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PRG lends hand to combatting coronavirus

Production Resource Group (PRG) is the latest in a string of event production companies to lend its skills to the medical manufacturing sector in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The event production giant is helping to equip a temporary hospital in Berlin and manufacturing face shields for medical workers in New York, joining event infrastructure suppliers and staging companies all over the work in the fight against Covid-19.

“We are responding to the rapidly changing needs of our customers during this emergency, and, with projects like these taking shape around the globe, we are actively at work in the fight against the coronavirus,” comments PRG chairman and CEO, Jere Harris.

“PRG has resources with direct applicability to this important cause, and we take great pride in playing a role.”

In Berlin, PRG Germany is working to fully equip a field hospital built in Hall 26 of the Berlin Expo Center, one of a number of makeshift hospitals in exhibition centres, arenas and other venues around the world.

The Corona – Jafféstraße Treatment Centre will serve as an overflow hospital receiving respiratory patients who can no longer find a place in Berlin’s clinics.

Construction started on 30 March, with the hospital on track to be fully operation within 25 days. PRG will deliver and install lighting, truss and hoists for the suspension of the lighting fixtures, gas and water pipes, as well as IT infrastructure and approximately 25 tons of cabling for the basic supply of electricity.

“PRG has resources with direct applicability to this important cause, and we take great pride in playing a role”

“PRG is taking its significant resources directly to the battle against COVID-19,” says PRG president and COO, Stephan Paridaen. “We are proud to support this temporary hospital and hope to help bring the global pandemic to an end.”

Meanwhile, in New York, PRG Scenic Technologies is working alongside two other local companies and NYU Langone Health to manufacture face shields for use by health workers. The project aims to produce around 300,000 items in under two weeks.

“We’re proud to be a part of this initiative and hope to continue to help those who are aiding in this crisis,” says PRG general manager Mark Peterson, who is leading the effort. “By utilising versatile production methods and intelligent design and in working with Local 311 stagehand labour, we’re going to be able to turn out these shields in record time.”

PRG was among companies to form the Live Events Coalition in the US last month, calling on the government to “rescue the industry in the face of total collapse” due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Leading event production specialists gathered at the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) on 3 March in London. Read the IPM 2020 report here.


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IPM 13: The Challenges of Expanding Markets

Following an introduction by this year’s day host, Rod Laver Arena’s Meagan Walker, the 13th ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) got underway with a discussion about the challenges and opportunities involved in touring non-traditional, ‘expanding’ markets.

Ian Greenway of London-based production company LarMac Live, which works across the Middle East (including the UAE and, more recently, Saudi Arabia), emphasised that it’s essential western companies “don’t just turn up” to emerging markets, “put a zero on our quotes and run for the hills” – but rather lend their expertise and help put local crews on a solid footing for a sustainable future. “We need to make sure we leave these markets with a sense of self-esteem,” he explained.

Turning to the situation in the far east, panel chair Roger Barrett, of Star Events, drew a distinction between China and south-east Asia: In the former, he said, you can rent any of the equipment (largely local copies) you need for a major show, and nearly all production companies are staffed by full-time crew, with next to no freelancers available.

South-east Asia, meanwhile – because of the limited number of major shows – “what we’re seeing now are a couple of companies based in Malaysia who have fairly well-trained crews who can turn their hand to pretty much anything,” Barrett explained, “and they’re travelling throughout south-east Asia. That’s a situation that’s really interested and has only developed over last 12 months or so.”

“It’s essential western companies don’t just turn up to emerging markets, put a zero on our quotes and run for the hills”

Production Pool’s Sanjin Corovic, a promoter-turned-production manager, described the unique situation in Serbia, which is surrounded by European Union countries but is itself outside the EU (drawing parallels with the post-Brexit UK), while Megaforce’s Brigitte Fuss and Bümo’s Schlanky Schilling, both based in Germany, spoke on their companies’ activities in eastern Europe.

