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Author Topic: What's your "stairs" policy?  (Read 1659 times)

Michael Lawrence

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Re: What's your "stairs" policy?
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2019, 04:47:19 pm »

I'm so insanely jealous of the markets where production companies have the luxury of turning down gigs. It's unfathomable to me. If we would've ever said "no," we would've had most (if not all) of our weekends free within a few short months...

Here in Madison, WI, there's a huge surplus of small companies and "sound guys" that will happily take basement bar gigs for $150 - $200 all day long. It's the primary reason I closed-up shop... tried to do things "right" but would continually lose bids because of it.

I can't begin to tell you how many of the 80+ gigs that we did last year where we had to deal with stairs, lack of adequate/safe municipal power, lack of proper stage/coverage, and the "we need you to load-in and set-up before 9am and then come back at 10pm for the gig" scenario...

We got surprised so many times that I lost count. Any suggestion of an upcharge or push back resulted in laughter, dismissal, or both.

Again... I wish I lived in one of the areas that everyone else seems to live in. :-)

Steve -
I do feel your pain. I am freelance but my area (upstate NY, lots of cows) is very similar. There are multiple production companies in the area that will somehow send out four guys and a truck full of gear (lights...truss..arrays..) for $500. Pay guys a day rate of $75 (yup) to work for them, and have no shortage of people lining up to take the job. And then you have the "$30 and a beer" bar band guys. They bid an order of magnitude lower than the really good companies around here, and often times the show goes to the lowest bidder, and suffers for it.

I don't compete with these guys. I simply can't afford to. The bar down the road is fine with having their sound run by a guy they pay $30 (or by no one at all, often) and it doesn't make sense, from their perspective, to pay more than that. Maybe bringing in someone better would keep people there longer and sell more drinks. Maybe it wouldn't. Who's to say.

Brings to mind an annual event they do around here during the holidays - the mayor speaks, they switch on the lights on a big(ish) tree, everyone says "yay" and goes back inside where it's warm. A colleague of mine was asked to bid on the event, and did so, at a quite accommodating price in my opinion considering how nasty the winters can be here (annual snowfall 123 inches). The organizer called back and said "[other guy] says he'll do it for $200, can you come down on your price?" My colleague said no. He stayed warm at home with his kid. Other Guy did event, and no one could hear a thing. One could only hope the organizers put two and two together on that.

So I work in circles with people who do understand and appreciate the difference, and are willing to pay more for it. An area college calls me for their concerts and speaking events, the type of thing they're investing a lot of money in and need to be handled properly. About once a year they bring in someone else just to try it out, and it's usually a disaster and then they call me back.
This doesn't offend me - I'm a big believer that you generally 'get what you pay for,' and the client is free to hire whomever they want. Some of them see the value in paying more for a better result, and some of them do not. The trick is finding the ones that do. Don't get me wrong, they're often tough to find, but they are out there if you dig hard enough.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2019, 04:50:33 pm by Michael Lawrence »
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Bob Faulkner

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Re: What's your "stairs" policy?
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2019, 04:59:07 pm »

I'm so insanely jealous of the markets where production companies have the luxury of turning down gigs. It's unfathomable to me. If we would've ever said "no," we would've had most (if not all) of our weekends free within a few short months...

Here in Madison, WI, there's a huge surplus of small companies and "sound guys" that will happily take basement bar gigs for $150 - $200 all day long. It's the primary reason I closed-up shop... tried to do things "right" but would continually lose bids because of it.

I can't begin to tell you how many of the 80+ gigs that we did last year where we had to deal with stairs, lack of adequate/safe municipal power, lack of proper stage/coverage, and the "we need you to load-in and set-up before 9am and then come back at 10pm for the gig" scenario...

We got surprised so many times that I lost count. Any suggestion of an upcharge or push back resulted in laughter, dismissal, or both.

Again... I wish I lived in one of the areas that everyone else seems to live in. :-)
Don't be too jealous.  It's about safety (among many things).  Where I am located (Raleigh, NC), there's a glut of smaller companies that will be happy to take jobs that have stairs in them.  These other companies/individuals use lighter and smaller (and from what I've heard, either the wrong or very low quality gear) for their events.  The equipment I use is too heavy to negotiate stairs.
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Steve Litscher

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Re: What's your "stairs" policy?
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2019, 05:14:39 pm »


Brings to mind an annual event they do around here during the holidays - the mayor speaks, they switch on the lights on a big(ish) tree, everyone says "yay" and goes back inside where it's warm. A colleague of mine was asked to bid on the event, and did so, at a quite accommodating price in my opinion considering how nasty the winters can be here (annual snowfall 123 inches). The organizer called back and said "[other guy] says he'll do it for $200, can you come down on your price?" My colleague said no. He stayed warm at home with his kid. Other Guy did event, and no one could hear a thing. One could only hope the organizers put two and two together on that.



