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How to start own live sound company

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How to start own live sound company

Postby dennisgamalej » Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:44 pm

Hello everyone,
I want to start own live sound company. I want to do sound on live events. Right now i do it at school and on every event they want that i do the sound. I really love it to do sound for different singers,bands... . I know that in the beginning i will not earn much money and i will a lot invest in pa... . But i am ready to do it but How? Can someone help me how i have to start where? Can you give me tups? Do i have to write a business plan?How i have to do it. Please help me. With greets Dennis.
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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby resistorman » Tue Jan 02, 2018 5:46 am

I built my own speakers, bought broken amplifiers and repaired them, and bought a shiny new mixer. Some SM58’s, 57’s, decent stands and booms, good cables and DI’s. Then I charged people to run sound for them. I was lucky enough to have Taj Mahal as my first concert. That was almost 40 years ago. Mostly retired now, but I never had a business plan... I just wanted to work for myself at something I liked and was too dumb to worry about it.

I worked hard to understand how every bit of equipment functioned and endeavored to get the absolute best quality and maximum efficiency out of every piece of it. I also treated every performer with respect and made sure they understood I was on their side... I was there for them and the audience, not me. And the show must go on. After an operation, I was in agony, but I did a show anyhow. At the end, the audience was on their feet dancing, the band was roaring, and I slid down onto the floor behind the desk where no one could see me and cried because my leg hurt so bad. But I felt great.
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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby ReedySteadyGo » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:14 am

dennisgamalej wrote:Do i have to write a business plan?.

A big YES.

It's very competitive out there so you need to plan how and why you're going to be successful.

Include your target market, the competition, why people would choose you, how you're going to promote yourself and win new business, what type of business you're going after, etc.

Build a financial model including expenditure (equipment with spares, interest, storage, transport, insurance, marketing, website, etc) and income. This will help you work out how much you need to charge and how many shows you need to do per month. Then look at the market and decide if there are enough shows and they pay enough, considering the competition. Most companies find money is tight in the early years but things improve so planning for more business over time in your model will show if/how things improve.

An internet search will give you some good business plan material that you can adapt, eg from the Prince's Trust.

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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Jan 02, 2018 10:29 am

Dennis: where are you based in the world? UK, USA or somewhere else?

What experience do you have to date - apart from school gigs?

What kit do you have? I know you're interested in buying a Soundcraft LX&ii, but what else do you have? What mics? monitors? speakers/amps? cables? Outboard gear - eg. graphic EQs, effects processors, gates, compressors? (And FWIW, if I was now thinking of starting a small live-sound business it would not be with a Soundcraft LX... for all sorts of reasons... it would be with a digital desk.)

From questions you've asked here your experience seems limited... I'd suggest that you need to hold-off starting a business, but get some good kit and offer your services to bands, venues etc so that you can build a reputation.... At the smaller end of the market people don't expect to budget/pay etc for sound... it's assumed the band will bring the kit and operator with them as part of their cost... So the only way you're going to get noticed (and get bookings) is to build a reputation BEFORE you expect people to pay for your services.

And don't forget that if you DO decide to do this you'll have significant costs that are nothing to do with shiny kit... insurance of the kit, storage costs, transport costs - including increased insurance for your vehicle, public liability insurance etc.

Good luck, but make sure you're being realistic and not just hoping that a dream may come true. :)
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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby ef37a » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:49 am

Insurance...MOST important.
Public liability for sure, used to be £1,000,000 but you probably need more these days.

You might be better off going to a broker? For instance, tell Churchill (say) that you are running kit for bands in a Transit and the premium will skyrocket, anything to do with music/show bizz scares them witless!

If you don't already have a good grounding in electrical systems especially SAFETY get it before you work for people! Probably worth getting your own PAT tester? Others here might like to comment on that?

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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby Kwackman » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:52 am

If there is already a PA company near you, it might be better trying to get a job with them for a while so you can see what's involved and the state of the market.
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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby BigRedX » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:04 pm

Are there any small PA companies anymore?

It's probably 10 years since I last had to organise hiring in a PA system for a gig, and since then I've been averaging about 40 gigs a year. All the covers bands I have played in owned their own PA system and all the gigs I've done with originals bands have been at venues that had a permanent PA system in house. It's nothing like the 80s or 90s when almost every gig I did involved hiring a PA system even for small pub and club venues.

Maybe should approach a venue with their own PA and try to get on their in-house engineer roster? Build up your skills and get networking with bands for minimal equipment outlay and responsibility.
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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby dennisgamalej » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:06 pm

I am trieng to get expirience by myself. I go on different courses..... i use 2 proel speakers 1 proel sub 1 proel minitor i want to buy an soundcraft lx7ii. I use 2 wireless fame mics and 2 cabled fame mics.... i want to start to do sound for bands.... i know i dont gonna get a lot of money but that miney that i will get i will invest in new pa stuff..... thanks guys for your replies
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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Jan 02, 2018 3:55 pm

Dennis: This will come across as harsh, but with the kit you've got you haven't a hope of getting any work apart from those who'll let you supply a system for nothing or pocket-money, because they're just starting-out and need help themselves. With the exception of your potential mixer your kit is not professional and you can't really expect bands who want to make an impact to use such kit. If they know anything about sound, they'll realise straight away that you're not yet equipped to provide a professional system.

