Working for many large production companies over the years has taught me a lot about live production. I’ve learned that having the right equipment, knowing the industry standards, experiencing what works and what doesn’t, and what a person can use in lieu of more expensive alternatives can make or break someone in the business. There are ways to set up your own rig without spending top dollar. When just starting out, do your research, find what works best, what will work second best, and what to avoid, no matter what the price tag is, then set your budget limits.
Although we would all love to start out with a Midas or Venue console, most small budgets won’t accommodate this purchase initially, but make that a goal to work towards. In the meantime, finding good used gear is a better option than going over your budget to buy new. Aim for the highest audio quality for the best price. Gently used gear is often just as good as new, and sometimes even better because like a new car, most new gear has to be broken in.
Scour the Internet. Resources such as Craigslist and eBay can be a boon for used gear, along with a multitude of other sites that deal in used equipment. Sites such as Musician's Friend, ZZ Sounds, and Sweetwater are good to start with, along with Guitar Center, which has an online tool that allows you to see used gear for sale in their stores nationwide. The bigger your home-based area, the more equipment you can find for sale locally. Pawnshops yield the most surprising finds, don’t hesitate to check them out as you begin your search for the items you need. Also, in addition to visiting the Pawnbrokers, be sure to visit local music shops-- many of them take equipment on consignment along with selling new.
Always be on the lookout for a good deal, and price ahead for what your next purchase will be. If you tell yourself that you want to pay no more than $1500.00 for the next addition to your rig, stick to that, if you are thorough, you will find what you need in the price range you wanted to pay. There will be big purchases (mixing board, digital snake) where quality money must be spent, so a savings budget is very useful for this.
Until you can make bigger purchases, still book that gig! Equipment can be rented to fill in what you’re missing until you obtain a full-fledged set up. Just make sure you work rental fees into your quoted estimate for clients to avoid losing money by going this route. Always be creative, never pass up a chance to try something out, ask questions and watch demos, and read industry reviews and tips from sites such as Gearslutz and Review Center, before making your final purchases.