x

The latest industry news to your inbox.


I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities

    

I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Women on the Road

If you want to get a sense of representation on the road, award nominations are one place to look. As many of the interviewees for this feature excitedly pointed out, women dominate certain categories on the shortlist for this year’s TPI Awards. For the Tour Manager of the Year Award, five out of six nominees are women.

“That’s pretty huge,” says nominee Rebecca Travis, who has been tour manager for artists including James Blake, Gorillaz, Ellie Goulding, Florence and the Machine, and Arcade Fire.“I’ve been getting nominated for that kind of award quite a few times, and it’s generally one or two women in that category,” she adds.

Marguerite Nguyen, longtime tour manager for Coldplay, and another one of the five female nominees, says the tour manager shortlist reflects a growing trend. “Tour managers are increasingly female,” she tells IQ from her home in Chicago. “I think women are better at this role, just like I think men are better at other roles on the road. My theory is that women are better multitaskers than men. Plus, there’s probably a little bit of motherly care to how we operate.”

Travis attests: “I do believe that women have perhaps a more caring, nurturing, motherly sort of way with them, and they might be more thoughtful about things like eating and health and mental wellbeing.”

While female representation among tour managers is strong, unfortunately, it’s not reflective of gender balance in the wider production industry – especially when it comes to technical departments.

“It’s always been the ‘merch girl’ or the ‘sound guy'”

“The highest representation I’ve seen is ten women on a crew of 50 people,” says Laura Nagtegaal, a guitar technician and tour manager who has been working in the industry for 30 years. “And when it comes to the backline, I’m a unicorn.”

Travis, whose industry career has spanned 25 years, has also noticed a gender divide when it comes to different touring disciplines: “Wardrobe, catering, management, assistant roles, are female-dominated, and accountants, and tour managers are well-represernted, but I struggle to think of many female production managers.”

On the other side of the production industry is Ginger Owl, a female-led company dealing in event management, accreditation, logistics, and advancing. “We advance lots of festivals and still, primarily, our main contacts are men – especially the technical and production roles,” says Julie Chennells. “You can count on one hand the ladies you see in the lighting industry, for example. We tend to see them more in logistics and sectors like in accreditation.

“I wouldn’t like to comment whether it’s society pushing women that way or if it’s because they don’t have the opportunities or if it’s indeed because they’re just not that interested in that side. It’s a very difficult question and debate. But if you look at the touring industry, it’s a microcosm of the world.”

Nagtegaal points out, gender inequality across roles has long been ingrained in ways we might not even realise: “It’s always been the ‘merch girl’ or the ‘sound guy.’”

“There are more women than I had ever witnessed on any other tour”

In a league of their own
It may not come as a surprise that one of the acts setting the bar for diversity among touring crews is Coldplay, a band that has been industry-leading in more ways than one.

Marguerite Nguyen started touring with the British icons in 2008 on the Viva La Vida tour as the production coordinator, before getting promoted to tour manager for Mylo Xyloto.

“I remember one day, we were walking the band offstage, and I saw a sea of women surrounding the band as they were walking back to the dressing room,” she recalls of her early days with the band. “There are more women than I had ever witnessed on any other tour – and it’s by no means a requirement of employment,” she says.

Coldplay’s team comprises more than 40 women and, what’s more notable than that, is the roles they take up on the crew: from head carpenter to Chris Martin’s personal security officer.

Travis, who was recently drafted into the Coldplay crew by Nguyen, says Coldplay are peerless when it comes to the gender balance of crew. “There are women everywhere on that team,” she says. “The technical departments are really well represented but that’s because the band make a real conscious effort to do that. They have programmes and apprenticeships, and it’s great because the band is huge, and they have the budget. But I think genuinely it just stems from the fact that the band wants to work with women.”

“There are women everywhere on [the Coldplay] team”

But as Travis knows from previous experiences, some artists are willing to hire more women in their crew but are not able to do so for a range of reasons, including the shortage of staff post-Covid.

“If you were only recruiting two or three new crew, ideally you would like to be diverse but really you’re just trying to get the very best people,” says Travis. “And actually, after Covid, sometimes you’re sometimes just trying to get people [full stop].”

Like any industry, hiring practices are crucial to end up with a diverse workforce. So who are the people in charge of staffing a tour?

“Tours are mostly staffed when you come onto them,” explains Travis. “If you’ve got a tour manager and a production manager and you’ve been touring a while, they’ll have people they’ve been working with for years.”

Although Nguyen hired Travis, she tells IQ that she rarely has a hand in recruitment, but when she does, “I try to choose the person who has the best skill set for that position.”

Travis, if in the position to staff a tour, would also hire based on merit: “There is definitely a sisterhood, but I wouldn’t hire a woman over a man unless they were as or better qualified.”

