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Audio essentials for running live music

So, you’ve decided you’re ready to immerse your venue into the world of live music, but you realise that to do so you’re going to need the right equipment to deliver a primo high-quality sound. There’s a lot more to consider than how loud you want the music and where to set up the mic stand? We’ve asked Helen and the crew at Australis Pro Audio and BHSS (Australia's biggest backline hire company) to hook us up with some essential tips to bear in mind when starting your live music adventure. 


Before you even get to the audio setup, there are some initial considerations: 


Location Location Location


Helen & the crew: “Consideration should be made to the location of the venue and the zoning in relation to sound level restrictions.”


Since your priority is to keep your business open, you need to keep that whole ‘love thy neighbour’ philosophy in mind when setting up your live music system. Sound travels, so there's a fine line between music and just straight-up noise, so a pumping sound system is no use if the neighbours are going to shut you down after the first weekend. Finding out your local noise restrictions and venue sound guidelines are the first steps. 


Has your venue got good ‘sound’ bones?


Helen & the crew: “An audit/assessment of the suitability of the venue to host live music is an important first step.”


Very few venues are feng shui ready for sound levels and sound reflections around the room. It doesn't matter how expensive your equipment is, to get the most out of your sound quality and experience, one must never underestimate the power of exceptional acoustics, which lies in the bones of your venue. To ensure this is correct, Muso or BHSS are happy to recommend experienced consultants to help you get the most out of your venue acoustics. 


Helen & the crew: “Acoustic treatment can be beneficial for the reduction of sound pressure levels (SPL) through barriers, but typically issues lie in the sub-bass frequency region and this is very difficult to treat without structural reinforcement.” 


Okay cool, you love your neighbours, and your venue is sound feng shui’ed, how do you go about picking the right equipment? 


Helen & the Crew: “The adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true with professional sound systems. However, the chances are you don’t actually need that latest concert touring line array for your venue.” 


It’s all about how the system complements the type of live music performance and the sound area of your venue. It would be best if you thought how far the sound needs to travel relative to the size of the room. Also, make sure you've got the right electrical system to handle the power of the equipment and EQ levels, such as bass or mid-levels if you’re factoring in live vocals or instruments. 


Your PA guy will use specific terms like:


“SPL capability” - a.k.a., how loud can it go?


 You calculate this from specifications, and it is ultimately measured on-site with an SPL meter.


“Headroom” 


You need to build a percentage of redundancy into the system, so it is not running into distortion. You calculate this by taking equipment power handling ratings and other parameters into account.  


“Frequency response


How low are the lows and how high are the highs? A typical band system would comprise of dedicated subwoofers to produce deep bass frequencies and two-way mid-high speakers for intelligibility and articulation in the vocals.


Now, Let’s go shopping. 


Helen & the crew: “Sound system designers often talk about ‘the application’ but what does that really mean? For us, it is about choosing the right equipment based on the artist, space, customer expectation and venue budget.” 


Choosing the right equipment for the artist and space


Different equipment is required for different setups, depending on whether you are hosting bands or using a simple DJ setup. 


For live bands, things can range from a simple all-in-one PA system to isolated equipment, depending on what you are trying to get out of the performance. You need to consider the type of PA system appropriate for your venue space, amplifiers, the addition of microphones and monitor speakers for different instrumentalists, plus a mixing system to control the sound levels of the various performance aspects.


For a DJ setup, you need to bear in mind the type of DJ decks and mixing console you would like, whether you want an all-vinyl system or an all-in-one console, which may prove cheaper and take up less space. The speaker system and booth monitors that accompany the DJ decks can be of higher sound quality because of the cost and effectiveness of a simple DJ setup.


The budget vs the customer experience


Helen & the crew: “There is a great saying that goes ‘the disappointment of poor performance remains long after the lowest price is forgotten.”

 

In most cases, it’s a balancing act trying to provide the best possible solution while still taking your budget into account. You can’t compromise on sound quality, as the whole point of having live music at your venue is that it’s an experience for your customers. It’s something they will take away long after they leave and relive the gig by sharing it with their friends. 


Helen & the crew: “What type of experience do you want your customers to take home at the end of the night and share with their network? “Wow this new venue is awesome, the artist was incredible, and it sounded amazing” or “Yeah the new venue was okay, but I couldn’t hear the vocals, and it sounded distorted?”

 

If you’ve given these essential tips some thought and decided you're down for the ride, you’re ready for phase two and three of the plan. For any help with your backline music queries, we highly recommend the experts and legends at BHSS to provide you with some guidance on your venue setup. You can get in touch with them here.


As for the artist side of things, the Muso app is happy to hook you up with local up-and-coming talent to suit your live music space. Feel free to consult our app and get started. We take care of the whole booking process from start to finish, including invoicing and payment. We’re advocates for fuss-free and epic live entertainment. 


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