Live Sound Production Costs and PA systems

It has been an incredibly busy year for 608 Sound & Light. We provided live sound production for a number of events here in Wisconsin, and we’ve provided sound services for dozens of performers, bands, and acts – ranging from local to international touring groups.

Countless bands have reached out to us to ask for price quotes, and most are surprised by our response of “it depends.” We shared an earlier blog post about this, but it warrants a revisit, albeit with additional information.

608 Sound & Light thoroughly enjoys working with and supporting performers, venues, events, festivals, bands, houses of worship and everyone else. We wouldn’t be in the business if we didn’t enjoy it; the hours are often long, the equipment is heavy (and expensive), and we put a tremendous amount of effort into producing every single show that we’re a part of.

As I examine our inventory and insurance lists, we currently have just under $100,000 worth of sound production equipment at our small warehouse. None of it was financed – we paid for it out-of-pocket and aren’t carrying debt on our books. We have fixed, monthly costs regardless of whether or not there is an event: insurance on our gear, business liability insurance, rent, and utilities. When it comes time to provide live sound services in Wisconsin, we have additional costs: employee costs (food, drink, wages), travel costs (fuel, mileage, maintenance), and inevitably, a few extra production costs (small amounts of gear).

Our rates for a single show range are *extremely* competitive, and we often barely cover our operating expenses. Rather than publish rates that will likely change or vary depending on countless variables, I’d like to share some comparative rates from a few national sound companies that provide equipment and services of similar size and scale. Rather than providing a package price, most sound companies will itemize each piece of equipment and charge accordingly. Common items include:

– Speakers (subwoofers, full-range, arrays, traditional cabinets) = $50 – $150 each
– Amplifiers = $75 each
– Mixing console = $100 – $??? depending on size/complexity
– Monitor wedges = $25 each
– Microphones = $10 – $50 each
– Lighting = $200 – $??? depending on size/complexity
– Staging = $300 – $??? depending on size/complexity

As you can see, expenses add-up quickly… let’s say you had a small outdoor show and needed 4 subwoofers, 2 main speakers, 3 amplifiers, a mixer, a few microphones, a few monitors, and basic lighting – you’d likely be quoted at around $1000, not including labor (typically around $150 – $400/person per day). That’s quite an expensive show! A weekend festival could easily cost several thousand dollars!

DJs are another often expensive crew – we were at a friend’s wedding a few weekends ago and were surprised to learn that their DJ “cut them a massive deal” by only charging $1400 for the night. His system consisted of 4 plastic self-powered speakers (that were too small for the venue), a single t-bar of lighting, and some LED “up-lighting” (a $500 addition). He arrived in a small SUV, and was in-and-out in 5 hours. Not bad!

Our rates aren’t anywhere near this range, yet we are regularly asked to provide sound for $100 or so… unfortunately, we don’t have that type of business model. The $100 range is going to get you a questionable PA system that will likely have numerous limitations and potential issues.

Our “smallest rig” usually consists of 4 main speakers (2 subs, 2 mains), 3 amplifiers (1 for subs, 1 for mains, 1 back-up), 4 monitor wedges, 1 monitor amplifier (4-channel), a digital mixer, digital sound processing equipment, 6-10 microphones, stage power, and a few t-bars of lighting. We are regularly asked to provide this set-up for $100 – $150, and while I wish we could, it’s simply impossible to do so.

Hopefully this is some helpful information when shopping around for local sound companies and production services. We want to be as reasonable and supportive as possible, but keep in mind, our gear is worth around $100K and we’ll spend an average of 8-9 hours at your event between load-in, set-up, calibration, engineering, and load-out. We can’t be the cheapest option around, but we guarantee to surprise you with our quality and professionalism.

Enjoy the holiday season and give us a shout to compare our equipment, experience, and rates!

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