“We probably attract women because we are female directors”

Ginger Owl’s Julie Chennells and Nancy Skipper are two women who are in the position to hire and, incidentally, have a female-dominated team. “The management team is all female. We’ve got ten full-time staff and only three of them are male. This is not through choice but through choosing the people who are right to do the job,” says Skipper.

However, she admits that being a female-led company is a draw for female candidates hoping to work in the industry –underlining the importance of visibility and representation.

“We probably attract women because we are female directors. Quite often we read that in emails – that’s something that’s drawn them to apply.”

But if, as these women say, hiring in the industry is a meritocracy, it begs the question why women aren’t represented across the board. Is it because they’re underqualified or is it because they’re not applying for certain positions in the first place – perhaps because they can’t see other women in certain positions?

“The music industry is the only industry that hasn’t been affected by the MeToo movement”

An unfair fight
The thing with meritocracy is that it only works if the playing field is even to start with and, as these women tell IQ, sexism and misogyny are alive and well in the industry. “I don’t know any woman that hasn’t encountered sexism and misogyny. No matter how big or how small or how innocent or how extreme,” says Nguyen.

“The music industry is the only industry that hasn’t been affected by the MeToo movement,” she adds. A recent survey by Women In Live Music (WILM) found that 41% feel that they don’t belong to the music industry because they are women. Respondents comprised 187 women from 26 different countries.

Laura Nagtegaal, who is a transgender woman, has a unique perspective on sexism in the industry, having presented as a man for the first chunk of her career before transitioning. “[Before transitioning] I would typically work ten to 20 events a month, and it doesn’t happen anymore,” she says. “If I ever had a situation where I reached the end of my money before the end of the month, all I would need to do is ask anyone in the industry and before I could even finish the sentence, I would have multiple job offers.”

“It makes me think what if I [was never] good but because I presented as a bloke, I was just one of the guys, and guys can’t fail to [get to] the top.”

“It’s common knowledge in every industry that women always get paid less than men”

Even the women that do manage to progress through the industry’s meritocracy are still not getting the same rewards or recognition as their male counterparts.

“It’s common knowledge in every industry that women always get paid less than men,” says Nguyen.“It’s a very touchy subject with women, but I think that we should not be scared to talk about salaries and money. We should be asking each other ‘Hey, what did you get on this tour? Or ‘What should I ask for?’ Or ‘I really think I deserve a raise.’ I definitely don’t think men are having those kinds of conversations.”

Nobody puts baby in a corner
Another possible reason for the lack of female representation within touring crews, especially in some of the leading positions, is the difficulty of having children and maintaining a career on the road.

WILM, a European platform and online community for women in live music with more than 7,000 users, has long been investigating the impact – perceived and proven – of motherhood on women’s careers.

“We noticed over the years that women on-stage and offstage would hide their pregnancy if they were expecting, out of fear of losing jobs,” says WILM co-founder Malle Kaas.

“I think most people give up the industry if they have kids”

“We heard many women saying they would postpone having children as they couldn’t see themselves having kids and keep working in the live music industry.”

Nguyen can testify to this: “I have always wanted to have children. When I was 36, I froze my eggs as an insurance policy for my future because I just didn’t know what was going to happen.

“If I choose to have a baby, I can’t do my job. It’s just a fact, and it sucks. And I know that I’m not done doing what I’m doing. I know women who are on the road who have children, and it’s super difficult. I think women instinctively have a guilt of being away.”

“I wish there was a better system for all women in every spectrum of the world and their careers. For women on the road, particularly, it is more difficult.”

Travis says this is true for women in the tour manager roles because of the nature of the job. “Sometimes people ask me if I’ve got kids and I say, ‘When would that have happened? Where are they when I’m out here?’” she laughs. “A tour management job is all-encompassing. If you were a monitor engineer or a lighting operator, and you had a partner with a job that would allow them to look after the child, you could go away for a week or two, but as a tour manager, there’s no way you could do that. I think most people give up the industry if they have kids.”

“I felt like I couldn’t be seen to be incapable because I was pregnant otherwise, people would stop giving me work”

Chennells, who has children of her own, adds: “I do think it’s another reason that [this industry] could be more off-putting to someone.”

The Ginger Owl boss remembers the pressure she felt to plough on with her work both before and after she gave birth, due to a lack of infrastructure for pregnant women – especially those that are freelance.

“I worked as a promoter rep until I was around eight months pregnant,” she says. “I felt like I couldn’t be seen to be incapable because I was pregnant otherwise, people would stop giving me work. You feel like you have to plough on to not be out of the circuit.”

