lo Sep 1 '18 at 19:45
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    Those running sound certainly deserve respect and fair compensation, but respect should go both ways. "It took me a lot longer to learn sound than it took you to learn your instrument.... we ... had it pretty much figured out in 3-5 years" is kind of a silly statement. Some of us on this site have been at it for 40 years or more, and are still learning. Anyone who thinks they have it figured out after 5 years, unless they are a bona fide prodigy, is kidding themselves. – David Bowling Sep 2 '18 at 3:34

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