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Author Topic: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town  (Read 1296 times)

Steve-White

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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2020, 07:48:32 pm »

Thanks.  Yes good point.  On the bright side I have very little debt & no rent so the lockdown isn't stressing me too much.   The others have warehouse rent & probably own $200K worth of gear.  Whether they own it outright I don't know.

It gets told over and over and over on this forums.  Create some alliances with other operators in your area.  When I started 4+ decades ago was taking a DJ system out.  That branched out into eventually sound reinforcement - along the path, service for other DJ's equipment, consultation, club installs and lease/installs, and so on.  The first guys I got alliances with were other DJ's, then when I evolved into pro sound got a few more alliances with guys.  We swapped out a lot of gear, mics, and monitors, extra subs and so on.  There were a couple of guys that I would take the power distribution system out for their larger shows - helped them as a roadie and stage electrician.

Diversify and network, find you niche and grow it.  Schools, HOW's picnic areas with music - you have to get out and sell yourself - another thing was in the past was the local music equipment store - full service with technician.  I could demo out gear.  Probably not so much today with online purchases.
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Tim Weaver

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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2020, 07:58:33 pm »

Thanks.  Yes funny you should mention about diversifying.   The last year or so I've expanded into party hire gear mainly tables & chairs.   It's actually been good.  The gear has very fast payback & is super simple - you just deliver it & pick it up.  No tech support or special skills needed.   I've also been doing small staging.   Unfortunately the $15K included that so it's still not a large volume.  I've been toying with the idea of starting up a separate party hire brand even though it's really the same business.


Dude. If there's no "Party-Tyme" rental house in this town that's where I would invest. Buy tables, chairs, tents, stage, and all that. You can start small and grow it over time. Keep the sound gear because wherever there's a tent rental there's going to be a PA and probably lighting rental too.
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Lee Wright

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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2020, 07:59:14 pm »

If you have or can make a relationship with anyone in the larger companies, maybe you can get them to recommend you for the smaller jobs they aren't interested in.
Promote yourself to local schools.  I find that often they have some parent doing a half-assed job at their events, and are sometimes open to help.
Good point.   I could approach them them about the smaller jobs.    I have tried schools in the past with no luck but perhaps I should give it another crack.

Lee Wright

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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2020, 08:23:20 pm »


Dude. If there's no "Party-Tyme" rental house in this town that's where I would invest. Buy tables, chairs, tents, stage, and all that. You can start small and grow it over time. Keep the sound gear because wherever there's a tent rental there's going to be a PA and probably lighting rental too.
No I'm pretty much the only one that does party speakers & lights.  The music shop does a tiny bit but not much.  I don't seem to get much crossover.  For example I don't get people hiring tables, chairs, lights, speakers for one event they are usually separate.   The party style 2 x speakers & lights package is quite popular.

Lee Wright

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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2020, 08:40:17 pm »

It could be worse, you could be playing banjo in Adelaide.   8)

What I know after 35 years in audio is that *the business* of audio is far harder than the art, craft, and science of audio.

^^^ This is good stuff.  Lee, there's a substantial market for low cost audio and that is often filled by "weekend warriors" and hobbyists.  Many have low fees because their day job pays their bills so if they bring in enough money to make the equipment payments, they're happy.  They're impossible to compete with if clients are shopping mostly on price.  But the work is there - use your imagination and think of the situations were sound is needed and there is no existing system to support those uses.  Either people are talking really, REALLY LOUD or there is a sound system in use. ;)

Another thought - DJs.  In many situations the DJ has a couple more wireless mics so wedding receptions, lawn parties, etc don't utilize additional audio services.  Are you comfortable playing DJ or hiring one when needed?

Brian's comment about "doing things you really don't want to do" is good.  Pipe and drape, stanchions and velvet rope, 'bike rack barricade', lighting (both stage and atmospherics, like uplighting walls and drape)... think about the places these are used.  We bought 100m of bike rack barricade several years ago.  It paid for itself on the second rental/use, and makes money every time after.  I have no love for the stuff but it pays bills.  Ditto for pipe & drape; even if it's only to make your part of a show look nicer, if you can add it to the invoice, it's income.

