If you think having all the tech to serve your congregation means a big budget, think again. This post is to offer ideas for how you can leverage multitracks, automated lyric projection, and more on a budget, without needing high end computers, software, or expensive content to do so, and with a minimum set of volunteers.
How to serve Your church with great tech without breaking the bank or your people
Often the decision to use technology in worship hinges on cost. Sometimes, there is virtually no budget for these capabilities at all. But it is still possible to implement multitracks, lyric display, automated chords and, provide your band with a click/cue capability, and build up a track library, while spending the minimum possible amount. This blog will tell you how.
Let’s look at the 3 components of worship tech cost first:
Computer/Audio Equipment and Software Cost
By definition, multitracks are run using software, so you will need to have a computer system to run them on.
The first question to ask yourself is—what computers or mobile devices do I already have?
If the goal is to optimize budget, then you can first see if an approach is available that does not require new equipment. If a multitrack software requires a more expensive computer to run (such as a Mac or a late model iPad), it may price out many users in places where these platforms are expensive.
Android tablets and low-cost Windows systems are often up to 75% cheaper that Apple options, but you will need software that runs on these. Also consider—do you want multitrack equipment only for performance, or will your team use multitracks to rehearse also? If you are planning to use tracks for rehearsal, consider what equipment your band members have available also. Can they use what they already have? If you desire to implement multitracks for use by your entire team, don’t limit yourself through your choice of software.
You should also consider how multitracks will interface with your audio system.
This can be as simple as a $20 Y splitter from your headphone jack, or, on Windows/Mac, a $75 Traktor Audio DJ2 USB interface. If you require stem output to multiple channels, USB audio interfaces generally run $150 or higher. If you want MIDI foot control, and your software supports this, USB Midi controllers can be had for as little as $150, and Bluetooth controllers even less.
Also, how will you get the click and cues and any track audio to your band members?
There are wired and wireless in-ear monitor systems you can use. Some can be very expensive. If all you really need are click and cues without monitoring of live instruments or vocals, you could consider a capability like Worshipsong Band‘s personal band mix or Worship Band-In-Hand‘s synced audio to play click/cues in sync without any in-ear transmission system. You could then just use headphones from a musician’s phone or mobile device.
Then, there’s lyric projection
You can leverage technology such as large-screen TVs hooked to your video output from the track computer, using anything from Chromecast to other networked capabilities, and you can use lyric capable software like Worshipsong Band or FlyWorship to handle lyrics, saving you from having to buy or subscribe to expensive lyric software. High quality HD or even 4K TVs have gone down in price over the last decade. Projectors may not even be needed at all.
The next component of cost is software. Some software is free, so the choice here will depend on which platform you want to run on, or have available to you. If you want Android software, there is only one multitrack software package available on Android as of this writing—Worshipsong Band. On Windows, Worshipsong Band and FlyWorship offer free player software.
On, Mac, Worshipsong Band, Loopcommunity Prime, and Worship Backing Band are available. On Apple iOS devices, you can also choose Worshipsong Band, Loopcommunity Prime, iSingWorship, Worship Band-in-Hand, Worship Backing Band, and Multitracks Playback, with most offering free versions.
If your multitrack package does not handle lyrics, you can use one of several freeware lyric presentation options. With the abundance of free or cheap options, pure software cost should not be a barrier in most cases.
By far the biggest cost for running multitracks is cost of the tracks. There are ways to minimize track cost, depending on what kind of content you want, how much work you want to do, and how you plan to use the content. To obtain tracks for free, you have to either record your own, use tracks from independent artists who make them available for free, or subscribe to free downloads of ‘track of the month’ from track providers.
Worshipsong.com offers a library of approximately 45 independent artist tracks for free. Other tracks on the site cost $5 per track. Other low-cost track providers who offer their tracks in open formats that can generally be used in any software include Guidetracks.co ($5 to $10 per track), and Worship Backing Band ($15 per track, free track monthly).
Loopcommunity Prime community tracks are good value starting at $13 per track, and these work in Loopcommunity’s free Apple-only Prime app. The iOS only Multitracks.com Playback app offers a track rental option for tracks in their software which may be economical for some users. Both Loopcommunity and Multitracks tend to offer a free monthly track, usually only for their app. If you want a version of Loopcommunity.com or Multitracks songs that will work in any playback platform, you will end up paying full price, typically $20-$40 per multitrack.
If you want to use multitrack software with cheaper content (such as split tracks, click-only, etc), it is possible, but your software will need to be compatible with user generated content of this type. Another interesting option to make your own tracks is MIDI track generation software such as PG music’s Band-In-A-Box. In the past couple of years, the results achievable with such MIDI based platforms have gotten much better.
Learning skills in this can help your church to build it’s own track creation capability, meaning long term track cost would be eliminated. An added benefit is you could use such software to backing tracks in your own preferred style that supports the instrumentalists available in your church, even using your church’s own songs. Combining your own track creation capability with free playback/automation software could really pay long term cost benefits to your ministry.
This is often overlooked, but part of employing tech in a worship setting is the time cost of doing so. This can really be divided into a few areas:
Leader time cost
This is the cost of preparing the content, usually done by the leader. It can be selecting songs, buying content, staging content into technology platforms (like building DAW sessions, typing lyrics in to presentation systems, adding chords into chord chart software etc). How does the technology platform help or hinder this? Does it automate the preparation process, or allow you to access readily prepared content? Is the content complete, or does the leader need to chase down matching chords or tracks from different sources? How much setup time is required before rehearsal or before church?
Volunteer time cost
Will the use of technology mean that more rehearsal is required? Does the technology platform allow music to be easily distributed/shared to musicians to allow them to rehearse? Can team members use it at home to rehearse on their own computers or mobile devices, or do technology or licensing restrictions prevent this?
Performance time cost
How can technology help when musician volunteers are few? Does it have what is required to replace missing instrument parts? Does the technology provide enough automation that a sound tech or lyrics projection person is not needed at services?
Calculating the cost of technology is not hard, if you take the time to think through everything required to use it. It is a problem that can be minimized in terms of dollar cost and people cost. Think through everything, and you can do a great job of augmenting your service with tech while minimizing cost, even at a small church.
About the Author
This is a guest post by Mark Snyder—a songwriter, worship leader, and software developer active in resourcing churches with new technologies for musicians and bands. Click here to read more of his writing.