Proposal: Equaliser Soundsystem Co-op

I propose that Co-operation Birmingham provide £1000 of start up capital to a new co-op that will provide sound and vision equipment to it’s members.

It will cost £50 per year for individual membership and £100 per year for organisational membership. Finances will be managed by the co-op’s own OpenCollective. There will be an interview process for new members. The decision making process would be the same at Co-op Brum’s and the legal structure and assets would belong to Co-operation Birmingham.

Members will then have access to extremely cheap music and lighting equipment to hire out via a shared calendar.

Estimated prices for 24 hours hire:

  • £20 per speaker
  • £10 for lights
  • £5 for mixer

The co-op brum forum will be used for communications.

The £1000 investment will be used to purchase the initial equipment inventory from a local supplier

The remaining £94 would be spent on hard cases for the lights and mixer and some cables.

After 6 months, we could be looking add more equipment to the inventory. Perhaps another speaker so we can do stereo sound.

The strategy behind this initiative would be to encourage a culture of collective connection and celebration. We aim to bring people together after a difficult years to socialise and have fun. The current planned inventory is very portable (can be transported via cargo bike or car) and can be used for events in various small venues and house parties.

I will now leave 2 weeks for discussion before brining forward to a vote.

Hey Leo thanks for the proposal. It’s a pretty hefty one so I think it’s worth putting together more of a formal business plan so that we can make the spending decision in an informed way. It seems to me that there’s little point just getting one of the items so we need to do the whole amount or more - which is a big chunk of our existing funds so we should something like this through properly.

I put together some questions which would be a good starting point. If we did go down this route there is also a potential for some hours of support on business planning from Co-operatives West Midlands.

  • Where could the equipment be stored and accessible for members to use.
  • How many estimated members would we have? Could we get some of the initial funding from these institutional members to spread the cost a little. For instance unions.
  • What would the co-op do about damage and insurance?
  • What sort of venues would this stuff be used for? If it was possible to explain a number of use cases then it would be easier for those of us not versed in audiovisual stuff to understand the demand.
  • How does this compare to the current commercial market/ use cases for this sort of stuff? What is the conential market route.
  • What is the difference between the proposed equipment and the speaker constructed by @ben again not very well versed in decibels and volts. Perhaps better would be to describe the type of events and things this list could be used for and compare to the existing equipment (such as warehouse and pink portable soundsystem)
  • Promo, how would new members find it, would it have separate platforms and stuff

These two projects might be worth speaking to for info and seeing if there is any crossover:

Both seem related but not very grounded with other co-ops so it would be interesting to reach out.

Good idea. Would there be something suitable for city centre rallies etc? It’s a real problem at the moment if you don’t have transport, since one that is available is tightly controlled by one disagreeable individual. If something could be picked up from the cafe that would sort a large part of the problem.

This would definitely be good to be part of the proposal.

There’s a lot of question here but I will try to answer them as best I can. Feel free to ask for further clarification.

  • Where could the equipment be stored and accessible for members to use.

Hopefully at the Warehouse Cafe or Warehouse.

  • How many estimated members would we have? Could we get some of the initial funding from these institutional members to spread the cost a little. For instance unions.

I think only small collectives and individual DJs would be interested in what we have to offer right now. The proposed inventory is only suitable for small venues. I would like to aim for 10 members in the first 6 months.

  • What would the co-op do about damage and insurance?

Could seek insurance as time goes on but for now, if you break it, you would pay for it.

  • What sort of venues would this stuff be used for? If it was possible to explain a number of use cases then it would be easier for those of us not versed in audiovisual stuff to understand the demand.

This proposed setup is not for demos. It requires main power. It’s for parties or inside events. Everything ranging from a house party to a small venue the size of Warehouse Cafe. With more gear, we could do better things. It’s all expandable.

  • How does this compare to the current commercial market/ use cases for this sort of stuff? What is the conential market route.

It’s operating on the low end of the market so offering much cheaper prices for members. Maybe half the price of competitors due to small scale.

  • What is the difference between the proposed equipment and the speaker constructed by @ben again not very well versed in decibels and volts. Perhaps better would be to describe the type of events and things this list could be used for and compare to the existing equipment (such as warehouse and pink portable soundsystem)?

The proposed equipment is portable in the sense it packs down quite small but the idea is to eventually build a club sound-system.

Ben’s system is battery powered and works best for speeches etc.

The current Warehouse sound system is really insufficient for anything more than speech or small band setups. We’re running it at absolutely maxed out volume at parties at it just doesn’t sound good. It doesn’t have the bass reproduction needed for electronic/dance music. It’s also fragile and bulky and doesn’t pack well. I wouldn’t really want to move it anywhere and the cafe need it there all the time for events.