Speaking from the audience, Jeff Burke from ES Global emphasised the opportunities in Japan, where ES is delivering part of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. “We’ve realised it really is the land of opportunity,” he explained. “They’re a contracting marketplace: the general population is getting older and there are no young people to work in the business we’re working in, so there’s a big gap. We identified that as an opportunity – and when the Olympics are done, we’re going to have a substantial business there.”

Often the most important thing when entering a new market is to make contact with the local consulate, said XD Motion’s Neil Levett, while ASM Global’s Tim Worton predicted India as the next land of opportunity: “They’re going to build a phenomenal number of venues,” he explained, “as it’s completely underserviced” beyond cricket stadia and Bollywood-specific venues.

Returning to Greenway’s point about the importance of investing in local markets, Star Live’s Pete Holdich stressed the benefits for everyone of driving up standards globally. “If we leave a legacy of training local people, of bringing them up to the standards we’d expect to see, that’s only going to benefit us all,” he said.


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IPM 13: If I Could Turn Back Time: Stage production, design and decor

The second panel of the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) began with Coralie Berael, venue manager of Belgium’s Forest National, reflecting on the changing nature of stage production. As both venues and production get bigger, Berael posed the question: Where do we go from here?

From the design side, Mark Ager, managing director of the UK arm of Tait, explained that the main challenge is taking creative content and making it into a reality for touring, adding that it all works best when there is coordination between the artistic, technical and logistical processes.

Production manager Wob Roberts stressed the importance of having final designs as early as possible, to makes the rehearsal period “an efficient machine” and bring down costs.

“The best circumstance is to have a clear idea what a show looks like before going on sale, but that’s idealistic,” said James Walker of the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), explaining that a venue’s role in the chain is not always as valued as it could be. “We need better links with production managers,” said Walker.

Roberts gave the example of a Genesis tour which went on sale before the design came in, leaving insufficient room for the stage. “We had to be really creative to fit into the capacity that had been sold,” said Roberts. “I learned to talk to management as much as possible to avoid similar situations in future.”

Does the audience really require all this production, if tours can sell out before the design has even been done, asked Berael. Roberts explained that the audience has certain levels of expectation for some stadium artists like U2 and Rolling Stones, but not so much for others. However, “the ego can kick in” on the artists’ side, with acts wanting as big a show as their counterparts, “and that’s when the problems start”.

Walker said it would be hard to draw audiences in for a second time without spectacular sets, while Ager stressed the importance of fan engagement, which is challenging in a stadium without big production. “Scale can sometimes outperform the the actors,” said Ager. “The more people you put in front of an artist, the more money they make, so our challenge is how to engage the maximum number of people.”

“You’re actually touring a prototype – and that can go wrong,”

IPM day host Meagan Walker, general manager of Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena asked when is enough, enough? “The bigger we [venues] get, the bigger the show and production gets,” she said.

The panellists also broached the difficulties of loading into certain venues, with local councils imposing restrictions and buying up land around arenas in many city centres. “We need to work together and communicate very early on to avoid the stresses on the day itself,” said Berael.

Is there anything at the design level that can be changed to ease logistics? “We are always trying to minimise building time and think about loading,” said Ager. “But the artist is always going to want to push it further, and I’m not sure how to stop this.”

Ager stated it’s important to remember they venues are often a “tryout” for the shows themselves, but this is changing with many using places like Production Park to test production out.

“You’re actually touring a prototype – and that can go wrong,” reiterated Roberts, saying that it is key for venues to come and look at the production beforehand to pinpoint potential problems and discuss solutions with the production manager.

The issue of liability was also raised, with Roberts stating that it is difficult to get house riggers to sign off on the work they have done. Walker explained that there is a large amount of liability with venues anyway, so there is a degree of nervousness to accept more.

The panel ended with a talk on sustainability. Roberts said that, although he is “unsure whether you can call what we do sustainable”, the entertainment industry is a “great testing ground” for green initiatives.

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IPM 13: Small Venues: Does size really matter?

‘Does size really matter?’ was the question posed to IPM delegates at the day’s penultimate panel, which looked at the production challenges faced by venues with capacities from 25 to 5,000.

