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Marshall Amps launches Marshall Live Agency

Marshall, the British music company best known for its guitar amplifiers and speaker cabinets, has launched Marshall Live Agency (MLA), the latest new booking agency to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The firm’s second foray into the music business proper, following the launch in 2016 of Marshall Records, Marshall Live Agency is headed up by agent Stuart Vallans, who explains that the agency sits alongside other aspects of the Marshall business – including amps, loudspeakers, headphones and Marshall Arena, in the company’s hometown of Milton Keynes – to offer a “holistic” service to the live music industry ahead of concerts restarting.

Vallans tells IQ industry reaction to the launch of MLA, which has been in the works since last summer, has been “really positive” so far. “Everyone’s on board with the bands we’ve got so far, and getting the bands right has made the booking process easy,” he explains.

The company’s launch roster includes a diverse slate of emerging acts, including Gen and the Degenerates, Crashface, Elijah Miller, Gallus, Make Friends, Moray Pringle and Polar States.

The goodwill associated with the Marshall brand, which stretches back to the 1960s, when the company built cabinets for guitar legends such as Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Ritchie Blackmore and Eric Clapton, has been a “massive selling point” when talking to promoters and festivals, who trust that Marshall can be relied upon to do the ‘right thing’, continues Vallans. “There’s a lot of good faith in the industry – people know Marshall are here to help out,” he says.

According to Marshall, the agency will especially focus on supporting grassroots music in a sustainable way, with plans for carbon-neutral tours also in the works.

“It’s incredible to be backed to do the right thing and put the needs of artists and venues first”

Marshall managing director Jonathan Ellery comments: “From day one, Marshall Amplification has prioritised the needs of musicians and done whatever we can to support live music. Marshall Live Agency is a natural continuation of this legacy.

“Twenty twenty was a devastating year for the venues, musicians and support networks that rely on income from live performances, and we’re not out the woods yet, so it is more important than ever to find creative solutions for audiences to reconnect. Marshall Live Agency, under the guidance of Stuart Vallans and working with the wider Marshall business, will aim to play a key role in nurturing young talent for both the short-term recovery and long-term growth of live music.”

Marshall Live Agency follows the launch of Mother Artists, One Fiinix LiveRoute One Booking and Runway Artists in the UK, as well as Arrival ArtistsMint Talent Group and TBA Agency in the US and Rebel Beat Agency in Spain, in 2020, amid a wider fragmentation of the global agency sector in response to the coronavirus shutdown.

Looking to the immediate future, Vallans says he is focusing on developing MLA’s roster, with the long-term aim being to recruit more agents. He adds that there are a number of other new initiatives coming from Marshall in 2021.

“I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, and quite often agent performance is measured by fees generated. Marshall has straight away thrown that out the window, as it’s not how they do business,” he comments.

“The agency performance will be based on how many people we inspire to see live music. It’s incredible to be backed to do the right thing and put the needs of artists and venues first.”

 


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China conflict hits Indian production cos

Indian event businesses under pressure to boycott China are facing increased production costs for non-Chinese-made equipment.

Organisers of entertainment, corporate and other live events currently have a choice between buying event kit (sound, lighting, stages, trussing, etc.) at a higher cost from the US or Europe or continuing to purchase from a country widely regarded as public enemy no 1.

A third option – manufacturing these products in India – would require government support for the industry in the form of subsidies, says Modern Stage Service’s Pratik Wadhwa.

An influential, celebrity backed social-media campaign, launched in May, urges Indians to boycott Chinese products and companies in response to the ongoing military stand-off at parts of the India–China border.

The most vicious fighting, in mid-June, saw an estimated 20 Indian and 43 Chinese soldiers lose their lives in melee combat in disputed areas of Kashmir; both sides, meanwhile, accuse each other of firing shots in a skirmish at the line of actual control (LAC) between the Indian territory of Ladakh and Chinese-occupied Tibet yesterday (7 September).