I don't mean to derail this thread or sound like the jaded, grumpy old sound guy, but I have to relate a similar story, and maybe put things into perspective about what we dealt with up here... (keep in mind, I made a decision to close my sound company in January and am so happy that I did)

There's a local community of about 30k people that hosts "music in the park" 6 times throughout the summer. They get local bands to play for 2-3 hours, bring in food trucks, etc.. The events draw about 1,000 people per occurrence.

The organizer called me and was complaining about how bad the sound had been, because they had relied on the bands to do their own sound. She talked about how no one could hear any of the music, and the number one issue on all of their satisfaction surveys was "poor sound quality."

She asked me what I would charge to do the six events throughout the summer. I asked about power on site... "one or two outlets near the pavilion." I went and checked them... same circuit. So, I would've had to bring in a generator. I also explained that I would bring my dLive rig, Shure QLXD wireless, plenty of monitors, and our RCF TTL6-A rig with subs.

I quoted her an unbelievably low price. She said she'd have to think about it.

She called about 2 weeks later and asked if I could do the production for $200 per event. I told her that the cost of renting a generator was nearly $100 alone, and that I'd have to drive 40-ish miles each way, blah blah blah.

She said, "Well, last year, we paid the bands an extra $200 to do their own sound, and that's all we can afford."

I said, "I'm sorry, but I just can't do it for $200 per show. What I'm asking for isn't that much more, but I assure you the quality will be exponentially better, and you won't have any complaints from your audience members."

She said, "I think we're just going to pay the bands $200 and they can do their own sound again."

If that's not the fundamental definition of insanity (doing the same thing while hoping for a different result), I'm not sure what is...

Michael Lawrence

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Re: What's your "stairs" policy?
« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2019, 05:36:13 pm »


If that's not the fundamental definition of insanity (doing the same thing while hoping for a different result), I'm not sure what is...

Yes, that's the bit I find quite bewildering. Happened to me very recently. I was called in to handle the audio for an event which was a lecture given by heads of enormously successful companies. The gentlemen in question had personal net worth measured in billions. Needless to say the promoters wanted everything to be absolutely perfect. The gentleman who had handled their audio the year before had apparently done an atrocious job to the point that it ruined the event. A directive was sent down the chain to find someone better because that could not be allowed to happen again.

But as soon as I say things such as, "I can't mix from a booth behind glass. I need to be in the same room as the event so I can hear it," or "Yes I actually do need to put some RF paddles backstage, not they can't go in the hallway," the response was "well, we didn't have that last year."

Right. You didn't. And as a result, you had a failure. Not sure why those dots don't connect for some folks. It worked out okay - sounded fine, everyone was happy, I will be asked back next time, but it is a truly puzzling level of cognitive dissonance.
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Jeremy Young

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Re: What's your "stairs" policy?
« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2019, 06:21:12 pm »

I recently posted in the subwoofer forum (link) about finding lighter subs due in part to gig requests for events with stairs.  I don't have all the answers, but I have taken a pair of Steve's compact powered subs off his hands for just such events.

I'm a small fish in a new pond. The events described in this thread are available in my area too but I decline them.  So far I've had reasonable success at taking over events from people who couldn't handle it or couldn't be bothered with the details (or are retiring).  Each time they come to me with their budget, I counter with a detailed explanation of what I need to do to pull it off and what that costs, and I have yet to have to discount anything (in other words I've successfully convinced them their budget is utter crap).  So far so good, but I'm not busy enough yet to leave my day job.  When I work, it's on my terms because it's MY name on the event if it goes south and it only takes one bad one to take me down.  No one in the audience will connect a "low production budget" with "poor sound quality from company XYZ".

Getting back to stairs, we have lots of "really cool old venues" people like to host events at that are either full of stairs, bad parking access, or both.  I price my time by the hour and so far have been using my back/dollies/some smaller racks to get those jobs done.  After that thread, I'm planning to hire help when needed because the time re-racking my rigs wasn't getting recouped and I was pretty exhausted by the end of the night (just in time for a load-out injury).  I basically have two rigs now, both compact by the standards of many on this forum but they do well for me and can combine to make a "super rig".  Making all that happen took a lot of planning and money but at least now I don't have to make changes to racks anymore.

I'm still getting more freelance gigs than gigs with gear but my company is new.  In those cases, I'm the guy running the sound for the band bringing their own PA, but it means I can drive my hatchback to the gig and get home before 2AM.  Even then, I'm negotiating my regularly hourly rate, not some kind of beer and cash thing.  9 years sober... my day job pays too much for me to lose sleep for those gigs. 


