LIVE VOLUME 14
Live and kicking Our annual report into the live music business returns!
Photo: Jake Owens
P3 PSNLIVE 2019 www.psneurope.com • Twitter.com/PSNEurope • Facebook.com/ProSoundNewsEurope • Instagram.com/PSNEurope EDITORIAL Editor: Daniel Gumble firstname.lastname@example.org • +44 (0)203 871 7371 Staff Writer: Fiona Hope McDowall email@example.com • +44 (0)798 3168221
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he summer has always been one of the most hectic periods for the pro audio market, but in recent years it seems to be getting busier and busier. In addition to the high profile mainstays of Glastonbury, Reading/ Leeds, Isle Of Wight etc, every summer now seems to spawn an array of brand new events spanning every conceivable shape and size. Once the domain of the great outdoors, summer festivals are no longer exclusive to big fields and trench-like campsites in the countryside. Now, citybased festivals are booming like never before, with new and evermore impressive events popping up all over the place. A few weeks back, I was on a train heading into London for one of this year’s British Summer Time shows (Stevie Wonder, to be precise) surrounded by hundreds of teens covered head to toe in glitter, body paint and very little else. It seemed unlikely that they were en route to catch Lionel Richie’s opening set for Stevie, as proved to be the case when they all departed at Finsbury Park to make their way to what I quickly discerned was this year’s Wireless Festival. A similar thing happened the following weekend
Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne Non-executive chairman Richard Huntingford Chief financial officer Penny Ladkin-Brand Tel +44 (0)1225 442 244
when, on my way to Hyde Park once again (this time for The National and Florence and the Machine), when it transpired that the neon slathered crowd aboard my train were heading to another festival taking place somewhere else across the capital. I then took a look at the London festival summer schedule and was amazed to find so many different events taking place simultaneously over virtually every weekend of the summer. And it’s not just London and big city festivals that are on the rise. More and more boutique and lowmid sized music events continue to appear across the continent, offering music fans of all genres the chance to attend a festival catered to slightly less mainstream tastes. All of which points to an extremely bright future for the pro audio industry. As the already insatiable demand for live music continues to rise, so too do the opportunities for live sound companies to capitalise on this burgeoning corner of the business. Of course, city and boutique festivals are hardly a new phenomenon, but what once seemed like a movement that may have limited appeal is demonstrating clearly that it is here to stay. n
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In this issue...
P7 NEXT GENERATION WE SHINE A SPOTLIGHT ON SOME OF PRO AUDIO’S RISING STARS
P16 Grassroots venues A close look at some of the key small-mid sized venues across the country and the issues they face P21 Production safety David Davies discusses the subject of safety in putting on large scale events P23 Europe’s finest concert halls Take a tour of some of the continent’s top concert venues P30 All Points East We catch up with Capital Sound’s Martin Connolly to talk sound at the London festival’s sophomore outing P32 Extreme gigs Kevin Hilton dives into the world of extremely ambitious concerts
P26 IMMERSIVE AUDIO
P34 Field Day Behind the scenes at the London festival
HOW LIVE EVENTS ARE BEING SHAPED BY IMMERSIVE SOUND
P36 Jay Chou Inside one of the biggest production’s the London O2 has ever seen
P40 FUNKTION-ONE AT GLASTO THE UK PIONEER CONTINUES TO INNOVATE AT GLASTONBURY
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The summer music season is in full swing, with immersive sound making its way into the live music and festival sector ever increasingly and live audio professionals working tirelessly behind the scenes to make the magic happen. But who are they? We spoke to the next generation of audio professionals at the forefront of live sound about how they got to where they are now and what they’ve learned from this non-stop, bustling industry to date…
Now that the festival season is well and truly upon us, it is PSNLive's custom to turn our attention to those behind the scenes, making their first steps on the pro audio industry ladder. What we can see from this year’s diverse bunch of audio professionals is that the number of women in audio is growing, which is a positive sign for the industry. In the 2018 USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study, only two and three per cent of producers and engineers/mixers respectively in popular music were female-identifying. However, we’re hoping that the next report will have different, more balanced results as more and more women are pursuing audio as a career. If you’re looking for audio engineers for work this summer, or in the future, organisations such as SoundGirls with its newly curated EQL directory – (https://makeiteql.com/) and Women In Live
Music (womeninlivemusic.eu) are great resources where you can find an abundance of female audio professionals, varying in experience and abilities. The Association of Sound Designers (http://www. associationofsounddesigners.com/) is also another platform that showcases sound designers of all levels. Also apparent is the speed at which audio technology, and it's potential in live performance, is increasing, with the endless capabilities of immersive sound and experimental, innovative techniques of live audio professionals to produce dynamic effects never ceasing to impress. Here, we’re highlighting the efforts of seven industry pros that are building the next generation and have shared a fresh perspective with us, including their insight and experiences of the industry and hopes for the future.
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LAURA DAVIS FOH ENGINEER Age: 28 Job Title: Audio engineer (FOH, monitors, systems, rigging and RF) Employer: Self-employed Current projects: Lonnalee, Fever ray
How did you get into this industry? I went to work for Adlib Audio straight from school at 16. I had previously worked at Adlib during the summer holidays and got offered a job soon after. I worked there for five years gaining hands-on experience in the industry through touring and preparing gear for other tours. I originally wanted to be a lawyer… that’s a whole other story, and I’m glad that didn’t work out. Can you name some of your influences within the industry? My first influence in the industry was Andy Dockerty [managing director] from Adlib who kindly gave me a job at 16. Andy gave me the guidance that I needed and was always there (and still is) to offer advice and support. Secondly, I would say Marc Peers (monitor engineer) for believing in me and pushing me to work hard. I was lucky to start work in this industry surrounded by great people. And the best tips you’ve been given? ’Smile and nod’ – a TM told me that and it's come in handy on many occasions. Another great bit of advice I was given when I started touring was to make sure I make the most out of travelling around the world, as too many people waste their opportunity to see the world. What’s your favourite thing about the industry you work in? The people. I got into this industry because of my passion for music and audio but without good people this industry would not be the same. Musically, this job is amazing. I
have been lucky enough to work with artists who I choose to listen to in my free time. What are the biggest challenges of the job? I'd say the biggest challenge of the industry is to be able to deal with people. When you are with people 24/7 for months on end, you sometimes have to learn to be patient and understanding. Being able to deal with situations and communicate with people is very important. What other interests do you have outside of the world of audio? I like to travel, I enjoy hiking and photography. I also do extra work (acting) as a part time hobby. What advice would you give to someone else – your best tip or trick? Aim high, anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Hard work and determination will get you far. Never be too proud or afraid to ask for help or advice. Touring can be hard; always make sure you look after your mental health as much as your physical health. Eat healthily when you can, sleep when you can and most of all, enjoy what you are doing. Where would you like to be in 10 years? As long as I continue to do what I’m doing now I will be more than happy. As long as I’m happy and working with good people that is all that matters. Worst advice you've heard? Not to do something because I'm a woman.
HANNAH BRODRICK MONITORS ENGINEER Age: 29 Job Title: Live sound engineer (monitors / RF / FOH) Employer: Freelance Current Projects: L Devine, Winterfylleth, pg.lost, Il Divo Noteable Achievements: Co-founder of womeninlivemusic.eu
How did you get into this industry? I studied Music Technology and Sound Design at university and then after a couple of years of working various unpaid internships for music PR firms, speaker manufacturers, etc., I managed to get some work experience at a theatre, which eventually led to freelancing for local venues and small production companies around the South East. Because it took me a long time to get there, once my foot was in the door I took every opportunity that came along, and I think I’ve pretty much tried it all – West End, musical theatre, weddings, crew work, tour managing, even driving a band of medieval musicians around cathedrals selling merch. These days, I mostly work as a touring FOH and monitor engineer for artists and also do a fair amount of corporate work in Central London.
with a bit of empathy. And the best tips you’ve been given? Label everything and keep it simple. Dramatic EQ and multiple plugins may look impressive but it leads to phase distortion and degradation of the signal. Less is definitely more. What’s your favourite thing about the industry you work in? Travelling and getting to meet new people every day. I love being around musicians and creatives. Nobody just falls into the music industry, it’s an environment built on passion, so you hardly ever meet anyone boring.
Can you name some of your influences within the industry? My two teachers at Britannia Row, the late Barry Bartlett and Marcel Van Limbeek have probably influenced me the most out of anyone. Also Karrie Keyes, founder of the organisation Soundgirls, who made me believe it was possible for women to reach the top as audio engineers.
What are the biggest challenges of the job? Work-life balance is a tough one. Trying to keep yourself awake, hydrated and sane during the busy months, and then to stop yourself from spiralling into despair during quieter times. It can be quite an extreme environment, particularly touring, which is confusing for both the mind and body. I’ve not quite managed to figure out a way to combat post-tour blues yet.
What’s the worst advice you’ve heard? I’ve heard a lot of engineers say that when an artist is being difficult and rude they will do things such as mute the PA, or get creative and do stuff like send the vocalist a pitch shifted/delayed vocal feed return to their wedge. I think sabotaging your own work to make a point is highly unprofessional, but more than that, it’s not fair on anyone else you are working with. Most problems can be solved
What other interests do you have outside of the world of audio? I love being around nature, particularly water. I do a lot of travelling and can often be found scuba diving, surfing, sailing, bird watching, etc. if there’s sea nearby. I’m also still playing Pokemon Go, which definitely doesn’t sound as cool, but I like having something consistent in my life, even if it’s just a game on my phone.
