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January 2020


Björk's Cornucopia

From a lighthouse in Iceland to the O2 Arena, we delve inside the artist's most ambitious tour to date

Live depends on us “PM7 is what we have all been waiting for, it’s incredibly powerful and versatile.” Gabriele Nicotra - FOH/Monitor Engineer Credits include Ed Sheeran, Mark Ronson, Biffy Clyro, Lorde, Siouxsie Sioux and Derek Smalls


Perfecting The Art of Live Sound #43364 - PM Gabriele Nicotra.indd 1

04/12/2019 12:09

P3 JANUARY 2020 www.psneurope.com • Twitter.com/PSNEurope • Facebook.com/ProSoundNewsEurope • Instagram.com/PSNEurope EDITORIAL Editor: Daniel Gumble daniel.gumble@futurenet.com • +44 (0)203 871 7371 Staff Writer: Fiona Hope McDowall fiona.hopemcdowall@futurenet.com • +44 (0)798 3168221


Group Content Director, B2B: James McKeown james.mckeown@futurenet.com • +44 (0)207 354 6015 Designer: Sam Richwood sam.richwood@futurenet.com • +44 (0)207 354 6030 Managing Design Director: Nicole Cobban nicole.cobban@futurenet.com Production Executive: Matthew Eglinton matthew.eglinton@futurenet.com • +44 (0)1225 687525



ADVERTISING SALES Account director: Steven Pyatt steven.pyatt@futurenet.com • +44 (0)1225 687713 MANAGEMENT Senior Vice President, Content Chris Convey Brand Director Simon Lodge UK CRO Zack Sullivan Commercial Director Clare Dove Head of Production US & UK Mark Constance Head of Design Rodney Dive SUBSCRIBER CUSTOMER SERVICE To subscribe, change your address, or check on your current account status, go to www.psneurope.com/subscribe-to-newsletters-digital-editions faqs or email subs@psneurope.com ARCHIVES Digital editions of the magazine are available to view on ISSUU.com. Recent back issues of the printed edition may be available please contact Rachel Shaw licensing@futurenet.com for more information. LICENSING/REPRINTS/PERMISSIONS PSNE is available for licensing. Contact the Licensing team to discuss partnership opportunities. Head of Print Licensing Rachel Shaw licensing@futurenet.com Printed by Buxton Press Ltd ISSN number 0269-4735 (print) © 2019

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t the time of going to press with this January 2020 edition of PSNEurope we are two days away from another UK general election - one that has plumbed previously untapped depths of ghastliness and which, depending on the outcome, may well have plunged us into a very different world to the one we currently inhabit by the time this issue drops onto your doormat. By the time I sit down to write my next welcome note, the country may have snipped the last remaining thread connecting us to our brothers and sisters in the European Union, or we could be readying ourselves for another Brexit referendum under a new government. We’ll find out soon enough, but regardless of the outcome, it’s safe to assume that the question marks that have hung heavy over the nation for the past three and a half years are likely to be replaced only with a new, possibly more complex, assortment of uncertainties. Thank goodness then for NAMM, an age old constant that will provide attendees (at least from the UK) with an oasis of familiarity, goodwill and some much needed sun kissed distraction from matters

back in Blighty. Following several successive years of growth and record-breaking attendance figures, the LA show looks set to break yet more records with its upcoming edition. Of keen importance to both show organisers, and indeed the pro audio community, is the hugely popular audio hall. Since launching three years ago it has received almost unanimous praise from the industry, as exemplified by our extensive NAMM preview on p11, in which several top exhibitors explain why they have been so impressed with the show’s strategy. We also have an interview with NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond, detailing his vision for the show and it’s burgeoning audio offering. On top of that, broadcast veteran Toby Alington discusses the challenges he faced working on Coldplay’s incredible recent performances at the Citadel in Jordan and the Natural History Museum in London (p42), while Southby Productions and d&b audiotechnik offer us some unique insights into Björk’s groundbreaking Cornucopia tour (p23). For now, all that remains is for PSNEurope to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. 

Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne Non-executive chairman Richard Huntingford Chief financial officer Penny Ladkin-Brand Tel +44 (0)1225 442 244

dns2 anywhere

the dialogue noise suppressor that anyone can use CINEMA AUDIO SOCIETY



location studio live



In this issue... People P6

John Penn The SSE founder discusses SSE Audio Group’s transition to Solotech UK Group

P20 Joe Lamond The NAMM president and CEO on what the pro audio community can expect from this year’s show


P28 Heba Kadry The revered mastering engineer reflects on her fascinating career to date

Report P31 Genelec Phil Ward heads to Finland to visit the iconic monitor manufacturer’s HQ P36


Katie Tavini For this month’s column, the mastering engineer tackles the subject of dealing with the pressures of freelancing, with contributions from a host of acclaimed engineers and producers

Interviews P39 David Lowe An in-depth interview with the legendary BBC composer and producer P46 Andrew Bishop The BishopSound founder talks the company’s debut line array system and the ‘British sound’




SSE founder John Penn tells Daniel Gumble about the company’s transition from SSE Audio Group to Solotech UK Group and what the future holds for him in his reduced role…


ast month it was revealed that as of January 1, 2020, SSE Audio, Wigwam, Capital Sound and BCS Audio will become the Solotech UK Group as part of a major organisational restructure. The new operation will be run under the joint leadership of managing directors Alex Penn and Spencer Beard. Alex Penn, SSE Audio’s former sales director and son of company founder John, will head up the sales and systems integration (sales and installations) operations of Solotech UK Group, while Spencer Beard, formerly managing director of Manchester-based Wigwam, will lead the live productions (hire) operations. The move will see both Penn and Beard become part of Solotech’s global senior management team. After 43 years leading SSE Audio, founder John Penn will remain within the new Solotech UK structure as strategic advisor. Here, he takes us inside the new structure, tells us what it means for business and how he plans to spend his time now that he’s stepping back from the day-to-day running of the company... The new structure is effective as of January 1, 2020. What’s going to change with regard to the way the business operates? In many respects the short answer is very little. This is not a sudden about-turn, in fact it’s a transition that has been in process for some time already. The new structure just formalises the process and does some tidying up in terms of management and reporting. One of the weaknesses that we identified with several of the businesses we bought over the years was a lack of succession planning, which led to us acquiring them.

About 10 years ago we started planning for this and increased the responsibilities of Spencer and Alex, and then over time increased the role of others we identified as key to the long term success of the business. Bear in mind we had no idea if we would ever find a suitable business partner to sell to, so the strategy was to devolve the day-to-day running to enable myself and Heather to reduce our roles over time. In terms of moving forwards, the key thing is that now the company has strong business-focused leadership for each of the two distinct business strands - sales and hire. There will of course continue to be cross-pollination between the two sides, but each has its own management team and structure optimised for the different business needs. Fundamentally, our core values remain unchanged at the heart of everything we do, and we want to continue to make working in the company, whatever you do, at whatever level, a good place to be that is both challenging and rewarding. What does the new structure mean for existing employees of the brands that make up SSE Audio Group? The new structure is repeated for each discipline at each location. This makes it clearer for staff and clients to know who to talk to at different branches. It also makes it easier for staff to see where they fit within the group, and of course to see what opportunities there are for their personal development. A number of additional appointments have been made as part of the new structure. What will these bring to the business?


Wherever possible we have filled new roles by promoting existing staff who have shown they are ready to move up a notch. We have always encouraged staff who showed aptitude to move up - don’t forget that Spencer joined as a warehouse junior 25 years ago, and when Alex joined as a full-time employee after his student days it was to restart the sales business, following the sudden and premature death of Richard Willis, its sole member. This process has followed that course. We have also hired a number of key additional people this year, mostly to extend our skill set and fill knowledge gaps in response to our continuing rapid growth which keeps placing new demands on the business. These are roles that include IT, research and development, project management, technical specialists and so on. We now employ over 200 full-time staff. What are the biggest areas of opportunity for Solotech UK as we enter a new decade? More than I can say here. We have grown over the past 15 years by diversifying into areas where we could bring our existing skills to complementary markets, refining the specific skill set needed for that new area of the business and then casting around for the next move - for example buying Tarsin, a London-based installation business working in live venues. That in turn meant diversifying into nightclubs, then up-market restaurants, developing the Houses of Worship with Wigwam, then spreading into larger format venues and in-turn sports facilities, PAVA via ETA and so on. Solotech are video specialists and over time they can help us develop in that area for both installations and live productions.

Father and son: Alex and John Penn

And what do you see as the biggest challenges? Well first and foremost, we have to see what happens if and when Brexit takes place, and in what format. There has been lots of talk about touring problems, but we are better equipped than most to deal with those, having operated a pretty extensive and efficient Carnet Service for over 20 years. However, we need to also consider the impact of exchange rate differences, import tariffs, shipping delays, etc. on the key brands that we represent and re-sell. This isn’t going to make life any simpler and the costs will ultimately be borne by the customers, which will also possibly squeeze budgets. There are a lot of unknowns, but I don’t expect any quick solutions. Are there any new markets you will be looking to break into in the new year? As I said above, it's logical for us to move into video sooner or later. The rest is all about which opportunities present themselves to us. But you can be sure that if we see something where we can utilise our existing skills and knowledge, and that makes commercial sense, then we will give it serious attention.

Alex Penn and Spencer Beard will be running the show as joint leaders. Does this mean you will be taking a step away from the business? As I said before, it was always planned for me to be able to reduce my role. I’m 65 this week and age is starting to creep up on me. I’ve always said “don’t buy a dog and bark yourself ”! It would be wrong for me to get in Alex and Spencer's way. They will, I’m sure, have new ideas about how they want to do things and develop the business, and they certainly won’t want me meddling and causing confusion. As the year progresses, myself and Heather will be reducing our role in the administration of the business and letting them take over. As I reduce the amount of time I devote to work, I want to spend my time using my extensive relationships and knowledge to help bring new opportunities to them and doing the stuff I enjoy the most, on a project by project basis. What will you be doing with this extra time on your hands?


It sounds cliché, but I want more time for our friends and family. Most of our friends are also now retired and always asking us to join them on some activity or other, so now we will be able to say yes. We also now have four fantastic grandchildren and I can’t tell you how much fun it is doing all the grandparent stuff. We are going skiing for a week in January, and in mid-February have a three and a half week trip with some friends to Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, which includes a few days sailing on a 40' Catamaran with Tony Oates (originally Mr Fusion UK and who now runs Fusion Far East - not sure if today’s readers will recognise his name but he was a cornerstone of pro audio here for 30 years). Through our work, we have made lasting friendships with people all over the world, and we’ll enjoy spending time with them when it's not biz related at last. We also have a little villa in the Algarve - this September was the first time we had ever stayed there for more than seven consecutive nights. So, I don’t think I’m going to be short of things to do in any case Heather will always find me things she wants doing anyway. n


Movers and shakers Stay in the loop with the latest job appointments and movements in the professional audio industry...

Waves Audio appoints Greg Kopchinski as live and install product manager AS Waves live and install product manager, Kopchinski will be responsible for driving the product vision and strategy for Waves' live and commercial AV products, from concept through to launch and full lifecycle. Kopchinski has a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering (Computer Architecture Concentration). He began his career in pro audio as a FOH and monitor engineer for several regional sound companies and churches in California. Prior to joining Waves, Kopchinski served in product management and marketing roles at

Bivio Networks and as a principal product manager at Avid. Kopchinski commented: “I am excited about the opportunity to work with Waves in defining and executing the next-generation product strategy. Waves has a proven track record in high-quality audio processing across many markets, and the upcoming products will deliver state-of-the-art solutions to live sound engineers, corporate and house-of-worship installations and commercial AV integrators.”


Pepe Reveles becomes ADAM

Waves Audio appoints Aquiles

Toki Wright becomes chair of

Audio’s international sales

Vera as Spanish Latin America

Berklee’s professional

manager in Latin America

sales manager

music department

FOCUSRITE’S VP sales and marketing for Latin America, Pepe Reveles, has been made responsible for ADAM Audio’s loudspeaker portfolio as its international sales manager, following the company’s recent acquisition by Focusrite. Based in Mexico City, Reveles will be the new contact for ADAM Audio’s existing distributors in Central and South America. With over 25 years’ experience working in the media and entertainment industries across Latin America (Digidesign, Avid Technology, Focusrite), Reveles knows how to bring creative tools and workflows to high-profile broadcast and production facilities and to meet the needs of pro audio distributors. Focusrite’s Damian Hawley, said: “Having worked with Pepe for years, I’m excited about the new opportunities someone with his expertise can offer ADAM Audio in Latin America."

VERA started his career 25 years ago in TV/postproduction as a film sound designer, where he gained experience across studio recording and live mixing. For the last 15 years, he was the Latin America sales audio manager for Avid Technology, overseeing the distribution channel and the customer post-sales relationship. Vera commented: “I am a musician, post-producer, sound engineer, and a committed technology enthusiast. My principal target is strengthening the presence of the company, improving the personalised attention toward our customers and ensuring a solid distribution channel while expanding Waves' excellent post-sales support in every Spanish-speaking Latin territory. Specifically, I am looking forward to bringing Waves’ innovative eMotion LV1 Live mixing console and its technology to live sound engineers in these territories.”


WRIGHT is an acclaimed MC, producer, writer, radio host, arts diplomat, and community organiser, and was made the second assistant chair in the department’s history in July 2018. “Coming to Berklee became a turning point in my journey navigating through the worlds of music, education, community development, policy, and media,” said Wright. “When my former institution closed, Berklee took on the incredible role of accepting the transfer of many students who were left with few options to complete their educational journey. It displayed not only the power of Berklee, but also its willingness to help students in need.” Wright will continue to apply his holistic approach to education in his new position, with a focus on providing students the support they need to be successful in “their education, optimism, financial stability, experiential learning, and problem-solving”.


Following the introduction of its dedicated pro audio section three years ago, the industry has taken to NAMM like never before. PSNEurope hears from some of this year’s top exhibitors about the show’s ever-growing appeal to newcomers and what keeps existing attendees coming back for more...


P12 JANUARY 2020

Paul Narvaez, marketing director, Adam Hall North America We are excited to be showcasing our products at NAMM 2020. Although the fundamental role of trade shows for the general public has changed dramatically in recent years - not least due to the massively enhanced opportunities with online channels to gather information about new products - NAMM continues to provide Adam Hall with an unparalleled and innovative environment to bring together industry professionals and end users. As we increase outreach and awareness efforts throughout the US, we are committed to providing excellent service and support to our customers. That's why the NAMM show continues to play a vital role for us. We appreciate all the artists and industry professionals who support us and we look forward to the continued growth and success of Adam Hall and its brands throughout North America. David Kirk, marketing manager, Allen & Heath NAMM is a show we always look forward to, not least because it’s a welcome opportunity to swap a dreary British January for the sun-kissed palms of Anaheim. More importantly, NAMM is an eclectic, colourful celebration of our industry and a potent reminder of why we’ve all chosen to be part of the audio world. Other shows have tried to capture the carnival atmosphere of NAMM, but nobody has quite recreated the same magic. The primary purpose of trade shows for us is to enable that first-hand contact between customers, the brand and products. For all the communication channels we have at our disposal, there is no substitute for meeting customers face-to-face. NAMM 2020 will be many people’s first chance to see our new Avantis console, taking its place alongside dLive and SQ in our 96k digital mixer trilogy. As well as the console itself, we’ll be highlighting our Everything I/O family of expansion options, including the latest Dante boxes. We will also be shining the spotlight on our dLive Wings ultra-compact mixing systems. The decision to move away from the sheet music and guitar pedals and take space in the pro audio hall was not one we took lightly. As a company we’re proud to make mixers for everyone from the gigging musician to venues and rental houses, so there was a concern

that we might lose contact with some of our customers by giving up a prime slot on the main show floor in 2019. Happily, we still had a very healthy mix of visitors coming to catch up with us in the pro hall, and the show is definitely attracting more of our installation and live sound customers than it did in years gone by. NAMM is also a good opportunity to sit down with our distributors, particularly some partners from Asia Pacific and Latin America who don’t always make it to the European shows. Liz Wilkinson, marketing officer, AMS Neve NAMM has always been an important show on the AMS Neve calendar and in recent years it has become even more so, thanks to its growing commitment to professional sound. As well as providing a global opportunity to showcase our brand and products, NAMM acts as a fantastic meeting point for all the key players in our industry, whether they are customers, distributors, other manufacturers, influencers, opinion makers or members of the press. NAMM is also a really good place to see what new technologies and trends are being introduced to the market and how people are reacting to them. Being able to spend time discussing these developments with customers is valuable because the feedback they provide often informs future product development. As a high-end manufacturer, we want to tailor our products so that they deliver the right features and functionality to support our customers’ workflows. NAMM’s strong emphasis on education is another reason why we see this as an important convention. The seminars and panel discussions that run alongside the exhibition help to broaden its appeal and bring in young people who will be the customers of the future. The ability to gain recognition through industry awards is also an incentive. Over the years, AMS Neve has won nine TEC Awards at NAMM and we hope to add to this tally in years to come. The NAMM 2020 show will be extra special for AMS Neve because it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Neve 1073 mic preamp/EQ, which was launched in 1970 and has gone on to be used in more high end studios and on more famous recordings than it is possible to count. Over the last half century, many iconic products have carried the AMS Neve name and we’ll be showcasing quite a few of them on our booth, number 14008 in Hall ACC, North Level One. We will also be launching an exciting new product, but we can’t say too much about that at this stage.


