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feature

Shifting gear

With artists relying on live for the bulk of their earnings, the role of those who make sure instruments and staging are delivered on time has never been more important

By IQ on 27 Jan 2017

Rock-it Cargo, Muse, Drones world tour

Rock-it Cargo delivers sea freight into Paris for Muse's Drones world tour last year


Certain phrases get used more than others at a time when densely scheduled tours and festival dashes snake seasonally across a jumpy, troubled world.

When it comes to scheduling, the key phrase you need is ‘margin for error’, because there usually isn’t much – which is one reason why freight and trucking specialists, along with production staff, are the under-praised supermen and wonder women of this business.

And on the subject of Brexit, you can’t go wrong with ‘nobody knows what’s going to happen’, because that’s still pretty much all anyone can say about it. You might need ‘wait and see’ as well.

So there is a familiar feel to many conversations about live music transport, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the more quietly exciting areas of the business, as artists chase the money across the world, from festivals to shows to last-minute private gigs, and leave the freight forwarders and the truckers to make it all join up.

Live music transport is one more quietly exciting areas of the business, as artists chase the money across the world and leave the freight forwarders and the truckers to make it all join up

The big stuff
Freight forwarding, and logistics in general, comprises a world of very, very big things and very, very small details. One minute you’re packing seven jumbo jets full of superstar stage production. The next you’re telling the roadies off about batteries.

At the very, very big end this summer, Beyoncé set new standards of grandiosity with her Es Devlin-designed Formation production, famously featuring a four-sided video structure – ‘the monolith’ – at its heart. At 22m by 16m by 9m, the monolith is quite a spectacle, and it’s safe to assume it doesn’t fold up into a small box.

Sound Moves was the company tasked with shipping the thing – actually four of them, which crisscrossed each other as the tour stomped across the land. “The monolith is a fairly phenomenal piece of engineering,” says Sound Moves tour principal John Corr. “They are custom-made pieces, built in Belgium. We shipped all four of them to the USA by ocean. But the tour was so successful that they wanted to extend in America before coming to Europe, so they went from being able to move everything by ocean to being able to move only part of it by ocean, due to the time available.”

 


Read the rest of this feature in issue 68 of IQ Magazine.


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