MONTH AMANDA RAYMOND 2019 PRODUCTION xxxxxx MANAGER n wwwww Age:
Job Title: Production manager/head of audio Employer: Feinstein's/54 Below Current Projects: Production manager and audio engineer for Jarrod Spector and Kelli Barrett. Noteable Achievements: MFA from Columbia University Awards / nominations: Two-time Manhattan Association of Cabaret Awards Nominee
How did you get into this industry? I started doing production work when I was in the eighth grade. When I went to college, I began as a Music Education major. I found myself spending more time working in the theatre than I did on practicing my instruments (woodwinds) and switched my major to Theatre/Speech Communications after my second year. I did a lot of stage managing in college and went on to get an MFA in Stage Management from Columbia University. That's where I also started production managing and I found myself more drawn to that side of things. Not long after, I started to work on Broadway Cabarets, and drifted towards the world of audio engineering. It's a good combination for me as it brings me back to the music world but keeps me immersed in the theatre world that I've spent so much time in. Can you name some of your influences within the industry? Karrie Keyes is a big inspiration. She is such a pioneer for women in audio. Not only does she have an impressive career, but she has also been so generous in helping along and lifting up other women who aspire to be sound engineers in creating Soundgirls (Soundgirls.org). Another of my influences is Kris Umezawa. He’s taught me so much and I’m eternally grateful. What’s the worst advice you’ve heard? When I started to production manage while I was still
working on my MFA in Stage Management, someone told me that I needed to pick one or the other or people wouldn't take me seriously. The truth is that all of the different (but adjacent) paths that I have taken have given me a really holistic perspective on what it takes to put on a show of any type. When you're a production manager, it's invaluable to know the ins and outs of what every department needs to be getting done to have a successful show. And it's pretty common for the audio engineer to also be the tour manager, or production manager, and frequently in my case, all three. And the best tips you’ve been given? It's a bit cliché, but ask questions about things you aren't sure of. Most professionals are (and should be, in my opinion) happy to share their knowledge. And even if you think you know everything, there’s always something new to learn. What’s your favourite thing about the industry you work in? Collaboration. Building a team of people that complement each other’s skills, that you can trust to hold up their end of the process, and that you also enjoy being around. What are the biggest challenges of the job? One of the biggest challenges that I face almost daily is the unexpectedness of being a female sound engineer. There truly aren’t very many women in audio and people
will frequently assume that any other male in the room is the “sound guy”. I get asked a lot if I’m an intern, which as a person in their thirties usually makes me chuckle a bit. I’m fortunate to work with some really supportive men, who are quick to point out that “actually, SHE’S the sound guy”. We try to make light of it, but it can get really frustrating when it happens over and over again. The members of the aforementioned SoundGirls are a great source of support when dealing with these particular gender-related challenges. What interests do you have outside of audio? I‘m really into gaming, both video games and tabletop. My friends and I have a bi-monthly Dungeons and Dragons game event that is a lot of fun and a great way to escape from the inherent stresses that come from working in live entertainment. What advice would give to someone else – your best tip or trick? Take care of yourself. Physically, yes, but also mentally. Burnout is very, very real and it’s easy in this industry to keep saying 'yes' to gigs and projects and be eternally busy. But days off for yourself are important. Don’t forget to take time to do the other things you love as well. And that also goes for finding little moments to breathe during those longer days. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, it’s totally okay to just take a couple minutes for yourself to get re-centered.
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JAC COOPER COMPOSER Age: 24 Based: London Job Title: Composer and sound designer Employed: Self-employed Current Projects: No Place Like Home – Otherland, Camden People’s Theatre.
How did you get into this industry? I trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Though I’d always been a musician, I'd never considered composing professionally until I started writing music for the plays I was acting in. It was so satisfying that I left my training with a completely different aim to the one I came in with: to write music for plays. Can you name some of your influences? Jon Nicholls is a prolific composer/sound designer whose work I find particularly inspiring for its breadth of emotion and style. He’s a master of sonic texture, something which can be more useful than musical dexterity in the setting of live theatre. What’s the worst advice you’ve heard? Follow your passion. I agree with the core principle, but I think it can lead people to have unrealistic expectations. If you want to have a career, you have to think hard about how to package up your passion and sell it as a service that people will actually want. And the best tips you’ve been given? I’m tempted to wax philosophical, but honestly: if you work a lot on your computer, get a Solid State Drive. So many people throw out their computers or upgrade the RAM when it starts getting slow. 90 per cent of the time it’s the hard drive, so invest 40 pounds and get an SSD. What’s your favourite thing about the industry? Being part of a creative team where everyone has
different expertise. I’m currently developing a piece with a choreographer and a spoken-word poet, and it’s so inspiring to collaborate with people who constantly baffle you with their talents. What are the biggest challenges of the job? The short-term nature of contract work means you’re constantly managing your own time, and both your workload and income are hugely variable. What other interests do you have outside of the world of audio? I’m completely addicted to podcasts, although I guess that’s still audio…. Okay, I also read, walk and meditate. My guilty pleasure is video gaming – I’m currently hooked on Stardew Valley. What advice would give to someone else – your best tip or trick? If you’re just starting, find a flexible side-job that pays well, such as private tutoring. It takes a while to get good consistent work, so you need to keep body and soul together or you’ll burn out. I know so many people who are miserable because whenever they’re not working on a project they’re stuck doing low-paid unsatisfying work. I teach guitar privately – it’s rewarding, flexible and pays well. Where would you like to be in 10 years? I’d love to branch out into recorded mediums such as films and gaming. I find the world of game audio fascinating and it’s a fast-growing industry.
BETH DUKE SOUND DESIGNER Age: 21 Job Title: Sound designer/ composer Based: London Employer: Freelance Current Projects: Assistant sound design, War of the Worlds at The Old Metal Exchange, Associate sound design, Superstar at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Associate sound design, Goodbear at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Sound/tech management, Sancho: An Act of Remembrance at Orange Tree Theatre, Sound design, 511 and Queen Margaret at Mountview, Sound design, Dust at New York Theatre Workshop, Casual at the National Theatre.
How did you get into this industry? I studied Theatre Sound at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and began meeting and talking to lecturers and contacting sound designers whose sound design I liked when I went to see shows. My first job was for a small fringe new musical sound designing The State of Things for the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, a pub theatre in South London. From then on, I got work from word and mouth, being recommended to people and ‘knowing people’. That's largely how this industry works! That is why it is always important to make a lasting impression, or at least a good one... I got my first job at the National Theatre via a post in the Association for Sound Designers page and now I work there all the time! Can you name some of your influences within the industry? Females such as Helen Skiera and Melanie Wilson are some of my favourites, not just because they are women, but their well thought out, delicate sound designs are
so inspiring and mood-felt. Women are so rare in this industry, and so it’s important to support them and go see their work as the future is happening and we're finally being recognised as much as men are. Further, I love the work of the Ringham brothers and Ian Dickinson – they're all such lovely people. Then again, I love most people's sound designs – Gareth Fry, Pete Malin, Max Pappenheim, Peter Rice, Tom Gibbons...I could list them all. What’s the worst advice you’ve heard? "Take all of the work you get offered." If you do that, you end up not giving everything your 101 per cent, it makes you stressed and tired. You are more important than everything. Take a lot of work you get offered...if it works with your schedule and with you. And the best tips you’ve been given? Give yourself breaks if you need it. Family and your health are more important than everything else. People are understanding as long as you don't let them down. What’s your favourite thing about the industry you work in? I love meeting and working with a wide variety of people: the rich and famous, creatives, people from different social backgrounds, people from different ethnic backgrounds etc, etc. This community is so collaborative and vast, and I am so happy to work in an environment that can show off the talents of everyone regardless of who they are. The sound design industry is such a supportive community,
everyone is there to help you out and teach you what you want and need to know. There is nobody that I know of that doesn't like giving knowledge if you need anything. I know a variety of high-end sound designers that I could call with a question and they'd help me then and there. What are the biggest challenges of the job? Time management. I like pleasing everyone and hate saying no to jobs. Sometimes I end up working Monday to Sunday with no break, do that for a few weeks, and then begin to burn out. One day I'll learn a balance...I hope. What interests do you have outside of audio? I play musical instruments such as the piano, and they keep me sane at most times. I love creating music and turning my brain off to the world. I also enjoy running and exercising, but this can be difficult to do when it gets into tech weeks. Looking after yourself in general is hard to do with those 13 hour days. What advice would give to someone else – your best tip or trick? Listen to everything and go to shows. Always ask questions – nothing is ever stupid – and keep learning. Where would you like to be in 10 years? I hope to be sound designing bigger shows in London... we'll see how that pans out. I’d like to be a known face and name and hopefully teaching people in the future, helping just as much as others have helped me.
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MAGGY SANTIAGO TOUR MANAGER Age: 29 Job Title: Sound engineer, manager, and event producer Employer: Killsound Productions Current Projects: Nexus (European tour 2019) Killsound metal fest 2019, Poland.
How did you get into this industry? Since I was a little kid, I always had a special love for music and I like all the elements of show business. My first approach to the industry was helping some friends as they had a small concert company. I started there and discovered that my passion was backstage. Can you name some of your influences within the industry? Some of my influences are Max Martin, Sylvia Massy, Gordon Raphael, Roger Waters, Andrea Bocelli and many more. What’s the worst advice you’ve heard? “You can’t do it because you are a woman.” This is the worst advice I have ever heard, but it also made me stronger and able to fight the obstacles of this industry, and in my life. And the best tips you’ve been given? “Try to have order in everything you do.” This advice was given to me by a sound engineer because when I was studying audio and working at the same time, I made a big mess on stage with the mic lines. He told me that big tip and ordered me to fix the mess. It’s a funny story... What’s your favourite thing about the industry you work in? Everything: logistics, production, sound. Learning everyday, and working with a variety of people, especially when they are your favourite artists, is absolutely amazing.
What are the biggest challenges of the job? The biggest challenge I’ve had is finding opportunities in this industry, as sometimes it is very exclusive and closed off to the outside. Even now, with the progress I’ve experienced, discrimination against women still exists and for that reason it’s more difficult for me. The important thing is to stay on the road and not give up. What other interests do you have outside of the world of audio? Other interests I have are event production, concerts, management and booking, cinematography, photography and design. I love the arts in general. What advice would give to someone else – your best tip or trick? “Always be humble, even if you are famous.” This advice will help you not just in the industry, but in your life and future more than anything. You should never lose the floor beneath you. Where would you like to be in 10 years? Working with my favourite artists or bands on tour in Europe or the UK. I think this part of the world has the best sound and production. I want to work in this industry all of my life.
DAVE NOTT TECHNICAL MANAGER Age: 34 Based: Stevenage, Hertfordshire Job title: Technical manager and head of sound Employer: Gordon Craig Theatre Current projects: Planning, speccing, and studying the feasibility of creating a new 1,100 seat venue space. Production managing, associate sound designing and production engineering various pantomimes. Production engineer for a performing arts school at the O2 Indigo. Notable achievements: Building a venue from scratch in a disused factory. Awards/nominations: Our team was nominated for Best Receiving House Crew in the Technical Theatre Awards, and won Best Pantomime under 750 Seats at Great British Pantomime Awards.