Finally what Dave said about taking pass-on work.  In our shop we get calls for work we can't do on the budget the prospect has available, and we refer them to some 1 man shops like yours.  See if you can build a relationship with the larger shops in your area.  We get referrals from larger shops, too, so establishing friendly relations is recommended.  Don't leave out the more traditional A/V companies, some may be able to use you to fill out their capacity when they need more audio or can refer clients.

Executive summary (at the end, I'm clever like that) - audio is certainly being used in your market and at the level you operate.  Figure out where that is happening & why, and how that need is currently being met.  What do you need to do to break into that market - more or new gear, better company image, better connections with potential customers?  Networking with the higher and lower levels of audio in your area (and beyond) will eventually be helpful.

Good luck and let us know how things work out.

Edit ps - Bill's comment about the post-Covid world kind of centered my thoughts - what we all do is facilitate people gathering in groups.  My state governor lost the pissing contest with the state legislature and pitched the responsibility of setting re-opening criteria to the county governments.   My county commissioners basically just opened the doors and the criteria are mostly "suggestions" at this point.  The clubs, bars and restaurants that have immediately reopened are not clients - they have installed systems.  Most of the concert venues cannot get talent booked (many artists on hiatus) and are worried about the safety and health of their employees and contract workers.  The need for portable sound at most any scale is still unpredictable for the next few months, I think.

Thanks.   I'm not DJ material but I do know a DJ that's just moved to town from the city.   He might be willing to DJ with my system.  I've always felt like typical DJ systems were great for the dance floor but hopeless for speeches & well distributed background music.   I know my system can do a killer job of both.

Yes I'm happy to branch out to other work.   I don't really want to become jack of all trades & master of none but if it's something that I can nail - then no problem.  The pipe & drape is not a bad idea.   

As for churches. At the outset I felt like outdoor church would become a thing.   It seems inherently safer than indoor but the government here isn't really catering to that.   It's currently 50 pax indoors or outdoors.  It's a shame because I a bunch of great battery powered outdoor gear.

Lee Wright

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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #15 on: May 30, 2020, 08:49:37 pm »

Right now you should be hitting up Churches as they will, by necessity, have to have events outdoors. Many smaller churches don't have the inventory or knowhow to set up even simple systems for outdoors stuff.

I know a buddy of mine just landed a Wednesday night gig last week at a Church that is reopening wed nights in their parking lot. They are still streaming on Sunday, but this is something new they are attempting.


Small towns may not even know how to use your services. They me be stumbling along with the ceiling speakers in their meeting rooms and it's fine because it worked for Daddy and his Daddy before that. You may have to create the market that you are looking to fill.

Bands in small towns are typically more DIY. Since they are often playing outdoors on a hay trailer somewhere they already have a set of Yamaha Club 215's and an awesome peavey 8 channel head.

Do you have live venues to approach? Does the city do a summer concert series? Is there a Chamber of Commerce?

Can you talk to the local big-boy soundcos and offer to do any grunt work, side stages, kiddy events that they don't want to handle yet are a part of most big festivals? Doing this can really generate some summer work if they are friendly and not uber-competitive.
Yes I think there's a people that say "oh the venue already has a system" but don't know that they could get something a whole lot better.    I'm actually sound guy in my church so I'm reasonably connected in that area.   If outdoor church does become possible then I'd definitely take advantage.   Yes I could approach the other sound companies.   I've always kept them at "arms length" a bit because we are still in competition somewhat but maybe that needs to change.

Lee Wright

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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2020, 09:03:41 pm »

The name of the game is expansion. You can drive 45 min to another town and there is no foul in trying to broaden your area of business. Weddings are tough. They eat weekends up and are one-off events, usually seasonal and often don't acquire new clientele. You want to find events that pay the same but are not limited to weekends. This is where doing company parties, town hall meetings, depositions, smaller city events like a news briefing about a special matter come into play. They are not limited to a venue or certain days, the business can/will repeat, and often the margin is higher ( more $$ ).

Bands don't really have money, so acquiring great pay from them is difficult. I am a rather small business and I can generate what you make in a year in 1 month!!! And a lot of that is from Freelancing. Which is another possibility for you? If you can't beat them, join them. If you can't fill your days with your own work, freelance for the other companies to fill those free days. Then you'll be like me ( pre-pandemic ) working 20+ days a month and having to tell people sorry, but you're too busy. This then brings us to the next possibility; employees or a trusted business partner. If you are not busy enough to keep yourself busy full time, then having a trusted employee or partner can help keep your real money making stuff going, while you still make money elsewhere.