I find that the artists that understand production and market themselves to clientele with larger budgets are the ones I enjoy working with the most anyway.  The "I'll do any gig for $35 and some exposure" bands remind me too much of my young self and I know they'll be spinning their wheels forever and wondering why they aren't "getting noticed".  On the other side of the coin, I've worked with some bands who are great musicians but didn't hold a lot of value in production and they are now using someone cheaper.  I try not to take it personally and still check out their shows now and then.
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Scott Holtzman

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Re: What's your "stairs" policy?
« Reply #15 on: March 14, 2019, 06:28:12 pm »


I don't mean to derail this thread or sound like the jaded, grumpy old sound guy, but I have to relate a similar story, and maybe put things into perspective about what we dealt with up here... (keep in mind, I made a decision to close my sound company in January and am so happy that I did)

There's a local community of about 30k people that hosts "music in the park" 6 times throughout the summer. They get local bands to play for 2-3 hours, bring in food trucks, etc.. The events draw about 1,000 people per occurrence.

The organizer called me and was complaining about how bad the sound had been, because they had relied on the bands to do their own sound. She talked about how no one could hear any of the music, and the number one issue on all of their satisfaction surveys was "poor sound quality."

She asked me what I would charge to do the six events throughout the summer. I asked about power on site... "one or two outlets near the pavilion." I went and checked them... same circuit. So, I would've had to bring in a generator. I also explained that I would bring my dLive rig, Shure QLXD wireless, plenty of monitors, and our RCF TTL6-A rig with subs.

I quoted her an unbelievably low price. She said she'd have to think about it.

She called about 2 weeks later and asked if I could do the production for $200 per event. I told her that the cost of renting a generator was nearly $100 alone, and that I'd have to drive 40-ish miles each way, blah blah blah.

She said, "Well, last year, we paid the bands an extra $200 to do their own sound, and that's all we can afford."

I said, "I'm sorry, but I just can't do it for $200 per show. What I'm asking for isn't that much more, but I assure you the quality will be exponentially better, and you won't have any complaints from your audience members."

She said, "I think we're just going to pay the bands $200 and they can do their own sound again."

If that's not the fundamental definition of insanity (doing the same thing while hoping for a different result), I'm not sure what is...

The lawn gigs are $750.00 minimum + the genny. 

Your market seems super tough Steve, it has saddened my you are getting out (I got the chance to meet Steve, good guy). 

Cleveland area has a glut of these guys too.  What we learned is to simply stay away from those waters.  We have towns here that bring stagelines in for their concert in the park days.  Some cities have budgets. 

When I look down the list of gigs there are not cover bands and bars, it's major non profits, corporate, bar associations, political, weddings, etc. 

BTW I never turn down a gig, I just price it where it needs to be and let the chips fall. 
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Scott AKA "Skyking" Holtzman
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Jeremy Young

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Re: What's your "stairs" policy?
« Reply #16 on: March 14, 2019, 06:33:37 pm »

When I look down the list of gigs there are not cover bands and bars, it's major non profits, corporate, bar associations, political, weddings, etc. 



I think that about says it all right there Scott.  That's the market I'm currently trying to break into.
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Brown Bear Sound
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Scott Holtzman

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Re: What's your "stairs" policy?
« Reply #17 on: March 14, 2019, 06:41:57 pm »


I think that about says it all right there Scott.  That's the market I'm currently trying to break into.

And I am no means arrogant on this.  almost 6 years ago I wondered out of the community theater I was volunteering at and did a cover band.  The gig was awful.  None of my workflows worked and I came here for advice.

Took every penny of working in the bars and invested in gear.  Started to make a few connections and won a few more.  At one point we had 4 to 5 bar gigs a night!  I knew I was subsidizing.  Last year we saw the fruits and doubled down on investment.  Added staging, generator, line array, more subs, more lighting, more cables, bigger projectors, video scalers and switches, cameras, you get the idea. 

We are about to pull the trigger on a Stageline 75.  2020 is going to be the year. 

We made those purchases as part of a strategic partnership with another production company.  That was a big turning point too. 

To me though my call list is more valuable than the gear.  We have great guys and people love to work for us.  My competitors say I overpay, that really makes me smile.

Get a plan together and execute the plan.  Be prepared for a bunch of no's and some slow time. 

We run into the cover bands playing at festivals we are providing for or opening for an act.  They see us an ask how we are doing.  The scene hasn't changed, we just choose not to be a part of it.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2019, 08:14:22 pm by Scott Holtzman »
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Scott AKA "Skyking" Holtzman
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Jeremy Young

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Re: What's your "stairs" policy?
« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2019, 06:49:50 pm »

Thanks Scott, sounds like you have some very exciting times ahead of you and I wish you the best for it all. 

Steve, thanks for still being around the forums despite closing your company.
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Brown Bear Sound
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Steve M Smith

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Re: What's your "stairs" policy?
« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2019, 04:14:37 am »

We don't do anything over 2 or 3 steps.

So over three then...



Steve.
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