How did you get into this industry? I was 14 when I joined a local amateur group and had a big interest in stage crew and lighting. I soon started lighting designing and operating their shows. After a few years I was offered a freelance job in outdoor events, installing temporary telephones, LED Screens, generators, fire extinguishers, two-way radios, and 100v line PAs on various showgrounds and events around the UK: Southampton Boat Show, Windsor Horse Show, and The Game Fair to name a few. I then asked the tech manager of the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage, at the time, Nigel Howlett, for a casual job on its pantomime. And that’s where my professional career in theatre started, being told I was follow-spotting a 10-week panto was a bit daunting for my first role (one of the longest running pantos in the UK) but I was called back a few days later, and offered a stage crew role, which I was far more comfortable with. Within two years, I had been promoted to deputy chief technician and head of sound, operating all of the in-house musicals and the panto. Despite still being at the same venue 17 years later and progressing through to tech manager, I have kept my toes in the water by still mixing the in-house summer musical, and kept up with the rest of the industry through events and freelance work. I’ve been associate sound designing and production engineering for a few performing arts schools, including building a new venue from scratch inside a disused factory, and operating many pantomimes across South England. I’ve also recently started working as a freelance health and safety trainer and consultant in the theatre industry. Can you name some of your influences within the industry?
My main influences are the people who have given me the opportunity to grow in the industry, putting trust in me from day one. Bob Bustance, Nigel Howlett, Luke Hyde and Ron Keech. Without them, I either wouldn’t be where I am today and met the contacts I now have in the pro audio and theatre world, or wouldn’t have started in the industry at all. And the best tips you’ve been given? To ignore the missed line or mistake and focus on the show. Don’t let that one clipped line affect the rest of the scene, then apologise afterwards. What’s your favourite thing about the industry you work in? The people. This industry thrives on the personalities and characters, good and bad. Without the passion that everyone gives, this industry wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is right now. What are the biggest challenges of the job? One of the biggest challenges I face is people management, and keeping everyone motivated and working at the top of their game. Everyone works, learns and performs in unique ways, and it’s a hard task keeping everyone happy and motivated when there is such a diverse team. It’s a skill to manage everyone in their own unique way and recognising how to get the best from people as individuals. Another one is keeping the audience happy. What sounds great to one person may sound awful to another. It’s sometimes hard to find a balance where the complaints don’t get you down, and you can still focus on the show in hand and give the people that appreciate it the best show night after night. n
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PROTECTING THE GRASSROOTS Rising business rates and property rents have led to a series of small and medium size venue closures in London and elsewhere. But as David Davies discovers, there are plenty of people determined to ensure that the UK doesnâ€™t turn into a live music wasteland...
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Black Honey (far left) and Frank Turner (left) at the Tunbridge Wells Forum
he news in May that London venue The Borderline was to close came as an unwelcome, but in truth not entirely surprising, blow. The narrative of a venue being priced out of existence by soaring business rates and operational costs has become all-too-familiar in recent years, with the capital city – and many other UK towns and cities – losing multiple small and medium size grassroots facilities. There is no denying the symbolic edge to The Borderline’s demise, though. For both its longevity and hosting of genres across the spectrum, it came to epitomise London’s musical diversity and gave many regular gig-goers some of their most indelible cultural experiences. (For the present writer, a 2013 concert at the venue by genius arranger and The Beach Boys’ Smile lyricist, Van Dyke Parks, will live in the memory forever.) But in a wider context, its closure is part of a longestablished trend. A report released in 2015 by the Mayor of London’s Music Venues Taskforce – which was established to help secure the future of live music facilities as part of the night time economy – discovered that 35 per cent of London’s live music venues had closed since 2007. In 2017, the same organisation claimed that the number of ‘grassroots’ venues in London was now stable for the first time in 10 years. However, any minor optimism here has tended to be overshadowed by recurrent media coverage of rising business rates and operational costs that are pricing not just gig venues, but many other arts-related organisations, out of the market. And with strident
property developers feeling further emboldened by the frequently-voiced call by Government to build new flats and houses, the trend of more space being converted to residential usage shows little sign of abating. The temporary closure of Fabric in 2016 led The Independent to suggest that London is “on its way to becoming Europe’s most boring capital city”, noting the recent closure of LGBTQ+ venues, as well as live music facilities. The developments of the intervening three years are unlikely to have shaken that supposition – but what has emerged as a powerful voice during that time is the Music Venue Trust (MVT), a UK charity which aims to protect, secure and improve grassroots music venues. Working in conjunction with the Music Venues Alliance – which is an informal association of grassroots venues, organisations and individuals who support the aims of the MVT – the Trust has made significant strides in both raising awareness of smaller venues’ plights, and ensuring that we don’t lose too many more of them. Ring-fenced funding When PSNLive speaks to MVT strategic director Beverley Whitrick, one of the first topics of conversation that comes up is a landmark recent move by Arts Council England that has resulted in the creation of the Supporting Grassroots Live Music funding strand – the first-ever ring-fenced fund of its kind and part of the Arts Council’s National Lottery Project Grants for Grassroots music venues and promoters. “Previously, the position was that people could apply to the general fund, but the success rate tended to be
very poor as they were often not sure what was required and the forms could be very daunting,” says Whitrick. “Another challenge was that the lead-in time for [grassroots venues] can be much shorter than with other cultural venues. So sometimes people put in for projects with artists who were unconfirmed, and because of that [their application did not progress successfully].” MVT and Arts Council England will work together to help venues apply for and access the initial fund of £1.5 million. At the time of the interview nearly 80 venues had already registered on the funding portal, and “now we are in the process of supporting those who want to submit applications”, says Whitrick. At the same May 2019 event that marked the arrival of the new fund, the MVT also announced the first steps in encouraging reinvestment by the live music industry in grassroots venues on the basis that they have historically provided the “research and development department of the industry”. Actions agreed to date include the use of apprenticeship levy funds to support apprentices in grassroots venues, as well as direct donations from major companies to support the MVT’s Emergency Response service, which has been developed to help venues resolve noise complaints, licensing and planning issues. There is increasing acceptance that “the argument we put forward – that the more successful bits of the industry should be investing in the R&D department – is a good one,” although not surprisingly “some people are less keen on the bit of money going back to the grassroots coming from their particular bit of the industry.”
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But there have been enough positive noises to mean that Whitrick is upbeat about this becoming a long-term trend. MVT would also like to “persuade the record companies and streaming companies that they also benefit from [smaller venues], and that they need to contribute. It is ridiculous when you think that so many venues are closing because [they lack resources such as] £2K to fight a noise abatement order.” Taking it to the streets The MVT’s UK-wide remit means that, ultimately, Whitrick hopes to see the same measures applied in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Inevitably, “we are at different stages in each country...and in Northern Ireland it’s been difficult to do much as they have had no sitting government [since the power-sharing agreement collapsed in early 2017].” Speak to virtually any grassroots venue and they will confirm that rising business rates constitute one of their greatest worries. Alas, a recent request to the Treasury to see if a business rate discount for pubs, bars and restaurants might logically be applied to grassroots venues was answered in the negative. “This would have been a very easy opportunity to apply a slight reduction to rates, but they said ‘no’ as grassroots music venues do not have their own category in law – and it seems there is no will to create one,” explains Whitrick. It can only be perceived as frustrating that such a simple move that would have made such an important difference across
PART OF THE PROBLEM IS GRASSROOTS VENUES ARE OFTEN STILL TREATED AS COMMERCIAL CONCERNS RATHER THAN CULTURAL ASSETS BEVERLEY WHITRICK
the board has been rebuffed. But then, perhaps that it is partly down to a collective failure by the those in power to understand how much the cultural industries contribute to the wellbeing and prosperity of the UK. And when it comes to music, the whole story starts with the grassroots venues. Part of the problem, concludes Whitrick, is that “grassroots venues are often still treated as commercial concerns rather than cultural assets”. They will continue to be important battlegrounds in the future,
not least because they reside at a critical juncture in the “discussion about living in towns and cities, and how to make the move to the nighttime economy being valued more. [Some people have issues with venues] because they want to have somewhere quieter to live, but at the same time they expect to live in a vibrant cultural environment as well.” A model for the future? Established more than 20 years ago, the Tunbridge Wells Forum is well-placed to observe the changing environment for grassroots venues in more ways than one. For a start, its co-founder, Mark Davyd, is CEO of MVT, whilst fellow founder and venue manager Jason Dormon is a trustee. He echoes the disparity over business rates mentioned by Whitrick, noting that “rates are indeed an issue facing town centres, and on top of that the licensing of pubs and bars is subject to the fair maintainable trade model of rates evaluation.” But it’s hardly the only challenge; as Dormon observes, “each venue will have its own set of pressures and hurdles ranging from inflated costs of operating to new builds [being constructed] next to their venues due to the gentrification of town centres.” The summer months can also be more problematic these days with more and more acts drawn away from the circuit and onto the festival treadmill. “The everexpanding festival season is a challenge with bands touring less as a result,” he says. “So we find that a different approach to programming [is required] through the summer months.” Hence, the Forum’s 250 annual events include under18s nights and a “sprinkling of weddings”. Community events with local charities are also on the schedule for a venue that may provide a template for future developments. It’s run as a community interest company with all profits invested back into the local community. Dormon adds: “We have a couple of part-time staff members who work more than part-time, and a wonderful group of volunteers. We all work hard to keep the programme as varied and vibrant as we can.” As part of this process the Forum actively pursues sympathetic collaborations that can enhance its remit. It is also currently in the process of expanding Music Station, “a wonderful music school that works in the Forum, and we have been working closely with RIBA [Royal Institute of British Architects] to get young architects’ ideas for expansion and increased usage of the building. We also plan to make the most of the Arts Council England funding stream and are looking to obtain a state of the art, eco-friendly lighting system.” Dormon does not underestimate the impact of local factors on venues’ viability, but he is convinced that there is a long-term role for organisations like the MVT. “We figured that rather than campaigning and negotiating at a local level it would make more sense to do this on a
national level. With everyone working together as one, all venues have a louder voice,” he says. Like Whitrick, Dormon believes that a paradigm shift needs to take place in which grassroots venues are viewed in a wider cultural context. “They are essential cultural incubators and should be treated the same as theatres, arts centres and opera houses,” he says. The fact that they are still not perceived this way in some quarters is baffling, not least because the contribution of the creative industries to the UK continues to grow. Indeed, it passed the £100 billion mark in 2018, according to figures published by the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport. Small and medium size venues are quite literally the grassroots of this success, and it’s a testament to the persistence of owners and operators that so many venues do still prosper despite the many challenges they face. n
GRASSROOTS VENUES: FIVE OF THE BEST The Old Cinema Launderette, Durham: The very definition of a versatile small venue, The Old Cinema Launderette is a coffee house and retro launderette in the daytime, and a bar and gig venue at night. Ashburton Arts Centre, Devon: Part of a growing trend for community-owned venues, this converted Methodist chapel is run by volunteers. A notably eclectic programme includes jazz, folk, dance and orchestral music. The Deaf Institute, Manchester: A muchloved Manchester institution that regularly hosts some of the most exciting new acts, as well as returning heroes such as …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Craig Finn and Robyn Hitchcock. The Greystones, Sheffield: With a huge student population it’s unsurprising that Sheffield continues to support a vibrant small venue scene, but The Greystones is undoubtedly one of the very best. Situated in a pub, The Greystones is particularly strong on roots and acoustic music. Stereo, Glasgow: Great vegan food and an appealingly grungy atmosphere are among the hallmarks of this venue. More broadly, Glasgow is now extremely well-served for small venues, with King Tut’s, Broadcast, Mono, the Hug and Pint and Nice ’N’ Sleazy among the other ‘must visits’.