Chennells returned to her first event when her daughter was two and a half months old: “I’d still been breastfeeding her and stuff, and I remember having to express in a PolyJohn [toilet] because there was just no other way. That’s just how it was, there are no provisions for stuff like that.”

By the same token
In other industries, those in charge of hiring have deployed positive discrimination when it comes to hiring, as a means to diversify the workforce, but the live music industry has mixed opinions.

“There are positive and negative sides to [positive discrimination],” says Laura Nagtegaal. “For instance, one band likes to book me because I’m Polish.”

But as she points out, there’s a difference between positive discrimination and tokenism. “One band, as I found out later, received an extra subsidy from the government for hiring a transgender person,” she says. “So that felt so much worse than tokenism, that felt like being used. Tokenism makes you second guess yourself – it creates imposter syndrome.”

“People see me on stage and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, I can do this, too.'”

Imposter syndrome seems to be prevalent among women in the industry – possibly for that reason. In the aforementioned WILM survey, 44% of respondents said that, in general, they feel less confident than their male colleagues.

But Nagtegaal points out that despite the intention when it comes to hiring women, the result is often positive. “By hiring me, the numbers actually go up, there’s more representation,” she says. “People see me on stage and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, I can do this, too.’ People literally come up to me after the show and say, ‘I didn’t know women could do this.’”

Travis says that being part of a minority has proved to be an advantage when it comes to getting hired for a job: “There’s less of you, therefore you stand out more.”

On the flip side, Chennells argues: “I do think it can be quite intimidating still to go into a very male-orientated sector like the audio or the lighting crew.”

Levelling the playing field
When WILM launched seven years ago to increase the representation of women backstage, the co-founders hoped it wouldn’t be needed for more than six months.

“We were so wrong!” says Kaas. “The need for WILM gets bigger every year, and we are looking at six to seven more years of work as we try to keep up with the huge demand for our community.”

“I just want women to have the same opportunities as men”

In an industry that continues to be dominated by men, there are many improvements to be made for women – from equal pay to better support for mothers – but the women are keen to point out that there are some fundamental issues that needs to be addressed first.

“One thing is to introduce and recruit women to the industry, another thing is to retain them,” says Kaas. “It takes about three to five years of training to get a competent person who can do the gig. But the majority of women dropout of the industry after three to four years for whatever reason. If we don’t find solutions to retain the women in the industry, we’ll keep on losing them and not really getting anywhere.”

Put simply by Nguyen: “I just want women to have the same opportunities as men. It would be nice to have an even playing field for everybody, no matter how you identify.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Malcolm Weldon: The Gaffer

Harbouring teenage dreams to be a producer, Malcolm Weldon found himself becoming a stage manager and then production manager by default. But the recording industry’s loss has definitely been live music’s gain. Gordon Masson talks to 2023’s winner of The Gaffer award, who will also participate in IPM’s Inside P!nk’s Summer Carnival session on 29 February at this year’s ILMC…

Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Malcolm Weldon decided very early on that he wanted to pursue a career in music, and his unfailing work ethic saw him working multiple jobs to get a foot in the door. But live music was not on his radar.

“I loved jazz music, and I would study the liner notes on records to find out what all the associated jobs were,” he tells IQ. “I played bass, but by a certain age, I figured out that I wasn’t going to be the kind of musician that I aspired to be – Jaco Pastorius or Stanley Clarke. Instead, I made up my mind that I would become a recording engineer and producer.”

Determined to fulfil his dream, Weldon enrolled on a college course and worked every hour he could to pay for his tuition. “That was back in the early 80s, and it cost close to $10,000 – that was a lot of money for a poor kid from South Central LA. But I worked multiple jobs to put myself through school, and somehow, I managed it.”

That perseverance is something that has been a mainstay of Weldon’s career for the past 40 years and counting. “I mainly got it from my grandmother. My family were from Oklahoma and migrated to Southern California in the late 1940s, and my grandmother just had an amazing work ethic. Those were very hard times for people of colour, back then, but she just told me as a kid, ‘Whatever it is you want to do, you can do it if you put your mind to it and work hard.’ So that’s what I believed.”

Earning himself the credentials to be a recording engineer was one thing, but actually finding a job to match those qualifications proved to be a frustrating exercise.

“I didn’t want to do live. I just figured I’d be at the theatre for a couple of months until I found a gig, but that never came through”

Gran Designs
But luckily, Weldon’s grandmother – the fantastically named Sweetie Magnolia Ruff – intervened, with a little help from the force…

“My grandmother was a housekeeper and nanny for this family in Beverly Hills, the father of whom, Stanley Freberg, was one of the premiere comedy writers in Hollywood. My grandmother helped raise their daughter, Donna Freberg, and they became really close so that even when my grandmother retired, they stayed in touch.