It is bad juju to balk on gigs, so if you're already dedicated, there is little harm in taking another gig that you can make money on and have a trusted partner execute. As long as you can manage your time and your gear well enough, you should be able to stay busy at least 2-3 days a week. As you grow you will get bigger and bigger gigs that last a week-long and you can make a very good income for that time. Some people only do a few shows a year that are so big that they make their entire years wages doing them. It is all about how hard you want to hit. You have to follow the money though. Who will pay you for your time? Bands will not. Weddings do pay well, but not nearly enough fo the limited # you can potentially do. You need repeat business or shows that pay you gross amounts of money for longer lengths of time.
Seems like a lot of wisdom here.   Yes midweek corporate work is great when it happens & quite lucrative.  Weddings can become like repeat business if the venue is referring you.  As for employees.  Yes I feel exactly the same about turning down gigs. I feel like I've done a lot of work getting someone to vote for my business then I have to say no.   In my City business that I still run I pretty much pay other people to run it.   It's definitely kept us going but by the time you pay decent people there's not much left & it's still an amount of work organising the gigs.   

Lee Wright

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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2020, 09:17:28 pm »

It gets told over and over and over on this forums.  Create some alliances with other operators in your area.  When I started 4+ decades ago was taking a DJ system out.  That branched out into eventually sound reinforcement - along the path, service for other DJ's equipment, consultation, club installs and lease/installs, and so on.  The first guys I got alliances with were other DJ's, then when I evolved into pro sound got a few more alliances with guys.  We swapped out a lot of gear, mics, and monitors, extra subs and so on.  There were a couple of guys that I would take the power distribution system out for their larger shows - helped them as a roadie and stage electrician.

Diversify and network, find you niche and grow it.  Schools, HOW's picnic areas with music - you have to get out and sell yourself - another thing was in the past was the local music equipment store - full service with technician.  I could demo out gear.  Probably not so much today with online purchases.
Yes building alliances definitely seems to be a theme.   In both my businesses we've always done our own thing & not worked with anyone else but perhaps that needs to change.

Dave Garoutte

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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2020, 10:19:56 pm »

If you're interested in weddings, build relationships with the PLANNERS.  That's where the repeat work comes from.
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Mike Monte

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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2020, 10:51:32 pm »

I've been running an audio hire/production business in a major city for about 10 years & that's been enough to make a living from. 4 years ago I moved to a regional town (about 4 hrs drive away) with a population of 40K.    I started up another business the same up here but it's been tough going.   I've only been able to get revenue up to about $15K a year (pre pandemic).   I've found that quite strange because it's quite a prosperous town & I really have no competition for the type of events I do.    There's 2 other sound guys who have been in business probably 30+ years.  They're highly respected & they seem to get lots of work but they tend to do larger events (line arrays, multi-person crew etc) & are relatively expensive.  My specialty is smaller events such as bands up to 200 pax, weddings, corporate & dry hires.  Other businesses seem to be doing well.   In fact it eats me up that the pet funeral guy seems to be powering along.   He has 4 staff, commercial premises & just bought a brand new van whist I get maybe 2 days a week work, operate from my garage & drive a 20 year old van.  I would have thought that pet funerals were a far more niche service than audio hire.     Anyway I've been trying to work out what the problem might be.
-I know what I'm doing & get great reviews
-I dominate Google.
-People tell me I'm very reasonably priced.

I guess the big question is whether there's just not that much demand in a town this size or whether there is but I haven't tapped into it properly.     If there's other sound guys here from similar sized towns maybe they could give some feedback.  Prior to the COVID were you getting enough work to keep you going?

Thanks in advance.

Spiff-up your lighting rig and hook up with a local tent rental company / wedding planner.
IMO Clients seem to care more about how things look rather than how things sound these days.....they'll complain about how much a PA rental costs but will throw stupid-money at uplighting, chinese lanterns, etc.
Look in-to lights!!!
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Re: Ideas for Finding Work in Regional Town
« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2020, 10:51:32 pm »


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