Serge Grimaux, from the 4,000-capacity Fórum Karlín in Prague, spoke on the pressures small venues without “anchor tenants”, such as sports teams, face to fill their calendars. “As soon as you try to bring in other events – whether it’s a food festival, a smaller sporting fixture – you get into additional challenges to deliver them, and that’s where you need good production people to make things happen,” he said.

Unlike arenas and stadia, venues such as London’s Eventim Apollo (5,039-cap.) “have finite parameters,” said its production manager, Alice James. “Believe me, I’d love to make the stage bigger, move the back wall, give you three more truck bays… but our venue was built in the ’30s and they didn’t think of things like lifts, or getting big wardrobe cases into dressing rooms…”

To bridge any gap between artist and venue expectations, it’s important to “make sure our communication is strong – and early,” continued Luke Hinton, promotions manager at the 170-cap. Horn in St Albans, “because it can be that if additional equipment is required, for example, we could do things like reduce the saleable capacity of the show. But we have had occasions where we’ve only found that out after the show sold out, so it’s important to get that communication in early from both sides.”

“Believe me, I’d love to make the stage bigger … but our venue was built in the ’30s”

“There has to be some compromise,” added Máté Horváth from Hunarian promoter DDW Music, “from both sides, such as making sure the management and the artist are understanding all the technical requirements. You have to work together and make it happen in the end.”

Unlike arenas, “people feel a love for their local grassroots venue”, said chair Chris Jones, manager of Selby Town Hall in Yorkshire. “They often know the door staff, the sound engineer, in a way you don’t get in the bigger venues – where you go, you enjoy the experience and then you go home. They’re really a part of the local ecosystem in a way that bigger venues can’t be.”

That may be true, but the core challenges are the same – so Jones asked panellists to finish by reflecting on the similarities between production for shows in small and large venues.

“You have to work together and make it happen in the end”

Advancing, suggested James: “For example, [at the last minute] the band decide they want to film the show, which creates kills – but in a sold-out show there aren’t any seats to kill. I’ve talked to my colleagues at the O2 [Arena in London] and they’ve experienced the same thing.”

“You need great people” no matter the size of the venue, said Grimaux. “If I remember back to when I was working in a tiny venue, even if we were three people doing the job of ten or 15, you need to be dedicated and realise the role you have in that chain.”

“When you’re advancing a smaller venue, you have a more active role,” continued Horváth, “but what’s common is that all artists and touring personnel deserve to have best possible show. This is something that has to apply equally for an arena and a 100-cap. room – no one should feel like they’re nothing special, just a band playing in a small room.”

“It’s not true that the bigger the venue, the bigger the problem,” Grimaux added. “The problems are the same. It’s the attitude that’s the most the important thing.”


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Eps appoints new CEO of Scandinavian arm

Event infrastructure supplier eps has expanded its management team, appointing Fredrik Zetterberg as CEO of its Scandinavian division.

Zetterberg joins eps from esports promoter Dreamhack, where he headed up the event operations and logistics department. He previously worked as head of production event technologies and sales at Swedish trade fair organiser Stockholmsmässan.

Bo Teichert, who co-founded eps Scandinavia, will focus on operations and existing customer relationships.

“I am delighted to welcome Fredrik Zetterberg to our eps family,” comments Okan Tombulca, managing director of the eps group, who is among those speaking at the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) on Tuesday 3 March.

“He brings a wealth of experience, in-depth knowledge, and an understanding of all aspects of our industry. With Zetterberg in our team, we will be able to better meet the needs of our customers in the growing Scandinavian market. By taking this step, we as the eps group are also consistently proceeding our path of steady growth.”

“With Zetterberg in our team, we will be able to better meet the needs of our customers in the growing Scandinavian market”

“We look back on ten successful years and great projects, including Way Out West, Sweden Rock Festival, Bravalla, Lollapalooza Stockholm, Eurovision Song Contest and Ed Sheeran’s concert in Reykjavik,” adds Teichert. “I am pleased to welcome Fredrik Zetterberg as CEO to continue this success story of eps scandinavia.”

Founded in 2010, eps Scandinavia has offices in Stockholm, Sweden, as well as its head offices in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Headquartered in Germany, eps now operates in ten subsidiaries worldwide, including a recently launched Candian division.