“Once I got out of school, I kept looking everywhere trying to find a job, but I couldn’t get one. Then my grandmother told me she had been speaking to Donna, who said I should call her, because her husband, Todd Fisher, the brother of actress Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia in Star Wars – might be able to help.

“I really didn’t think my grandmother had the slightest clue of what I was doing, so I didn’t really pay her attention. About a week later, she asked me if I had called Donna, and I told her ‘no.’ So she forced me to call Donna, straight away. It turned out her husband had a recording studio complex, and he used to do all these live tapings, so I found myself working with Todd. There was a church congregation that used one of the studios, and when that church started to grow, I moved with them to another studio, and then when they outgrew that, I followed them to the Beverly Theater, and that’s kind of how I got started.”

Even having landed the in-house sound engineer gig at the theatre, Malcolm had not given up on his recording engineer ambitions and continued to work the nightshift at a grocery store as he awaited his big chance.

“I was still trying to get into the recording business. I didn’t want to do live. I’ve just figured I’d be at the theatre for a couple of months until I found a gig, but that never came through,” he says.

“Having worked in the theatre, I was used to rolling up my sleeves and helping out everywhere”

Meantime, his enjoyment of the role in the Beverly Theater grew and before he knew it, he had been the building’s sound chief for seven years.

That position came to an abrupt end when the venue closed. “I was forced to go on the road,” he says. “I had already been out with a little gospel group called the Winans who used to come through the theatre and who had asked me to go out with them for a couple of days or a week and stuff like that. After that, I did another offshoot called BeBe & CeCe Winans, and that led to a jazz artist, who also came through Beverly Theater, called George Howard.”

Starting out as Howard’s front of house engineer, because of budgetary constraints Weldon soon found himself stepping up his role to also mixing monitors, as well as setting up all the backline for the saxophonist.

“Having worked in the theatre, I was used to rolling up my sleeves and helping out everywhere. When I wasn’t doing my sound stuff, I would help with building renovations, so I did all the painting, screwed seats back into the floor, and a bit of carpentry here and there, so that was something else I was able to offer when I went on the road.”

A Foot Out The Door
Keen to learn as much as possible, Weldon pleaded with tour manager Marty Hom to take him on the road. “He would come through the theatre every year with different artists, and we always got on. Eventually, he asked me to help him out at a little event in LA called the Asian Pacific Festival. I think he wanted to see how I was outside the theatre and how I handled myself, so he hired me as a stage manager. It was a good move because sometimes people perform very differently when they are in an unfamiliar environment. But I guess I did a good job because a couple of weeks later, Marty offered me a gig working with Paula Abdul.”

“I’d come from a live jazz world. But I had seen some pop acts performing to backing tracks, so I didn’t quite realise what the situation was”

At the time, Malcolm admits he knew nothing about the artist. “It wasn’t the music that I listened to,” he says. “But at that point, she was growing and quickly became the Taylor Swift or Beyoncé of that time: she was on every magazine cover, and her albums were huge.”

The first work with Abdul was as part of the Club MTV Live tour in 1989, which also starred the likes of Tone Loc, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Was (Not Was), Information Society, and Milli Vanilli.

On the back of that tour, Weldon found himself working on the live shows for controversial lip-synching German duo Milli Vanilli. “It was interesting because at that point, I did not know about that kind of thing because I’d come from a live jazz world. But I had seen some pop acts performing to backing tracks, so I didn’t quite realise what the situation was,” he comments.

But having impressed Hom on the Club MTV set up, he was asked to return for Abdul’s Under My Spell world tour, meaning he found himself applying for his first passport as the production visited the likes of Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. “I was pretty young, when I think about it: I was 27 or 28, so it was an amazing experience.”

Indeed, as Malcolm began to get in the routine of life on the road, he began to forget about his recording engineer aspirations.

“I’m not just a production manager: I do whatever needs to be done at the point when I need to do it”

If I Had A Hammer…
Earning an early reputation as a reliable stage manager and carpenter, Weldon’s career began to morph, thanks in no small way to his willingness to get involved across all production disciplines, and he found himself involved on shows in a stage manager, quasi production manager role.

Talking about his desire to learn on-the-job skills, Weldon notes, “I see every opportunity to learn as another stepping stone for myself, and I think that’s true with a lot of production managers. For instance, I remember working with Chris Kansy when he was a guitar tech, and now he’s PM for Coldplay, Roger Waters, all that stuff.”

Weldon’s own promotion to production manager came at the behest of legendary artist manager Roger Davies. “I had been stage managing for a number of years for Roger, who I first met on a Janet Jackson tour in 1994. After that I stage managed Ozzy Osbourne shows, and then I went out on a Tina Turner tour. She was also managed by Roger Davies, so I was stage manager for that and a bunch of his tours.