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Safe and sound? Several recent fatalities during the setting-up of live music events have prompted fresh scrutiny of production safety. PSNEurope's David Davies hears about the latest initiatives in the UK from the Production Services Association and the Health and Safety Executive to address some of these issues…
uge arena and outdoor shows are invariably complex affairs with a long list of technological, practical and logistical challenges to be addressed. Safety of crew and performers during set-up and the event itself should invariably be the top priority, but several major incidents have conspired to push the issue of event safety into the spotlight once again. The incident that occurred before Radiohead’s concert at Toronto’s Downview Park in 2012 was undoubtedly one of the most serious in recent memory. Not only was drum technician Scott Johnson killed when the roof of the temporary stage collapsed, three other members of the band’s road crew were injured. After a court case against promoter Live Nation Canada and two other organisations and an engineer was dropped because too much time had elapsed, the focus shifted to an inquest that finally concluded in March 2019. Returning a verdict of accidental death for Johnson, the inquest heard that the roof grid was not strong enough to bear the load of lights, screens and speakers. Looking to the future, the five-person jury made 28 non-binding recommendations intended to improve event safety, including the creation of a group to develop and maintain standards and procedures for the live performance industry. Asked if there are lessons here for the UK production industry, Production Services Association (PSA) general manager Andy Lenthall confirms that “there are already structures in place that reflect those recommendations. There is a legal obligation on people to ensure that workplaces and structures are safe. Therefore, for example, there is specific documentation on the use of temporary structures.” As a trade association for companies and individuals involved in the live event production industry, the PSA has long been at the forefront of encouraging adoption of safety-enhancing initiatives. These include Safety Passports, which provide a nationally recognised standard of health and safety training assessment, and have been developed to test knowledge and cater to
specific industry sectors. In recent times, the PSA has teamed up with the Safety Pass Alliance to develop a one-day course for the technical event production sector. "The course is designed to give a feeling for the principals behind safe working as well as an awareness of common hazards, with plenty of sector-specific information included,” says Lenthall. The organisation also continues to highlight emerging risks, including a recent report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which has shown that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer. And, in parallel with its rising profile in society at large, there is an increasing awareness of mental health issues in the live production industry. In particular, the impact of very long hours and touring schedules on physical and mental wellbeing has been the subject of extensive research in recent years. Findings have included the fact that “we [the technical entertainment industry] are several times more dangerous than the construction industry in terms of lost-time accidents. […] Fatigue and time pressures are underrated risks in our sector,” asserts Lenthall.
A regulatory eye Mental health is also increasingly on the radar of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is the UK government agency for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare. “It’s been a key topic at recent meetings of JACE, which is the HSE-chaired Joint Advisory Committee for Entertainment that meets formally twice per year, and I expect this to be the case for the foreseeable future,” comments the HSE’s Gavin Bull. Other recent developments include a comprehensive updating of the HSE’s good practice guidance for the construction and deconstruction of temporary demountable structures (TSD). Formally published in 2015, the new guide was the result of research instigated because of the “unprecedented demand” for TDS that preceded the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. As an organisation whose primary responsibility is to take “an overarching regulatory eye”, the HSE provides extensive guidance to local authorities – via whom many outdoor live events are licensed. Hence the ongoing popularity of documents like the so-called Purple Guide, which was prepared by the Events Industry Forum in consultation with the HSE and was developed to help event organisers who are duty-holders to manage health and safety at large events. “In essence, if you follow that guide then you should be on the correct side of the law. It identifies which of the regulations apply [in any given scenario] and then outlines the details of compliance and what that should look like,” says Bull. With the number of live events remaining high, and the intensity of touring schedules continuing to grow, the issue of production safety is likely to remain prominent in the public consciousness. Fortunately, the impression is that due to extensive research and documentation, as well as effective collaboration between various industry stakeholders, the UK is already in a very strong position in this department. n
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CONCERT HALL ACOUSTICS:
CAUSE & EFFECT With the exciting prospect of two new concert halls for London, David Davies takes a look at the acoustical science behind Hamburg’s hugely acclaimed Elbphilharmonie and compiles a selection of the current best-sounding venues in the world…
Concert Hall. Concept Design - Centre for Music. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
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Photo Credit: © Maxim Schulz
Photo Credit: © Michael Zapf
hen one of the world’s leading conductors starts offering forthright opinions about concert hall acoustics, people tend to sit up and pay attention. So it has been with Sir Simon Rattle – until recently, the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and now music director of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) – who has repeatedly made some lessthan-favourable remarks about the situation for classical performance in London. In part these were prompted by what he perceives as the drawbacks of the LSO’s own home base, the Barbican. Although enthusiastic about its cultural contribution, he indicated that a new London venue for classical music was required as the Barbican was unable to accommodate about a fifth of the orchestral repertoire for acoustical and physical reasons (source: The Guardian, January 2017). Well, it appears Rattle’s wish is to be more than granted, with plans now advancing for not one, but two new London venues. The LSO, the Barbican and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama are closely involved in the one facility, the Centre for Music, which is expected to be located on the current Museum of London site close to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Initial designs by lead architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro were released in early 2019, and after securing some initial finance the project has progressed to further design, fundraising and business modelling.
Although primarily geared towards classical music, the venue – whose main hall capacity is expected to be 2,000 – is set to host other forms of music and arts. According to Elizabeth Diller, founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro: “We imagine a concert hall for the 21st century that embraces both a bespoke and a loose fit approach – tailored for exceptional symphonic sound, yet agile enough to accommodate creative work across disciplines and genres.” It’s arguable that no sizeable new venue in a capital city could be developed strictly for one genre. Indeed, the other new venue in prospect for London – a proposed 1,250-seater in Wimbledon – is intended to host musicians and genres from around the world, as well as providing a home for the Wimbledon festival and the Wimbledon Choral Society. One of the star attractions here is that the venue is expected to feature a design by Frank Gehry, an undoubted star of the global architectural community whose countless cultural projects include the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The outlook for these two projects underlines the fact that – even if one type of music is predominant – there needs to be an ability to handle other genres and maybe even speech-oriented events, too. As any acoustician will profess, it can be an unenviable task, but among recent developments the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg in Germany is one venue that seems to have pulled it off with some style.
‘Classical music is our core product’ The general and artistic director of the Elbphilharmonie is Christoph Lieben-Seutter, who joined the project in 2008 – more than nine years before it was ultimately inaugurated in January 2017. The needs of orchestral repertoire were always at the forefront as “it was clear from the very beginning that classical music was going to be our ‘core product’. The percentage we were looking at was about 75-85 per cent acoustic music, with the rest amplified – and that has proven to be the case.” Consequently, a higher reverberation time was always a priority for project architects Herzog & de Meuron, who worked in close cooperation with legendary acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota. Take a look at the largest, Grand Hall space, and you will see that there are numerous features designed to optimise the control of sound energy – not least the ‘white skin’ cladding concept, which involves the walls and ceiling being covered with the requisite thickness and a precisely definable surface structure that is the same throughout the hall. Depending on the position and requirements, sound is reflected directly from the flat points of the panels and scattered back from areas with deep indentations. More than 10,000 of these panels were used, all individually milled from gypsum fibre concrete. Meanwhile, the Elbphilharmonie’s location on the Hamburg dockside called for several specific measures to prevent the intrusion of external noises. For example, the outer wall is made of reinforced concrete and forms
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Concert Hall. Concept Design - Centre for Music. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
CLASSICAL CONCERT HALLS: FIVE OF THE BEST Musikverein, Vienna, Austria: Inaugurated in 1870, the Musikeverein is the home of one of the world’s finest orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic. Despite being designed and built before the application of modern acoustical science, the venue is still regarded as possessing one of the most sympathetic acoustics to classical music. In recent years it has been expanded and renovated with multiple new rehearsal spaces. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands: Reverberation times of 2.8 seconds (without audience) and 2.2 seconds (with audience) mean that the venue is not the best for amplified music, although plenty of bands have played there over the years. But it is ideal for orchestral music performed by the resident Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as well as many visiting ensembles. part of the building as a whole, whilst the inner wall is separate from the outer one and rests on large groups of springs. Equipped with a d&b audiotechnik in-house PA and a central canopy cluster of Kling & Freitag speakers, the venue’s long development was not without controversy. In particular, there were widely voiced concerns over the final cost of the venue. But there has been no argument with the end-result: the Elbphilharmonie now hosts around 70 performances every year by resident orchestra the NDR Elbphilharmonie, as well as many visiting ensembles. Modern developments such as acoustic absorption panels and easily configurable digital signal processors have made it easier for halls to accommodate different event types, but Lieben-Seutter believes it’s always preferable “if you do decide [about your principal application] when you set out to build a world class hall.” One of the primary reasons that the Elbphilharmonie has been a “huge success is that it has a very special architectural design and was clearly built for classical music to be performed at the highest possible level.” ‘Team work is vital’ Aside from determining your primary artistic and commercial requirements, the evidently successful partnership between the Elbphilharmonie protagonists reinforces a point made by Professor Trevor Cox. A past president of the Institute of Acoustics, Cox is now
Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford, and is also a widely-published author and broadcaster on acoustics. Invited to offer some advice to the teams contemplating the new London venues, Cox responds that “team work is vital. If you look at venues which have not [been very successful acoustically] it’s often the case that the architects, consultants and acousticians have not worked together well. This can lead to an architect having a vision that doesn't work acoustically". Depending on the reverberation time being sought, new venues will variously make use of modern absorption techniques to help adjust the space – for instance, a drier acoustic will be sought for non-acoustic music. Modern electro-acoustical systems, such as Meyer Sound’s Constellation, may also have a part to play, although as Cox observes, these can be met with resistance from orchestral players for whom “the prowess of their playing [is a very central preoccupation]. It’s not so much an issue with more contemporary classical music, though". With so many challenges to overcome, it’s hardly surprising that the development of new venues tends to last many years; the Centre for Music, for example, isn’t expected to be ready until the second half of the next decade. But with new-builds on the agenda in many other European nations, it’s evident that there are going to be many new opportunities to further advance the cause of concert hall acoustics. n
Symphony Hall, Boston, US: One of the first venues to be designed in line with scientificallyoriented acoustical principles, Symphony Hall, Boston, still routinely places in lists of the top two or three venues in the world. Home to two exceptional orchestras – the Boston Symphony and the Boston Pops – the venue was partially refurbished in 2006, with new floors built using the same methods and materials as the original to avoid any shift in the sound of the hall. Konzerthaus Berlin, Germany: The oldest venue in the list was originally constructed as a theatre beginning in 1818. But after sustaining extensive damage during World War II, the venue was rebuilt in the late 1970s as a concert hall. Featuring a phenomenal four-manual pipe organ, the hall has become especially well-respected for its hosting of operatic repertoire. Symphony Hall, Birmingham: The most recent venue on the list opened in 1991 and has a capacity of more than 2,000. Part of the cultural transformation of Birmingham that took place in the '90s, the venue continues to be widely praised for its acoustics and its ability to host events running the gamut from solo organ recitals to rock gigs.