The Equaliser Soundsystem is based on the latest speaker technologies which give a really good balanced sound at all frequencies for music. We’d be aiming to create a sound that would be pleasant and impressive to people which would encourage them to come back to our member’s parties again and again. We currently don’t really have access to any soundsystem that would be taken seriously in the music world but we know many people with the musical talent to DJ, play in bands, do poetry etc. We need to create a culture of joy and connection in order to build our communities back up after the pandemic and having a good audio soundscape is part of that.

  • Promo, how would new members find it, would it have separate platforms and stuff

Word of mouth is best! That’s the good thing about parties!

Would there be something suitable for city centre rallies etc?

It’s not currently part of the plan sorry. That requires battery powered equipment which is not our focus/area of expertise. Once the co-op is setup and surplus was raised, it could be spent on equipment suitable for that direction if the co-op decided that.

The proposed unit seems like a good deal and my neighbour (who is an events DJ) has a similar bit of kit that I’ve heard, so I know it can offer really good SQ for the size. However I wonder if it would be better to build something.

My very limited knowledge is all on the 12V portable side so I would need guidance on spec etc but I also wonder if a more custom option would be better in terms of versatility, value for money, improvement over time etc.

Like I say I’d need direction on what would best suit the events planned, but we could for instance start with something like a cubo12 and a 10"/1" midtop (maybe even using the current amplifier at the café), then double it up from there in a year’s time, and so on. I could do the physical building & wiring etc but would need someone else to take the lead on choosing the electrics.

See for example:

speakerplans.com
diyaudio.com

It’s just timing issue with this though. I’m interested in building a DIY soundsystem but it takes time and effort whereas buying one off the shelf only takes money.

One other issue is borrowing anything from the cafe won’t work because they need it constantly.

Yeah, true on both counts

Shall I put this to a vote?

I know this is a long time later. We’ve all been through a lot but here’s the latest plan I made for this as a blog post from my website:

I would like to propose a Large Decision with a Deadline of Friday 10th November 2023 2 weeks away).

Equaliser Soundsystem

Summary

I would like to setup a new consumer co-op in Birmingham which provides hire of a audiophile soundsystem to aligned DJs, party promoters, events and musicians.

It requires £1000 of start up funding from Co-operation Birmingham and use of various bits of CB infrastructure.

Goals

Short Term

  • Get together a diverse group of interested people
  • Online fundraiser for £1000
  • Seek donation/funding from Co-operation Birmingham (£1000)
  • Form the co-operative
  • Register the co-operative
  • Open bank account
  • Collect membership dues
  • Build the “Workhorse Soundsystem”
  • Setup systems for co-op to function (bookings, finance etc)

Medium Term

  • Grow membership
  • Build second audiophile soundsystem
  • Obtain additional equipment (e.g. Outboard rack units, power amps, DJ equipment, hard cases)
  • Create sustainable storage solution
  • Service existing equipment
  • Offer training to members in audio engineering and live sound
  • Setup van hire arrangement

Long Term

  • Investigate sustainable transport options (owning a van etc)
  • Provide other services for members
  • Inspire other collectives
  • Build a robust democratic institution
  • Build Birmingham dancefloor counterculture

Equipment

Workhorse Soundsystem - Materials cost Aprox £2000

For our first build, we want something small and portable but with that big HiFi sound. We were attracted to this design due to it’s CAD plans, ease of use and potential to back down into two pieces. It would require some modification (e.g. Speakon connectors, handles, raising the horn up to ear level) but provide the high quality sound we need. We were planning to pair it with a locally made audiophile Class D amplifier.

Audiophile Soundsystem - Materials cost Aprox £4000

Eckhorn SOTA RH Highend 3-Wege-System. It's a corner based horn speaker similar to the Klipschorn. Made of wood!

We should consider building a second soundsystem aimed at situations where we need the absolutely best sound possible. This would probably be a lot less portable but is really important for building Birmingham’s reputation as a hub for musical innovation. We’ve already started to identify DIY plans online and infrastructure to build the system. A suggested budget for this could be £4000 plus time and labour. The example in the photo is a DIY version of the legendary Klipschorn speakers.

Membership

Membership would be £10 per month.

Subsequent membership after the initial setup of the co-op would require an interview and a vote by current members.

As a co-operative, each member will get a say in any large decisions made and a single share in the co-op that is not transferable and worth an arbitrary value of £1. This means member own a share in the co-operative but without being able to make personal profit off the company.

We will abide by the seven co-operative principles.

Decision making

We would make decisions as a co-op in a democratic manner using the same decision making process at Co-operation Birmingham. Large decisions affecting everyone in the co-op would be made at quarterly online all members meetings. We can use the polls feature on our own category on the Co-op Brum Forum to make decisions asynchronously.

Infrastructure

Storage

Eventually I would like to see the soundsystem live out of the new creative hall at Stirchley Co-operative Development where it can best serve the community. Until that is ready in at least October 2024, I’m thinking to ask at Pan Pan, a venue my collective Energy Flow have worked with many times.

