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Author Topic: Pa system design  (Read 2590 times)

Ivan Beaver

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Re: Pa system design
« Reply #40 on: December 04, 2019, 08:12:19 am »

Putting on my "we all had to start somewhere" hat....

I've written about "the next level" and how that means a new investment of +3dB$, which means re-spending the total of your current investment, from Day One.  At the low end there are probably 2 such "next levels" before it would involve money your significant other would question... but you've made those upgrades and reach a level of performance that generally satisfies the owner and the market as the owner thinks he understands his market.  The cognitive dissonance occurs when, in spite of having $10-$15k or so tied up in gear you find out you need another $20k in spending to make an audible difference, especially outdoors.

This is smell of opportunity cost burning and is the basis of "buy once, cry once".  You can't start out buying gear to do 3000 seats, but you can start out by not buying the least expensive product and replacing it quickly with something only marginally better - lateral moves are 100% unnecessary expense.  But don't get caught in the stair step of model lines.  Using JBL as an example, if I outgrow my JRX rig (or figure out they suck, and why) it would seem the next logical steps are MRX, then PRX, then SRX.  Uh... not on my dime.  If keeping existing work or getting new work depends on my loudspeakers, my inclination is to skip the 2 middle, nearly-lateral moves and save that money to spend directly on the SRX.  What is right for someone else's market may be different, but not making quasi-incremental model changes is smart money thinking.  I think a lot of early players in audio get caught up in this, like in the old days when the 1000w version of an amp was introduced, towering over the 800w amp in the line.  One dB more power for a 2dB larger price tag but some guys just had to have them.  {I think there is a lurking Spinal Tap reference waiting...}

But when you get the 2 15+horn, coming from smaller speakers on sticks, and deciding it sounded okay in the driveway or parking lot without an audience, playing mastered audio, it's a bubble burst to find out your pride and joy is someone else's left overs.  That's an unfortunate reality.

My observation is that some folks will, in spite of our warnings and best intentions, insist on repeating the mistakes we ourselves have made.  We can't fix that.  The OP is free to find out, via the Ye Olde Skool of Harde Knoxģ, that tuition is expensive.
Exactly

One of my "audio mentors" (who recently retired) told my decades ago, when I was just a young punk getting started,
"It is far better to buy a few pieces of better gear, than lots of cheap crap.  More cheap crap will just get louder, but it will never sound as good".

In every case people "want" the cheap stuff to work as well as the real stuff, but it doesn't.  And for good reason.

Tools are a great example.  You can buy cheap hand tools at the flea market, but the first time you ask them to do a real job, they break.  The real stuff will be around a LONG time and work better.

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Ivan Beaver
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Scott Holtzman

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Re: Pa system design
« Reply #41 on: December 04, 2019, 01:09:19 pm »

I hear ya Brian - Iím in the same boat.  The smaller end of jobs that I play is within sniping range of the ankle biters and trunk slammers.  The problem is that with the right sales pitch, itís hard for the client to understand what all theyíre getting (or not getting) from the weekend warrior in way over their head but still playing jobs at absurdly low pricing or for free.  Sometimes I get a call the day after from the client apologizing and wanting to book me immediately for the next year, other times I donít.  I know that we all started somewhere, myself included, but I also know when to decline the job if I donít think the results will please myself or the client.  Very frustrating to deal with though. 

At least when it comes to shooting pyro the majority of trunk slammers have enough brains to not try doing that too...


I have never had the good fortune of being called back.  I don't know if it is pride or what.  It's really interesting with bands.  We work with several wedding bands that book a lot of private dates.  They are fickle as all get out.  It's quite interesting because they will show up at charity's and private's that we are running after defecting from us <g> and I go out of my way to kill them with kindness.  We have one 14 piece wedding band that has left and come back.  Once because a trunk slammer agreed to do all private gigs for a flat rate!  We got them back, at a higher rate when a wedding for 300+ at the art museum the trunk slammer forgot the brown board on the marble floor, hogged a freight elevator and pissed off security and trampled some plants trying to place a fill speaker (that I am sure was not delayed). 

