I am in high school and I am currently running sound for a local high school band. I love doing what I am doing because I am constantly around music. Along with running sound, I do the majority of setting up, tearing down, and I help bring equipment to the gig. However, I have been faced with a problem. The guys in the band have not paid me for quite a while. They say that all of the band’s money is going into the band’s account in order to buy other equipment. Though getting new equipment is nice, I need to get paid. I have confronted the band members about this and they tend to use my love for what I’m doing against me and tell me not to complain. I feel that I am getting ripped off and used. I am also going to be getting another job soon, and it makes no sense to take time off a job where I will be actually getting paid to work for these guys and not be guaranteed the money. Should I have them sign a contract even though they only pay me $25 dollars a gig??? I would GREATLY appreciate your opinion on this. Thank you!
Wow, you’ve got an interesting problem. If no one else in the band is getting paid, then that makes it even more difficult. Who keeps and manages the money?
On the plus side, you are an energetic sound engineer who loves the music and cares how it sounds. These characteristics will serve you well.
Since no one is getting paid, then you should all be “equals”, which means that everyone has to help load in, set up, and tear down. The PA and the drums get set up first, and no one plays their guitars until the initial sound check is finished. When possible, you should go to rehearsals, and provide some creative input about dynamics, tone, etc.
With regard to your options going forward, you’ve got a couple of choices. First, if you want to get paid even if the others don’t, then you need to act like a hired gun. This means that you are no longer equals: they are the talent, you are the sound guy. You are responsible for the equipment, and you have to treat it as if it was your own. You’ll have to get to the gigs early and set up alone. In fact, it would be best if you got your own PA . On the plus side, you could then work for other bands too, and you’d be surprised how many bands really need a sound guy out front. Either way, you get paid.
If you want to stay with the band, then you should at least have a say in how the money is managed, and what equipment is bought. The band shouldn’t buy anyone personal gear like guitars or strings, but any PA gear can be owned by the group. If there are 5 of you, and you make $300 for one night, then maybe $200 goes in the bank, and each of you gets to keep $20 cash.
Also, what happens when one of you leaves the band. Say you’ve earned $5000 over the years, and spent $4000 on PA upgrades. What happens after senior year? Who gets to keep the PA? How much does that person have to pay the others? This gets very tricky.
But you can look at it simply: if you are considered a member of the band, then you should have a say in how it’s run, and be treated as an equal. If not, then you’re on your own whether you realize it or not.
Feel free to share this with the band and your parents. These are the kinds of business issues that you can talk with them about (as opposed to your respective taste in music).