Alex Lepges, marketing director EMEA, Audio-Technica As a manufacturer with a very broad product offering, Audio-Technica is very well served by the NAMM show. The MI industry is important to us and that side of the show has obviously always been extremely strong, attracting significant numbers of domestic and international visitors. But with the increased focus on pro audio at NAMM recently, the event has really strengthened its position in the calendar as far as Audio-Technica is concerned. The show organisers have done a very good job of listening to the pro audio industry, catering to its needs and delivering a quality audience at NAMM. And while Audio-Technica’s presence at the show is handled by ATUS, from a European perspective NAMM has assumed a real importance over the last couple of years. We’re seeing a lot of European press and customers who make the show a priority visit and the fact that it’s at the beginning of the year makes it a great launchpad for new products. We’ve really benefitted from the changes to the event and the drive to broaden its appeal to pro audio visitors - and so NAMM remains among the most important shows of the year for Audio-Technica. Andrew Bishop, owner, BishopSound We're still a small and relatively new company, so NAMM 2020 will be our first. At this stage it's impossible to know how we will do but we are very excited as we feel NAMM represents a huge opportunity not just to introduce our range to the US market but also to show it to visitors from around the world. In the past, NAMM might not have been an obvious choice for a PA manufacturer, but in the past few years it has grown into an all-encompassing event for music related technology, very much including pro audio and PA equipment. Importantly for us, we will be introducing the first of our British made PA speakers at the show and we are hoping that this will generate interest as, sadly, there aren't many British made products at the show these days. Given the UK's excellent past track record in audio, we think that a resurgence might spark interest from potential customers. David ‘Webby’ Webster, global marketing director, CODA Audio International It was a really significant change for the better when pro audio got its own hall. Having a dedicated space makes things a lot easier for pro audio customers on a practical level. The days of walking long distances between appointments and searching for manufacturers are thankfully gone and it’s now far more streamlined. It’s a truly international show, so now that the pro audio sector has been better catered for, it’s pretty much unmissable. You can be sure that you’re getting in front of the widest possible range of influential

P13 JANUARY 2020

global visitors. There are also many benefits to it being a January show. It’s the beginning of the financial year for many and rental companies are taking stock of their potential needs for the forthcoming year, so the timing is definitely spot on. The annual Parnelli Awards grow in stature yearon-year and are a strong draw for engineers and rental companies, fostering a sense of community. The prospect of the sun shining in Anaheim in comparison to the cold European winter also has its merits. Amnon Harman, CEO, d&b audiotechnik d&b has attended NAMM for the last few years and we have thoroughly enjoyed participating. It has evolved to encompass pro audio, and is particularly relevant for many installation segments such as clubs, performing arts and houses of worship. It seems likely this trend will continue, and the pro audio audience will continue to grow. Since we recognise the growing relevance and importance of the show, we took the launch of a major new line array, the KSL, to California at the beginning of 2019. We took advantage of the show’s growing pro audio visitor list and planned a launch event – including a demo and a party at an art deco theatre the day before the show. At d&b, our role as an audio technology and solutions provider has evolved from that of a loudspeaker system manufacturer, to being viewed as consultants to our customers and end users. They recognise the importance of having a manufacturer working closely with them in understanding how to optimise technologies to deliver the best possible sound. We look at all major trade shows, including Winter NAMM, as being less about pushing black boxes and more as an opportunity to build stronger relationships with our current and potential customers, and to demonstrate how we can help them inspire their audiences through the art of creative engineering with holistic concepts such as the d&b Soundscape, as well as our long-term technical support and after-sales service. The latest innovations we will highlight at NAMM, such as the A Series, are a result of our Applied Evolution approach to product and technology development, empowering d&b users to create environments where the audience shares the highest level of sound quality. We feel this vision has a strong resonance with the NAMM audience. Winter NAMM 2020 will see another addition to the SL family – the KSL sub – in flyable and ground stack versions. We are especially excited about the

upcoming show given it also coincides with the opening of our new demonstration and education facility in Los Angeles, California. The facility underscores our continuing commitment to expanding our presence in the US market, and we look forward to visiting with our customers and partners at the new facility as well as on the NAMM show floor. Austin Freshwater, general manager, DiGiCo The buzz and excitement about NAMM 2020 is even greater than in previous years. We are expecting the show to continue to go from strength-to-strength and see increasing numbers of visitors focused on pro audio. The collaboration and ambition of the management team at NAMM allows the team at DiGiCo to challenge themselves on what can be achieved from events, by pushing new ideas and concepts to reality, allowing us to create a great experience for our customers. Personally, it will be my first visit to NAMM. I know we have lots of customers from all around the world already booked to visit the show, so I know I’m going to be back-to-back every day. I will have to make the time to walk the show properly, as with an increasing focus on pro audio there will be a lot to see and learn about the latest activity, trends and launches across the industry. As always, we will strive to do something different - last year there was a random mermaid! This year will be no exception, so I encourage everyone to come by and say hi, there will be plenty of things to discuss once we reveal the stand.

attendance continues to grow year-on-year and the show attracts a truly global audience with interests that range across a very wide spectrum. There’s no doubt that a growing pro audio focus, placed into a dedicated space, has added value to the event for companies like ours. It places us in the path of both high level audio professionals, who are seeking solutions for large scale or highly complex productions or studio setups AND the music ‘enthusiasts’ who constitute an important sector of the market. Perhaps as much as any major trade show, NAMM embodies the kind of progressive and inclusive outlook that is so important in our industry. Initiatives in education, networking and the live performance events are huge incentives to attend and NAMM’s January timing makes it widely accessible to all. In spite of the scale of the event, there’s a really personal element to the proceedings - the organiser's attention to detail is refreshing in that you feel the focus is very much on making it as easy as possible for exhibitors to make strong connections with visitors. We’re looking forward to the show in 2020, where we’ll be exhibiting a wide range of DiGiGrid products for SoundGrid applications alongside our partner, Waves (booth 15302).

Dan Page, sales and brand manager, DiGiGrid NAMM is a very exciting opportunity to engage with the widest possible international customer base. The

Christopher Spahr, VP sales and marketing, DPA Microphones US DPA Microphones has had a significant presence at the


NAMM show for decades. Through that time, we’ve seen NAMM grow significantly, increasing the opportunities for exhibitors both large and small. The new pro audio section in the ACC North Hall has proven to be incredibly beneficial to our brand as it attracts the contacts more interested in the pro gear. It’s the perfect place for us to meet with pro audio customers, dealers and retailers, most especially, of course, in the MI space – and we look forward to attending the show each year to meet new friends and see old pals. This year, we are most excited about our TEC Award nomination for our 6066 CORE subminiature headset microphone in the Sound Reinforcement category. The prominence of this award is an outstanding driver of attention to a product and brand and helps to showcase companies in a higher light. This is just another outstanding way in which the NAMM organisation serves its exhibitors in an incredible way. Additionally, with DPA mics set to be featured on the main show stage, as well as within the RCF room in the Hilton, this show continually presents a unique opportunity for us to showcase our gear in real-world applications. We are excited to see which artists will perform with our mics this year and can’t wait to catch some great performances. David Bruml, sales director, Funktion-One After a successful first year, we decided to return for 2019. It was remarkable to see the development of the show in a year. NAMM 2019 was, undoubtedly, amongst the most positive trade shows in all of my many years of exhibition experience. Such a remarkably diverse mix of people from all sectors of the music industry and beyond - from major musicians, through to top level

P15 JANUARY 2020

The hustle and bustle of the NAMM show

entertainment venues, tour and event production companies, sound rental users and system integrators. All trade shows are melting pots of potential connections, but NAMM excelled in this regard - the organisers clearly have a highly developed sense for how to choreograph and stage a great convention. Since being involved with the show we have been highly impressed with the calibre of both its organisation and the visitors it attracts. It’s important for Funktion-One to be present with our US distributor, Coherent Distribution, at the US exhibition, and NAMM ticks most of the boxes for us in what we’re looking for from a major trade show. It has now become an established part of our exhibition calendar. Find Funktion-One and Coherent Distribution, together with FFA Audio and NST Audio in Area ACC North Level 2, booth 18007, where its Vero VX will make its US trade show debut at NAMM 2020, while the booth will also feature the F124 bass enclosure and loudspeakers from the Evo Series.

of the TEC Awards, which has always been an important event for Genelec as we have fortunately had the honour and privilege to be recognised by our peers for Genelec Oy’s hard work, dedication and innovation.


Will Eggleston, USA technical marketing, Genelec Going to NAMM is like going to the Mardi Gras of music shows. It’s not just the sounds, but the colour and vibrancy of all those who attend. Over the past 24 years, Genelec has remained inside NAMM and seen the changes morph with the times. We began the NAMM journey in a small demo room overlooking Halls B and C, then moved to Hall E for a couple of years where we met more new customers than ever before and then to Hall A which also had great traffic. Now, with the recent addition of the new ACC North Hall, our position reflects the advancing importance of pro audio and participation at NAMM. NAMM brings us close to our varied customer base, be it basement hobbyist, professional musician, or even the ever-expanding audio production client. It is also held in Southern California, so it is a short drive for customers from the film, video, post-production, TV, etc. sectors to meet with us and check out our latest offerings. NAMM has grown with the times and attending the show gives us the best opportunity to match faces with names and spend valuable one-on-one time making sure their purchases are best suited for their clients or our users. NAMM is now also the home

Pascal Dietrich, chief marketing officer, KLANG:technologies NAMM has become one of the main trade shows to internationally launch new products. The location, the positive vibe, the variety of people and products you can find make it so special and interesting to attend—for both visitors and exhibitors. Especially for KLANG, being a specialist in in-ear monitor mixing, we need to provide hands-on demos for sound engineers and musicians. There is no other trade show offering this opportunity and attracting high class attendees from around the world. With a stronger focus on pro audio, it offers a highly professional and much calmer atmosphere for valuable in-depth discussion. Emerging collaborations like the Audio Engineering Society bring the educational and workshop part to the show. Of course, KLANG will be contributing to the AES in-ear monitoring academy. At this year’s NAMM show, KLANG and DiGiCo will be launching exciting new integration options, following the company’s acquisition last year and, of course, there will be a few surprises, too. James King, director of marketing, Martin Audio Martin Audio is really looking forward to being back at NAMM after its first foray to the show in 2019. The show, with its additional pro audio focus, support and marketing, has become an instant hit, not only as a US based show but one that is drawing increased international interest. The show’s organisers have won a significant battle


P17 Attendees hitting the expo floor in 2019


as many brands are using both the timing of this event and its growing reputation to be a launch platform for the year and are therefore encouraging their international customers to attend.

ground, simply by doing the one thing that too many other shows with arrogant attitudes fail to do: listen. They have been very proactive in understanding the needs and challenges of the pro audio industry and have tried to accommodate this or have provided alternative suggestions wherever possible. From our perspective, we weren’t ready to embark on a major stand presence, but we were keen to be able to demonstrate our products. As a result, the organisers were supportive of us participating in The Loudspeaker System Showcase in the Arena – which this year will feature our WPS line array and new BlacklineX powered systems – all without the need for a booth. This year they were also helpful in accommodating us with a meeting room, no. 19317, off the show floor so we could more easily meet with clients and have meaningful discussions away from the louder parts of the show. The show is also the perfect opportunity for brand partnerships and so we have once again tied up with D’Angelico Guitars and their wonderful showcase of established artists and new talent. Another of our Wavefront Precision models, WPM, will provide sound reinforcement for all performances while in their smaller demo area, BlacklineX Powered will be utilised. We know from conversations with other exhibitors that 2020 will see a record level of attendance internationally


John McMahon, SVP president of marketing, Meyer Sound Meyer Sound has increased its presence at NAMM this year. The dedicated audio hall has been a great draw, so we are expanding with a demo space in 2020. The timing of NAMM is ideal for many of our customers before the 2020 touring and festival circuit begins in earnest. It also gives our North American team a chance to jumpstart the new year ahead of our major European show, ISE, which takes place in February. Between these two shows, 2020 will launch with incredible momentum, building on the great success of our new ULTRA-X40 point source loudspeaker in 2019. In the demo room, there will be listening opportunities with our ULTRA-X40 point source loudspeaker, the UPQ-D1 loudspeaker, the LINA compact linear line array loudspeaker, and the Amie precision studio monitors. Since we will be in Southern California in January, we decided to take advantage of the typically beautiful weather with an outdoor terrace space for hospitality. We will welcome attendees to our Sonic Lounge following the demos. We will also be offering a pair of Amie precision studio monitors for show attendees to enter to win. With both the Parnelli Awards and TEC Awards happening alongside NAMM, we can celebrate the successes of the previous year as we launch into the new one. We are honoured this year to be up for the Indispensable Technology Audio award for the ULTRA-X40. Additionally, several of our collaborators are up for recognition. Trade shows in general are a great place to connect with customers from around the world. In a digital world, there is still nothing that generates business like quality face time and listening opportunities. We always welcome the chance to provide listening experiences and find that demos at trade shows can get our latest product heard by a large number of existing and potential customers in a short timeframe. Paul Tapper, CEO, NUGEN Audio NAMM represents our single best opportunity annually to connect with our pro audio customers - to hear what’s important to them and showcase the unique


technology and tools that NUGEN Audio can offer. We aim our products, support and sales primarily at professionals and semi-professionals within the music industry. NAMM delivers a fantastic, concentrated burst of meetings, planned and unplanned, with exactly those we’re aiming at serving. It is always an amazingly exciting and stimulating time, which generates ideas that take the rest of the year to explore and realise. At NAMM 2020, the NUGEN Audio booth (14101) will once again be in the ACC North Hall, in the newly created pro audio area. The focus of this area generates considerable benefits for attendees and exhibitors, making it easier for people to find what they are looking for by bringing related solutions together in one space. Maurice Patist, president, PMC USA Apart from the fact that January in Southern California is much warmer than it is in the UK, there are many good reasons why it pays for a company like PMC to be at the NAMM show. It is a very well organised show that has become



increasingly attuned to the pro audio market. It now attracts a really good cross section of professional equipment manufacturers and that, in turn, makes it more appealing to a wider range of people. Many of today’s musicians have their own project studios so it makes sense for a big convention like NAMM to cater for all their needs, whether that’s a new guitar or drum kit or a new pair of studio monitors. Also, people come from all over the world to attend NAMM and that’s another advantage for a manufacturer like PMC. At this show, we can be visible to a much larger audience and meet customers that we might not otherwise reach. As our loudspeaker products are very high quality, we always have an acoustically controlled demo space on our booth (16117) so that visitors can hear how good they are to work with and how quickly you can get ideal results. As we are working closely with Dolby as a strategic partner for its Atmos immersive audio solution, our NAMM demo room will feature a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos enabled PMC monitoring system that will allow visitors to hear the full benefits of Dolby Atmos music mixing. Indeed, NAMM’s West Coast location is genuinely important to PMC, and for much more serious reasons than just the warm weather.

