Production Futures: Billy Bryson
This month, TPi chats to the Adlib employee who, after working his way through the ranks of the company’s apprenticeship scheme, has gone from warehouse tech to a fully-fledged audio system technician.
I think many of us remember our first round of work experience when we were 16; a glorious few weeks where you could essentially bunk off school - or was that just me? Thankfully Billy Bryson showed more foresight when he was offered a chance to spend 2 weeks in Adlib’s Liverpool warehouse. After impressing the in-house team, Managing Director, Andy Dockety, offered the then-16 year-old Bryson an opportunity to join the company’s apprenticeship programme. Just 5 years later, he has already collected his fair share of tour laminates, working with the likes of Placebo, Flight of the Conchords and Russell Howard.
“For me, it all started when I was at school,” said Bryson, discussing where his love affair with pro audio began. “I was always interested in computers and IT, but this quickly turned into a passion for live music.” Between the age of 13 and 14, Bryson was already making strides into his future career, gathering a selection of PA equipment and offering his services for local events. “Admittedly, a lot of these were ‘village hall’ setups, but I would hire out the equipment, then take the profits to invest in more gear.” This entrepreneurial sprit served the young Bryson well when he was offered to step up to the plate at Adlib, exposing him to the higher echelon of pro audio equipment. “When I first started the apprenticeship, I used to spend my evenings after work pestering all the engineers who were prepping for tours. I just wanted to soak up as much information as I could, and they were happy to oblige.”
The apprenticeship scheme has been a keystone to Adlib’s success, training generations of UK engineers through the years. “The process generally takes 2 years,” explained Bryson. “The majority of that time is spent in the warehouse, building up your skills and knowledge of the technology from those in the field.” The company even incorporates a mentorship scheme, pairing newcomers with an experienced member of staff. “During my first 6 months, I worked in various branches of the unit, learning about everything from amplifiers, speakers and consoles,” stated Bryson. Through constant communication with the higher-ups at the company, each Adlib apprentice gets to find where his or her passion lies.
“It’s the mentorship scheme that really cemented my passion for this career,” admitted Bryson. “After I found my feet, I got the opportunity to shadow my mentors on some of their shows. This on-theground experience meant I could pick up so many more skills and made me realise this is what I wanted to do.” The System Tech explained how this incentive also made the transition from warehouse hand to road crew much easier. “The funny thing is, it’s not really been much of a lifestyle shock,” said Bryson. “It’s only when I look at my calendar I realise how much time I now spend on the road compared to the warehouse. Working all those small one-offs with various members of the crew, to shorter tours really sets you up mentally for the on longer stints.”
As is the circle of life in the industry, Bryson has himself become a mentor to Adlib newcomers. “It creates a wonderful chain of communication,” he explained. “The lad I mentor is free to ask me anything as he continues to progress as a system tech. But on the flipside, I’m still relatively new to the industry and know I can always call up some of the older guys if I want some advice about anything specific. There is no fear of asking a stupid question as we have all been through the same things and want to help each other out.”
The passion Bryson has for the live events industry is undeniable, and clearly his 5 years at Adlib have already given him a strong footing within the field. As our eagle-eyed readers will have noticed, Bryson is already making the pages of TPi with our latest coverage of Flight of the Conchords (pg. 76). We’re sure it will not be his last… TPi www.productionfutures.co.uk