“Matching price with China will be difficult at present … but it is achievable in the long run”

India blames China for the incursions, and has even gone so far as to ban Chinese-owned mobile apps including TikTok and WeChat and Tencent-published Fortnite rival PUBG. The Chinese state-run Global Times accuses a nationalistic Indian media of inflaming tensions, warning that the press “must be reined in” if India wishes to avoid further conflict with Beijing.

Speaking to EventFAQs, Wadhwa, CEO of the New Delhi-based pro-AV distributor, explains: “95% of lighting and trussing, and all LED walls and LED TVs, are imported from China, [as is] cheaper audio equipment.

“The alternative to this is that either India needs to manufacture equipment or international companies have to start assembly lines in India. The Indian government will have to support this industry by giving subsidies.”

Santana Davis, the managing director of Bangalore’s J Davis Prosound & Lighting, adds: “My assumption is that a certain level of impact will surely be there on import of this equipment or materials from China if the current scenario between India and China doesn’t improve.

Davis notes that equipment imported from Western countries is “top-class”, but compared to a quality Chinese brand is “at least two or three times higher” in price.

Indians are urged to boycott Chinese products and companies in response to the ongoing military stand-off at parts of the border

Both Wadhwa and Shivam Singh of pro-AV company Shivam Videos say they plan to start manufacturing audiovisual equipment domestically.

“We have got back into manufacturing lights in India,” explains Wadhwa. “Matching price with China will be difficult at present, because they produce for the world, but it is achievable in the long run.”

“We have already planned […] to import parts from Taiwan, Japan or Korea and assemble them in India,” adds Singh. “Later, we are also planning to start manufacturing in India.

“We want to support our nation and be self-sufficient. We are ready to support ‘Make in India’. But for that we would need the government’s support as well, as setting up a manufacturing unit is not easy.”

 


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Arena Birmingham debuts audio-described live show

NEC Group’s 15,800-capacity Arena Birmingham offered audio description to its visitors for the first time at the Marvel Universe Live shows on 5 to 8 December.

To provide the service, Arena Birmingham partnered with VocalEyes, a charity supporting blind and partially sighted people’s access to the arts. The implementation of audio description followed a request from a customer whose sons are visually impaired.

A team of describers, who view an early performance of the show and prepare a script, offered real-time narration via headsets, making the show more accessible to those with all levels of visual impairment.

“It meant so much to my family that we were able to enjoy Marvel Universe Live! with audio description,” comments Claire Eccles, the customer who requested audio description at the arena. “My sons are both severely visually impaired and love coming to live events, but it’s often hard for them to work out what’s going on. I try my best to explain but it’s difficult.”

“We believe that blind and partially sighted people should have the best opportunities to experience  the arts, and it’s great to work with a venue the size of Arena Birmingham to offer audio description”

Eccles adds that, “the smiles when they put the headsets on said it all. They can’t stop talking about the fantastic time they had – it made such a difference to their experience. I can only hope more local venues will follow suit.”

According to Emma Ball, operations manager at Arena Birmingham, both the venue and Resorts World Arena, “put a relentless focus on ensuring our world-class entertainment is as accessible as possible for our broad and varied audiences.”

The arenas have introduced British Sign Language interpreters to shows over the past year, with audio description being “the next logical step”.

“We believe that blind and partially sighted people should have the best possible opportunities to experience and enjoy both the arts and heritage, and it’s great to work with a venue the size of Arena Birmingham to offer audio description to even bigger audiences,” says Michael Kenyon from VocalEyes.

“They are the first arena to come on board with us and to be able to help bring a show of this scale to life is very exciting for us.”

NEC Group arenas also recently committed to rolling out teams of mental health first aiders across a number of shows.

 


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C3, Red Light, Another Planet invest in Mixhalo

Mixhalo, an audio tech start-up founded by Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger and his wife, Ann Marie Simpson-Einziger, has raised US$10.7 million to fund its mission to “democratise” concert sound.

Investors in the series-A investment round, led by Foundry Group, include US promoters C3 Presents (Charlie Walker), Superfly (Rick Farman and Rich Goodstone) and Another Planet Entertainment, UK artist management firm Red Light Management, and venture-capital outfits Cowboy Ventures, Sapphire Sport and Defy Partners, reports TechCrunch.