P19 JANUARY 2020 NAMM 2019's Breakfast of Champions

Matt Czyzewski, president, Renkus-Heinz NAMM is unique thanks to the intelligent, engaged, and broad audience it serves. While NAMM has always been about the music, its base today is broad thanks to the fact that we experience music in our lives in many different ways: the car, the coffee shop, the office, the local pub, arenas, and on our own personal devices and home systems. Because of this, NAMM serves as a chance to listen to the needs of musicians, integrators, and end users across retail, hospitality, house of worship, and more. It’s an opportunity to find a shared focus on how we all serve the same client: the audience that consumes sound and music. Renkus-Heinz is right in the middle of that shared goal of putting the audience at the heart of professional audio. At booth 17907, we will be highlighting the ICLive X Series and Directivity Control Series. The reason those two series will be featured is that we see them as collaborative products designed based on feedback we’ve received from the musicians, integrators and end users we’ve met at past NAMM shows.

Robert Hofkamp, director of US operations, Void Acoustics Void Acoustics is again looking forward to showcasing some of its touring, commercial and club professional audio system ranges at NAMM 2020. In its third consecutive year exhibiting at this show, the US team will be based at booth 17603 and deliver daily live demonstrations in the demo hall. NAMM forms an integral part of Void’s annual marketing strategy. As the first audio industry show of the year, NAMM serves as a great launchpad for releasing new products. The audience turnout is always impressive, with attendees present from all over the world. Year on year, the show continues to grow, and with that growth all exhibitors benefit from exposure to an ever-increasing new customer base and the latest technological developments in the audio industry. Given NAMM’s popularity and optimal timing at the start of the year, Void uses this show as an anchor point for connecting with existing clients, as well as attracting new customers. The recent addition of the dedicated pro audio halls has made NAMM our number one US show of the year. The timing is brilliant and the show offers us maximum return on our investment.


Mick Olesh, EVP sales and marketing, Waves Our booth (15302) welcomes all visitors and users, and we recognise that they relish and value the benefit from having Waves product specialists on hand, offering one-onone demonstrations of new products as well as catalogue items. In addition, Waves features daily presentations by top artists, producers and engineers from every genre out there, that engagingly elaborate on the tools of the trade and invaluable “behind the scenes” tips and tricks. On the studio front, being able to demonstrate in real time, such products as the Waves Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin, Waves' expanding line of virtual instruments and a new line of all-encompassing distortion plugins to name but a few - offers an opportunity for users and media contributors to receive first hand in-depth explanations and a rare setting for asking questions on how these tools function and how they benefit the users requirements and workflow. From a business point of view, while today’s phone and video networking technology enables working with people the world over, face-to-face personal meetings have an undisputable added value. Waves' business involvement with third party brands, especially its technology being used and embedded in numerous branded audio products, makes personal meetings all the more productive. NAMM has become a decisive format for introducing new products and we are excited to introduce an impressive choice of new Waves developments and tools at the January 2020 show. In addition, we look forward to, and cherish, meeting personally with the community of Waves users, learning from the essential feedback they offer us and meeting up with our colleagues within the pro audio industry. n

‘WE ARE HERE TO SERVE’ Following yet another stellar outing in 2019, the NAMM show looks set for another recordbreaking edition in 2020. NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond outlines his vision for this year’s event…


rom January 16-20, California’s Anaheim Convention Center will once again welcome the global pro audio community for NAMM 2020, as it looks to build on a record-shattering 2019 edition. Now in its 119th year, the annual trade show continues to find new ways of attracting newcomers, whilst ensuring there’s plenty to keep regular exhibitors and attendees coming back. The show has proven especially popular with the pro audio market in recent years, following the much lauded launch of its dedicated pro audio hall in 2018. The appeal to a significant audience beyond its traditional MI core is evident in its attendance and exhibitor figures. Last year, some 115,301 attendees flocked to the west coast, marking the biggest audience in the event’s history, with numerous exhibitors citing it as one of the best in recent memory. That figure represented a 7.5 per cent increase on 2017. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 exhibiting members graced the show floor to represent 7,000 brands. The show also saw significant gains in its global reach, achieving a targeted year-on-year increase of 14 per cent in international participants. Somewhat predictably, organisers are expecting yet another show for the ages come January 16. To find out what’s in store this year, PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble caught up with NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond to discuss his ambitions for 2020 and the opportunities that lie ahead…

What can you tell us about this year’s pro audio offering? For over a century, NAMM has been a stable, reliable and predictable platform for the music products industry to come together to launch new products, enhance skills through great educational offerings and to learn and grow while networking with their peers. The past decade has increasingly seen the integration of all parts of the ‘signal chain’ from instrument to the studio to the performance stage. This crossroads effect of bringing the global music, sound, and entertainment technology ecosystem together has been very exciting for our members and our team here at NAMM, and 2020 will absolutely be the best event yet. So, to break that down, our exhibitors have worked all year to create new and innovative products for the pro audio market. In my opinion, new products drive any market, and I’m certain that between the show floor and enhanced demo opportunities like the Loudspeaker Systems Showcase located inside the Arena, buyers, integrators, and touring professionals will find the gear they need to be successful in 2020. NAMM has always believed in education; I firmly believe the second pillar of any industry (and gathering like NAMM) is offering life-long learning. The pro audio education at NAMM—which includes TEC Tracks, AES Academy at NAMM, A3E, and Dante training—will cover everything from live sound mixing to mastering techniques to audio for virtual reality. There will also be plenty of great general business, management, and marketing courses in NAMM U that are available to all attendees at no extra charge.  And the third pillar of our event is recognising the value of networking, on and off the show floor. This includes the peer-to-peer exchanges at all the concerts, exhibitor parties and meet-ups in the hotel lobby bars and experiencing the comradery of a reunion of people who have dedicated their lives to music.   The show’s audio element has thrived over the past two years. Are you seeing an increase in


demand for booth space? Yes, we have been fortunate to retain the exhibitors who have been with us forever, as well as attracting many, many new friends. However, as an industry-owned show, we have always taken the long view. Bigger is not necessarily better, better is better. Earning the trust and providing real ROI for our exhibitors and attendees comes first. If we get that part right, the rest will follow. Has the number of visitors in the pro audio market grown in recent years? Yes, thankfully the pro audio community has embraced the NAMM show and we are achieving our targets in buyers, installers, and touring professionals. It seems to me our unique mix of these folks, along with the global musical instrument retailers and distributors, is offering our exhibitors many new potential customers that they might not normally have ever met at other shows.  How do you continue to please exhibitors old and new? One thing NAMM members can count on: we are here to serve; our whole team is dedicated to that mantra, and we will always seek to do the right thing for all. With that, we listen carefully to feedback from the 7,000 brands and attendees of the show and strive to make improvements to enhance their experience.   Why are trade shows in general still so vital to the industry? The music, sound, and entertainment products industry operates in a complex adaptive system, which means a perfect understanding of the individual parts does not convey an understanding of the whole system. Each industry player in the system observes the other players and makes decisions to improve their chances based on those observations. Which companies have increased or decreased their exhibits, what are the main themes in educational sessions, which new products generate the most excitement, and which major headlines, announcements, and awards are making waves? From

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'Will the next decade look like the last? I doubt it': Joe Lamond

these clues, each industry participant will draw up strategies towards their own personal definition of the “end zone.” No one knows what 2020 and beyond will look like, but I do know that the clues will be found when the global industry gathers at the NAMM show. The amount of educational content (seminars, conferences, etc.) has increased year after year. What do you have in store on that front for 2020? With over 300 educational sessions scheduled from TEC Tracks, AES Academy at NAMM, A3E, and Audinate’s Dante training, I would be hard-pressed to pick just a few to note. But I suspect that members seeking to expand their competitive advantage and to learn from expert presenters through the carefully curated sessions will find the opportunity to do so at the NAMM show. The key is planning ahead and scheduling the sessions you really want to see and then building the rest of your itinerary from there. How big a factor is this type of content in the show’s overall appeal to visitors? Both exhibitors and attendees alike are putting much more value on this than in years past. The educational

alliances with other like-minded organisations like A3E, AES, and ESTA share in a vision to create more music makers and a desire to serve our respective industry and its members - especially when it came to our mutual desire to continue to support the professional development of members. At NAMM, we believe that the three key ingredients of a successful NAMM show include a robust trade show floor with the latest innovative products, relevant and high value education and the socialising and networking that happens at all the concerts, parties and meet-ups across the various hotel lobby bars that remind us all of our shared passion for music and our true purpose as we dedicate our lives to this great industry. As we prepare to leave the 2010s and enter the 2020s, what have been some of the key moments for NAMM over the past 10 years, and what are your predictions for the years ahead? As Pete Townshend once sang in 'Music Must Change,' 'Deep in the back of my mind is an unrealised sound, every feeling I get from the street says it soon could be found.’ The keyword there being change. We tend to think that just because things have been


the way they are for a while that they will always be that way. That is just about the time when everything changes and the new comes in. Will the next decade look like the last? I doubt it, and besides, who would really want that anyway? What are the biggest opportunities for NAMM in the current market? Fulfil our vision of a world where every child has a right to learn music and where every adult is a defender of that right. Oh, and world peace… What are the biggest challenges? I’m a drummer, so I like to think of things in terms of rhythm. The ideal world seems logical to me in a comfortable 4/4 beat or possibly a nice ¾ waltz. The world today is something right out of a King Crimson nightmare or possibly Frank Zappa’s 'The Black Page'. Keeping NAMM the stable and reliable partner for our member companies and the global industry through all of this is job number one. Although NAMM came into being in 1901 (think of how much has changed since then) I feel like we’re running a 119-year-old start-up. Each year is experimental, how exciting! n

Evolving from an experimental theatrical concept developed in an Icelandic lighthouse into an arena conquering audio-visual feast, Björk’s Cornucopia tour continues to test the boundaries of live performance. Daniel Gumble spoke to FOH engineer Tony Gale, Southby Productions director Chris Jones and d&b audiotechnik’s Steve Jones about the d&b Soundscape system at the heart of the show and how this project has tested them like no other...


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s birdsong swoops and flutters around London’s cavernous O2 Arena there is a sense even before the lights go down that tonight’s show (November 19) is going to provide far from standard arena show fare. The d&b audiotechnik Soundscape system employed by the Icelandic pioneer is already making its presence felt, with many in attendance surveying the scene as if in hope of catching sight of what feels like birds flying overhead and brushing past their ears. Having been in a state of perpetual evolution for the past 12 months, Björk’s Cornucopia tour has finally arrived in the capital, and by the time she takes to the stage, she has transformed the often grey, characterless hall into a living, breathing space. The stage explodes with vivid splashes of colour, while visual designer Tobias Gremmler’s high definition projections evoke images of nature and reproduction, from fibrous fauna to what looks like bacteria and foetuses. A harp is plucked while flautists dance around the stage. At one point, Björk enters a reverb chamber for a solo vocal session, while later singing to a drummer thumping away at drums submerged to alternating depths in a water tank. It all makes for a breathtaking spectacle. Complementing the hypnotic visuals and the ever enigmatic nature of Björk’s performance is the Soundscape system that sits at the show’s core. In many ways, it is the thread that binds each of the show’s components together, creating a truly immersive experience that plays out around, rather than before, its audience. Unsurprisingly, Cornucopia has been a long time in the making, and continues to evolve to this day, with tweaks being made and notes being left by Björk for the production team on a near daily basis. To find out about how it was conceived and its

ongoing development, PSNEurope managed to pin down Björk’s FOH engineer Tony Gale, director and co-owner of production company Southby Productions, Chris Jones, and education and application support team chief for d&b audiotechnik Great Britain, Steve Jones... Origins: From lighthouse to arena Earlier this year, several months before Cornucopia landed in London, Björk and members of the production team found themselves sealed inside a lighthouse off the coast of Iceland, accessible only during low tide. Once inside, there was no escape for several hours, allowing them to experiment with the Soundscape system without distraction. “Björk likes working with windows so she can see and connect with the world around her,” Steve Jones tells us. “She doesn’t like being in rooms that are closed off, and there are some really big windows in that place with some beautiful views.” The decision to incorporate such an unconventional location as part of the show’s evolution came after initial sessions were held in London. Following the release of her 2017 Utopia album, Björk embarked on a largely conventional tour - at least from an audio standpoint - in support of the record. But after attending a production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London, she felt compelled to add greater theatrical elements, shedding the trappings of a standard pop/rock concert. The decision to explore new creative avenues for the tour resulted in a lengthy spell of experimentation via numerous venues and locations across the globe. “When we were touring Utopia she said she’d like to do it in surround sound, or at least have some speakers at the back so she could put some effects in,” Gale explains.


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Björk takes centrestage

“She then saw the Harry Potter show and wanted to reconceive what we were doing as a more theatrical show. So we started talking with the director John Tiffany and some sound designers to discuss different directions, but there was no clear path she wanted to achieve at that point. “The theatrical concept started to fall by the wayside, but she still wanted a lot of immersive theatrics in the show. I was aware that I needed a sound system that could do 360º, something that would allow me to move objects around the room that wouldn’t just be spot effects, that could actually move from one position to another. I was looking at all the products out there and it just made sense to go with Soundscape because it can deal with time delay properly and could handle everything we wanted to do.” As for how the initial groundwork was laid for what became Cornucopia, Chris Jones picks up the story. “11 months ago (December 2018), John got in touch saying Björk was looking at an immersive concept, so he’d been tasked with looking at the options for immersive audio. We hired a venue in central London and set up a mini 360º Soundscape system for John to play with for three days. He brought his multi-tracks along and a show profile. In February 2019, we air freighted a 360º system for her to experiment with in the lighthouse, which could only be reached twice a day for an hour. She fell in love with the system, so it then went into rehearsals at a studio in Iceland called Syrland Studios, and it scaled up again from there to the Backstage Centre in Purfleet, where we put in a 360º system and the show went into full technical production rehearsals. From the Backstage Centre it scaled again to The Shed culture centre in New York,

and after a residency there for a month went to Mexico for a month-long residency at a larger venue. And from Mexico it went on to arenas like the O2 in London.” Evolution theory While the show may appear to have settled on a final form following its intercontinental development, Gale details that Cornucopia is, and continues to be, subject to change. “It’s actually still evolving,” he states. “It always is with Björk. She likes to experiment. When she was in the lighthouse that’s mainly what she was doing, experimenting with playback tracks to see what could be done. She had a clear idea for some of the tracks, but with these things it can be like a kid in a toy shop at the beginning because you can put everything everywhere. Over the next few months, we refined it and worked out a way we could incorporate all of the live elements of the show.” One of the key changes to the show since its opening night at The Shed in New York is the adaption from 360º audio to 180º, dependent on the venue. “When we did New York and Mexico the whole show was 360º, but when we went to the larger arenas for various reasons we used a 180 systemº, so I had to adapt the show from 360º to 180º for this particular run,” Gale continues. “It’ll probably go back to 360º for future runs, but that was a surprisingly rewarding process. It’s surprising what you can achieve with 180º. You can still get a real feeling of depth and sound surrounding you.” The 180º d&b system used at the O2 was comprised of five main hangs of 12


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KSL8/12, two extension hangs of 14 V8/12, two outfill hangs of 16 V8/12. One hang of eight SL-Subs was flown, while the ground sub array featured 20 SL-Subs. Frontfills consisted of 12 Y10Ps and four V7Ps, while the delays consisted of four hangs of six V8s. 68 D80/D20 amplifiers were deployed, along with a processing network of two DS100s and seven DS10s. According to Steve Jones, the show’s immersive qualities are just as potent in 180º or 360º configurations. “Immersive is a buzz word at the moment across every area of entertainment,” he says. “I’ve been involved in various Soundscape systems in various segments - theatre, rock ‘n’ roll, etc. - and I remember going to one of the first 180º theatre shows we did and being absolutely immersed in the show. Immersive doesn’t necessarily mean sound coming at you from every angle. I see it more as ‘am I immersed in a show, am I in the midst of it, or am I an external person looking in on someone else performing?' "With the Björk show, 360º is great because you do have sound coming at you from every angle - she pokes and prods you. But with the 180º show, you’re still totally immersed. My connection is not to a loudspeaker, my connection is to an audio performance happening in front of me. I’m so connected to the performance on every sensory level that I’m completely immersed.” Gale adds: “She goes into a reverb chamber onstage and closes the door as part of the show. I wanted to take the audience with her, so we have mics in the walls, and with the 180º show I’m putting the object on stage where the chamber is, so it sounds like the sound is coming from the chamber. I read a review that said that moment was totally unamplified, which of course isn’t the case. But it’s interesting that the audience member didn’t realise it was an amplified moment just because technology allows you to place things specifically in the right zone.” ‘Can you make the subs sound more optimistic?’ As one would expect from an artist of such creative ambition, Björk’s fingerprints can be found on each and every detail of the show.