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Immersive audio will have to get past the same old barriers to break fully into the live music arena – and there are more of them than before, says PSNLive's Phil Ward...
hether or not he really said it, Henry Ford is usually attributed this famous quote about technological innovation: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Genuine or apocryphal, people in pro audio know what he meant. Innovation is abundant, on a plate: the only problem is in getting people to understand it enough to make a difference. This was certainly the paradigm of digital consoles, and when it comes to immersive audio there is a similar frontier on which some stand, some stand and watch and some, whisper it gently, look the other way... Art attack It can be a hard sell. “For rental companies, audio takes the longest to get a return on investment,” says Steve Jones, application support and education, d&b audiotechnik, “even though eventually it has greater shelf life than video and lighting. Plus, most people think ‘immersive’ means putting speakers everywhere, so production will hate that. In fact, it’s quite often the same quantity of gear, just deployed differently. “For the creatives, sound is overlooked. Even in theatre, where ‘sound designers’ are credited, it’s still quite often bottom of the pile – as demonstrated by the 2015/16 dropping of the Tony Awards for sound design. And if you’re not seen as a creative, you’re not at the table at the beginning of a production – so video and lighting have already bagged their positions and there’s nowhere left for optimum speaker placement. Look at this year’s bad press – the majority was caused by sound being an afterthought. The number one criterion for good sound design is to put the speaker in the right place to
begin with.” Nonetheless, when talent and production do witness immersive sound, Jones adds, the penny drops. “They become a lot more engaged, and it elevates sound to the creative level. Just in rock and roll, that would be a massive leap forward for the audio industry. I’ve just come off the Björk shows in New York, and that worked because she herself was part of the audio discussion from the start. That’s what has to happen.” “In pop and rock there is always a defined video designer and lighting designer – rarely a defined sound designer,” says Scott Sugden, product manager at L-Acoustics, who has supported all of the L-ISA Live shows in the US. “Having a sound designer involved at the beginning of production will change the relative importance of audio in a show. Some engineers are beginning to evolve a design role, possibly working with the artist in the studio as well. It’s the same development curve with any technology: there are the pioneers and, if it has genuine value, eventually everyone becomes interested and carries it forward.” Both Aerosmith and Lady Gaga currently have residencies in Las Vegas that deploy L-Acoustics’ Immersive Hypperreal version of L-ISA, meaning full surround and overheads. “These decisions are made by creatives,” Sugden confirms. “As soon as someone perceives what it can do for their art, the project accelerates much faster.” In-ear equations There may be a quicker route. The new relationship between DiGiCo and KLANG:technologies suggests a new agenda for immersive monitoring across the
console range. If nothing else, this places immersive audio right where the artist lives and breathes and should elevate its concerns above the current status quo. Furthermore, traditional monitoring may have its own immersive roadmap. “If you talk to monitor engineers, you’ll know that wedges haven’t gone away,” says Steve Ellison, director, spatial sound at Meyer Sound. “The complexity of modern live production means that the artist is not standing in front of the same monitor throughout a show, and they have been trying to solve those issues with snapshots and matrixing for years. You hear stories of engineers twiddling the matrix to move the mix around the stage, and actually Spacemap LIVE will lend itself to the control of onstage monitor mixes in the same way. That’s a very interesting application.” At last year’s Moogfest music festival in North Carolina, Suzanne Ciani and an ensemble performed with a multi-channel system in the Armory, mixed by a student from Berklee College of Music using a prototype of Spacemap LIVE, set up to create a quad sub-mix automatically for on-stage monitoring and build an
Bjork live in New York
immersive experience for both musicians and audience. “It’s an interesting creative challenge,” continues Ellison, “because if the artist is working specifically with immersive they need to know what’s happening for the audience. At the same time, if you’re doing 16 channels of immersive you might not be doing 16 channels of monitoring. We’re opening up a whole new ball game, one that should involve the artist a lot more. At Monash University, Professor Paul Grabowsky – a brilliant jazz musician – talks about how the room ‘becomes the instrument’, which is how we’ve always thought of Constellation, our active acoustics system. That’s what happens with this technology, so the challenge is this: how does the ‘instrument’ around the artists mimic the ‘instrument’ around the audience? The sky’s the limit.” For Astro Spatial Audio founder Bjorn Van Munster, immersive audio for classical music could take the creative agenda as far back as the original manuscript. “When concerts and operas were first performed, there was no reinforcement at all, but audiences have come to accept a stereo or LCR system,” he says. “Why accept this? It’s not what was intended, and it destroys what the
composer had in mind. He had no concept of an audio system. Taking that one step further, if you take the opportunity of a full immersive system – as at the Berlin Opera – you can re-visit the opera and investigate how it would sound as an immersive experience.” In other words: if you’re going to reinforce at all, reinforce using immersive techniques. Not only does this re-connect with something approaching the natural sonic settings of pieces conceived centuries ago – or even simply before electronics invaded the inner sanctum of the opera house – it also enhances the experience without the reductive compromises of traditional PA, however subtle. The ability of an immersive system to ‘dissolve’ into the auditorium is symbiotic with its ability to lift a production “to a new level”, according to Van Munster. “You really miss it when it isn’t there,” he confirms. “We do a demo with an Astro remix of Billy Jean by Michael Jackson, and whenever I hear the original stereo version now it sounds empty. I believe it’s not a case of ‘if’ immersive audio will happen, it’s a case of ‘when.'”
The Knopfler effect SSE Audio is currently supplying an L-ISA Live system for Mark Knopfler’s Down The Road Wherever world tour, and Pete Hughes is audio crew chief and PA tech. From a tour bus somewhere in Europe, Hughes outlines the rig: “There are five hangs across the front: three of K2 centre-left, centre and centre-right; and two extensions of KARA on each side. The system designer Max Menelec works very closely with L-Acoustics, including R&D. It’s 34m between the extensions, creating a very wide field of sound – and it sounds exactly the same in every seat across the auditorium. There are nine sends to the PA, and only one sub – but less is more.” All the inputs, some grouped, are sent directly from the SD7 to the L-ISA Processor via an Optocore loop in the stage rack using MADI. “It’s a very different way of mixing,” admits Hughes, “but you feel a direct audio and visual connection with every member of the band.” In truth, Knopfler’s sets these days are light, bluesy and folk-influenced, and there are no video screens anywhere. But apart from the artistic conceits of pop and rock, there are business concerns among the
L-R: Guillaume Richards PA Tech, Klaus (Bob) Bolender PA Tech, Max Menelec System Design and Engineer, Pete Hughes Audio Crew Chief PA Tech, Christophe Combet L’Acoustics Director of Sound System Design
professionals that should be heard. “If the right project demands an immersive solution, it has my full support,” says Gareth Collyer, Nexo’s sales manager for the UK and Ireland. “But in the rock and roll world, there are always caveats: cost, of course; and noise pollution – especially outdoors. There isn’t the infrastructure to deploy immersive systems properly, on top of which it’s hard enough to get a conventional system to work in amongst all the video screens and stage sets. "Where is this expansion going to happen? You currently have a limited number of high-end rental companies in a position to adopt this technology. I’m reminded of the line array paradigm: suddenly it was the ‘only’ thing that worked. Well, guess what: point source is still here, and working perfectly for a great many professionals. Small to mid-size rental companies are the future of our industry. That’s where the growth is, unless they’re priced out of the race – and that would lead to far less choice. Bryan Grant, founder and MD of Britannia Row, sounds a similar note of caution. “In principle, I love the idea,” he says. “The separation, the spatial definition… terrific. The problem is making sure the artistes and their production fully understand the implications and
logistics of using a system in this configuration. If it’s going to work, the audio department has to be involved from the get-go – from the earliest discussions about the look of the stage set, where the video screens are going to go, the lighting design and so on. It won't work if the attitude is: great idea - could you turn up for the last three days of production rehearsals and fit it in around the other elements of the production? In that situation, the poor engineer has no time to program; the artist is not particularly involved; the tour accountant is not sure about it; the lighting designer hates it and it's a struggle from that point on. “Although audio has improved enormously over the years, it has all too often been relegated to just being a given and, for so many productions, so much more can be done to enhance the sound of a performance. With immersive technology we can take things another big step further. Will we get that commitment?” “The technology is rapidly advancing but it’s still early days”, adds Dave Kay, a director at Adlib in Liverpool. “Adlib is actively advising venues to look at installing immersive options when upgrading systems or setting up new venues. It is a very exciting technology – and we’ve had the pleasure of working with Hackney EartH to deliver the UK’s first L-ISA accredited venue.