You say you'll invest the money you make into new kit. Two points:

1) You'll make nothing or virtually nothing.
2) If all the money you make is going into kit - and it'll need to - then what will you live on? Also if you're doing this professionally you will have expenses you can't avoid... transport costs and insurance are two big ones. You can't offer these type of services professionally without having public liability insurance in case some of your kit should injure someone - eg by falling on them or casuing them to trip.

Take the other advice offered here... try to befriend a band with their own kit who want a helper or a small sound company that wants an extra pair of hands cheap or free. Become known as relaible, friendly and helpful and then eventually they MIGHT let you do some mixing when you've proved that you know what you're doing.

Have a longer term goal of going professional, but for now be realistic and work towards that goal gaining experience while you earn money from another job. Saving from your earnings in that job will let you slowly improve the kit you have too.
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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby zenguitar » Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:47 pm

I would suggest that you follow two parallel routes.

The first is to get a decent qualification that a professional PA company would recognise as useful. And that means something like electrical engineering, electronics, computing and networks and ideally to degree level. This will give you a shot at a job where you will learn serious PA work and everything that is required to set up your own business later once you have the skill set.

The second route is to get to know local PA companies and ask if you can help out and gain experience. This will also be something that will help you get a job in the industry once you have earned the degree. Other holiday/evening/weekend jobs worth considering are ones where you can pick up useful skills (and licences) like forklift trucks and cherry pickers. These are valuable to prospective employers in the live sound business.

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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jan 02, 2018 5:32 pm

dennisgamalej wrote:I want to start own live sound company.

You've had a lot of good advice already, but the over-riding theme seems to be: 'get more experience first by working for someone else's company'... and I think that's very wise advice. Working in live sound is one thing. Running your own business -- let alone a live-sound business -- is something else entirely!

Do i have to write a business plan?

I think writing a business plan is a very sensible way to get started, not because you're likely to use it to persuade a bank to lend you start-up money (they won't!), but because it will quantify the scale of the challenge you face and help to focus the mind on the knowledge and skills you need to acquire, and the potential financial situation.

Start by creating a spread sheet and detail in it your overhead costs like:

    the cost of running a van to move the gear around (purchase, tax, servicing, insurance, fuel, depreciation, replacement)
    Public Liability Insurance
    Equipment insurance
    Storage space insurance
    Salaries/ National Insurance/ Tax payments
    Equipment maintenance and PAT testing
    Equipment replacement and additions (it sounds like you'll need to invest in a lot more equipment very quickly...)
    Website setup/maintenance
    Phone lines
    general office facilities
    Accountancy and bank charges
    And anything else pertinent according to the laws of your specific location etc

And keep it real by erring on the side of cautious pessimism! Stuff always breaks down when it's least convenient and costs more than you expect to fix! And don't underestimate how many good, solid mic stands you will need, or cables, or mics, or... it's amazing how it all adds up.

I don't do much live sound stuff, but I must have at least a half a dozen different DI boxes, and the same again in various transformer and interface boxes of various kinds, as well as hundreds of metres of mic cables, and dozens of adaptor cables etc. Four analogue mixers, two digital mixers, etc etc.... And now you're thinking, 'but I only need one mixer'... okay, but what happens when it breaks down during the rig of a big gig? Are you going to tell the organisers, the band and the audience that the gig is cancelled? Or are you going out to the van to get the backup mixer and reorganise things slightly to get the job done?

As a business you simply can't afford to have any single point of failure; there must always be a plan B, and sufficient spare equipment to make it happen.

You will also need to assess as part of the business plan what the local competition is like; what equipment they offer, what experience they have, and how your planned business will compare. Why will clients book you rather than anyone else? The answers you come up with will influence how much you can expect to charge and how much work you're likely to get...

So, once you've factored all that into your business plan you can work out how much investment you need to start up the business, and how much you then need to earn to cover the overheads and ongoing running costs. Once you have that you will be able to calculate how much to charge for each gig and how many gigs you'll need to maintain the required income level week-in, week-out.

And if, after all that, the business looks financially viable, you'll also need to hone the basic business skills of paying tax and national insurance for your own income and any assistants you hire in. You'll need to consider the pros and cons of VAT registration, learn about invoicing and how to deal with unpaid invoices, book-keeping and record-keeping, etc etc, marketing, running a website and social media to get your business known...

You'll also need to become knowledgeable about the legalities of health and safety requirements, noise at work legislation, risk assessments, safe-rigging, PAT testing and certification etc

And that's all on top of learning about using the audio equipment properly to deliver a good live sound experience in a wide variety of venues, with a wide variety of clients -- the fun bit! -- but including on-the-spot fault-finding and appropriate workarounds, resolving all manner of ground loop and interference issues... You will also find it beneficial to learn about electrical safety -- knowing what not to plug into your equipment! -- and maybe even audio electronics for maintenance purposes.

None of this is meant to put you off -- running a live sound business can certainly be done and many do it very well. But don't underestimate the challenge lying before you! And don't rely on trying to do it in a half-arsed way. Substandard equipment, cash-in-hand payments and no insurance (for example) will come back and bite you very painfully sooner or later.

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Re: How to start own live sound company

Postby James Perrett » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:36 pm

If you are in the UK, and are really serious about this, think about joining an organisation like BECTU who organise courses on the business side of things for freelancers and also offer very low price public liability insurance. Also see if you local council can help with courses and mentoring - ours seems to be making a big effort with free help for small business startups at the moment.
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