Do you want to make a career out of mixing audio for bands, DJs, and corporate events? In this article, we’ll give you tips and advice on what we would consider if we were starting a live sound and audio production company from scratch with $10,000.
Quick Answer: No amount of equipment will get you work; you need to get out into the community, be seen, and build a solid reputation. That said, we recommend investing in a digital console, speakers suited to your primary clients’ event type, and wireless microphones.
We’re producing this content during the height of the covid pandemic. In our opinion, it’s not a great time to start a new business in this sector. More established companies will have amassed debts and be hungry for work when the market opens up, potentially undercutting your rates.
Even as things return to normal, it’s worth noting that it can take anywhere from 3 to 10 years to become well established, with a reliable monthly paycheque and a good inventory of equipment.
Trust & Relationships
One of the biggest factors in getting a reliable income from your live sound production company is trust. When people don’t know you, they are less likely to book you. Eventually, you’ll get an opportunity, e.g., when a client’s regular vendor is fully booked. This is your chance to shine and create a lasting impression.
At Kettner Creative, we got our break unintentionally while shooting video of a speaker at a conference. The audio was terrible, and we were able to help solve some feedback issues resulting in the client hiring us for 4 annual events every year.
Ultimately, you need to meet people and build relationships. Other ways to get your name out there include:
- Volunteer to help with church audio
The church tech community is well developed, and they will pass your name around if you do good work.
- Offer to tour with a friend’s band to help with their audio
Your reputation is everything. If you show up late, drunk, or are in any way unprofessional, it will take you a long time to shake that reputation. You would think it goes without saying, but it’s the simple things that make a good impression.
- Arrive on time
Ideally, arrive 30 minutes early.
- Personal presentation
Shower, put on clean clothes (all black), and stay sober.
- Work hard and be humble
Gear For Getting Started In Live Sound
No doubt this is the section you have been waiting for. We left it until later in the article as, no matter how much great gear you have, you won’t get work if you haven’t built a reputation and been noticed by your first client.
There are two main routes to take when you start out, corporate and music. You can get by with less expensive equipment in the corporate world, while you’ll have to invest more for lower pay rates if you start with music.
We would recommend similar equipment for either route, just scaled back for corporate audio. Buy used to get the most for your money starting out and rent the equipment you can’t afford to buy. Here is how we would invest our $10,000 in each scenario.
Whichever route you take, we would recommend starting with a lower-level digital audio console. There’s no point starting with an analog mixer; the initial cost savings are minimal, and you’ll need to invest in a lot of external gear to match the versatility a digital mixer has built-in.
We would prioritize a console over owning speakers as it buys you the freedom to work on things at home, get familiar with the console and create pre-mixes.
We love Allen & Heath consoles. The Yamaha TF line, Soundcraft, and the X32 are also available around the $2,000 price point.
- For Corporate
We started out with the Allen & Heath QU16.
- For Music
We would recommend a mixer with at least 24 channels, ideally 32.
Speakers can be rented as needed, and they take up a lot of space to store, but with a $10,000 budget, we’d add some to our shopping list.
We would start with a pair of plastic 12” speakers like the Yamaha DXR 12 powered speaker. Scaling up from that point, we would add a pair of 8” speakers for their low profile.
12” speakers will give you the most flexibility for playing music at after-parties. They won’t do as good a job as 15” speakers, but they’ll perform much better than 8”s.
We would invest in a pair of wood box 15” speakers with at least 1100 Watts of power for music. We would also buy a pair of 18” subs, such as the Yamaha DXS18 subwoofer.
We made the mistake of starting with 12” subs and found they were just too small. Learn from our mistake; either don’t buy a sub and rent them when needed or invest in an 18” model.
For either route, we would recommend buying a couple of Shure SM58s and a couple of Shure SM57s. This covers all bases for micing people and instruments.
Investing in a good wireless system is also highly recommended. In the Shure ecosystem, we wouldn’t recommend getting anything less than the ULX line; this is what we started out with. However, if we were buying today, we would invest in the Shure ULXD wireless system.
We always recommend finding local suppliers and manufacturers for things like cables and flight cases. Our first flight case was a Gator case purchased from an online vendor; it was garbage. The wheels broke within a year, costing $100 to replace, and then everything else started to go wrong.
Invest 10-15% more with a local manufacturer, and they’ll make you a custom case bespoke to your equipment. The higher quality product will save you money and headaches in the long run.
Don’t Be Afraid To Get Into Video & Lighting
Clients are always looking to have one vendor that can supply related services in a single package. So, don’t limit yourself by avoiding video and lighting. Your clients will love you for providing them with these other event staples.
How To Get Started In Live Sound for $10,000 Featured Equipment Prices
- Yamaha DXR 12 Powered Speaker: https://currentprice.io/yamaha_dxr8
- Yamaha DXS18 Subwoofer: https://geni.us/Pw2U11b
- Allen & Heath QU16: https://currentprice.io/qu16
- Shure ULXD Wireless: https://currentprice.io/shure_qlxd
- XLR Cable: https://currentprice.io/xlr_cable
- Speaker Stand: https://currentprice.io/spkr_stand
- Microphone Stand: https://currentprice.io/mic_stand