“She’s very hands-on,” says Gale. “She spends a lot of time thinking and coming up with ideas. Occasionally, she’d leave us alone for a few days and we’d make some changes, then she’d come and listen and approve them or say she preferred it the way it was. She’s very receptive when we present her with our approach, but she’s also very clear about what she wants to do. "And the way she hears the show isn’t necessarily how I would initially approach it. Sometimes she wants me to bury her lead vocal amongst lots of backing vocals and it’s hard to know what the lead line is. You sometimes get looks from people thinking maybe she isn’t loud enough, but that’s the way she’s designed it. I’m working to a very clear concept from her. Although I helped design the show, it’s definitely a codesigned thing.” “I remember being at FOH when Björk was there and it’s interesting to hear the conversations they would have,” Steve Jones elaborates. “You’d think the conversation between an artist and a sound engineer might be along the lines of ‘my vocal sounds a bit muddy’ or ‘the guitar needs more bite’, but some of the conversations at FOH were much more creative. "She would say things like, ‘the two flutes are in a battle here, how do we represent that from an audio perspective?’ Or, ‘I need these seven flutes to sound more like a rave’. It’s a totally different type of creative story-telling that immersive audio gives, compared to the traditional engineering of a sound system.” “My favourite is still ‘can you make the subs sound more optimistic?", Gale smiles. Equal to the extraordinary artistry on display within Cornucopia are the practicalities and infrastructure that underpin a show of this kind. From load-in times to the relationship between audio and visual, every facet of the tour is distinct. “We’ve all worked on arena shows, but purely from a practical point of view, this is quite unique,” says Chris Jones."Getting in 10 hangs of PA in one day, there’s a lot of unique infrastructure that has to be built. The amount of kit, in terms of speaker cabling, amplifiers, speakers, is about 30 per cent more than a typical show. Ensuring that that is prepped and packaged in a way that can go in very quickly is


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L-R: Back row: Finnur Ragnarsson – monitors, Niall Lewis – audio crew chief, Chris Drew – audio tech, and Max Liddell – audio tech. Front row: Jake Miller – playback tech, John Gale – FOH, Jack Blenkinsopp – system tech, and Dom Gallagher – audio tech.

absolutely essential. "The audio team has been fantastic and there has been a lot of stuff built just for this tour to make sure everything goes in fast. We’ve had to invest in a lot of dispersion boxes to look after these immersive shows. And we also have to give John, Björk and the creative teams the space to be able to experiment with the system.” “There’s a lot of inter-department coordination as well between the video and sound departments, so we’re sharing cable trusses and things and making sure we’re on the same page,” Gale elaborates. “We work really closely together daily. The show isn’t entirely Timecode but it relies heavily on it for all departments. "Björk came to us very early on and said I want all the visuals and the lighting and the sound to marry together, so if the sound was to come from a rear speaker she wanted to explore ways of potentially being able to have lights come from the same vicinity. We had to come up with a concept where we could share the details of the decisions I had made so that the lighting department could take that OSC data and use it in a meaningful way. We’re constantly chatting.” When asked about the challenges the team has faced, there is a collective laugh at the suggestion of just identifying one. Given Björk’s persistent pursuit of ever more experimental avenues, the tasks faced can be vast and varied. “As the show developed, we had to go from the DiGiCo SD7 to the Quantum just because everything was expanding,” says Gale. “We suddenly went into 56 channels of playback because I needed discreet objects I could move around, and before you know it you’ve used all the local I/O. So Chris asked me if I’d be happy to move up to a Quantum and it was the right move. It gave us so much more capacity.” “We’re in a world where it’s not about a single speaker, it’s about how does an object of sound work through a multitude of speakers and how much headroom do I need,” says Steve Jones. “And we’re at the creative mercy of John and Björk’s ideas. Sizing the system and figuring out what size speakers and what dispersion needs to be where, it’s almost not a system engineering job, it’s about trying to understand the creative part of the story that’s being told. Putting the two together in a multitude of differently sized and shaped spaces is fun and games.” Clearly though, everyone involved relishes the challenge. “You can never sit back and think ‘that’s done’,” Gale adds. “There’s always some curveball that keeps us on our toes, which is good. There was one moment when she said ‘I want this song to be one BPM faster’. When everything is Timecoded you’re not working to bars and beats, you’re working to Timecode snapshots, and that can mean every department having to make 1,000 edits. And then she’ll listen to it and say it was better as it was before. It’s one of those things you have to go through, and it’s a good thing.” “From my point of view, looking in from the outside, the thing I don’t think the audience recognises is that she’s not doing back to back shows, it’s usually one show every three days,” Steve Jones continues. “She doesn’t hold back from pushing the creative ideas in her head. All of these things come at a major cost, and the interesting bit from our side is trying to keep up with putting the technology in place that allows her ideas to come to the fore. "But it’s not a high budget show, and I would guess the audience probably thinks it is, because it is amazing what we pull off on a fairly small budget compared to a lot of other shows. Within that you can pull your hair out one minute thinking about how we’re going to do something she wants to do creatively when there isn’t that much money to pull it off. Somehow everybody manages it.” With regards to the future of immersive, object-based audio, all three are convinced that technologies such as Soundscape are set to become an increasingly in-demand commodity. Not just in the field of live music and theatre, but also in corporate and domestic applications. As the trio prepare to dash off for a load-in, they share their parting thoughts. “We’ve noticed not only some artists putting in quote requests for Soundscape production, but also corporate clients wanting to do something different,” says

Chris Jones. “Also, we’re doing quite a large d&b install around January where we’re putting in traditional left right hangs and ground subs, but they are conscious of this object-based mixing thing they are hearing about so they want us to put in the required infrastructure so they can have it as a bolt-on when artists request it. It’s gradually getting out there that there’s this exciting option for artists and bands to play with.” “Artists are constantly looking at how they can get one over on everybody else; how does their show stand out over others,” Steve Jones concludes. “We’ve seen that with the size of video screens, pixel densities, how bright your lights can be and crazy sets. "To a large extent, the way people view sound hasn’t changed that much over the last 10-15 years, so the introduction of spatial audio does mark a growing trend. It does fundamentally changes the way you put on a show. Some people may be a little bit scared to make the jump, so we’ll probably see slow growth that will pick up pace as more people run with it. "Artists are starting to realise the sound system can become a canvas on which they can be more creative. It’s not just an engineering tool to make things loud, it’s a fundamental part of the creative process.” n


To the lighthouse: the setting for Björk's initial Soundscape experiments

‘IT ALL HAPPENED ACCIDE Heba Kadry worked in advertising before the chance to record a jingle led to an inspiring first encounter with the studio world. Now she’s a leading mastering engineer in New York working with artists including Cate Le Bon and Ryuichi Sakamoto, writes David Davies…


eba Kadry is the first to admit that her present career as one of New York’s most in-demand mastering engineers did not come about entirely by design. Growing up in Egypt, Kadry studied classical piano and played in bands at college before working as an account executive at an ad agency – a distinctly unhappy experience until one day, out of the blue, she was offered the “golden opportunity” to compose and record a jingle. “It needed to be sourced in-house because there was no budget,” she recalls. “The creative director of the agency knew I was a musician so she tossed me straight into the fire! I recorded the jingle in downtown Cairo and was bitten by ‘the bug’ as soon as I walked into the control room, which had a really sweet Neve VXS console with flying fader automation and a great selection of outboard gear.” Along with the lure of the tech, the acousticallycontrolled nature of the studio environment was a big part of its initial appeal. “Cairo is one of the noisiest cities in the world, so being in a properly isolated and acoustically treated room was such a disarming experience,” says Kadry. “It clicked for me that this was something that I wanted to pursue, although I had no idea how. [But even at that point] I could see that audio was a chance for me to leave Egypt, pursue music – which was unfathomable where I’m from – and radically

change my future and what was expected of me in my part of the world.” Heading to Ohio Following advice from an engineer at the studio where she recorded the jingle, Kadry travelled to the US and joined a training programme at The Recording Workshop in Ohio. “It was short and nowhere near as costly as some of the other programmes, so I signed up. It’s amazing when you’re young – you can make a split decision and completely change the course of your life.” Meanwhile, Kadry was continuing to develop her ideas about music and production. An initial passion for ‘90s shoegaze bands expanded to artists such as Aphex Twin, Brian Eno and Boards of Canada. But it was Radiohead’s paradigm-shifting Kid A from 2000 that provided one of the crucial epiphanies: “It was that record that really made me pay attention to production. I wanted to understand that album, what had influenced the band, and how they achieved those sounds because it was so off the beaten path.” This eclecticism would serve Kadry well once she came to work at SugarHill studios in Texas as recording engineer and studio manager. Perhaps not as well known as it should be given its history of attracting iconic artists including Roky Erickson and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the studio benefitted from the attitude of the


then-owners, “who were always happy to teach an intern or young hopeful engineer that walked through the doors and give them a chance”. From the many sessions she worked on at SugarHill, it is the time she spent recording singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston – who died in September 2019 – that will linger longest in the memory. “It was around the time that the documentary [2005’s The Devil and Daniel Johnston] came out,” she recalls. “I used to produce a radio show on KPFT/Pacifica Radio called SugarHill sessions, where I would invite touring musicians to come to SugarHill, record a small set and do an interview. [The programme with Daniel] was so special and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.” In the mid 2000s, disenchantment with the recording process (“a lot of guys with FruityLoops recordings wanting to do their vocals at 1am!”) and a conversation with the in-house mastering engineer at SugarHill led her to re-evaluate. Relocating to Manhattan, she secured an internship at a studio which led to a full-time role as studio manager. “I managed the studio by day and taught myself how to master at night and weekends working on friends’ bands,” she recalls. Establishing a partnership with Timeless Mastering, as well as working on her own, Kadry spent the next 10 years building a profile as one of New York’s leading mastering engineers, working on albums by acts

D BY ENT’ 'Studios do not own you': Heba Kadry

including Deerhunter, Beach House, The Mars Volta and her ‘90s favourites, the reunited Slowdive. But she was also active in other capacities, not least as mixer of Björk’s Grammy-nominated 2017 album, Utopia. Having left Timeless a few months ago, she is currently putting the finishing touches to her new studio in Brooklyn, designed by Jim Keller of Sondhus. Right time, right place The less-than-linear nature of Kadry’s route to her current position underpins her belief that “with audio, you have to be in the right place at the right time. Working in audio is a test of endurance – who can hang in there the longest? There isn’t a clear-cut path on how to succeed in audio. Ultimately, it boils down to your drive, how hard you work, and good timing.” Despite the challenges, Kadry is enthused by her current place in the industry, working with adventurous artists and often being viewed as a creative collaborator by her clients. A recent project with US avant-garde musician Diamanda Galás for the upcoming reissue of her 1982 debut The Litanies of Satan is a case in point. “We poured over every detail of that reissue,” says Kadry. “Should we make it radically different, how far should we push the vocals, how modern did we want it to sound, how heavy should it be? Diamanda wanted to explore the idea of reinterpreting the music in a way that

honours that particular moment in time, but also pushes the limitation of the recording.” The original album was made during the infancy of digital recording, so restoring the low-end to this uniquely powerful work was a key priority. The title track’s incantation of a Charles Baudelaire poem “has so much emotion and nuance that it needed to be brought out with more focus. That amazing vocal range and vocal control… it drags you to the depths of despair and brings you back up again. We worked very hard on this record for eight months and I’m very honoured that Diamanda put her trust in me during this process.” With a number of projects set for release in early 2020, Kadry has every reason to be optimistic about her new venture. But she will also continue to deepen her

ties with the broader music and studio communities – something she feels is more vital than ever given the ongoing machinations shaping the industry: “We need to be supportive of each other; working in isolation doesn’t keep this scene alive. If you cannot work on a project, suggest a friend or a fellow engineer. It’s so important to support your community in this way.” After a negative recent experience, she will also be urging engineers to be prepared to stand up for their rights. “Protect your credits with everything you own,” she says. “Studios do not own you, your work or your discography. The reason you are the engineer that you are is because of your hard work and your talent.”

For more information about Heba Kadry’s past and current projects, please visit www.hebakadry.com. n



SMART FINNISH Phil Ward discovers how Genelec’s ‘Smart IP’ platform will continue the manufacturer’s voyage beyond the known Universe… Managing director Siamäk Naghian


P32 JANUARY 2020


ccording to Discover Helsinki, the guide book available in all top hotel rooms, the Finnish capital is well known for its “glazed shopping experiences”, which just about sums up my Saturday mornings at home. Nevertheless, here in Helsinki the retail environment is just one part of an urban patchwork of carefully designed encounters that will unglaze anyone’s expression, thanks to a rapidly expanding AV hinterland of screens and speakers: no attraction is complete without its multimedia interface and, fortunately for the audio, loudspeaker market leader Genelec is local. Kind of. Metro ticket Hang on, isn’t that Genelec: the home of studio monitoring? Yes it is, and where better to find the kind of expertise in audio quality that once had recording engineers and producers flocking to Metropolis Studios in West London to marvel at the new kids on the monitoring block as Gary Langan and his associates opened shop with Genelec on the walls. For some time now, the brand equity has been siphoned into commercial applications in the real world of Moomin and chocolate reindeer, in a migration pattern shared by so many other leading pro audio marques. Not that Genelec’s expansion into installed sound is confined to Finland. Despite its remote headquarters, a place to which Thor Heyerdahl once launched an expedition, gave up and headed back to Norway, Genelec has taken the world by storm many times over – but especially during the period when erstwhile European sales manager Laila Jantunen sold its legendary 1035A main monitors into Metropolis as well as state broadcasters RAI, YLE, RTL and VRT and many more prestigious international facilities. Then the familiar figure of Lars-Olof Janflød led a truly global sales mission to consolidate the brand in every type of studio, before ushering in the digital era and a move towards network-controllable solutions that began to suggest opportunities away from recording, post-production and broadcast. It’s not the first time Genelec has done sound reinforcement, by the way. It did not hatch from the egg as a 100 per cent studio business: in fact, right up to 1989 up to half of sales were into high-end auditoriums including the Moscow Circus, Tampere Hall, The Royal Opera in Madrid, The Finnish National Theatre and the City Theatres of Rovaniemi, Kuopio, and elsewhere. The decision to focus exclusively on studio monitoring was not made without absorbing valuable experience from the world of contracting and installation. Since reviving this latent expertise, the company has fallen naturally into a futuristic market that enjoys nothing more than combining excellent audio with creative experimentation. Typical of Genelec’s latter-day

steps to boldly go where few speakers have gone before is Stockholm’s Audiorama, opened back in 2012 as a newbuild designed for sound art and electro-acoustic musical experimentation and featuring a multichannel system of 21 speakers. The venue’s technical producer Marcus Wrangö effectively designed a 17.4 surround system, using eight Genelec 8260As in a circle around the listener; five 8240As above the listener; and four 8130As at floor level – combined with four 7260A subs. Similar deployments have happened for Ambisonic club nights in urban spaces. Art IP Today, the journey continues into more prosaic – but always prestigious – commercial orbits, with examples from the last year alone coming from new-concept enterprises as well as heritage sites. Take JNcQUOI: a ‘lifestyle’ boutique in Lisbon that combines a restaurant, a men’s fashion store, a delicatessen-bar with a DJ booth and a repository of cool, white Genelec monitors and subs. Or Tate Britain in London, one of the city’s major art galleries, which has a restaurant, but no ordinary restaurant: its walls are painted by celebrated British modernist Rex Whistler with murals dating from 1927 when he was a student of The Royal Academy. 12 Genelec 4020C monitors and two RØDE Performer Link microphone systems with bespoke control


have been installed to reinforce the many events and presentations that take place against Whistler’s brushworked backdrop. The latest technological concept is called Smart IP, and it augers a new era of up-market contracting and installation. Genelec’s managing director Siamäk Naghian reveals that the company has been investigating Audio over IP for nearly 15 years and is now in a position to apply Smart IP to a whole new range, beginning with the two-way active 4430, optimised specifically for installation. “If you look at the AV installation environment, system integration is the key thing,” as he succinctly puts it. But what makes it ‘Smart’? Basically, it combines all three dimensions of power, audio and control within one single CAT cable, making it the ultimate solution for the Ethernet galaxy. This means Dante and AES67 audio, and two formats of Power-over-Ethernet: PoE and PoE+ for power and data. PoE+ is the latest IEEE standard for this protocol and increases the number of devices that can be supported in such a way on the network, as well as the amount of power available to them. Being active, the 4430 has two 50W Class D amplifiers, one for each side of the crossover, capable of SPLs up to 104dB. Its solitary CAT connector therefore takes the audio and its juice, as well as data from Genelec’s new software package Smart IP Manager. It does of course also speak

P33 JANUARY 2020

noticeable in the Nordic countries. Up until now, if you wanted to use Genelec in a practical way, you had to have at least two cables: one for the power; and one for the audio and control. In some professional applications you really need three cables. So that becomes a matter of sustainability; it’s a huge amount of work and a big draw on materials and resources. The one-cable solution fixes that. “Another thing we’ve been pushing for a long time is the ‘open wall’ concept, although it hasn’t been so popular in the installation business. Now, you can put just about anything over IP, and this is happening for the first time. Look at the communication network and how it’s developed over IP: it’s going to be very interesting how that merges with media. It will have a big impact on business models. Everybody has to open the walls! “It’s really good for the end user and installer, as businesses can't keep their environments as closed as they have to communication and media integration. For small to mid-sized installations, once you adopt a Smart IP solution you don’t need anything else.”