“Eventually, Roger asked me to be production manager for Janet in 2000/2001, and that’s primarily what I’ve been doing since. But I still put my hat on as a stage manager or a site coordinator from time to time. I’m not just a production manager: I do whatever needs to be done at the point when I need to do it.”

As someone who regards every day as an education process, Weldon namechecks a list of people that he recognises as mentors. “Bobby Thrasher, who is also known as Boomer, was the production manager for Springsteen and for Billy Joel, and I worked under him for a while,” he tells IQ. “I also worked under Jake Berry, who is just a legend, but it’s not just all the different production managers, it’s also tour managers you learn from. I tend to take a little bit from everybody – ‘I dig what that person does; I’m not going to do what that person does, I’m gonna do it this way instead…’ so you take what you see as the best practices and adopt them to create your own persona.”

“The only reason I became a production manager was so that I could hire and fire people”

Higher & Fire
While Weldon remains as humble as ever, he has deservedly earned a reputation as one of the live entertainment industry’s elite production managers. But his motives to become production chief were not because of any personal ambition.

“The only reason I became a production manager was so that I could hire and fire people,” he reveals. “That’s literally true because I’d been a stage manager for so many tours where I’d try to get everybody to listen to me and do what I needed them to do. But it’s difficult, because they may have their own agenda and every department is trying to do their own thing. And because you didn’t hire them, you’re just stuck with them.

“I knew the only way to get around that would be to become the production manager. Now, I can bring in the people that I want to work with, knowing that they’re going to do it my way. If they don’t, there’s the door!”

Detailing some of his work ethic and philosophy, Weldon says, “Working as one, our common goal is making sure, at the end of the day, whoever the artist is, they know that everybody behind them has done their best.

“One of the main tasks of the production manager is to get everybody to work together, as opposed to each department just thinking about themselves. For example, when you start in the morning, if you have a lighting guy running cable across the floor that he may not need for an hour or two, you have to ask, ‘Why did you run that cable across when I gotta get all this other stuff across? If you’re going to run it, put a cable ramp down.’ It’s those little things that can add up throughout a day, so trying to get everybody to work together in concert to have an end goal is my biggest task.”

“Anyone who works with me knows that I’m not going to ask anybody to do anything that I wouldn’t do. But unfortunately for them, I’ll pretty much do anything to get things to work”

With more than 40 years’ experience, Weldon has amassed a contacts book of the industry’s finest crew and has assembled his own core personnel on whom he knows he can rely.

“You learn pretty quickly who the best people are, but I’m a production manager who’s really a stage manager with the power to hire and fire people, so I still think of everything in stage manager terms. I’m thinking how everything gets put into the carts, how the carts go into the trucks, how the trucks get unloaded, what order the trucks should come in, and what order stuff comes onto the floor.

“Unfortunately, for some people, I’m an old-school production manager, like Jake Berry, where I’m involved and engaged with loading. I’m not a production manager who sits in an office all day; I don’t even know what I would do in an office all day. But I know a lot of my guys would prefer me to go to the office,” he says.

“At the same time, I do try not to micromanage because that can also be incredibly irritating. Bottom line, I try to lead by example. Anyone who works with me knows that I’m not going to ask anybody to do anything that I wouldn’t do. But unfortunately for them, I’ll pretty much do anything to get things to work.”

The riggers, however, are safe. “I don’t climb. I’m not going up in the air; I’m sticking down on the ground,” laughs Malcolm.

“It does not matter how good you are, or you think you are, you’re only as good as your team. It’s like casting a movie: you’re trying to find the best possible cast”

That’s The Way Live Goes
Already armed with a dream team of crew he loved working with, Weldon assembled some of the finest talent in the business for his first PM job with Janet Jackson. “I just was lucky enough to get some of those people. And some of them are still working with me,” he reports.

“I had this gentleman that I kind of came up with in LA as a stagehand, called Kurt Wagner, aka Slap. He’s one of the best guys in the business: just a good, hard-working gentleman. Slap helped me from the start and although we kind of split up for a while because he left to work with Opie on the [Rolling] Stones, I was able to sneak him back for a little bit, so he’s my site coordinator for this P!nk tour.

“As a production manager, it does not matter how good you are, or you think you are, you’re only as good as your team. It’s like casting a movie: you’re trying to find the best possible cast.”

But Weldon is always on the lookout for new people to add to his crew and has earned a global reputation for mentoring scores of up-and-coming production talent. “I’d rather have somebody who has a good attitude and a good work ethic over somebody who can be the best at what they do but they’re just an asshole,” he says of his recruitment sensibilities.