“It’s a very creative technology which requires the artists and show producers to be on board with the concept from the start both to create the content and to maximise the experience – to allow the immersive elements to be given consideration in the whole production build. In its simplest form, I can’t wait to experience a live orchestra placed within a large immersive system, to reinforce the actual placement of the orchestra.” Another market driver could be tracking, a technique well advanced in the portfolios of pioneers such as UKbased spatial audio trailblazer, Out Board. According to Kay, a bit of AI might be needed… “To make it easier in the future,” he suggests, “more integration is required within mixing consoles to place sound sources in the immersive space with geo-location devices such as BlackTrax, which then moves the sound source without engineer interaction – for example, as an actor or guitarist moves from one side of the stage to the other.” So, there are myriad positions from which immersive audio could advance, and perhaps all of them would have to align for push to become shove. In the meantime, though, one thing is clear: the horses are definitely getting faster. n
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London calling This year’s All Points East provided a ten-day run of modern music icons, from indie legends The Strokes and Mumford & Sons to the alternative pop of Christine & the Queens and acoustic-electronic favourite Bon Iver. Here, we find out from the audio supplier Capital Sound and FOH engineers from across the event about the challenges of operating in a tricky city spot and how the sound fared over the course of the programme...
ll Points East arrived in London for its second outing earlier this year, with a 10-day line-up (May 24-June 2) covering a diverse array of musical genres and featuring performances from some of the biggest and best names in the business. Set in the sonically challenging surroundings of Hackney’s Victoria Park, the much anticipated city-based festival saw Capital Sound provide the audio set up for the event’s four stages and the VIP area. The two largest stages – the East and North stages – featured Martin Audio’s MLA system, while the West and South stages were headed up with Outline loudspeakers. On the first of the two consecutive weekends of All Points East, the main stage was headlined by the Chemical Brothers, The Strokes and Christine & the Queens, while for the second weekend, Bring Me The Horizon, Mumford & Sons and Bon Iver took top billing. Despite reported volume issues during The Strokes’ headline set (Capital Sound declined to comment on the subject) the sound during the remainder of the festival received positive reviews. As for the sound system setups, Capital rigged 13 MLA elements plus an MLD downfill on either side of the 20-metre Star Events VerTech (East) stage, with a side hang of eight MLA Compact on stage right only. As stage left was the sensitive sound area, Capital provided two small speakers which ran on a radio link off a localised feed to service the wheelchair accessible area. Underpinning this were 14 MLX subs in a broadside cardioid array, eight Martin Audio DD12, and a total of 28 MLA Compact on the three delay towers, with the rear
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On Point: Christine & the Queens
one boosted by three Martin Audio SX218 subwoofers. At the North Stage, which saw the likes of alt-indie musicians Mac Demarco, RYX, James Blake and Anna Calvi deliver show-stopping performances, the PA hangs comprised 11 MLA elements and a single MLD downfill per side. The LF extension was provided by 11 MLX subs with eight Martin Audio W8LM as front fill. Capital Sound account manager Martin Connolly explained how the company prepared for what can be a challenging audio environment. “We do predictive work in advance in the office that gives us heat map dispersion characteristics of the system for the structure,” he told PSNEurope, “which is done by the predictive software that each manufacturer makes. That gives us an indication of how the systems will perform, and where cabinets need to be directed.” Connolly described the overall sound at the festival as “highly successful”, but he also explained the challenges of Victoria Park and it’s impact on the engineers’ work. “The close residential properties give us a limit of 75 dB on the sides, and we’re running at something like 0.4 dB under that,” he continued. “We come across so many engineers that get frustrated because they can’t achieve the indoor volume – which has no dB limit – that they’re used to. But, at an outdoor show, wherever you are in Europe, there’s a distinct possibility that there’s going to be noise limits. Every engineer that is mixing an outdoor show and thinks that they can mix for 100 dB plus is going to be dissatisfied, because nowadays that is highly unlikely.” The Chemical Brothers’ FOH sound engineer, Shan Hira, was extremely pleased with the MLA deployment
on the main stage: “I am never disappointed to see [MLA] on a festival spec,” Hira said. “I am always looking for an even coverage, clarity in the tops, and punchy, weighty subs – and MLA did a good job all round. The system was set up well and the sub coverage was even due to a well-placed sub array.” Hira’s views were shared by Russ Miller, Johnny Marr’s FOH engineer, who also made note of the festival’s challenging location. “I thought the MLA sounded great – punchy and hi-fi without being harsh. It was well set up and I’m pretty sure I employed zero EQ to my mix. “[Victoria Park] is always going to be a difficult site given the proximity to houses,” he added, “but as modern live engineers, we should be moving towards a point where 94dB is not a problem. Government levels will continue to decrease so we as operators need to be vigilant and mix smarter. MLA goes a long way to making that possible whilst still being exciting for the crowd.” Ian Greenway, production manager of All Points East production company LarMac LIVE, continued along the same lines: “Victoria Park has, as with a lot of outdoor London venues, had challenges of late in terms of audio levels and the quality of phonic experience for audiences. Over several years we’ve successfully deployed Martin MLA (and its siblings) on our outdoor stages with fantastic results, both on and off site. Creating sound pressure levels this year that are 2-3 dBA greater than previous, we’re super happy with the results and were able to
offer a great sounding system to incoming engineers to harness and make the most of.” As for other challenges, whilst festival tents may emulate an indoor venue, they still suffer the same, if not more, restrictions as the outdoor stages. Connolly detailed: “Tents will suffer from awkward reflections from the structures, especially with the curved sloping roofs and sides. If you go into buildings like London O2, they're very good sounding rooms because they've got soft furnishing and it's an acoustically treated building. A tent is a stretched, taut structure, and as soon as you fire any high frequencies they bounce straight off it. That's a matter of steering and getting the predictions right. Attention to design needs to be considered.” All Points East and Capital Sound entered a five-year partnership last year, meaning Victoria Park looks set to be the city festival hub for the foreseeable future, with the event expected to build on its success once again next year. n
Martin Connolly (left) with Tim Patterson, Capital Sound's crew chief
EXTREME GIGS IV: OUTBACK, TOP OF THE WORLD & UNDERWATER Unusual concerts are not all about the highest, deepest or coldest. As Kevin Hilton discovers in his fourth annual extreme gigs report, they can also involve remote locations, while at the same time drawing in appreciative audiencesâ€¦
PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Williams
Red hot: The Big Red Bash
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xtreme activities are no longer confined to rich, well-supported, obsessive or eccentric adventurers. More people than ever now indulge in 'action sports' and risky endeavours, and similarly, the concept of extreme gigs is moving beyond one-off performances in harsh or unusual locations with the aim of getting into the record books. With so many artists appearing in arenas, stadiums and at festivals, there is more pressure on event organisers to come up with something more than the same old venues or a stage in a field next to a camp site. "To attract audiences festivals have to be special and unique in more ways than just the music bookings," observes Jim Marthinussen, manager of the Træna Festival in Norway. This event, also known as Trænafestivalen, takes place on the islands of Husøya and Sanna. Husøya is home to around 400 people and is the administration centre of the Træna municipality, 33 nautical miles off the Norwegian coast in the middle of the Arctic Circle. Neighbouring Sanna is notable for its rocky mountains, minimal population (three in 2018) and the imposing Kirkhelleren cave, which hosts many of the performances. Træna Festival has its roots in a local event for the islanders that ran between 1978 and 1998. It was revived in 2003, since when it has attracted Norwegian and international acts from both the commercial and alternative camps. Marthinussen says the aim is to "bring people into nature and experience music that complements the majestic surroundings". Artists, festival goers, crew and equipment have to journey to Husøya by ferry over the Træna fjord. PA is supplied by rental company Trondheim Lyd, which transports the gear from its base in the city of Trondheim in central Norway in an articulated truck. The main system is an Alcons LR28 rig; various brands are used for the other venues. Cabinets, amps and consoles for the Kirkhelleren shows, along with the technicians, are sent to Sanna on a small freighter; once there everything has to be carried up from the dock to the cave. "All the gear is suitable for outdoor use in the weather we usually have out here," Marthinussen explains. "It changes from day-to-day, but normally the temperature is 13 to 16 Celsius with either sun or light rain. Sometimes there is a bit of wind but because the concert is inside a cave - the audience sits outside looking in - that's not usually a problem even though it is 30 metres from floor to ceiling. All cabinets are on the floor, nothing is hanging. We try not to leave marks on nature." Aggregate generators have to be used for the Kirkhelleren shows because there is no electricity, which Martinuessen concedes is not green. "We look for other ways to do it but for now this is the only way," he says. "I hope we'll have a more environmentally friendly solution in the future. The rest of the festival doesn't use aggregates because Husøya has clean Norwegian electricity." With festivals popping up on every headland in Norway, Martinuessen adds that there is pressure on organisers to offer something different. Visitors get involved by helping bring the PA equipment down from Kirkhelleren to the dock, their only reward being a free boat ride back to Husøya. "In Norway we call it 'dugnad' [voluntary, communal work] and it's part of the festival's spirit," he says. "The islands morph into their own little community with new people coming and living there for three to four days, building and visiting the events." At the other end of the world is another festival that creates its own settlement in a remote setting. The Big Red Bash takes place on the edge of the Simpson Desert in the Australian state of Queensland. The three-day event started as a one-off performance by a single artist to support a charity run. It has grown to take advantage of the sand dune known as the Big Red, just outside the small but historically significant outback town of Birdsville (population 140 according to the 2016 census). This provides the stage backdrop, which is lit up spectacularly at night. "We chose the location for its extreme desert-like landscape and spectacular red sands," comments festival founder Greg Donovan. "The stage