Dante Controller and Dante Domain Manager. This is where all the loudspeaker management resides, including discovery, zoning, monitoring, configuration and EQ, but the 4430 also has application programme interfaces for third-party control if integrators require it. They will find the specs attractive: up to eight channels from 32kHz-96kHz and 16-24 bit; and a frequency response of 45Hz-23kHz. It has a ¾-inch tweeter, a five-inch woofer and two of Genelec’s patented output solutions: the Minimum Diffraction Enclosure and the famous Directivity Control Waveguide. Made from recycled aluminium, the enclosures can come in black, white or one of 120 choices from the RAL colour chart and they will fit any wall, ceiling or truss. “What we have been experiencing in the Northern countries is that more and more AV installers have been using our products,” reveals Naghian, “so strategically we have noticed that there is a demand for higher quality and it’s very interesting to see that happening. If you look around Helsinki you will see that there are many places using Genelec already – specifically the 4000 Series – including schools, museums, libraries, high-end restaurants, all these kinds of places. “At the same time as aiming for high-quality audio, they’re aiming to achieve some kind of co-branding: utilising a mark of quality that will somehow showcase their own brand as well. This is something very

At the launch in Helsinki, Olli Ilmolahti (left), Board Member of the Finnish Music Hall of Fame and (right) Mikko Vanni, Chairman of the Board, Finnish Music Hall of Fame were presented with a pair of Genelec 4430 monitors signed by Finnish rock group Nightwish



Critical mass With Smart IP the Genelec brand becomes part of the Internet of Things: the emerging concept of interrelated devices, buildings and people that can be uniquely identified on a network and therefore served by, and in control of, content and data without traditional humanto-human or human-to-computer interaction. “Exactly,” asserts Naghian. “It’s not only about the core technology and the core business we’ve been doing so far. We have a long tradition of acoustical and mechanical design, but now we’re talking about networking technology – which is beyond the core of our activities. At the same time as we provide highquality audio, we’re providing high-quality audio over IP. It’s not as straightforward as it sounds, but we are here to deliver the kind of no-compromise audio that people clearly want through the infrastructure they all have.” It’s not for everyone, though. The first criterion for Genelec in relation to market positioning anywhere is audio quality. “If you look at the AV installation mass market,” observes Naghian, “it’s hard to see Genelec fitting in there. It doesn’t seem possible, because we don’t belong in that pricing structure. In terms of price, this is a high-end product. The typical places that have been using Genelec commercially are also high-end enterprises or establishments, so it remains ‘niche’ regardless of the relative cost savings and convenience of Smart IP.” That’s a shame. I was hoping that 4430s might turn up on a bit of the Helsinki Regional Transport system known as the Spårakoff – which is not only a tram but also a pub. Mind you, it is very special and could be considered ‘high end’ when viewed as a jewel in the city’s crown. Sort it out, guys. n


2020 vision


PSNEurope is delighted to present the first in a new series of monthly columns from audio engineer and senior lecturer in Sound Production and Post Production, Mariana Lopez, in which she outlines her hopes for the industry as we enter a new decade…


t’s January, that time of the year in which we are encouraged to stop and reflect on the year ahead of us. A time of the year in which things ‘to do’ pile up as everyone comes back energised from the holiday with new plans and ideas on how to change the world… …Or maybe not… As this is my first column, I thought I’d use it to reflect on my wishes for the year ahead and also take this opportunity to introduce myself and give you a taste for the sort of things I’ll be writing about. My name is Mariana Lopez, I’m a senior lecturer in Sound Production and Post Production at the University of York. My research and creative interests are mostly focused on the use of sound design to create accessible film and television productions for visually impaired audiences - a topic that allows me to combine my passion for sound design with my interest in equality of access. I’m often found exploring ways in which to use sound effects to clarify what’s in the visual-channel of a production, while also working with spatial audio to break mixing conventions that free up the format to provide accessible experiences. Some people say it’s niche…I think it isn’t…The number of people with sight loss is estimated to rise to 2.7 million in the UK by 2030 (RNIB). This is a significant audience for film and television, one we must consider when working on audio-visual projects. It is ideas and actions (yes, actions are important, just talking about issues isn’t enough) on diversity, equality and accessibility that first come to mind when reflecting on my hopes for 2020. I hope that 2020 sees the audio industry embrace diversity more widely. In the last few years there’s been an increasing interest in the representation of women in audio, and it’s been great to see calls for action on this front. Please keep them coming! I hope 2020 makes these efforts wider and, what’s more, makes sure to include non-binary colleagues as well. When I write about gender minorities in audio I make a point of referring to ‘non-male’, rather than female, to make sure I’m including non-binary friends and colleagues. But equality and diversity in audio isn’t only about gender, and I’m hoping that 2020 brings a far greater acknowledgement of other minority groups working in the industry. A commitment to diversity and equality has benefits

'Let's start 2020 with a deeper reflection on audiences': Mariana Lopez

for everyone’s wellbeing. A more inclusive industry that opens doors to people based on their skills—instead of other characteristics that are irrelevant to their craft—creates a more welcoming environment in which work-life balance is acknowledged, mental health is considered as important as physical health and collective effort (regardless of the people’s roles) is championed. As an educator, I often find myself reflecting on the interconnections between the courses I teach, the lectures I deliver, the opportunities offered to students, and their value to the audio industries. Constant reflection on different approaches to teaching audio is crucial to preparing students to incorporate themselves (if they so wish) into the audio industries, training them to be knowledgeable in their subject area, but also inviting them to be humble and respond positively to feedback, while at the same time questioning current practices, hierarchies and terminology. Thus, an exploration of how audio education is more than just about gaining appropriate subject knowledge is something I’d welcome from 2020. On a different note, I’m also looking forward to the emergence of bolder and more innovative sound design practices in television drama. I was immensely


impressed by the wonderful work done by the sound department in Sally Wainwright’s recent drama Gentleman Jack (BBC One, HBO). The use of sound to break the fourth wall was exciting and brought us even closer to Anne Lister, who was played magnificently by Suranne Jones. Can’t wait for Season Two. I was also thrilled by the work of the sound team and music composer Hildur Guðnadóttir on the mini-series Chernobyl (HBO, Sky UK). The mesh between musical and sound effects plus the use of low frequencies and spatialisation to envelop audiences was breathtaking. I was incredibly tense throughout every episode. These creative examples bring me to one final interest of mine for 2020: creativity over tech. Although I enjoy learning about new tools and equipment, I actually get more excited learning how these can be used to facilitate innovative creative work, as well as provide new experiences to listeners. I am particularly interested in the field of spatial audio, a field in which there is often a lot of excitement regarding new technologies and formats (more loudspeakers!) but there’s less of a discourse on reflecting on what listeners want. Let’s start 2020 with a deeper reflection on audiences. Wishing you all a magnificent 2020! n

A guide to

Mastering engineer and PSNEurope columnist Katie Tavini puts questions to some of the industry’s finest engineers and producers on the pressures of freelancing and dealing with the challenges of self-employment...

freelancing T

PHOTO: Dom Sigalas

hose who follow me in Insta land may remember that I asked what struggles you face in your work as freelancers in the audio world. There were so many recurring topics and questions, that I thought it’d be useful to ask my fabulous colleagues and get some answers to some quite tricky questions.


How do you deal with the lack of job security and having to find your own work? Isabel Gracefield, engineer: My experience is that as an engineer you are either self-employed, or you are more than full-time employed - essentially you are owned by a producer or studio. There are pros and cons to both situations and it’s a personal preference. I spent a year in employment, contracted, five to six days a week, 12-14 hours a day, at low pay, and I burnt out. It taught me that I am better off freelance, even with the stress that goes with it. Full disclosure, my partner earns a regular steady wage that can cover both of us if need be, and that is an essential element to keeping going as well. That said, it’s still frequently stressful. I try to have a constant interest in my own creative projects to pull me through fallow periods. It’s occasionally been very tough mentally, particularly when you have to say no to work you'd like to do for personal reasons - the absolutely classic thing is to book a holiday last minute in a quiet patch, and then get offered work straight after. Happens every year. From a practical point of view, you must keep a running spreadsheet of income and outgoings, and save every penny that you can, when you can. Also, buy as little gear as you can get away with. A lot of freelancers are expected to go ‘above and beyond’ to get jobs done, which often involves working long and anti-social hours. Do you factor this in and allow regular days off after an intense project?  Julian Kindred, producer: It’s really important to give the artists you work with that extra bit of effort others

P37 JANUARY 2020 might not. It will set you apart and will also allow the time necessary to deal with any unexpected creative surprises that may come up while working together. However, it’s extremely important to preserve time to restore yourself after giving so much to others. There’s always deadline pushes where working around the clock is required and necessary. Otherwise, Sundays (and weekends if you can help it) off. Routinely sustaining your humanity will serve you well when you need to give yourself entirely to the creative demands of the studio. Quite a few people asked how to deal with bands who are rude in a live sound setting. Do you have any advice for diffusing difficult situations?  Hannah Brodrick, live sound engineer: Generally, I find killing them with kindness works best, and using a touch of empathy. Being on the road can bring out the worst in people - everyone's tired and emotional. However, I've also heard that some artists only behave and start treating you with respect when you put them in their place. It's a tough one. I reckon the key is to just rise above it and do your job the best you can.  Another topic that got asked about a lot on Instagram was harassment and bullying – I was super shocked to see how many of my friends and followers have been subject to this. I’m going to respond to this straight away and just say, YOU NEED TO TELL SOMEONE. Straight away. No one should ever make you feel uncomfortable in any working environment. Talk it through with a colleague, friend or mentor. If you have no one to talk to, my emails are always open. From previous conversations and experience, I know there can be a lot of feelings around ‘if I speak up I might lose my job', but I really believe that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and there can usually be a tactful way to deal with these problems without risking your job. But please, please don’t bottle it up, this is a serious issue and you deserve to work in a positive space.  Sexual harassment – another big topic, with a lot of people mentioning that they’d experienced inappropriate comments. How do you shut this down?  Hannah Brodrick: I believe in giving as good as you get. I honestly feel like a lot of men don't realise when 'banter' goes too far. A quiet word with a colleague or someone in a higher position can also be pretty effective. I think there are very few people who would carry on with inappropriate language if they were made aware it was making someone uncomfortable.  Many people got in touch to say they'd received phone calls to discuss projects in the middle of the night, and had requests for revisions split between email, Facebook and WhatsApp messages. How do you set boundaries with clients without offending?  Elliot Vaughan, producer: The first point about mix

tweaks across multiple media is pretty simple. I say something along the lines of “can you guys collate all this and throw it in an email for me? I don’t want to miss any points and it will make everything a lot smoother”. I think it shows that I want to do a good job and it puts the blame on me being more disorganised than the client. It doesn’t offend and it usually helps them clarify their thoughts, too. The midnight phone calls/texts/emails/WhatsApps/ doorbells (it’s happened!) thing is a bit harder for me. Up until recently I would reply at all hours and really didn’t have proper boundaries. I wasn’t respecting my time and I wasn’t asking clients to either. I now try to be really mindful and set really clear parameters. As the producer of a project, this is much easier to police than if you’re assisting or engineering. I try to manage expectations at the start by saying something like: “You will have my full attention in the studio, but when we’re away from that room we’re incommunicado unless there’s something major. We need our rest time to really capitalise on our creativity and be as productive as possible when we’re together”. Something like that is usually fine and most folks get it. Obviously, the social aspect of a project is important - I may go out for dinner with bands so this rule is kind of a fluid one. I can’t say I always stick to my own rules but that’s something for me to work on. ‘Do Not Disturb’ is my friend. I’m not being bombarded with notifications but I can check at leisure so I’m still reasonably contactable. However, there is almost never a real emergency. We’re making music. The worst possible problems can either wait til the morning (we can’t find those missing files at 4am anyway) or should be attended to by the emergency services. One of the downsides of being a freelancer is the lack of holiday and sick pay. Do you factor them into your rates as a freelancer? Do you feel pressured into working when you’re sick?  Catherine Marks, producer: We don’t actually factor in holiday and sick pay into my fees. I do, however, always put a little bit aside for a rainy day, approx 22 per cent when I can. I don’t feel pressure to work when I’m sick but as an industry we all tend to. It’s in the culture. When in the studio with bands there are often tight schedules to meet and expensive studios being used, so if I’m not there nothing gets done and that is a cost to the project. However, if I was really sick I would have a team that I trust take over if necessary. I have postponed projects due to being burnt out but all involved were understanding and the project ultimately benefitted when I was back on form. There is a level of responsibility that we have to deliver our best. If you feel for whatever reason that isn’t possible at a particular time then it’s important to be honest about it. Clients tend to be understanding. I think as freelancers we need to be slightly more vigilant though when preparing for the unforeseen. 