“I’ve seen tours where one person with a bad attitude can slowly permeate throughout the crew like a cancer. You could have people that never had a problem with anything, and then, next thing you know, they’re complaining about something goofy. And you’re like, well, where’d that come from? It came from that one bad seed.”

“There’s no reason to be in the venue when you don’t need to be there. Even if it was only two hours or an hour, just to have your own private time is important”

Keeping It Together
Weldon is also renowned as being one of the best organised PMs in the business, taking great pains to make sure his crew members are not left waiting around for hours on end when they could be resting.

“That kind of thing can cause problems,” explains Malcolm. “Having everybody come in all together often means each department doesn’t have the tools they need to do their job yet because each department has a certain order of the day. You do rigging first, you get the power in, the lights come in and stuff starts to float up in the air, and everybody that goes underneath it all starts to build. There’s no reason to be in the venue when you don’t need to be there. Even if it was only two hours or an hour, just to have your own private time is important.”

However, he acknowledges, “The artists and managers only have a certain amount of time within the year where they need to make their money, so the tours are much more compressed these days, meaning that there’s less time for the crew to do everything.

“Between the promoters and managers, they understand that this is how much money needs to be made per week, and therefore, we need to do this amount of shows per week to sustain the tour. Often, the thought that people need sleep and time away from the venue is not necessarily taken into account and that falls upon the production manager to figure out.”

What About P!nk
At press time, Weldon was overseeing elements of P!nk’s Trustfall production equipment undergoing maintenance and servicing before being packed into shipping containers for the journey to Australasia where the tour resumes in February for a 20-date stadium run.

“P!nk, or Alecia as we know her, is the biggest star down there – she just does phenomenal business in Australia: there is no one bigger!”

“P!nk, or Alecia as we know her, is the biggest star down there – she just does phenomenal business in Australia: there is no one bigger!” states Malcolm.

Indeed, P!nk’s spectacular shows have been wowing audiences in Europe and North America over recent months, and when it comes to her aerial routines, her acrophobic PM explains that the aerobatics originated in arenas and have since grown in scale for stadium and festival shows. “It comes from the artist’s desire to get out and be as close as possible to the fans at the far end of the arena or stadium,” says Weldon, noting that the technology involved is very similar to the spider-cam systems used by sports broadcasters to get closer to the action, with P!nk effectively taking the place of the camera equipment.

“It’s all programmed – every move that she’s doing, there’s no way you can do what we do without it being automated,” he says.

The importance of that daring performance to the Trustfall show means that Weldon’s site coordinators and advance teams are key to the tour’s success. “I consider my head rigger, Gabe Wood, to be the best in the business, and we try to go to each building before we get there, just to make sure there’s nothing like pillars or anything in the way of the aerial part of the show. So, in stadiums for instance, we make sure we can get her up high enough to fly over the top of the delay towers. But at the same time, there are other things that are up there – lighting fixtures can often get in the way – so we’re trying to make sure there’s nothing in the way of the flight path.”

Another challenge for Malcolm and his crew are the trampolines that are used during the show by P!nk and her dancers and acrobats. “That set piece is 49 feet wide by 14 feet deep, so it’s a big space that it takes up on stage that you can’t do anything with – it’s just a dead area: once it’s built, it pretty much kills that part of the stage,” he explains.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re working with your best friend, if you see them every single day for 12 or 18 hours a day, they are bound to get on your nerves”

The production chief pays tribute to carpenter Judy LeBeau who has been tasked with the trampolines set-up and maintenance. “It can be split apart into two separate trampoline areas, and when it is split, we can raise the video wall, and that’s how we bring in all the support gear and whatever else has to come on,” he adds.

But the main challenge on the Trustfall tour, according to Malcolm, is quite simply the routing and making sure personnel get adequate rest.

“It’s a tight schedule – we work every single day,” he notes. “It doesn’t matter if you’re working with your best friend, if you see them every single day for 12 or 18 hours a day, they are bound to get on your nerves. So, the challenge is to give crew members time off, away from the venue, away from their co-workers.”

As a result, Weldon has set some procedures in stone. “All load-ins on the stadium runs start at 12 noon. Even if we arrive at the venue at six o’clock or eight o’clock in the morning, I won’t load in until 12 to give people as close to eight hours of sleep as possible.”

While stadiums often require three sets of steel, in Australia, the Trustfall tour will rely on just two sets. “The steel will leapfrog from stadium to stadium, and we’ve been able to plan for just two sets because we’re doing double dates in each city,” adds Malcolm.

“I hate postponements because I don’t want to build it all and then have to tear it down and then have to come back at a later date”

Post Australia, P!nk has already confirmed a return to stadia in Europe next year, while there’s also the matter of some North American dates that need to be rescheduled following recent postponements in Tacoma and Vancouver.

