When delving into the wonderful world of a live music venue there are many factors to consider, the longest list being the essential setup and equipment needed to provide an engaging experience for your patrons.
Just when you think you have collected everything you need, you realise that you have forgotten certain details that are key to live performances. We have put a list of all the live music essentials needed for a big gig night at your venue and other details to confirm prior to booking your first show.
In this guide, we will provide the equipment needed for live music, suggestions for highly-rated equipment, and other factors for consideration.
Considering the space of the venue and how you will show off the performers, a stage is a key element for performance. For smaller venues, raised flooring may be all you need for a platform so everyone can see the bands. Depending on the atmosphere and floorplan of your venue, you may want to consider whether you will have a standing space, or if all customers will be seated. This will contribute to the decision of how tall you want your landing to be.
For medium-sized venues, a full stage can ensure that the performance can be viewed from all areas of your venue and provide space for people to make the decision to be up the front dancing or taking a step back to watch from afar. If your venue allows space for a large stage, consider using the space under the stage for storage with a curtain or panelling and a barrier so your equipment does not get destroyed by drinks.
Lighting for the stage does not only allow for punters to see the musicians but it can also create a flair of immersive experience.
Spotlights, stands and trusses, colour washes and strobes can be a great addition to a gig experience. This allows for further interest on stage and can provide intensity on stage when there is a great breakdown of all instruments within a song.
The lighting is also a great tool for photographers who attend these gigs and make an interesting photo for fans who will undoubtedly post about the gig on their social media, doubling as a bit of free advertisement of your venue.
For sound, the minimal requirement is a good PA system, otherwise you will also need sound monitors. While a PA will make sound travel further, sound monitors allow musicians to hear themselves and make sure that the vocals are in time with the instrumentals of a band. See the below recommendations to start your sound research into what systems will be best for your live music venue.
Yamaha DXR 15 MKII Active PA Speaker
The Yamaha DXR 15 MKII Active PA Speaker is a highly reviewed speaker that has high-efficiency 1000W Class-D Amplifiers and an onboard 3-channel mixer, making it a prime candidate for live performance. Compared to Yamaha’s older models, it is commended on its clear voice reproduction and its large but light build.
MACKIE SRM 450
Standing at 12-inches tall (30.48cm), the MACKIE SRM 450 speaker also has 1000W Class-D Amplifiers, this PA is one of the most common speakers used. Due to its easy portability and clear quality of sound, it is a desired option for music.
Nady PM-200A Powered Personal Stage Monitor
Used for its durability and adaptability, the Nady PM-200A Powered Personal Stage Monitor plays at a maximum of 125dB SPL allowing your performers to hear themselves clearly over venue noise. This stage monitor can also be positioned at 4 different angles, allows your venue to use them as needed on stage and can even mount a microphone stand with an additional adapter.
JBL Professional VRX915M Two-Way Stage Monitor
As a low-lying monitor, the JBL Professional VRX915M Two-Way Stage Monitor allows for your audience to have a full view of on-stage action while producing a high-quality sound. With a switchable between bi-amplification or full-range passive operation, as well as 50º x 90º nominal coverage, allowing different volumes, coverage and sounds dependent on the musician’s needs.
When mixing live bands, you will want to consider whether you will use an analog or digital mixing board. Whilst an analog board is best for beginners as it has fewer buttons and can produce a more crisp quality of sound, digital mixing boards allows a variety of devices to be connected and more capabilities than analog.
Moving into the requirements for live performance, it is always useful to supply microphones and even a house drum kit depending on what music the venue will be booking.
When purchasing microphones, search for a dynamic microphone as they are more durable for live music performance and can handle louder sounds than a condenser microphone which is typically used for studio recording.
Consider the genres of music held at the venue and how many microphones you will need. A minimum of three microphones is heavily suggested as a backup for any microphone issues and for backing vocals.
Along with the mics, leads and stands of varying sizes and lengths are a prime consideration when fitting out your space, and it doesn’t hurt to have multiple spares on hand!
SM58 Dynamic Vocal Microphone
Designed to provide clear vocals while minimising background noise, the SM58 Dynamic Vocal Microphone is a must-have for venues. With its durable make and its large frequency response of 50 to 15,000 Hz the high-quality microphone is tailored to provide clarity for vocals.
Telefunken m80 Microphone
Typically used for studio recording, the Telefunken m80 Microphone is also a great quality microphone for live performance as it provides the strength of vocals while reducing feedback. Also great for percussion, bass and guitar performance, this microphone is durable and versatile.
Drum kits can be hard to move around and take time to set up. Think about whether it is suitable for the venue to host a house drum kit or whether it is a requirement for the headlining band to supply their kit for the night.
If you decide that it is suitable to own a house kit for the venue, advise bands to bring their own breakables (cymbals and snare) to ensure you and the other bands are not liable for the damage of equipment.
Ensure that you have a kick drum microphone for the drum kit also. This allows the kick to be heard through the wall of sound coming from guitars, bass, and other instruments as drums are typically set up at the back of the stage.
Specifically designed for low-frequency instruments, the Sennheiser E602 is a perfect microphone for bass and kick drums. The lightweight microphone is built to last and provides a clean quality sound.
When thinking of the last final touches of your live music equipment, make sure to have spare leads and cables for your equipment so you do not run into any issues on gig nights. Powerboards are also a must to ensure that all musicians have access whether you have a solo set or a six-piece band gracing your stages.
A hot tip to ensure the safety of your punters and staff is also to invest in disposable earplugs. Although these may not be required for an acoustic set, heavier and louder music can affect hearing health. Many venues bulk buy disposable earplugs for use either for free or at a very minimal charge. Although your staff or the regular gig-goer may own their own earplugs, those who find themselves without or cannot deal with loud volumes will be very thankful for the earplugs.
Extra Factors to Consider
When opening or transitioning into a live music venue, other factors to consider are neighbourhood requirements and licensing of the venue. As regions may have different requirements, it is best to do the research and adhere to these laws in order to provide the best experience and avoid run-ins in the future. This can also play a part in security requirements, alcohol licensing and legally required finishing times of live music.
Also considering the size of the space, play with audio levels once the venue’s sound is prepared as the decibel (dB) of the music can be the difference between a comfortable experience and a warped show. If the music is too quiet, patrons may not hear the vocals, although if the show is too loud, the sound can be blown out, feedback occurs or there are ringing ears after the show.