Credits are a really important part of life as an audio engineer or producer, yet so many people ask how to make sure they get credited properly. I know that I’ve mastered a full album, yet the label credited a different engineer for one of the tracks (and it didn't get remastered). How do you negotiate this? Catherine Marks: It needs to be put in writing when negotiating fees that if your work is used, this is how you want to be credited. It is also important to request a copy of the label copy prior to release as that is the final opportunity to rectify any mistakes. This happened to me in the early days when assisting. I would have worked on an album for six months and I was not credited at all. It’s frustrating but often an oversight and not intentional. As an assistant, it’s hard to insist on a credit but the producer you are working for should always push to ensure it happens. As an engineer, producer, mixer or mastering engineer, you should be in a better position to negotiate that. If they fail to include the correct credit then insist that it is rectified on the next run of hard copies. Spotify includes producer and writer credits, which is great, but I believe they should provide a list of all personnel. Like the traditional vinyl cover. Or the priorities should at the very least be the writer, producer, mixer and mastering engineer. Ultimately, you know what you contributed to a record and the people who matter know. Include it in your CV and make sure next time it’s part of your deal. And finally, an absolutely astonishing amount of people got in touch with me about not getting paid! You finish a job, send your invoice, and then you never get paid. Sometimes you give them a nudge and they pay and apologise, and other times you chase them up and they ignore you. My current longest outstanding invoice is at a whopping 14 months. Do you have any advice for getting paid on time without having to spend hours chasing clients? Julian Kindred: It’s essential to be clear in communication with those you’re working with, whether you’re managed or not. An open conversation before every gig is vital. Most times I’ll require at least 50 per cent of my fee upfront before work starts, and I’ll make sure there’s been a good discussion to be aware of what the artist is hoping for creatively. Once everything’s been signed off, I’ll then make sure the remaining payment is received before deliverables are sent to the client. If there’s any need for an extension to the creative schedule it’s important that such changes are mutually agreed. Beyond that, it’s necessary to have a good accountant. If an accountant isn’t doable, at least hire someone to administrate your accounts who can prepare them for tax each year. My wife, who’s worked in the music industry for a long time, runs a service preparing accounts and managing details for myself, a number of colleagues and even some of my clients. nking for ways

LOWE DOWN Legendary TV composer David Lowe talks to Jon Chapple about the lure of the BBC, the home recording revolution and remixing Rick Wakeman‌ David Lowe



ou might not have heard the name David Lowe, but – assuming you’ve watched British television at some point in the past 20 years – you’ve heard his work. He’s the writer of the evergreen theme music for programmes like Countryfile, Grand Designs, Cash in the Attic and The One Show. He arranged the current version of the Panorama theme and recently reworked the title music for The X Factor. Perhaps most famously, he’s also the man behind the iconic 1999 BBC News theme, which has provided the broadcaster’s news coverage with an instantly recognisable musical identity for two decades. It’s election season again when PSNEurope meets Lowe in early November of 2019, and his latest project is none other than the BBC’s general election coverage – for which he’s working on a new version of the opening track of Rick Wakeman’s 1975 synth-pop classic The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. “It’s a remix of ‘Arthur’, which is the iconic election theme they used to use in the ’90s,” Lowe explains. “They changed it in 2003, but they’ve decided to bring it back for the latest election.” (Insert your own joke about modern British politics and pining for a mythical version of the past here.) The election theme is one of a pair of major primetime UK TV commissions for Lowe in 2019 – the other being long-running Simon Cowell-helmed talent show The X Factor, whose 16th series, dubbed The X Factor: Celebrity, features a new arrangement by Lowe of the classic theme music. The ‘Arthur’ and X-Factor reworks will be among the most listened-to pieces of music on British television this winter, adding to Lowe’s already remarkable CV – which, in addition to the TV programmes listed above, also includes Vangelis’ ‘Chariots of Fire’, remixed for the London 2012 Olympics, and the original song ‘Would You…?’, which propelled Touch and Go to No3 on the UK chart in 1998. (In this writer’s experience, it also inspired a generation of primary schoolchildren, without knowing what it actually meant, to go up to each other in the playground, giggle, and ask: “Would you go to bed with me?”) Like many composers, Lowe started writing music in childhood. “I’ve always had music buzzing around my in head,” he recalls. “I was constantly thinking of tunes and rhythms – I’d listen to things on the radio and walk off thinking about how that tune would develop from there. I just assumed everyone did that, so I never thought it’d be something I did for a living.” But his real childhood passion, he explains, wasn’t music – it was wanting to work for the BBC. What kind of child dreams of working for a public broadcaster, PSNEurope wonders? “I don’t know what it was!” Lowe says. “I think I was always fascinated by what was going on behind the scenes and how it all worked. Plus, of course, the BBC was always this hub of musical innovation – and Television Centre had this whole magical mystery thing going on… It all just drew me in



in some way.” That preteen dream came true when a schoolteacher who’d worked for the corporation secured him a Saturday work experience place at Auntie Beeb’s Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham. “I knew this was where I wanted to be. I loved every minute of it,” says Lowe, who followed the placement by going on to help produce a BBC Birmingham radio show. “That’s where I discovered I loved that cross between the technical and creative,” he continues. “I’d spend hours in the studio making jingles with sound effects, splicing and chopping audio… I learnt a lot there; that’s when I started to develop my production skills.” It was at this time, after a brief spell as a TV sound man, that Lowe “started doing music for fun”, he says. “This was 1982 or ’83, so right at the start of the home recording revolution. People could afford to buy synthesisers for the first time – when they came in the price range of the domestic market – and that was a defining moment.” What Lowe describes as his “second lucky break” came after he bought one of the first affordable polyphonic synths, the Roland Juno 6, released in late 1982. “I was in the BBC bar one night after work and

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Left: David Lowe being interviewed by Keith Ainesworth at How to Place You Music in Film and TV. On November 12, Lowe spoke at How To Place Your Music in Film and TV, an event organised by PRS for Music and the Ivors Academy (of which Lowe is a board member) in Liverpool which aimed to offer local songwriters, composers, producers and artists the chance to learn how to write for a TV show or create music for advertising campaigns. On his membership of PRS, the UK copyright collection society, Lowe says: “PRS is a mainstay of how songwriters get paid. The amount of data they process is incredible: they’ll manage to get you your money from when your song got played in Indonesia on a local TV channel in 2015. They’re doing an amazing job.”

the producer of a local news show asked me if I wanted to write the theme tune, as he’d been told I had this Juno 6, which had that classic big ’80s pop sound,” Lowe explains. “I scuttled off and came back with an idea quickly, and he said something along the lines of, ‘That’s alright, that.’ “Almost immediately, a light went on in my head – I realised I could work in TV and write music, and combine them into one thing. And it all started with Midlands Today in 1983.” Since those early 1980s, Lowe has “never stopped playing”, he says, writing on average a tune a day for the past 36 years. “Conceptually, in terms of my approach, I always try and come up with something memorable – a tune you can hum,” he continues. “The old brief in TV is a tune you can whistle, and in a way I’ve always stuck to that idea. “Ronnie Hazlehurst [Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em, Are You Being Served?, Yes, Minister] was a hero then, and I sometimes think of myself as a modern Ronnie. He’d sit there and write tunes all day from his little office at the BBC, and now I do the same, just round the corner from the BBC.” What has changed – since both the Hazlehurst and Juno 6 eras – is the equipment available to composers

and producers. Lowe has “gone through a whole range of kit” over his four-decade career, he says; fondly remembered gear includes a “game-changing” Akai ASQ 10 sequencer and a Roland JV-2080 outboard module, which he used up until 2000, including on his BBC News theme. Lowe has worked entirely in the box since around 2007, after switching over to Logic in the early 2000s. “That was a bit of a mind-bending learning curve at the beginning,” he recalls. “Back then I thought, ‘I’m never going to stop using a desk’, but my Mackie eight-bus ended up becoming a glorified headphone amp.” Genelec 8010s, meanwhile, serve as Lowe’s monitors of choice at his Malvern, Worcestershire studio. Reflecting on his career to date, Lowe says he’s probably most proud of his BBC News theme, given his childhood dream to work for the Beeb. “I’s almost,” he ponders, “like the universe collided in one particular spot at that moment, and everything I wanted to do formed into that music.” Additionally, he says, “it was right first time. I was just told to have something to play people – it doesn’t have to be final – but then I played it in this meeting for the first time and they all said, ‘That’s it! You’ve got it.’”


Other themes that came out almost fully formed, Lowe says, were Grand Designs, where he left the TV production company with the music already in his head, and Cash in the Attic, which he forgot to record until the morning it was due, and “literally put down the final notes as my doorbell rang. The ones that are right the first time are generally the best,” he comments, “as they don’t become laboured – they stay fresh.” Outside the UK, Lowe’s television and radio credits include musical identities for Euronews, Abu Dhabi TV, Norway’s TV2 and NDTV in India. “I’m doing a lot of work for Chinese TV, too,” he explains, “doing the branding on four state TV stations. I’ve had a lot creative freedom with that project, using different cadences and sound textures and making it sound ‘Chinese’.” Back home, though, the election theme has “had a pretty good response so far”, says Lowe – including from Sir Rick of Wakeman himself. So, even if nothing else positive comes out of the UK’s third general election in four years, it will at least be soundtracked by David Lowe’s version of a song once performed by a man wearing chainmail and playing in the middle of an ice rink (look it up on YouTube). And for that we should be eternally grateful. n

A DAY IN THE LIFE On November 22, Coldplay launched their latest album Everyday Life with a highly ambitious gig in Amman, Jordan. Here, veteran broadcast audio mix engineer Toby Alington, who was recruited to mix the show, provides an exclusive account of this extraordinary and challenging event...

"Toby is at the top of my list"; The crew on site in Amman


The global broadcast on YouTube of Coldplay’s Everyday Life album-launch, live from the Citadel in Amman on Friday, November 22, was an extraordinary artistic and technical achievement. Performing live from this historical site, Coldplay’s dawn and dusk shows reflected the two halves of the album: Sunrise and Sunset. As the sun hovered under the horizon that Friday morning, the muted dawn atmosphere of Amman merged into the orchestral strings opening of 'Sunrise', the first track on the album. Directed by Paul Dugdale, cameras and drones captured Coldplay’s live performance while in a white tent a few hundred metres from the stage, Rik Simpson (Coldplay’s producer and engineer), Dan Green (producer and FOH engineer) and I mixed the broadcast audio. As the city slowly came to life and the sun appeared over the horizon, birdsong, distant traffic and street noise could be heard between numbers. When Chris Martin closed the Sunrise set with ‘When I need a Friend’ another Friday had come to life in Amman. Later in the day, as the sun went down on Jordan, the band performed the Sunset half of the album with the title track ‘Everyday Life’ finishing moments before the evening call-to-prayer echoed around the city.

A few days later the band performed the album (including a few other favourites) to a live audience in London at the Natural History Museum, with the audio once again captured by the team and I, this time in Floating Earth’s Lawo-equipped mobile recording truck. Rewind to September and the first phone call I received from Tony Smith, Coldplay’s audio designer, FOH tech and crew chief: “We’ve got this gig in the Middle East… 192 inputs… live broadcast… probably a tent… maybe we should meet up…!” Within days, planning was underway and a team of experts had started to come together. Dirk Sykora, my colleague on the MTV EMAs for many years who now works for Lawo was tasked with securing a Lawo console and peripheral audio gear for Amman. Meanwhile, I enlisted SR Films – who were supplying the video OB equipment for production company JA Digital – to provide shipping, technical support and infrastructure for our mix room. Well, mix tent. A fortnight before heading to Amman, Dirk and I were working together on the MTV EMAs in Seville. This allowed us to work face-to-face on planning and safety nets for the forthcoming trip to Jordan. There

aren’t many options on the top of the Citadel in Amman if you don’t have something you need – every bit of fine detail needed to be covered ahead of the 10-day shipment of equipment to Jordan. “It’s not like we throw things together, but the goalposts do move, sometimes more rapidly, other times at a leisurely pace,” Smith says. “The last call with Toby was from our third location option, 31 days before Live to Air. I was within the Amman Citadel walls with Andrew Craig (Live Nation) and Simon Fisher (Paul Dugdale’s producer) looking for two stage positions, along with possible locations for a studio, gallery, toilets and so on, with our respective teams. I had an archaeological site to draw into a .dwg format site map so we could make this work. On a job like this, Toby is at the top of my list. We have had a long relationship with him, and his experience, ears and the team of experts he can pull together were all essential for this project. This was not only a live-to-air album launch but also three days of rehearsals where the brief was to be prepared to record up to 128 channels for possible remixing and recording of overdubs and transitions between tracks for the live performance, along with 64 channels of broadcast stems that come via our FOH Neve Shelfords


and 500 Series analogue preamps.” On the subject of planning and equipment, Sykora elaborates: “I was looking at 192 channels to be received from the FOH console to the Lawo mc²56 via MADI. There were also two Pro Tools workstations and one Reaper system we needed to feed, because everything was to be recorded. Renting any kind of equipment locally at short notice was going to be virtually impossible, so I decided to pack everything I could possibly think of. Even though the mc²56 was scheduled to receive MADI and AES3 signals, I also included three Lawo DALLIS I/O stage boxes for all signal formats, including analogue I/Os for Rik Simpson’s effect gear – just in case. We used the Dallis stagebox for the connectivity of the outboard in the control room, but thanks to Tony Smith’s excellent preparation we never needed any additional stage boxes for ambience mics since his team took care of those and included them in the MADI streams.” Tony Smith liaised with Rik and Dan regarding their requirements and outboard equipment – some of which would come to Amman with Coldplay’s backline equipment. Every audio connector and power lead had to be defined, and emails went around the world refining

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the equipment list. I visited Coldplay’s rehearsals at Air Studios in London a few days before we all left for Amman to cross-check everything with the team. Tony requested two 192-channel Pro Tools systems which I commissioned from Matt Phillips at FX Rentals in London. These were shipped to Hilversum to join the rest of SR Films’ equipment heading for Jordan. My long-term colleague Leaf Troup came on board to look after these rigs in Amman. Everything arrived in Jordan on November 16, and many tonnes of audio-visual equipment were transferred to the Citadel site and also to our rehearsal venue, the Cultural Palace at Malika Aliya where our control room was built in a backstage area. When Tony had seen (and heard) this proposed space a month prior, he knew some substantial acoustic treatment would be needed to turn it into a viable audio environment. “There are very few options in Amman to find a rehearsal space that can fit the band, guest musicians and all the techs, and also be a recording studio to capture a local choir and facilitate any overdubs. Rik Simpson, Dan Green and Bill Rahko (just voted into the top five Rock Producers of 2019) are lovely guys but they do have very high expectations,” Smith explains. “You need to trust what you’re hearing to mix well. Our lovely room in the Cultural Palace did not fit into the so-called ‘Bolt-Area’ – it needed serious TLC. After some research into acoustics and acoustic properties I came across ASC

TubeTraps, good for bass absorption between 55Hz and 250Hz and treble diffusion or absorption 250Hz and above. Placed correctly, these totally transformed the room, along with Auralex ProMAX v2 and some thick quilted Sound Control Services studio blankets, and we had a studio. My expectation was to improve the room we did more than that.” After a few days of rehearsals, the entire control room was packed up and taken overnight to our tent on the Citadel hillside. By the following morning, a high-tech audio installation was in place, complete with acoustic baffling, mood lighting, 45-inch TV monitor, three 192-channel multitrack machines, UAD Apollo outboard equipment, two TC System 6000’s, and various wonderful vocal effects for Rik Simpson to work his magic on. It was surreal to walk into a tent in the 3,000-year-old ruins of the Citadel and be confronted with the very latest audio technology – lights blinking in every corner of every room. And it sounded great. With Barefoot and Auratone monitors to work with, a brand new Lawo mc256 and all the toys we’d asked for, we had no excuse but to make the shows sound perfect. All the live inputs, including Tony’s ambience mics, came down six 96kHz MADI streams via an M12 Optocore system provided by Wigwam to our recording tent, where we converted them to 192 channels at 48kHz. It was during the first rehearsal of Sunrise at

Toby Alington (centre) and the team in Jordan


the Citadel I heard this very weird whining sound over everything, and it took me a few seconds to realise that Dugdale’s drones were going to prohibit us using many of Tony’s ambience mics. Dirk’s team rapidly rigged some more mics for me at the other side of the hill, allowing us to capture the ambience of the city waking up without the drones. The drone footage was an amazing addition to the filming, but as every engineer knows, they aren’t very compatible with recording. Guest acts in the performance included Femi Kuti on sax with his amazing band in Arabesque, Palestinian singer Norah Shakur, a gospel quartet and string section, a children's choir, and Belgian singer Stromae returning to the public eye after quite some time away. The additional microphones needed for these guests alone numbered around 24 channels; over 200 channels were used for the live shows in total. Delivering sound for online is very similar to TV broadcast. YouTube and other online channels have different loudness requirements to TV broadcast, generally R128 minus 16 LUFS, compared to minus 23 LUFS for TV. The team tested the broadcast chain through YouTube’s distribution, and managed to clear up some audio level confusion resulting in a perfect digital experience for the viewer. On YouTube distribution, Sykora says: "As cinema cameras had been specified for this project, two versions of the audio mix were prepared concurrently: a straight