“I hate postponements because I don’t want to build it all and then have to tear it down and then have to come back at a later date,” says Weldon. “It’s a pain for everybody, starting with the patrons that bought a ticket. But it also means you have to figure out a place in the calendar that will allow you to go back to that city to make up that date, which can be especially tricky for stadium shows where the window for availability in a calendar year is very short.”

But he is in no doubt that the artist will do her best to make sure her fans are not disappointed. “Alecia has an amazing work ethic,” states Weldon. “She’s expecting everybody to show up and put their A-game on because she is putting her A-game on, every show. So we’re all doing the most we can to prepare for her so that she can do her best.

“She’s also a very kind and generous person who cares about her crew, and her band, and dancers, and everybody else around her. And she tries to provide as much love and respect for all of us, so that we all feel comfortable.”

Something Beautiful
However, when it comes to the best artist he’s ever worked for, Weldon doesn’t hesitate in his answer. “Tina Turner. She was just an amazing person – one of the most humble, kind, generous human beings I’ve ever met in my life. And you would think she’d be the opposite of that, through all the hardship that she went through in her life, but she was incredible. I don’t know if it was through her Buddhism, or whatever it was, but she just embodied kindness, and when she walked in the building, she would say, ‘Mal, how are you? How’s everybody doing? How’s the crew?’”

“Prince was an enigma. Nobody that I’ve ever worked for, or ever seen, compared to his artistry on stage. I’ve never seen anything like that”

Weldon’s importance to the artist can still be found online, with Turner singing Happy Birthday to Malcolm live on stage in Stockholm in April 2009.

Recalling another artist, who wasn’t quite so humble with his crew, Malcolm tells IQ, “Prince was an enigma. Nobody that I’ve ever worked for, or ever seen, compared to his artistry on stage. I’ve never seen anything like that. We did a bunch of shows in Madison Square Garden, where he literally had the band leave, and it was just him on stage, playing a guitar and a piano at the same time, totally captivating the audience like you could not imagine – especially a New York audience who can be a bit jaded, but he blew them away.

“But then, earlier that day, he had pissed me off, because he would ask for something last minute and it would be something I’d have to try to create out of nowhere. And then he’d be back in my face asking where it was. ‘You just told me; I’m working on it.’ And Prince would come back with, ‘Then why are you sitting here talking to me, when you should be getting it?’

“He was infuriating. But then you’d see what he could do on stage, and it was impossible to be mad at him.”

Outside of his work life, Malcolm admits to enjoying the simple pleasures. “I like gardening, I really do,” he says. “I like hiking and anything that basically allows me to enjoy fresh air because I’m always in a venue or in a hotel or an airport or bus. So, when I relax, I gravitate to anything to do with the outdoors.”

“Coming up in the business, and being a person of colour, I found out how hard and difficult it was for me to be seen and to get a gig”

Otherwise, any downtime he finds is spent with family.

“I have a wife, Laverne, two kids, and four grandkids, who are very important to me. My son, Nicholas, is a camera operator/video director, while my daughter, Camille, pivoted in a whole different direction. She graduated with a degree in clinical psychology and worked with kids with disabilities, autism, and all that kind of stuff. And then she decided to go back to school to get a doctorate and a degree in business so she could open her own non-profit. But she realised that after she would have gotten out of college, she would have probably owed over a quarter of a million dollars. So, she decided to take a little break, and she fell back in love with music, and now she’s a DJ.

“As a father, all you want is your kids to be happy. It may have taken Camille an extended route, but she’s happy, so it’s all good.”

Women Up
With that female influence at home, the historic influence of his grandmother, and the fact that he has worked closely with the likes of Janet Jackson, Cher, Tina Turner, Sade, and latterly, P!nk (all clients of Roger Davies), it’s perhaps not surprising to learn that Weldon is also a big champion of having more women on the road.

“Coming up in the business, and being a person of colour, I found out how hard and difficult it was for me to be seen and to get a gig,”he says. “But because of that, I want to try to take some of the stumbling blocks away for other people trying to find a career.

“There have been many times when I’d walk into a building and people would look around everywhere before they’d come to me to ask me where the production manager was”

“At the same time, I’ve found that women can multitask a lot better than men. You can tell them, ‘This is what I want you to do.’ And they go off and do it. And you tell them how you want it done, and you know you can leave them to it. Whereas, a lot of times, guys think they know everything. You know, it’s like a guy who’s driving to the beach with his wife and kids. And the
wife is asking, ‘Why don’t you look at the map?’ And he’s like, ‘No, I don’t need to,’ even though he’s lost in the forest.”

Elaborating on some of the prejudice and ignorance he has encountered, Malcolm opines, “Just because it’s the entertainment industry, doesn’t mean it’s different to anything else in society – it’s the same people. As a person of colour, I had to work twice as hard. I’d get up early to be the first to report for duty, and I’d make sure I was one of the last ones to leave, just to show the weight of my convictions and what I was capable of.