That's about my only came back to us experience.

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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Pa system design
« Reply #42 on: December 04, 2019, 03:34:35 pm »

I kind of saw it as the same way.  The guy has a rig, but has NO clue how outmatched he is if he thinks it's going to be capable of something so large.  Unfortunately what may happen is he could end up talking his way into a gig this size if the promoter is clueless, and they see it as a cost savings opportunity, not realizing that what they are getting won't even be close to capable of the job.  The real company that has the proper gear will lose out on the job.  The next year, the promoter may have realized that this new company was clueless, but will remember the low price and try and hunt for yet another newbie that will try and fail at it.  Getting them back into the mold of spending appropriately can take years.

I do have several regular clients that I work with that get lowball offers every single year.  I've lost a few regular jobs because of it as well, and it sucks.  If I lose a job because someone else can do it better - or at least equal to what I provide, it's no big deal. But when the replacement can't do the job and ruins the event, it's extraordinarily frustrating.

This is the crux of the biscuit, so to speak, and is why it's a huge effort to overcome the lowballers and ankle biters.  Toss is that on NPO gigs the person in charge of the event may well be replaced in a year or 2; recovering from the race to the bottom seldom happens.
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"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."  - Kurt Vonnegut

Luke Geis

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Re: Pa system design
« Reply #43 on: December 04, 2019, 03:41:19 pm »

I have a different problem. I am outgrowing many of my older clients. I have a band that I have been working with for years and I keep telling him I need more money and that I will eventually stick to it. The last gig was the one that kinda sealed the deal for me. I told him how much I wanted and he said that its tough because he has a company from another town that will do it for a lower price than I am at now. I said that's great, but knowing where they are from, that deal is only going to last for a couple of shows before they too realize you are getting too good of a deal.

Now this out of town company is rolling with an all QSC k series rig with an X32. So not low end, but certainly not pro-grade stuff and they are quoting less than $1k for a production that should be closer to $2k. I am fine giving a small discount for a long time, repeat customer, but at some point, that client has to realize you don't get more for less, better for the same and no increase in pay over time. And I don't do well with the whole game playing thing of " well so and so will do it cheaper ", Great line em up, there is a reason they are cheaper.

The only further advice I could give the OP is to charge the client based on what it would cost for him to hire another company to do the same job. If he charges any less, he is undercutting and undervaluing the job. The biggest thing to consider is operational costs. If you are legit, you would have a business license, an EIN #, a general liability policy, vehicle insurance, travel costs and website hosting at the very least for operational costs. These things all cost money and when you factor in those costs to a per-show value, you can easily have a minimum of $100 per event in ancillary costs depending on how many shows a year you do. If you are rolling dirty ( not insured, no business license, etc. ) you are a very high liability to our industry. As you drive the cost and the value down by not being legitimate, it makes it even harder for the rest of us that are legitimate to pick up the slack.

To give you an idea of what the potential income a sound engineer can command, it starts as low as $150 per day and can go well north of $1,000 per day. A decent sound guy with good experience and who can do all that math I spoke of can easily get $450 per day or more as an A2 and $500 - $800 per day as an A1. The guys making $1k+ per day are the very elite 1% who are on major tours for major artists. Most companies are charging at least $450 per day for a tech ( which means the tech is getting paid at least half that ) and as much as $800 or more! As a general idea for rental rates of equipment, the 10% rule is a good standard. The 10% rule changes a bit with equipment that costs more than $1k. Once you run into gear that costs $1k or more, it is more about the sensibility of what you can charge for that investment. Obviously you can't really charge $200 for a microphone or amplifier that costs $2k. Just call a couple companies and get some quotes for comparable gear and you will get a good range to work with. Be honest with yourself, your gear and what you intend to do and then do the right thing.
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Pa system design
« Reply #44 on: December 04, 2019, 04:18:19 pm »

I have a different problem. I am outgrowing many of my older clients. I have a band that I have been working with for years and I keep telling him I need more money and that I will eventually stick to it. The last gig was the one that kinda sealed the deal for me. I told him how much I wanted and he said that its tough because he has a company from another town that will do it for a lower price than I am at now. I said that's great, but knowing where they are from, that deal is only going to last for a couple of shows before they too realize you are getting too good of a deal.