P45 JANUARY 2020 Making history: Coldplay live at the Natural History Museum

one with no delay, and a delayed one for perfect lipsync with the video footage (cinema cameras with live colour grading tend to induce a latency of up to eight frames.) This audio version was embedded into the video footage and aired to YouTube. "Getting the audio and video elements to the YouTube facilities proved surprisingly straightforward. The redundant satellite uplink worked flawlessly, and delivering the material to the worldwide audience was a simple matter of sending it to YouTube’s live webstream encoder." Come Friday morning, the crew were called for 3am transport to the site. With the temperature outside just above freezing, the warmth in the tent from the people and equipment was very welcome. Knowing that we had pretty much every Coldplay fan tuning in on YouTube and that we were broadcasting live to the world made for a focused mindset. We went into the tent in the pre-dawn darkness and came out to bright daylight after the Sunrise show. A welcome daytime break for the crew was followed by the Sunset show. The hugely positive social media reaction contributed to the euphoria of completing two perfect broadcasts. We knew we had delivered something magical, and the immediacy of Twitter and other social media confirmed that we’d achieved the emotional responses we were hoping for. On Saturday, the day after the Sunrise and Sunset shows, Coldplay again performed at the Citadel, this time to a live audience. And Tony could finally turn on his PA. This show was also delivered for radio and online broadcast. With the Citadel shows complete, the equipment was returned to its flight cases but not before Dirk had trimmed and copied the production file from the Lawo console, ready to import it into Floating Earth’s Lawo-equipped mobile in London for Monday's Natural History Museum show. All the essential additions of outboard effects travelled with the band’s backline, arriving at the museum in the afternoon. Mike Hatch and Dirk imported the production file into Floating Earth’s Lawo, and without a soundcheck the Monday night recording was completed successfully using the same settings from the 10 days in Amman. Sykora commented: “Technically speaking, the London gig was the third time the mc²56 settings had been used: in the rehearsal room in downtown Amman, in the tent at the Citadel and, finally, outside the Natural History Museum. As such, this is nothing new, of course, but considering how much was at stake and how well everything worked, I cannot help feeling grateful." Smith adds: “The joy of having a team of experts around is you don’t always need to state or ask for



things, they just happen. "The NHM show was slotted in just two days after the Amman Citadel Gig. Toby had engaged the Floating Earth mobile, another long-term partnership with Coldplay as well as Dirk. All was perfect: Lawo desk, Mike Hatch, Dirk, Toby: sorted. Right, next, the twohour load-in.” I have to say I totally agree with Dirk’s sentiment: “Coldplay’s Sunrise and Sunset gigs at Amman’s Citadel are among the absolute highlights of my professional career.” The Sunset and Sunrise shows were real highlights of my 30 years working in live broadcast. Only made possible by the expertise of Dirk and his crew, the attention to detail of Rik, Dan and Tony, and the acceptance by Coldplay and their management of our proposals to get it right with specific equipment, people and approach. Fond memories, and if you haven’t watched it yet, find the shows on YouTube, knowing it was live and how we approached it. n



Last month, BishopSound launched its first line array unit in the form of the Delta Dual Passive system. Company founder Andrew Bishop tells PSNEurope about his hopes for the new range and taking on one of the most competitive markets in the business…


Centre and its ambitions for 2020 and beyond…

he live music scene is getting increasingly competitive and the needs of our industry have changed,” said BishopSound founder Andrew Bishop when the company launched its debut line array system. “Promoters are driving rental companies into the ground by offering less money for the sound at events and the middle market for high-quality affordable PA products has been vacant, that is, until now.” Designed and tuned in the UK and manufactured in China, the company’s new Delta Dual Passive line array system is aimed at providing a more affordable solution for the live sound market without compromising on audio quality. The line array consists of four Dual eight-inch boxes which come in a purpose-built plywood flight case. The speakers are BishopSound’s own Neo Drivers with 2.4 inch voice coils and twin 1.23 HF inch units with titanium diaphragms. British made Kevlar speaker cones are incorporated, while each box handles 600W RMS. The company is also launching new sub woofers designed to work with the line array to offer a ‘complete package’. Here, Bishop tells us about the firm’s business model, its brand new Listening

Tell us about the origins of BishopSound. I started BishopSound in 2016, drawing on my previous experience in several different industries, culminating with me owning the amplification and PA manufacturer Carlsbro. Carlsbro had been taken over by a Chinese company and I was working as a consultant for a number of famous brands before being more or less dragged back into the audio world by former export customers who were complaining that they didn't like the sound of some of the 'affordable' PA products they were being offered. The fact they were willing to place quite large orders with me if I would come up with a genuinely different range made it very appealing, so I gathered a team of engineers and designers and we set about coming up with a very distinctive approach to the market, both in terms of our products and the way we sold them. I could see that there was an opportunity to offer speakers that sounded different - what I call the 'British sound' - a more musical sound - and which are either sold directly online by me or by a handful of genuine specialists. In both cases at very affordable prices and with an emphasis on personal service. When we began, we were offering point source speakers and a huge range of accessories to end-users - bands, entertainers, DJs, colleges, venues and the like but word soon got around that our products were affordable, reliable and sounded great so we were soon selling to installers and hire companies who are always under significant cost pressures. Is the product line manufactured entirely in the UK? We are adding new British made products to the portfolio but focusing on large subwoofers and wedge monitors at this time. These are being designed and manufactured in the UK. Presently, our Delta Dual passive line array is designed and voiced here and manufactured in China.


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do this? Because we are a very lean company. BishopSound consists of just my wife Victoria and myself. Of course, we don't try and do everything, so we have a team of professional designers, sound engineers and advisors who work on projects for us. We don't have a huge infrastructure to support, with inflated overheads. Neither do we use expensive routes to market. We pay attention to the product and not all the “riders”, like the size of the show stand, posh offices, armies of representatives, entertaining, wining and dining. If you meet us we will put the kettle on for a mug of Yorkshire Tea and listen to your needs. Tell us about your new demo facility. Prospective buyers can come to our new demo facility in Daventry just off the M1, in the Midlands. Originally, when we launched the Delta Dual line array at BPM, the reaction was so strong that we considered organising a UK tour so that prospective customers could come and hear it for themselves. But the more we talked with professional companies, the more we kept being told that they didn't want to be there with their competitors and rivals, they wanted to ask their own questions in their own time and get a "one to one" response - so that's what we have decided to offer. Our style and approach to business is personal. The fact that every customer can call me on my mobile to get information or advice is very important. We do not hide behind a call centre or line of managers. A personal “one to one” approach is the reason why we are growing so fast, as the customers trust us. 'We will put the kettle on for a mug of Yorkshire Tea and listen to your needs': Andrew Bishop

What are your ambitions for 2020 and beyond? We will continue to talk and listen directly to our customers and if we get enough people asking for the same thing, we will agree a price point and make it. We have been very customer-led from the outset. We will stick to the common thread: “make products that are reliable, affordable and durable”.

What made you decide to launch a new product range into an already highly competitive market? This is a carefully researched move born out of comments we have had from professional customers that are finding they can no longer make a profit hiring out some of the 'big brand' products. Hire companies are under extreme pressure from promoters, festival organisers and so on to cut their prices. For a major tour or a festival main stage it's worthy of consideration but, for example, on 'B' stages or at smaller venues they need something good sounding, reliable and affordable where the fact that it doesn't have a big brand name on the boxes just doesn't matter. What matters is that it works, sounds great and they can make a profit from using it. Where will the range be available from? It's available in stock immediately. Our business model is very different to most others. We manufacture and sell direct to the end-user online via our website. However, we are growing local support by adding agents and dealers who are keen to work with us. Our new Listening Centre in the Midlands is just that, a place to have a private consultation with professional sound engineers who are not on the payroll but simply enjoy our sound and believe it to be exceptional value for money. This is not a shop - it's more like a doctor’s consulting room where you can get “one to one” advice and even onsite support if required. I guess we could be called the Aldi or the Lidl of the pro audio industry, delivering a quality product at an affordable price minus all the big brand name ballyhoo. Our style gives all the support without any unnecessary expenditure and with me on the end of a landline or mobile to answer customers’ needs directly. You say the business is able to offer a more cost-effective alternative to some of the ‘big name’ line array brands. How have you been able to

What are the biggest opportunities for you in the market? Export is obviously going to be increasingly important. We already do export but there is enormous potential, especially as we are starting to offer increasing numbers of products that are not only British designed and voiced but made here too. That counts for a lot and it matters a lot to me personally. We're very much a Yorkshire based company and Yorkshire was once the home of the British audio and speaker business. We'd like to play a part in bringing manufacturing back home. We are looking forward to the Winter NAMM Show where we will have a small booth (number 18600). We are looking forward to shaking hands with new overseas buyers and some of the 800+ customers from over 100 counties who we have dealt with under different banners over the last 20 years. Come and say hello… And the biggest challenges? Managing such tremendous growth is a challenge in itself. Naturally there are technical challenges, there are production challenges too, but mostly our biggest challenges are business-related which will be only too familiar to all. Fortunately, we have been able to get some very experienced people to help us with those, which is one of the advantages of the model we use of calling in outside experts on an 'as needed' basis. On a personal note, continuing to make time to talk to customers so I can learn even more about their needs is always hard. It comes as a surprise to a lot of our customers that when they call us they speak to the person whose name is on the box. That is a real source of satisfaction to me - that our customers feel they have a relationship with us and that we are there for them. This isn't an idle marketing claim, it is quite literally how we work. The downside of that is it takes a lot of time and I am constantly looking for ways to create that time. n


P00 MONTH 2019

MARK OF Q Phil Ward discovers that those who can do, especially if they trained in Nottingham…

Hot desking: Greg Marshall


hen Jools Holland stepped up to receive the inaugural ‘Confetti’ Award last month, he was impressed. As a guest at an evening to mark 25 years of the Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies in Nottingham city centre, he addressed fellow celebrities, local civic leaders, alumni, staff and students with fulsome praise for the facility which, just in time for this milestone, had completed a three-year project of epic proportions. Christened ‘Metronome’, it’s the centrepiece of Confetti’s Creative Technology Campus and is described as a ’music and live events hub’. Importantly, it is no hermetically sealed academy but a real gig taking hard cash from paying punters, just as its recording and broadcast studios have real-world interfaces. The education at Confetti is both Further and Higher, and over 2,000 students currently learn inside it. Adding to the campus’s already generous estate – green screen VFX studio; motion capture studio; gaming, VFX and animation studios and classrooms; TV production galleries; film studios and screening rooms – Metronome boasts six recording studios and four edit suites, 14 rehearsal rooms and a 400-capacity live venue, designed and built in a unique collaboration between staff and students at Confetti ICT and White Mark, the acoustic and technical design market leader. The Marshall plan Greg Marshall is director of operations at Confetti Media Group (CMG), the association of enterprises that occupy Confetti ICT. His in-tray is full: it includes both management of the entire estate as it is and project management of all future facility development from planning to build – a role that now extends beyond Confetti ICT itself to third-party clients. Meanwhile group-wide AV support, local TV broadcast management and the design of the new AV infrastructure all came under the auspices of CTO Joe Duckhouse and his team. “Most of the facilities are used for education,” confirms Marshall, “but the Confetti mantra has always been ‘do it for real’ so there’s a lot of industry activity directly related to it. For instance, we run Notts TV, the local

channel, and most of the crew are students on the film and TV courses. It means when they graduate they’ve already got hundreds of hours of live broadcast under their belts, while thanks to the Metronome live venue that we’ve just built with White Mark, our live and technical events students are learning in a real venue.” The studios are real, too, placing students on genuine commercial projects with top-notch equipment. “Because there’s lots of cross-pollination between our students on their various courses,” continues Marshall, “there’s a strong mixed economy of education and commercial activities right next door to each other.” The fresh intakes each year inter-leave with the graduating students as they depart for glittering careers to maintain a constant flow of talented staff, although a few – like Marshall himself – stay on to run the place and replenish the teaching body. In fact, Marshall was one of the first intake back in 1994 and his time here coincides with the 25th anniversary celebrated at the gala evening in November. It’s well worth re-quoting star guest Jools Holland’s comments on that night, because they sum up the potential of the site to make a huge mark on the international scene at every level: “I am honestly amazed at the mind bogglingly brilliant facilities you have here,” the ex-Squeeze pianist said. “The studios I have seen are better than any I have seen anywhere. And the students I met were so engaged because they love what they do. They have such great opportunities. I haven’t seen anything like this before and I am sure this place will soon be on the global map.” Since Confetti was acquired by Nottingham Trent University in 2015, the institution that now ratifies all of the degree courses, investment has burgeoned to £15 million over the past three years. Working closely with White Mark, Marshall has been at the heart of it, putting every moment of his 25 years in the industry into this re-thinking of possibilities. Having gone through the digital revolution in person, he upholds the pedagogical value of the analogue signal chain as do most pro audio educational and training facilities. Accordingly, there are not only multitrack analogue tape machines in service but also a lathe for cutting vinyl, with resident


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expert. However, an equally valid – and very modern – principle is reflected in the holistic connectivity of the entire site and all of the various disciplines within it. “The facility is 3,500sqm,” Marshall points out, “a pretty epic building, with a full Dante network across every single room. A few weeks ago, we had the guys from BBC Introducing here: showcasing new talent on stage with proper sound reinforcement; Dante outputs to Studio One where it was mixed by the BBC’s Andy Rogers on an SSL Duality, with degree students all sat around for a masterclass; more Dante outputs to Studio Three where another group of students were mastering the material; and the output of that going to the cutting room where it was cut live to vinyl. All the bands had a song each cut to vinyl which then went to BBC Introducing legend Dean Jackson to play on his show. “There were 60-plus students involved in that whole process, including Live and Technical Events students working on stage management, artist liaison, lights or sound reinforcement. That’s what I mean by a mixed economy of entertainment technology and management, mingled with analogue and digital workflow. We can do some crazy things when the situation demands it…” Confetti ICT students are essentially Nottingham Trent University students, with access to all of the accommodation, resources and leisure facilities that a leading UK alma mater can provide. The city weaves together its cultural threads with unusual intimacy anyway, and so Confetti stands today as something of a jewel in the crown of Nottingham’s vibrant urban empire. Indeed, as a wholly owned subsidiary, it adds considerable kudos to the campus of University departments dotted around the city centre and pays back a lot of that investment with considerable human interest. The cornerstones of the industry are represented by several courses across music technology, recording, performance and live production; games and digital media; and film and television production and post-production, now with facilities in each discipline to match any in the world – it has been compared independently to Full Sail, the Florida campus often considered a flagship for global industry training.