Representatives from over 25 countries are attending this year’s IPM, which takes place on the first day of the International Live Music Conference in London. Key issues to be discussed at IPM include event cancellation, the evolution of stage production and expanding markets.


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IPM gears up for 13th year

The 2020 edition of the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) is taking place in a week’s time in London, hosted by Rod Laver Arena’s Meagan Walker and featuring representatives from 25 different countries.

Now in its thirteenth year, IPM has established itself as a leading gathering for international production professionals, hosting over 200 of the world’s top production managers; health, safety and security specialists; crewing companies and production suppliers over the years.

Eps CEO Okan Tombulca is heading up a panel on show cancellations, along with panellists Tim Worton (ASM Global), Benjamin Hetzer (FKP Scorpio), Martin Goebbels (Miller Insurance) and Graham MacVoy (GMC Events). The session will look at the many reasons for cancellations of both indoor and outdoor events and the best ways to manage them, using case studies from some recent “successful” event cancellations.

The changing nature of stage production and design will form the focus of a panel chaired by Sportpaleis Group’s Coralie Berael, which will look in particular at how technology has changed show production in recent years. Mark Ager from Tait and Constantin Covaliu from Emagic will join Berael on the panel, along with international production manager Wob Roberts, who is currently working with Sam Smith, having previously served as Robbie Williams’ production manager.

“There is going to be an amazing amount of experience in the room”

IPM delegates will also hear about the challenges of working in expanding markets in a session led by Star Live’s Roger Barrett and featuring Brigitte Fuss of Megaforce, Sanjin Corovic from Production Pool and Helen Smith from Helsprod Ltd.

Grassroots venues will be in the spotlight for the Small Venues: Does size really matter? panel, featuring speakers from the Small Venues Network, Forum Karlin, DDW Music and Eventim Apollo.

Elsewhere in the IPM programme, Carl A H Martin will lead a discussion on the topical Martyn’s Law, representatives from transport company Pieter Smit will broach the issue of sustainable trucking and a yoga session will help delegates to relax.

“The IPM allows us all to talk about what involves the production of live music today,” comments Carl A H Martin, chairman of the IPM Advisory Group.

“We can talk sensibly, safely, internationally and, as always, be ahead of the ‘trends’. Truth is, most of the time we set them…

“If you are not amongst those from 25 countries that have already signed up, visit the website and get to it.”

“Although it is an honour to be producing this event, I wish I could attend as a delegate,” adds IPM producer, Sytske Kamstra. “There is going to be an amazing amount of experience in the room.”

IPM is taking place at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London on Tuesday 3 March, the opening day of the International Live Music Conference.


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Melbourne’s Eventfloor joins eps Australia

The Australian arm of global event infrastructure provider eps has acquired Melbourne-based ground protection specialist, Eventfloor.

Established in 2006, Eventfloor offers a range of portable flooring, access roadways and grass and turf protection systems.

Over the past 15 years, the company has held contracts with 30,050-capacity Aami Park stadium, Australian Open Tennis, Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix and Victorian Racing Club.

eps managing director Andrew Stone describes Eventfloor as a “strong and reliable business” with a “fantastic local reputation and associated inventory.”

“This merger will not only strengthen eps’s market leadership, it will also bring added value to all customers who will get a broader variety of products and services, with better access to warehousing, inventory, plant and machinery,” comments Stone.

“Being part of eps australia brings our clients considerable advantages”

Eventfloor owner Paul Blackie, who continue to work with eps Australia in a consulting role, says he is “very happy to see Eventfloor go to such a good home.”

“Being part of eps Australia brings our clients considerable advantages,” continues Blackie. “They not only have access to a wide range of flooring systems, but also to other products and services within the eps Australia wheelhouse, such as crowd barriers, seating and detailed CAD planning services.”

In addition to its Australian branch, eps has offices across Europe, in Germany, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Switzerland and the UK, as well as in North and South America.

eps is a long-time part of the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM), which returns on Tuesday 3 March 2020.


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