Pharrell Williams was also an early investor in the company, as were WME’s Marc Geiger and mega-producer Rick Rubin, which has raised a total of $15m to date.

Similar to European start-up Peex (which additionally enables listeners to create their own mixes), the Mixhalo app allows fans to listen through headphones to audio direct from the soundboard – ie the mix artists hear in their in-ear monitors – rather than through speakers, for improved sound quality.

“Mixhalo envisions a world where everyone experiences great live audio, regardless of their seat or ticket cost”

The platform also allows artists and concert organisers to offer multiple mixes for a single concert, or feeds from multiple festival stages, allowing users to tailor their concert experience to them.

Mixhalo CEO Marc Ruxin says the company is “definitely solving a problem in music that people don’t realise they have”, comparing it to watching television in the pre-HD age. “Now, sports that’s not in HD looks crappy,” Ruxin explains.

Mixhalo has been deployed at shows by Charlie Puth, Incubus and Metallica, as well as Aerosmith’s current Las Vegas residency, Deuces are Wild.

Ruxin tells TechCrunch he is currently focused on music and sports, but is also open to other working with other sectors, as the technology can also installed in, for example, a theatrical musical with “no technical tweaks.”

“Mixhalo envisions a world where everyone experiences great live audio, regardless of their seat or ticket cost,” comments Ruxin. “We are democratising sound at live events.”

 


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World’s biggest speaker install for world’s busiest venue

The Royal Albert Hall today took the wraps off its new £2 million sound system – the largest loudspeaker installation in a single room, and one designed to futureproof the iconic London venue’s sound requirements for the next 150 years.

At a launch event at the 5,544-capacity Victorian arena this morning, Royal Albert Hall (RAH) chief executive Craig Hassall revealed the RAH hosted a record-breaking 401 shows in its main auditorium alone last year, cementing its status as the “world’s busiest venue” by number of events.

While the venue opened in 1871, and is named in memory of Prince Albert, the late husband of Queen Victoria – it recently established a 150th anniversary committee chaired by UTA’s Neil Warnock, in preparation for its birthday plans in 2021 – Hassall said the hall is “not a museum, or a mausoleum, or a monument; we’re a venue”, and the forward-thinking sound install is a reflection of that ethos.

Costing over £2m, the project is the biggest improvement to the venue’s sound since the installation of its acoustic ‘mushrooms’ 50 years ago, in 1969. From conception to installation, the audio overhaul took 693 days of labour, with the speakers themselves installed overnight over the course of six months last year. “It didn’t interrupt a single show,” said Hassall, with the hall staying open the entire time.

Steve Jones of manufacturer d&b audiotechnik, whose speakers were used in the 465-box installation, comments: “The Royal Albert Hall presents a sound system designer with some of the most unique geometry in the world, [so] it was essential that the final audio system design delivered a significant improvement to the amplified sound in this venue.

“Audiences can expect a level of audio quality and consistency across all seats which was never before achievable”

“Using the latest 3D modelling and simulation techniques from leading acousticians Sandy Brown, we were able to pinpoint exactly how, where and what speakers we needed to install, maximising the clarity, intelligibility and musicality that the audience expect from a world-class venue.

“Audiences can now expect a level of audio quality and consistency across all seats which has never before been achievable.”

The new system comprises a main hang of line arrays from the grade-I listed building’s roof, along with smaller speakers in every box and stall, eliminates the “mushy sound” caused by firing the audio from the stage up into the higher seats, said Jones, as well as the RAH’s infamous echo, which persisted to some extent even after the mushrooms were installed. (“In the old days, they used to say that the hall offered value for money because you’d get to hear every concert twice,” joked Hassell.)

“Kylie Minogue, Take That, Frank Sinatra – these are just some of the incredible artists who have played the hall, and, like them, the hall constantly has to challenge perceptions and reinvent itself for modern audiences,” says Hassell in a statement announcing the d&b system’s launch.

“This investment is about more than just updating the sound system – it’s about futureproofing the building as we approach our 150th anniversary in 2021 so that it is fit for another 150 years.”