is set below the big red sand dune, which creates a natural amphitheatre. We have close to 10,000 people attending the event each year - the huge camping area sprawls out like an arc across the dry lakebed in the flat between the dunes." This year's event is headlined by Aussie pop-rock legends Midnight Oil, who reportedly said, "When we saw the photos, we just couldn't say no." There is an airport at Birdsville but most people get to the festival on approximately 250km of dirt road. A B-double truck (a tractor unit hauling two trailers) is used to transport the PA equipment, which is supplied by DW Sound, based in the town of Nambour on the Sunshine Coast. The FOH system comprises L-Acoustics K2 and DV-DOSC line array cabinets with KS29 subs plus DV-DOSC boxes for rear fills, outfill and delay. This rig, like those at the Træna Festival, is used in extreme conditions but in the conventional way of providing the sound to a large number of people at the same time. By contrast, the Wet Sounds series of performance events uses sound to deliver a more personalised, almost internalised sensation to its participants. Conceived by Joel Cahen, a sound artist and composer of electronic music based in London, Wet Sounds is what its creator calls an "underwater listening experience". Shows take place in swimming pools and involve lighting and performance, as well as sound. The project began in 2008 after Cahen had the idea one day while taking a swim. "When you're above water the environment tells you what is around you, making you aware of the external space," he explains. "Underwater, there is not that same awareness of the environment but you are more aware of your internal space; your organs and breathing." Other extreme gigs have involved water, the most radical being AquaSonic (PSNLive 2016), but Wet Sounds is something else. "It's a different principle from AquaSonic because with that the performers are in water in special tanks," he says. "With this, the audience is in the water and I'm not in the limelight. It's still extreme because what is happening is non-directional. The focus is on the audience's perception of the music, which happens through bone conduction and sounds like the music is inside your head." During performances Cahen plays on the poolside, while participants can hear the music through either above water loudspeakers (usually d&b audiotechnik or what the local hire company provides) or underwater loudspeakers (sealed, waterproof units designed for synchronised swimming and water polo). These are arranged in a six-channel configuration, with two channels for below water and four for above. "It's a music-led event but also includes lighting, video and art," says Cahen. "People really come for the experience. There are two parts to it - above water and below - but when you're floating you can hear both. That gives a fuller sense of the composition, but the deeper you go the better it sounds." While some playback is involved in the performances, most of the music is played live. Consequently, Cahen says, the experience is different every time. One of the more difficult stagings of Wet Sounds was in a swimming pool in Bergen, Norway. "We didn't have any set-up time and when it came to put in the underwater speakers we discovered that the pool was made of metal," Cahen says. "That killed the sound completely so that it was not very loud. In the end, the arrangement of the speakers in the water had to be changed." The most unusual audience to experience Wet Sounds comprised two beluga whales that were being transported from a Shanghai aquarium to an Icelandic whale sanctuary. Recordings of orcas were played to the belugas, which had spent most of their lives in captivity, so they would know what predators sound like. Wet Sounds is not extreme in the dangerous sense of performing on webbing stretched between two mountain tops or while skydiving, but it does take the concept of performance and staging to extremes. And, as with Trænafestivalen and the Big Red Bash, it is also bringing boundary-breaking experiences to a wider audience. n
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he Drumsheds is a groundbreaking new venue in Tottenham, set across 10 acres of outdoor space and four large interlinking warehouses with an overall capacity of over 10,000 punters. Part of the highly ambitious Broadwick Live company, it is now the biggest music warehouse venue in the capital and will be putting on innovative work with state-of-the art production. Previously, Field Day festival took place in Hackney's Victoria Park and Herne Hill's Brockwell Park. Capital Sound has supplied audio for Field Day festival since 2012, this year marking its seventh outing. A d&b audiotechnik J System line array was the PA of choice for both the Printworks Room, the main warehouse space, and the main outdoor stage. David Preston was project manager for Capital Sound - he is also an FOH and monitor engineer, with regular clients including country artist Cam, Pixie Lott and - this summer - a certain Mark Ronson. Summarising the main challenges for Field Day 2019, Preston told PSNEurope: “As a new venue The Drumsheds looks set to become a hugely exciting venture. Field Day 2019 was its first test. I started work on the festival in early March this year with a site visit with Capital’s senior project manager Robin Conway, to evaluate acoustics and logistics. Broadwick Live stipulated from the outset that they wanted a d&b system in both the main room and outdoor stage. With that choice made early, the work flow was relatively straight forward but very well planned.” Using the d&b ArrayCalc simulation software, Preston calculated PA requirements and loudspeaker hang points for the J System, adding: “Using ArrayCalc allows me to significantly reduce set up and tuning time and allows for precise initial simulations when planning installations. For Field Day, the calculations were pretty much spot on and things sounded really precise once the venue set up was complete.” The main outdoor stage, which saw Skepta top the bill on day one and Jorja Smith headline on day two, featured a PA comprised of 12 d&b J8 and two d&b J12 per side with 15 d&b B22 subs used on the ground in front of the stage. Eight d&b Y7s were deployed for front fills. All were driven by a total of 26 d&b D80 amps along with two d&b DS10 processors. For on-stage monitoring, two d&b J subs with d&b V8s per side as side fills and 14 d&b M2 wedges were the order of the day. For PA processing, an Outline Newton was used. Preston commented: “It's Outline's new system processor. It is easy to use and has amazing WFIR filters, and I really like the sample rate conversion on it.” System tech and mixing FOH on the main stage was Chris Whybrow using a Avid S6L 24 C console running at 96kHz with Waves Soundgrid and plugins available. “It's a fantastic sounding, detailed console and very easy to use,” Whybrow said. “The surface layout has been so well thought out by Avid. The overall stereo image at Field Day 2019 was wide and powerful, in my opinion. Some of the evening headline acts used their
Field trip This year’s Field Day festival featured a selection of innovative acts, including Skepta, Jorja Smith and The Black Madonna, and was held over two days at The Drumsheds, an all new north London venue, with Capital Sound providing audio for the three main stages. Simon Duff dropped by and sent back this report…
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own engineers, who brought along show files. Even if the engineers are from a Profile background they can load that show file up on an S6L. A few of the acts were quite simple and DJ based as well as band line ups. The maximum input count at FOH was around 40. Microphones used on the main outdoor stage included eight Shure UR2 hand-held and eight Shure PSM 1000 IEM units. Monitor world duties were over seen by Sander Van Laere who mixed on a Yamaha CL5. Other engineers working on the Main Outdoor stage were PA and stage techs Finbarr Neenan and Tommy Bradshaw.” In the Printworks Room, which featured superstar DJ The Black Madonna, headline day two, the PA line up was forced to compete with a far more challenging acoustic environment. The room is a former factory site used by the British Oxygen Company for manufacturing and Field Day 2019 was the first chance to see how it would cope with a new rave-inspired atmosphere. Preston added: “The room is similar acoustic-wise to
The Drumsheds' first Field Day
the likes of Alexandra Palace, London, with a large high roof structure to contend with. We wanted the sound to be close and not dictated by the long reverb time. So, we had plenty of concerns pre show and drapes were used. No one had ever done a show there. I am more than happy to say that the d&b system performed above expectations, providing even coverage and a warm, powerful sound throughout the room. Broadwick Live were delighted pretty much from the first time they heard the PA fired up.” The main hang in the Printworks Room comprised of 10 d&b J8 per side plus two J12s per side. Subs ground stacked in front of the stage were 12 d&b SL subs with V7s and T10s used as front fills. For the delay hangs positioned half way down the room, six d&b V8 and two v12s per side were used. Ground stacked towards the back of the room were two J subs and four V8 per side. Processing was conducted via two Lake LM 44s. Mixing at FOH was Tim Miller working on a DiGiCo SD10-24 console. Miles Jarrett was on monitor duties using a Yamaha QL5. Capital Sound provided all the DJ mix equipment, including Pioneer CDJ 2000s, DJM 900s and 1210 turntables. FOH tech was Alex Legge. The third stage called The Boiler Room was a small club style room, where Preston deployed a Meyer Sound Leopard ground stacked solution. System tech/ engineer Oliver Fallon mixed at FOH on a Yamaha CL5, with monitors by Harry Garcia on a Yamaha PM5D console with Martin Audio LE 1500 Active stage wedges deployed. PA stage tech was Toby Burrow and crew chief for the audio team across all stages was Kevin Smith. Preston concluded: “Given that this was the venue's first major test, all of us, including Broadwick Live, involved were delighted. We had no issues with off site noise levels that were monitored by a third party. The Drumsheds looks set to host some of the world's most important and cutting edge EDM events in the coming years. Capital Sound hope to look forward to being part of that.” n
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Earlier this year, Britannia Row Productions deployed the biggest PA rig ever seen at Britain’s largest indoor venue, London’s 02 Arena, as part of Taiwanese singer and actor Jay Chou’s recent tour, as PSNLive finds out…
n April 26-27 this year, London’s O2 Arena welcomed the largest PA rig in its history, as Taiwanese singer and film star, Jay Chou, brought his The Invincible 2 world tour to the UK - a three-hour audiovisual extravaganza spanning a diverse spectrum of musical genres. Supplied by Britannia Row, the vast and complex production weighed in at 107 tonnes and used 208 overhead motors, 44 automation points, 274 rigging points, 14 under-stage lifts and featured a four-minute 180kg confetti hit. As such, the show’s audio component had plenty to contend with. “We’re essentially working with a stadium-sized PA in an arena-sized production,” explained Britannia Row crew chief, Scott Maxwell. “Everything else in the design had to shrink down to fit inside the venue, but the PA remained the same. One of our biggest challenges in the audio team was working between multiple departments who were all using aerial equipment – there are so many design elements going on, it’s unlike any other show I’ve worked on. It’s been such a lovely environment to be a part of; everyone has worked so well together, despite any language differences.” Britannia Row’s Josh Lloyd designed an L-Acoustics system for the tour’s European dates, which comprised
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PHOTO: Magic-Sound UK
main hangs of the company's K1, flown K1 SBs, K2 delays and K2 under hangs below the main K1 hangs. The system was powered by 72 LA8 amplifiers and used Lake processing. Chou’s FOH engineer of the past 19 years, Drexel Rrez Moliere, commented on the challenges of working a production of this magnitude: “The artist always comes first. Once I know where my artist’s vocal is, that tells me how loud I can mix everything else. Jay’s vocal pitch is impeccable, so tuning his mic is very important. To perform a show with lots of genres is very common for Asian artists - it’s the style of the market - so no matter where he plays, the fans expect a huge production and a lengthy, ever-changing performance. “I really like this configuration with the main hang of K1 and the K1 sub right next to it. Everything Britannia Row did on these shows was right, I’m so impressed with their skills and their service. I have worked with a lot of different companies around the world, and I have to say that Britannia Row really are world class. The attention to detail the crew gives really makes them stand out.” Britannia Row also supplied the production with Sennheiser in-ear monitors, Shure transmitter packs, radio comms, L-Acoustics stage wedges, and a playback
