When should your band buy a PA system?

So you’ve got a band together and you want to do a few gigs. You ring up your local pub or club and they agree to let you play. Just one problem? You need to bring a PA with you and you haven’t got one. If you are just doing a one off gig, it isn’t too much of a problem, just hire one  (Click here to find our hire price sheet). The question we get asked all the time is

When should my band buy a PA system. At what point does it become cost effective?

There are several points to consider. First is that just buying a PA does not necessarily solve all the problems. You may just buy a simple vocals PA system for small pubs & clubs and then find you are moving to larger venues and it doesn’t do the trick and you still have to hire gear! For small pubs and clubs a PA Mixer/Amp and a set of speakers will usually do the trick. A PA head of 400 watts will be ample for venues where between 50-100 people go, with perhaps six channels for mics, so long as you are not playing really loud thrash metal. The equation is simple, if you don’t need to mic the drums up, then a vocals PA will do. If the drums need to be miked up, you then will also need monitors. This means a minimum of 16 channels, and a minimum of 2 aux channels to provide 2 monitor mixes. We’d suggest a minimum of 2KW amplification (although modern amps are more efficient and so the wattage is not always an accurate guide). Always use the RMS wattage as the measure.

Another thing to consider is where you will store a PA system. For a small system, it will require the space of a large fridge freezer. Also bear in mind you’ll be bringing it in and out regularly, so the loft isn’t the best answer. If you have a garage that is not an issue, but if you share a flat, it can be a massive cause for concern. Many studios offer storage facilities, but it is likely to be a minimum of £10 per week, so the PA will cost £520 a year just to store. A big PA with Subs and monitors could cost £20-£40 a week to store. So between £1,000- £2,000 if you have no storage.

You should also insure a PA as if it gets nicked, then you need to replace it. Make sure it is insured for transit and you have a new for old policy. Also factor in a budget for repairs and replacements. Leads are always going walkabout.

So if a  400 Watt system costs say £750 to put together with Mics, stands Leads etc and costs £520 a year to store, then to make it economical, you’d have to do 32 gigs over 2 years to pay for itself (based on the equivalent cost of hiring a 520 watt PA from us). If one of the band has somewhere free to store the PA, then that comes down to 14 gigs to make it worthwhile. Given that the system will have a resale value, for arguments sake 50% of the original cost, with storage you could say it becomes economical after six gigs. You will also find that if you shop around for 2nd hand PA’s then you can get a real bargain. Often people just want to get rid of them, so you can pick them up for next to nothing. Be warned though, if they’ve been stored in a damp place or misused, they will be unreliable and the repair costs will soon wipe out any savings.

Although the finances work out, my recommendation would be to only buy a PA if you are pretty sure you’ll be doing ten or more gigs per year. Mill Hill Music Complex are PA dealers and we are main dealers for Peavey, HK and Studiomaster, which are all great brands of PA. Come in and have a chat with us and we’ll work out the perfect system for your band at a price you wont beat.

 Visit our Hire page to get started »»