Where to Invest Money for Church Music Gear
Church sound systems are never cheap. And when you dive into all the necessary additional instruments, DI’s, speakers, wedges or in-ear systems, cables, and sound boards that are needed, costs stack up really fast. Generally speaking, most churches can figure out where to start – getting a simple sound board and speaker system up and running. But ones a worship ministry has its bearings and gets a budget, where should be the first place you invest that money? What gear is most important to update?
Where to Invest Money for Church Music Gear
Worship leaders are always faced with the difficult task of finding good quality gear on a tight budget. If you’re struggling to figure out where to invest the money first, here are a few general tips to put into practice:
Buy Used Gear When Practical
It obviously depends on what you’re buying, but if it isn’t absolutely necessary for it to be new, get it used. Soundboards, sound systems, speakers, guitars, drum kits, drum shields – you can find them used at fractions of what you would pay to buy them new.
Craigslist is the most popular way to find used gear and it should definitely be a top resource for your search. Reverb is another website (and mobile app) that dominates the used music gear market. Once you find something you know you want to get, run it through Craigslist and Reverb to see if anything turns up. Chances are, you’ll get a great deal on a product in like-new condition all because someone opened up a box and never returned it to the manufacturer.
The obvious drawbacks of buying used gear are: 1) you don’t know when it will wear out, and 2) if it breaks shortly after purchase, you don’t always have a way of getting your money back. So, make sure to prioritize the gear’s durability and condition before pulling the trigger on a used gear purchase.
There are undoubtedly music gear purchases and upgrades that you’re excited to make. But make sure you have the discipline to hold off on updating gear when you have different components that are malfunctioning. If one of your subwoofers is faulty, don’t spend extra money on preamps or a soundboard upgrade. If a pickup on the house guitar is acting up, don’t spend money on a new amp. It should go without saying, but as a worship leader you often have church music gear goals in mind that override the necessity to replace broken key components of the system.
Before making a list of stuff to upgrade, make a list of things that need to be fixed. Whether it’s loose connections on inputs and preamps, or busted speakers or instruments. Invest money first in gear that is broken or malfunctioning.
This topic is a behemoth of its own that we don’t plan to tackle. When you decide to upgrade your sound system, there’s a lot of research to be done on pricing, room size, acoustics, style of music, current sound board and sound system, and a slew of other things, and every sound system will have a different sweet spot.
That being said, as a category, your sound system should be one of the first things you upgrade (assuming it’s in need of one). Regardless of what new mics, instruments, soundboard, and other gear you purchase, if your sound system can’t produce a good live sound, no amount of upgrades will make it sound any better. In fact, bad mics through a great sound system will always sound better than great mics through a bad sound system. Do you research, find the best sound system within your budget, and invest in that as your first gear upgrade.
Listen to Your Volunteers
You may have your own opinion about the keyboards or drums at the church, but the volunteers on your worship team deal with them intimately every week. If you need an update on the state of your gear – broken components, things in need of replacement, new drumheads – talk to your volunteers!
While you can’t always trust a single volunteer’s opinion about gear, they almost certainly know something about the church’s gear that you are not aware of. Use them as a resource to find out what gear needs to be updated or fixed.
Churches often skim by on a low supply of cheap, beaten up, low-quality mics. And we totally understand why. You need a lot of mics to run a Sunday worship set, and they can get expensive really fast. However, there are tons of options for mic upgrades that won’t break the bank.
Look for some mic packs to replace your existing setup. Shure and Audix make a few great drum mic packs, and a lot of the mics included in sets similar to these are useable on a variety of sources (drums, amps, vocals). While they’re affordable, they are almost certainly better than a lot of the mics churches use when they are first starting out.
Wrapping It Up
Figuring out where to invest your music ministry budget can be tough. It’s always smart to start with broken, malfunctioning, or faulty gear – the stuff that actually needs to be replaced. The first thing to be replaced after malfunctioning gear is your sound system (assuming it’s in need of an upgrade). No amount of fancy mics, instruments, or music gear will make a difference if you can’t hear it properly. Finally, listen to your volunteers on their opinions of what needs to be upgraded. They almost certainly know of faulty gear in their own stations that you aren’t aware of. Music gear costs can stack up quickly, and unfortunately that’s not always budget friendly for worship ministries. Look into buying gear used when you can. Craigslist and Reverb are a couple excellent sources for used gear!
About the Author
Chris Fleming is a professional musician from Minneapolis, MN who has played with artists such as TAYA, Big Daddy Weave, and Jason Gray. He is actively involved with the worship music scene and has contributed as a drummer, music director, song writer, and producer for various worship artists and churches locally and nationally. Chris is the Motion Designer at Motion Worship, helping to create motion background collections and countdowns for our subscribers.