Legal Structure

To start off Equaliser Soundsystem will just be a sub project under the Co-operation Birmingham co-op. In the future, we can split into a separate legal co-op with compatible rules when needed. We will seek advice from other members on this. It can also be stored in someone’s house at a push.

Finances

We would use the Co-op Brum Open Collective for collecting membership dues and ensuring financial transparency. We can create a sub project which won’t affect the Co-op Brum main Open Collective. I already tested that. We could hire an accountant to do our book-keeping and submit our accounts.

Income

  • Yearly membership fees (£120 per member per year)
  • Hiring fees (should be very cheap e.g. £20 per speaker stack and £10 for the amp for 24 hours which is approx three times lower than market rate)

One Off costs

  • Registering as a co-operative - £100
  • Materials of “workhorse soundsystem” - £2000

Yearly Costs

  • £300 insurance
  • Platform fees
  • Tech costs

First Year Projections

Income

  • £1000 start up funding from Co-operation Birmingham
  • Ten members is £1200 per year
  • Raise £500 from fundraising and donations (reward could be free entry to a party)
  • Plus hire of soundsystem £50 once a month is another £600

Expenditure

  • £200 per year for insurance/tech/platform/admin costs
  • Repair budget of £1000 per year

Totals

We should have a surplus of £300 in the first year based on 10 members. Hopefully repair costs will be low and we can add to that surplus significantly in second year.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will you allow organisations to join?

I personally would like to see organisation or companies that run venues or events get their own soundsystems. It’s a vital part of building our cities music culture. The goal of this project is to support people who don’t have access to the capital needed to invest in this sound equipment have access to it. This shouldn’t be a way for venues to avoid investing in their own equipment to save money. However, I would like to see a clause that would allow other co-operatives or democratic organisations to join though.

Vote

  • In Favour
  • Against
  • Abstain
  • Block

0 voters

1 Like

Hey I’m in favour of the proposal as it stands. I do think it would be good if there were a few more members of the subgroup for it to function well, but obviously that is in the works. I also wonder if there is a contingency plan in terms of insurance for the equipment and also around bookings priorities.

I also think recording the sweat equity which will go into the kit build would be important so it can be recorded and paid back in future if things are going well.

I’m also in favour, I think it’s a good idea and it’s clear that you’ve put a lot of thought into it already.

I’ll have a look at the plans and see how they look from a construction perspective.

Regarding transport we have a Co-wheels account at work which in practice I pay the subscription for and use sometimes. There is one small van in Birmingham which is usually available. Since the account is a business one it’s easy to add multiple cardholders at no cost, so provided there are people who can drive this would be a way to get the system to different venues if the hirers can’t collect.

Regarding insurance perhaps I could speak to a broker and see if any policies exist which would be suitable

As for bookings I think it would just have to be first come first served, I can’t see any other way it could work. We’d just have to hope that priority events (things we want to support politically, rather than just ‘commercial bookings’) are booked in sooner, or that they work around our availability. Bookings could easily be taken by Calendly or similar (to dibs a date, then confirmed manually & secured by a deposit) if needed but I expect it will be easier doing it manually to begin with.

If this goes ahead who is on the relevant SCD working group to negotiate its home there?

Hey I’m in favour of the proposal as it stands. I do think it would be good if there were a few more members of the subgroup for it to function well, but obviously that is in the works.

Afaik we have about 5 people who are really into joining right now. At least 10 have expressed interest verbally.

Regarding insurance perhaps I could speak to a broker and see if any policies exist which would be suitable

I know of one broker through my Musician’s Union policy. I can call them.

I also think recording the sweat equity which will go into the kit build would be important so it can be recorded and paid back in future if things are going well.

Can do! Could use timetracking software.

As for bookings I think it would just have to be first come first served, I can’t see any other way it could work. We’d just have to hope that priority events (things we want to support politically, rather than just ‘commercial bookings’) are booked in sooner, or that they work around our availability. Bookings could easily be taken by Calendly or similar (to dibs a date, then confirmed manually & secured by a deposit) if needed but I expect it will be easier doing it manually to begin with.

All seems good!

If this goes ahead who is on the relevant SCD working group to negotiate its home there?

I think Aretefact. They know about the idea and are interested but no official agreement yet.

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I’m going to extend the deadline of this to Friday 17th November to try and collect more votes.

We have quite a lot of members/contributors but the votes are incredibly low. Not ideal - should we try using the function in open collective itself?

I think we can consider this passed. Any longer and it will slow down process. It was mentioned on the Open Collective updates.

Yep I agree. members of equaliser should be encouraged to engage in CB where possible :slight_smile: I wonder whether we should have some sort of overarching update or text, now that we have multiple functioning projects. Perhaps a winter dinner thing instead of just punch up

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