A lot of bands debate on whether or not to hire a sound guy or do the setup themselves. If were talking quality venues, most professionals will in fact bring their own guy on tour with them. This keeps thing consistent show to show. If you don’t bring your own sound guy you run the risk of handing your sound over to someone you don’t know. Having said that I have seen many so called sound guys that didn’t have a clue. All in all it can make for a long night.
First things first, you should consider the size of the venue. If you are at a small 100 seat bar or venue and the PA you need is not very big, you can handle the sounds yourself. It is best to have the mixer on the right side of the stage. If a guitarist or bassist is right handed it is easier to do it on the right side as the neck of the instrument will point away from the mixer and it easier to remove your right hand than your left in mid song if something goes wrong. If, however, you are jamming at some large venue (500 people up) or outdoors it is probably better to hire a professional who can supply all the gear and operate the sound while you are focusing on your end of the deal.
Second – the mixing skills of your band mates. Stuff like amplifier wattage, speaker impedance, graphic and parametric equalization, compression, effects, and locating troublesome frequencies that will create feedback (squeal or hum). Don’t forget to consider basic knowledge of dynamic levels, microphone polar patterns, and overall mixing of the sound levels. If you can’t do any of this or know any of this, consider hiring a pro. Not all musicians are quick on the uptake when it comes to the above subject matter. The size of your band is another important factor to consider. If your band has more than the average five piece all playing a variety of instruments then it’s better to hire a sound guy who knows what he is doing. Also the requirement for microphones, cabling, DI boxes, stands would be huge and possibly too much to do yourself.
Lastly , what’s your budget? You need to decide whether to invest in a sound system of your own or continue to hire and pay out ‘dead money’ in hire fees. If you’re a band that is up & coming eventually you will want to find a guy you can take out on the road with you. This person is just as important as a band member. Find someone who is experienced, that want to be a part of what your doing. You can virtually buy a good basic PA system for the costs of hiring a pro for year or so if you are playing a few nights per week every week and earning some money. Remember you have to buy many accessories in PA systems but if you are mostly doing small venues and you have someone who can setup and mix your band, you will save a bundle by doing it yourself.
Final Note – Be sure to take him out for a test drive before you hire him. I don’t care how technical someone’s knowledge is, running good sound is about instincts, and knowing how to use frequencies effectively. The next topic talks more specifically on how to run good sound.