 


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CES: Sony partners with LN clubs for 360 Reality Audio

Electronics giant Sony Corporation has unveiled 360 Reality Audio, a new 3D audio technology it promises is “so immersive that music fans will feel like they are front row or side stage at a concert”.

The launch, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas yesterday (7 January), follows Sony’s joining forces with several Live Nation clubs and theatres to capture audio from concerts including the Wombats, Kodaline, AJR and Good Charlotte.

According to Sony, 360 Reality Audio produces a three-dimensional, spatial sound field “where the different sounds and musical elements can be projected a full 360 degrees”.

Fans will then be able access the audio content of the aforementioned artists, as well as more still to be announced, by selecting the ‘360 Reality Audio’ tracks on partner streaming platforms Deezer, nugs.net, Qobuz and Tidal.

According to Kodaline singer Steve Garrigan, “listening to our live concert through the new 3D technology is the closest I’ve ever come to actually being in the audience at a Kodaline show. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

“360 Reality Audio will truly provide fans a lifelike live music experience long after the show has ended”

“Our 360 Reality Audio will make it possible for us to provide lovers of live music with a new and highly realistic music experience,” comments Kichiro Kurozumi, head of branding and product planning for Sony Video and Sound Products.

“We are very proud of this collaboration with Live Nation, the world leader in live entertainment, and Sony, a company that is working with creators and artists to pursue the frontiers of music capability.”

The Live Nation venues where the 360 Reality Audio content was captured are the Hollywood Palladium (5,000-cap.) in Los Angeles, House of Blues Chicago (1,800), Irving Plaza in New York (1,200), the Fillmore (2,500) in Philadelphia, the Masonic (3,481) in San Francisco and the Wiltern (1,850) in Los Angeles.

“We are always exploring innovative ways to extend the live music experience for fans and artists,” says Terri Liebler, vice-president of Live Nation Media and Sponsorships. “Sony’s new 360 Reality Audio will truly provide fans a lifelike live music experience long after the show has ended.”

 


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Wisebuddah and Senbla team up for iconic performers

It has been announced today that award-winning audio content company Wisebuddah has signed a deal with London-based concert promoter Senbla. The deal will see the two companies team up to create exclusive audio content for upcoming concerts from Quincy Jones and Burt Bacharach.

On 27 June, Quincy Jones: A Life in Song will come to the O2 Arena. The concert will pay tribute to Jones’ extensive career in the year of his 85th birthday. Fans will also be treated to a series of guest appearances, including Jess Glynne, Mick Hucknall, Beverley Knight and Mark Ronson.

A week later, Burt Bacharach will take to the stage of the London Royal Festival Hall on 6 and 7 July for the first time in two years to honour his own 60 year-strong career. With eight Grammys, three Academy Awards and 48 top-ten songs, his promises to be another memorable concert.

On the opportunity to work with these artists, Adam Uytman, head of content at Wisebuddah, comments: “Quincy Jones and Burt Bacharach are, without doubt, two of the world’s greatest music icons.

“Capturing the live experience can be very challenging. Wisebuddah have outstanding credentials in this area, so are the perfect partner for us.”

“Understanding audio – whether it’s live or pre-recorded, for scheduled broadcast or on-demand consumption – means we have the expertise to create the best possible content from these live experiences.”

Beyond capturing the two concerts, Wisebuddah will create two programmes which will premiere on BBC Radio 2. Already very well acquainted with BBC Radio, Wisebuddah have worked with some of the broadcaster’s most highlyrated shows, including The Michael Ball Show, Claudia on Sunday and The Radio 2 Rock Show with Johnnie Walker. It has also built a successful portfolio of podcast work with BBC Radio, the Sun and the NHS.

Wisebuddah’s extensive portfolio of work was attractive to Senbla. Ollie Rosenblatt, managing director of Senbla explains: ““Capturing the live experience can be very challenging.

“Wisebuddah have outstanding credentials in this area, so are the perfect partner for us. We are looking forward to extending the reach of these seminal concerts, not only through the high-profile broadcasts on BBC Radio 2, but through other plans we have for the distribution of this unique and very special audio.”

 


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