In a white room The emphasis on rock-solid audio is music to David Bell’s ears. As founding director of White Mark, he is more aware than anyone of the need to provide students with a truly critical listening environment. When commissioned to tackle Metronome, he saw a golden opportunity to make design statements worth hearing – and seeing. “This is up there with our best work anywhere in the world,” he asserts, while referring to the brief to provide the kind of real-world operability to make a thousand colleges green with envy. “You rarely get the opportunity to build something so large and comprehensive, and it has everything we know in it!” The concert venue is where theatre almost meets studio live room, such is the spec. “You can be as legally loud as you like,” Bell points out, “and you can’t hear a thing in the apartments above. The whole auditorium is floated in such a way as to allow classes of five people doing a soundcheck to be in there, or an audience of 400 people.” On the recording side, Studio One in the basement has a generous height and a spec to match a studio recently completed by White Mark in the Bahamas, despite the latter costing more than the entire Nottingham campus. “They’re designed to be effective for the cost, but the isolation is superb,” continues Bell. “I’ve been in educational facilities’ studios where you can hear the floor polisher three floors up.” Even the edit-control rooms in the post-production suites are connected to the live rooms. “The isolation is good enough that you can do voice-overs in a booth in Studio Two while a band is recording in the booth to its left.” While remaining multi-functional – a suite might be used for mastering or sound design for games – every room is acoustically accurate if not exclusively optimised for one or another function. And it seems White Mark and Confetti have more to come, with or without Jools, Later… “Working with Greg is fantastic,” reflects Bell, “with the building chiefs – woodwork, concrete – actually in the design meetings with us. It’s a really close team. We’re now working on a project in Sheffield, and it’s great to have them on board.” n


'I NEEDED SOMETHING LIKE THIS WHEN I STARTED PRODUCING' Artist and producer Xylo Aria tells Fiona Hope about her journey from not knowing how to produce to launching her own online educational production platform Music Production for Women...


inger/songwriter and producer Xylo Aria recently launched online educational platform Music Production for Women (MPW) to encourage more women into music production. With only five per cent of producers currently being women, and having bad experiences with producers herself, Aria saw a missing link in the educational process. After the tragic and unexpected loss of a close friend, Aria quit her job and began developing a platform that takes students through the basics of producing on Ableton Live, from creating a beat down to mixing. Although it was created with women in mind, the course is open to all, as Aria believes it’s important not to alienate anyone when trying to make music production a more welcoming field. Here, we chat to Aria about the impetus behind the initiative and why being able to self-produce is so important in today's industry... What was the inspiration behind launching Music Production for Women? The reason I launched it was because I needed something like this when I started producing. I started off as a singer/songwriter and my experiences with producers were not the best. They were always men - I don't want to generalise, people do have good experiences - but mine always ended up as a weird power struggle. After enough of those, I thought ‘I don't deserve this, I need to do something about it’. The only option I could think of was to learn to produce. Once I'd made that decision, I didn't really know where to go from there. There are so many things to consider, from what software and gear to use, how much you should spend... it all feels very overwhelming. I was working full-time so I didn't have the capacity to join a course. I went to heaps of production forums and they were really helpful, but it's not the best setting for learning because I was one of the very few girls in the room. People would always ask 'Does anyone have any questions' and I'd think, 'Oh my gosh, I have so many' but I didn't want to be that person that doesn't understand. I realise now that's not the best attitude to

have, you should just ask. I kept getting help from people and slowly things started falling into place. I started releasing music I had produced myself and it was such a freeing experience. I wasn't forever waiting for the right producer to come along and feeling like I didn't have control over my own project. Even when I collaborated - which I still think everyone should do - I felt a lot more equal. But the process to get there shouldn’t have been that hard. And I knew that there were many other female artists going through the exact same process, but not having the confidence to start because of those hurdles. How did it evolve from there? I realised there needed to be an educational platform that's available from anywhere to anyone that wants to learn, but in an encouraging environment where no one feels like they're asking the wrong question. Then I started doing some research, and I couldn't really find what I was looking for. When I didn't find it, I felt like it was my responsibility to create it. For a long time I faced the thoughts of 'who I am to do this'? I'm not a Grammy winner, but it's probably better that I'm not because I can speak in a language that'll make sense to those who are really new to production. It's always that initial start that puts people off the most, so I wanted MPW to eventually take people who had not considered production before or been a bit scared of it to take their first steps into it and realise it is fun. Then I started building this platform, and at the moment it's based on Ableton, but I have some people helping me create a Logic version, so it'll keep growing down the line. Aside from that portion, we have a really nice online community, everyone's really lovely and supportive. Outside of that, we've started doing workshops around London in partnership with Novation and Ableton. How important do you think it is as an artist to be able to produce your own music? Honestly, in today's age, I think it's vital. Even if you


are not doing it yourself and are working with another producer, I think it's so important to understand what they're doing because at the end of the day, it's still a service you're engaging someone for, and in order to not be taken advantage of, you should be able to understand the basics of what they're doing. So when they come back to you on whatever they've done, you can, in a language that shows you are informed, tell them what needs to be changed. That immediately changes the power dynamic that some people can experience. When you don't have the budget for it, a lot more can go wrong when you're trying to get people to work with and it's a ‘doing favours’ situation. If you have the budget to get an established producer, it's probably going to be more of a professional environment. But people have even told me in that environment they've come away with things that are really not what they were after. What do you think deters women from becoming producers? I think there are a lot of different aspects to it, one being that there aren't many role models. So when you look out into the music space and you think of typical producers, it's white and male that comes to mind. For a long time I didn't even consider it as something I could do. I was producing before, but I would always tell people it was a demo. And they were like 'why don't you keep working on it?' And I used to say, 'Ah, I can't produce. I'm just making something to give to someone else.' I think step one is having the confidence to call yourself a producer, even if you don't feel like one. That can really start changing things. Guys just seem to have that confidence to give themselves that title and women don't, and that's something you find across the board in workplace situations. What do you think can be done to change this? Is it mainly about education? I think so. Things need to start from an earlier age. One thing I've started doing is talks/classes in schools because it's really important to show that a woman is in this role. I always contact people on the MPW

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'Why shouldn't guys be taught by a woman?': Xylo Aria

platform and social media and ask what stopped them from producing before, and it's very rarely that they don't have the money for gear or something like that, it's pretty much always 'I don't think I can do it.' It's that confidence thing. I'm also working on a podcast at the moment and I've spoken to a few experienced producers, and one of the things Catherine Marks said is 'I don't consider myself a techy person'. You hear that quite often from really experienced producers, which makes you realise you don't need to be that typical person we think of. If someone shows you what to do, you will be able to do it. It's about taking that first step with the right environment around you. Honestly, if I can produce my own music, I really think anyone can. How important do you think creating a community will be in helping women flourish in the industry? Extremely. That's one of the things that really sets MPW apart - the fact that there's a safe space where people feel completely comfortable to ask anything. But even in that space, everyone starts their question with 'This is probably a stupid question', even though it never is a stupid question. But, you know, maybe in another environment they wouldn't have felt able to ask that question at all.

That sense of community is really important, but I think at the same time it's also very important not to alienate people within that community. So, all the workshops we run are for everyone, it's not women only. I don't think a community that does the same thing that we've been screaming and shouting about the other way around is really the right solution. As soon as we can bring men into the conversation, that's great. Why shouldn't guys be taught by a woman? The more we include everyone, the quicker we can create change. What do the workshops and course entail? How are they structured? The course has six modules. It goes through the basics and main aspects of a production software. We start from creating a drum beat and the various different ways of doing that, and then go into synths, then recording, then audio effects, building right up to mixing at the end. I wanted to make sure that it's not an information overload. There is enough information for you to feel comfortable with the basics of how to use the main tools, but after that there's so many resources available on things like YouTube. But I believe if people start there, they might get overwhelmed and not continue with it. In addition to that we do monthly catch-up calls and


people can email me anytime. I never wanted it to feel like people had bought into this thing and were left on their own. Why did you choose to work with Ableton Live? That was my production software of choice, mainly because I wanted to be self-sufficient in every way, which included playing live. It's called Ableton Live for a reason - it's the best for live performance. And I've found from talking to other people, whoever's using other softwares, like Logic, ended up having to use Ableton anyway for live performance. How can male or female producers help to encourage more women take up music production? I think it's almost a responsibility for women to be a bit more out there, whether that's going into schools or universities and talking, or being more active in the community so that young people can see you. And it's equally as important for young men to see women doing a great job, because sometimes I think in the studio setting guys can go into it possibly feeling a bit superior. As far as guys in the industry are concerned, it's all about giving women opportunities and just being really encouraging. n


THIS MONTH we chat with Andy Bensley, regional business development manager of Genelec, about his life in the industry, and take a look at NEC Group's implementation of Mental Heath First Aid into its venues. We’ve also curated a run down of the most exciting industry events coming up...


ANDY BENSLEY, Regional business development manager, Genelec

What first sparked your interest in the industry? Learning guitar in my early teens and seeing bands live. I was lucky to be the right age to start going to gigs around the mid ‘90s so I got to see Brit Pop first hand. Between reading NME, playing in bands and going to gigs, it was the best grounding to avoid getting a job in the real world. What was your first job? I worked in a local recording studio in the North East covering rehearsals and then eventually started assisting. My secondary school had an amazing music department and we got the opportunity to record and perform regularly. At 15, I saw that you didn’t have to be a monster musician to work in music; that there were other routes. My two years of sixth form were pretty much spent there, hence my A level results were a bit iffy. The studio had Genelecs in every room so I essentially learned how to record and mix on them. It's funny how things turn out. What is an average work day like for you? I check my emails first thing and then it depends on whether it's an office day or I’m out on the road. The best thing about the job is getting to work with customers face-to-face, either discussing new projects or seeing projects come to fruition. I’m fortunate that I still get to calibrate a lot of systems so I spend a lot of time on-site, which means I get to see how our products perform in the real world. That, in turn, means I can offer our customers a first-hand experience on how to best tackle their project. What has been your favourite project? I worked closely with Metropolis Studios when they changed their main monitors in Studio B to Genelec 1236s. Due to the history and the number of huge records that have come out of that room, we had to move things forward whilst ensuring we kept the vibe of the original Genelec 1035 system. Being able to collaborate with the staff engineers and understand what their clients expected from that room was invaluable. It's going from strength to strength and it’s a real buzz when top engineers and producers say they love the room and comment on the monitoring. To be a part of that is very cool. What is the most ambitious project you’ve worked on? We had the opportunity to build a listening room in Wells Street, Central London and the challenge was to create a space that was based in the real world. A lot of the rooms our customers build are


constrained by neighbours, short-term leases and small budgets. We succeeded in creating a space that not only sounds fantastic but allows customers to experience everything from a small desktop setup to a 7.4.1 Dolby Atmos with seamless switching. We can play any content through a variety of systems all within a five-minute walk from Oxford Circus. We are currently going through our second set of upgrades to the Experience Centre and it continues to be a valuable resource for us and our customers. How do you balance work and life? I’m very fortunate to work from home when I’m not on the road. I like to be able to bookend the week so that Monday and Friday are admin days where I can set up calls with customers and make sure there are no surprises over the weekend. I usually take the middle of the week to see customers and travel. I have two young children so cutting down on the commute has been huge. To be there to help with the school run and be there for bedtimes more often means there is a good balance. What’s the biggest challenge of the industry? A big challenge for us is finding new ways for customers to experience our products. On the one hand, we have so many ways to reach our customers and tell our story, but getting our speakers in front of people to listen to them is the aim of the game. YouTube is an amazing tool to distill ideas and get a message across but you will never be able to move someone emotionally with an online speaker demo. We have to constantly look at the way we present demos and find ways to wow people and leave them with audio memory that lasts. What do you like most about the industry? The best thing about the industry is the people. I have met so many dear friends through my job and the common thread is that they all got into it through their love of music. I don’t know many industries where after work you genuinely love to hang with your customers and colleagues. Who/what is your inspiration? There are some teachers and industry people to whom I owe a lot but I’d rather buy them a pint and tell them face to face. Otherwise, I’ll never hear the end of it if I say it here. The biggest inspiration is that I get to make a living and support my family through music. Be it on the technical or creative side, to be a small part of the process is a great feeling and I don’t take it for granted.

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EVENTS THE 2020 NAMM SHOW January 16-19, 2020 Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA The NAMM Show is fundamental for the pro audio industry, uniting over 115,000 registrants from 130 countries and regions that all gather to experience the future of music and sound. Attend to hear from the industry’s experts and to witness the latest sound innovations with access to over 7,000 brands and more than 400 educational sessions. All members of NAMM are invited to the NAMM Show, while industry professionals can register for a General Attendee badge. You can register here: https://www.namm.org/thenammshow/2020/ badges

Find out what pro audio events are happening in the coming months… STAGE ELECTRICS 2020 PRODUCT SHOWCASE Wednesday, January 29, 2020 SS Great Britain, Great Eastern Hall, Great Western Dockyard, Gas Ferry Rd, Bristol, BS1 6TY 2pm-7pm Stage Electrics will be hosting a range of leading audio, lighting, trussing and staging manufacturers presenting their products, including Admiral Staging, Altair, Artistic License, Avolites, Chamsys, Chauvet, DiGiCo, Doughty, EM Acoustics, ETC, High End Systems, Le Maitre, Magic FX, Martin Professional, PLASA, Prolyte, RCF, Sennheiser, Swisson, Stage Electrics, STLD, TiMax, Yamaha, and Zero 88. The showcase will include live demonstrations of the products, three seminars and a live pyrotechnic display from Le Maitre. Register for free at https://sejanuaryshowcase. eventbrite.co.uk


currently 20 trained first aiders, although the company plans to expand the

many of its shows, including the Ariana Grande and Little Mix shows, at its two

initiative. They will provide support for employees and audience members in

arenas, the 15,800-capacity Arena Birmingham and 15,700-capacity Resorts

need, and their support could range from being a listener to referring the person

World Arena.

onto further help.

This news comes after the mental health charity Music Support recently

Ellie Coombes, senior event manager at Arena Birmingham, said: “Mental

partnered with 10 UK companies and organisations to train music industry

wellbeing is hugely important to us at the NEC Group. Over recent months we’ve

professionals in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).

put a real emphasis on making sure our employees’ mental health is looked

The mental health first aiders are NEC Group employees, and there are

after – and it’s just as important that we look after those visiting our venues.”


P54 JANUARY 2020

Alex Penn

Recently appointed co-managing director of Solotech UK Group, Alex Penn tells PSNEurope about the new company structure and his hopes for the future…


ast month, SSE Audio Group was restructured and renamed Solotech UK Group, with the new operation running under the joint leadership of managing directors Alex Penn, son of SSE founder John Penn, and Spencer Beard. Here, Alex takes us inside the new company structure and reflects on his unique career in audio so far… What are you most looking forward to now that you’re leading the company alongside Spencer Beard? We’re both looking forward to moving the company into a new era. Of course we’re also nostalgic for the past but as the industry evolves, so must we. As SSE Audio Group becomes the Solotech UK Group, comprising all the UK brands that we know and love, it sets the right tone for how we wish to move forward as one united force globally with a local presence and familiarity.   How will the working relationship between you and Spencer work? Spencer and I have known each other since we were kids. Spencer was 16 when he started at SSE, and while I was still at school I was occasionally dragged in to clean cables, etc. Of course, Spencer has a couple of years on me, so he was the one driving me forward and keeping me busy in the early days when I worked freelance while studying. So we know and trust each other implicitly and we will work together as a team to keep the UK group

moving forward progressively. We each have ultimate responsibility for our respective areas of the business, but we also have a healthy knowledge of what the company delivers and are well placed to support each other as well. SSE has evolved considerably since you started working there full-time. What have been some of your personal highlights? My focus has always been on the growth and evolution of the sales and systems integration business, which has been a major catalyst in the growth of the company as a whole. A big highlight for me was winning the installation at Nottingham's Rock City in 2009 only two years into the job, and at the time this was SSE’s highest valued installation to date. I felt it really made a statement that we were now established in the install market. Of course, since then and following the acquisitions of both ETA Sound and Wigwam, we have gone on to deliver some of the most impressive integrated projects in the country, including Tottenham Hotspur FC and York Minster. From the live side though, seeing Rage Against the Machine perform on the Download main stage using our new L-Acoustics K1 system in 2010 was something which I can only describe as awesome. And what have been the biggest changes? Every acquisition we have made in the last 13 years


has marked a step change in the business, so each has been a highlight for various reasons. The acquisition of Wigwam, however, had the biggest impact on the company as a whole. Our team doubled overnight, and we had a major job on our hands to integrate and work with each other. It was a massive win for us. Not only did we integrate quickly, but our markets and brands were complementary to each other. We increased our team, and also massively amplified our opportunities, opening doors for the sales teams on both sides. As the son of one of the most influential figures in the pro audio industry, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned from working alongside your father over the years? That is hard to say as there are too many things! Of course, I haven’t always found it straightforward being the boss' son. It's been something of an internal battle I’ve had to get over, working hard to deliver, to prove myself and to earn respect from my colleagues. However, I’ve always had a good working relationship with both my mum and dad, although sometimes it feels like I’ve never quite escaped the nest. In some ways this new era is exciting from that angle too. I have enormous respect for both of my parents, who have worked incredibly hard to build what is, by some margin, the largest pro audio service company in the UK. We intend to move forwards with the same values and culture, taught to us mainly by both John and Heather Penn. nk


Profile for Future PLC

PSNE 93 January 2020  

Björk's Cornucopia - From a lighthouse in Iceland to the O2 Arena, we delve inside the artist's most ambitious tour to date.

PSNE 93 January 2020  

Björk's Cornucopia - From a lighthouse in Iceland to the O2 Arena, we delve inside the artist's most ambitious tour to date.