Now this out of town company is rolling with an all QSC k series rig with an X32. So not low end, but certainly not pro-grade stuff and they are quoting less than $1k for a production that should be closer to $2k. I am fine giving a small discount for a long time, repeat customer, but at some point, that client has to realize you don't get more for less, better for the same and no increase in pay over time. And I don't do well with the whole game playing thing of " well so and so will do it cheaper ", Great line em up, there is a reason they are cheaper.


I've had a couple of (former) clients play the "so and so can do it for $xxx".  Great, have them do it.  It will free up dates on my calendar for clients who will pay more.  "We're grateful for your choosing us before, but understand that you may need to make a change..."  ;)

We went through this a long time ago with bands.  My boss played in a band that eventually broke up, he bought out the other members interest in the PA and the company was born.  Every band in town needed PA and a good mixerperson so he stayed busy.  As he advanced and picked up touring mixer work (and where I come into the shop as a new hire) the locals would still call and ask for a good buddy deal.  Well the boss is the good buddy but he's out of town.  If I come out with couple of subs, a console, and mix your bar gig for $100 (1995 dollars) we can't do the Humane Society gig that's paying real money...  You've been "outgrown" as a client and it would take a serious raise in the fee we charge bands to make up for that 1 conflicting date... and if we had another booking conflict, well see where this might go?  Some of the musos got it, some were offended.  We're still in business.  8)

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"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."  - Kurt Vonnegut

Ed Hall

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Re: Pa system design
« Reply #45 on: December 06, 2019, 05:16:32 pm »

I can't believe that the OP walked. He got 3+ pages of valuable input on a post that really belongs in the Lounge. He should be thanking everyone for setting him straight.

He got thousands of dollars worth of advice, although he's got so much confirmation bias he'll never see it as such.  He'll get the confirming answer at gearslutz or on reddit.

Speaking for those of us that were brought up on the "keep your eyes and ears open, and mouth shut" philosophy of starting out in a new field, Thank You for all of the great advise that you so freely share here.
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: Pa system design
« Reply #46 on: December 07, 2019, 08:29:07 pm »

I've had a couple of (former) clients play the "so and so can do it for $xxx".  Great, have them do it.  It will free up dates on my calendar for clients who will pay more.  "We're grateful for your choosing us before, but understand that you may need to make a change..."  ;)

We went through this a long time ago with bands.  My boss played in a band that eventually broke up, he bought out the other members interest in the PA and the company was born.  Every band in town needed PA and a good mixerperson so he stayed busy.  As he advanced and picked up touring mixer work (and where I come into the shop as a new hire) the locals would still call and ask for a good buddy deal.  Well the boss is the good buddy but he's out of town.  If I come out with couple of subs, a console, and mix your bar gig for $100 (1995 dollars) we can't do the Humane Society gig that's paying real money...  You've been "outgrown" as a client and it would take a serious raise in the fee we charge bands to make up for that 1 conflicting date... and if we had another booking conflict, well see where this might go?  Some of the musos got it, some were offended.  We're still in business.  8)
The reason my PA rental business failed was because I "wanted to be everybodies friend
 and have them keep coming to me. 

I didn't properly charge for my gigs, and I am a lousy businessman

That is why I stay away from the money side of things these days.  I don't want to ruin somebodies elses business.

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Ivan Beaver
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Roland Clarke

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Re: Pa system design
« Reply #47 on: December 08, 2019, 11:15:54 am »

The reason my PA rental business failed was because I "wanted to be everybodies friend
 and have them keep coming to me. 

I didn't properly charge for my gigs, and I am a lousy businessman

That is why I stay away from the money side of things these days.  I don't want to ruin somebodies elses business.

Ivan, Iíd love to do business with you! 😂
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Re: Pa system design
¬ę Reply #47 on: December 08, 2019, 11:15:54 am ¬Ľ


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