system for FOH and monitor world using Yamaha QL1s. “You can ask this crew for things all day and they deliver within minutes,” Moliere added. “They’re a pleasure to work with, and I couldn’t ask for better attitudes from a rental company. As an engineer, when you have Britannia Row on your side, you don’t have to worry about a thing. That’s invaluable to me because I can concentrate on mixing the music, and that’s the most important part of my job.” He continued: “After the load-in in London, everyone was tired and winding down when we heard a buzz coming from FOH. We were touring with power from China, and if anything is not quite right with an analogue desk, you hear it straight away. The Brit Row team fixed it immediately using a TX transformer buffer. With the correct 220 voltage, it was so clean and isolated.” Britannia Row account manager, Dave Compton concluded: “It’s always a pleasure to work with the production manager, JC Chen, and promotor Felix Wang of Magic-Sound UK, who have the tough job of coordinating the production schedule of such a large show and a star in such high demand. We at Britannia Row are ready to support them with whatever they need, and look forward to welcoming them back to Europe with their next project.” n
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GLADE RUNNER n wwwww
Glastonbury was introduced to Funktion-One’s Vero for the first time this year, with the UK loudspeaker pioneer once again taking charge of Worthy Farm's The Glade area. PSNLive finds out how it fared…
ony Andrews is woven into the history of Glastonbury. The Funktion-One founder took charge of the sound at the very first Glastonbury (Pilton Festival) in 1971 and can be plotted at key moments over the decades. In recent years, he’s been getting his kicks from the more experimental side of the festival. The Glade - with its free-spirited ethos - has been the grassy, sometimes sun-drenched real-life lab for Funktion-One’s adventures in ambisonic surround sound. This year, however, Andrews decided it was time for Glastonbury to experience Vero for the first time. Funktion-One called on long-term partner Audio Plus – currently celebrating its 25th year – to supply the audio infrastructure and crew, including company owner Stefan Imhof, patch and DJ tech Dan Hull, monitor engineer Phil Couch, and FOH/systems engineer Kris Hayes. The loudspeaker manufacturer was also out in force, with design engineers Mike Igglesden and James Hipperson joining Andrews. XTA’s Richard Fleming was
also on hand, overseeing the first deployment of the company’s new DSP-enabled console switching system – the MX36. The main sound system comprised left and right Vero hangs featuring seven enclosures per side – three V315s, two V90s and two V60s – together with an asymmetric bass setup consisting of a two wide/six high block of F124s stage left and a stack of four F221s stage right. The system was powered by Lab.gruppen PLM20K44 amps. Hipperson explained: “Stacked F124s intrinsically have very strong directivity at the upper end of their operating range. The rear rejection was extended below 50Hz with rear-facing F221s in a gradient configuration. This reduced bass levels on stage as well as ensuring the system was virtually inaudible over the general site noise in the adjacent areas behind the stage.” The fill system around the relay screen which serviced the overspill area featured Evo 7Ts with Evo 7THs (for enhanced mid/highs) and F221 bass enclosures. It could
be turned on or off, depending on the size of the crowd. Most of the mixing was done on a Cadac Six, with a DiGiCo SD10 on standby for engineers using show files. Whenever required, XTA’s MX36 console switching system was used for seamless changeovers. Discussing the setup, Andrews said: “For the last four years we did The Glade with ambisonics. It was interesting but a little sporadic, as we’re always reliant on performers giving us material that takes advantage of the multi-point system. With Vero, we’re getting more dimension out of big stereo than surround sound, so we went for it.” Glastonbury gave Andrews and the team an opportunity to implement crossover filter discoveries made during the development of Vero VX. “VX opened the door to a new level of sophistication,” said Andrews. “We were able to apply some of the work we’ve done on filters with VX to Vero. It’s the best I’ve ever heard it.” The result was appreciated by Area Coordinator of Avalon, Glade and The Wood, Luke Piper, who reflected:
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Glade bare: The Glade bustling at Glasto 2019
“I was overjoyed with the new system - it surpassed all expectations. We quadrupled the normal capacity of the venue up to 20,000, with people dancing right at the back of the crowd to Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim and Squarepusher. Here it sounded just as good as at the front with a full range, solid, clear and real bottom end, and great midrange separation. Vero is a very real non-synthetic, alive sounding system that’s perfect for live and electronic acts alike. It’s the best system I’ve ever worked with.” For Igglesden, this was his most enjoyable Glade experience yet: “Carl Cox’s four-hour set was one of those iconic Glastonbury moments. Our decision to move away from experimenting with ambisonics gave us a new opportunity to deliver a larger, wider stereo sound. The flown Vero system provided the most open and even coverage dancefloor I have ever experienced.” Hipperson was particularly impressed with Vero’s percussive capabilities. He said: “Live drums on Vero put smiles on everyone’s faces - staggering power and transient impact. Similarly, even when mixing large and
hectic bands it was never a struggle to get vocals to cut through the mix with clarity and authority.” Audio Plus’s Stefan Imhof said: “The audience reaction to Vero combined with the F124 bass stack was special. On the first day, we had a short amount of time to test the system. We started playing some test tracks and noticed the crowd started to engage straight away, cheering and clapping after each track and when we finished, we got a huge round of applause. “I could tell that the audience knew they were in for something special from Vero and that’s exactly what was delivered. I have heard so many great comments from artists and audience alike. It’s nice to provide something different to the other stages. This is why I run an audio company and provide the sound I have believed in for so many years.” Andrews clearly enjoyed the experience: “The sound was stunning, as good as I’ve ever heard - so clear and effortless. In less than 24 hours, I got to engineer Fatboy Slim and Carl Cox. The system was so responsive - I
was able to beam in on the vocals, sometimes just using a third of a dB and it was bringing the voice up. It was running so even without any system EQ.” Toby Burrow, FOH engineer for Grouch In Dub, concluded: "My artist - Grouch In Dub - features huge dub bass-lines (often saturated and complex waveforms), psychedelic high frequency wizardry combined with live violin, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, guitar and vocal. The Vero system on The Glade stage at Glastonbury was set up and tuned wonderfully well. The boxes allowed me to get my mix together quickly with very little EQ (compared to normal) on the instrument and vocal mics. In our show we have a combination of complex effects coming from stage and FOH, I found the Vero running at a high SPL had enough dynamic range to allow me to build depth in my mix, even in sections where there is a lot of FX going on. I took the time after the show to listen to a few other artists from the dancefloor and the stereo image was incredible. I look forward to getting to rinse Vero again in the future." n
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‘You are a business’ FOH engineer and PSNEurope columnist Ben Hammond talks the stresses of being on the road a lot and why all engineers should consider themselves as a business rather than solely an employee…
ately, it seems like everything I read is all about the mental health of touring personnel, and people/companies offering support to people in our industry. This is a great step forward, especially with the organisations offering advice from experienced touring crew, active or retired, who understand exactly what goes on behind the scenes. All of this got me thinking, and trying to pinpoint the biggest source of stress that comes with the job, which for me isn’t being away from family and friends; in time you become accustomed to this and develop your own way of coping with missing loved ones and being homesick. I think this is a skill that you develop and improve over time, just like the technical skills that you use day to day on tour. Aside from the above, there are so many issues facing the freelance audio engineer. Choosing the right act and knowing which offer to take is often a stressful decision. The obvious starting point here is ‘who’? If you’re lucky enough to have multiple offers on the table, you need to be able to sit back and look into each artist to see what would benefit you most in the long run. It’s not always about the quick buck, or that big festival slot. It comes down to a few key points. Management: Who’s in charge? Are they going to try to scrimp and use international crew on US tours, for example? Who else do they manage? Do they have sway to get the act on to bigger and better things? What have they done for their other acts? This also goes for the band’s agent – do your homework and look into the team. If you’re going to commit your time to this act, you have to have faith in the team around them. This is your business, and you’re essentially taking yourself off the market for them. And as simple as it may sound, what do you think of their music? Can you see how it would fit into the market? Can you see it being picked up by radio, etc? We are all in this because we are into music; if you think it’s crap, then chances are so will the majority of the general public. Trust your judgement here. And if it’s music you don’t understand, then ask some mates who do. The artists we work for have huge teams around them making decisions with them – managers, labels, PR, pluggers, publishers, lawyers, and not to mention other band members. As a freelancer you are totally on your own, so being as educated as you can in every business
decision you make will be the key to your (hopeful) success and sanity. Another big stress is balance. It’s a rare thing nowadays to get that 18 month/two-year solid cycle with a guarantee of income for the foreseeable future, so the majority of us are balancing a couple of different acts. Obviously, things will inevitably clash at some point, and you are going to need to ‘dep’ shows out to trusted colleagues who you know firstly, can do the job well, and secondly, will “keep the toilet seat warm” and not try steal the gig. A big issue that often raises its head here is what I call band tunnel vision. Understandably, an act is completely caught up in their own world as their career understandably completely takes over their whole life. They are the act and they live it 24 hours a day. What this often does is make them look at their team as exactly that – THEIR team. While that in itself is a compliment, as it shows they see you as an integral part of the production, it does mean that they will often forget that
you are, yourself, a business, and you work with other artists. Now, unless they are retaining you for the entire period (in which case to all intents and purposes you do become an employee of theirs, and less of a freelance technician) then your are free to take on shows with multiple artists. Obviously, you must treat your bookings with caution and make sure to avoid clashes. However, sometimes this simply can’t be avoided. I was on a tour with one act, and that tour finished and went perfectly straight into another. All of a sudden, the act I was going into added some rehearsal dates before their tour which I couldn’t do. This resulted in me losing the gig, as I couldn’t make all the rehearsals, even though it was they who moved the goal posts last minute. An act may not take you if they are losing money, or will expect you to work for a reduced rate as it makes sense for their business. However, on the flip side, decisions that make financial sense for your business may not be seen like that from an artist/management point of view. Above all, always remember you are a business. n
Live and kicking - Our annual report into the live music business returns!