“There have been many times when I’d walk into a building and people would look around everywhere before they’d come to me to ask me where the production manager was. But I’ve dealt with that ever since I was the sound guy at the Beverly Theater – I would be the last person that they would think of as the house sound guy. That’s just life; I try not to dwell on it.

“It still happens. Fairly recently, I came across a gentleman at a venue who was ignoring my requests to move some equipment. When it eventually dawned on him that the boxes needed to be moved so that we could get on with things, he came to me to ask where the production manager was… He knew he was in the wrong, so there was no need for me to rub his nose in it.”

That calm demeanour has served Malcolm well over the years, and he is quite rightly regarded as one of the safest pair of hands with which to entrust an artist’s touring vision, and a deserving recipient of The Gaffer Award for 2023.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Tait to open central London base

Tait, the global creative engineering group for live experiences, is set to open a central London base in 2024.

The Pennsylvania-headquartered company, backed by Providence Equity, designs, constructs, manufactures and operates stages and installations for clients including Taylor Swift, Cirque Du Soleil, Royal Opera House, NASA, National Geographic, Beyoncé and The Olympics.

The new office in Tileyard (also home to IQ and ILMC), Kings Cross, follows the company’s expansion in the UK, with a presence that includes factories in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and Haverhill, Suffolk, as well as training and R&D facilities in Hampton.

“Locally, it means we have a central point for the UK’s talented design houses and celebrated theatres, especially in London’s West End”

The UK offshoot was born through strategic acquisitions of Stage Technologies, Delstar, Brilliant Stages and Kinesys, resulting in experiences ranging from the flying car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the Royal Opera House to the Rolling Stones; the Olympics to Outernet.

Founded in 1978 at Tait Towers, the company has grown to 20 offices worldwide that work across concert touring, permanent and touring theatre, cruise ships, performance venues, brand and location-based experiences.

“We’re creating this central London base to support our work across the UK, Europe and Worldwide,” says Ben Brooks, Managing Director UK, TAIT.

“We’re proud to be part of the live experience community, and this new space will support our work with partners across the globe. Locally, it means we have a central point for the UK’s talented design houses and celebrated theatres, especially in London’s West End. It’s also two hours from our sites in West Yorkshire and Suffolk”. ​ ​

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Event Production Forum East sets 2023 date

The Event Production Forum East (EPFE) is returning for its seventh year to the Budapest Arena in Hungary on 10 November.

Organised by Carl A H Martin and Máté Horvath, the gathering attracts event professionals, technicians, bookers and entrepreneurs from production, venue management, promotion, hospitality and suppliers to focus on the challenges being faced across Central and Eastern Europe and the surrounding regions.

Delegates will enjoy a day of networking, centred around four panels, presented in association with EPS, Visual Europe Group and Continest.

Panels will include It Is Really So Difficult?, chaired by Sanjin Corovic, which will discuss education and training within the live events.

Do You Remember When We Didn’t Have All this S**t?, chaired by Nika Brunet Milunovic, will explore the evolution of technology and working practices over the past three decades.

“This year has been really hard work throughout the event industry, in the CEE and beyond”

The Real Legacy of Covid 19?, moderated by Carl AH Martin, asks whether post-pandemic fatigue has created a less caring and responsible industry.

And The Dinosaur Panel will see Mick Worwood and Paul Pike bring uncensored tales from yesteryear that will combine educational insights with hilarious anecdotes, according to a release.

“This year has been really hard work throughout the event industry, in the CEE and beyond,” says Carl AH Martin. “We will be discussing, in detail, what is going on and what is going to be happening in the future, plus what we can do to help.

“I love bringing together some of the industry’s most experienced operators with the young stars of the future, with input from the floor encouraged. We’ll keep delegates refreshed and fed through the day and will finish the day with the traditional free evening dinner and drinks in a downtown venue, followed by continuation of the revelry for those who are up for it.

“We look forward to seeing our regulars and welcoming new faces to EPFE23, where you can talk, be listened to, learn from others and enjoy life.”

Tickets are priced the same as last year – HUF30,000 (€78.50) – and can be bought here.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

IQ 122 out now: Stephan Thanscheidt, Sziget and more

IQ 122, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online now.

The September edition charts Stephan Thanscheidt’s journey from playing in punk bands to the CEO of FKP Scorpio, and analyses the lineups of 50 top European festivals, in collaboration with ROSTR.

Meanwhile, Mark Beaumont visits Sziget as the event celebrates 30 years and Adam Woods gives us the low down on the lowlands for this issue’s Netherlands market focus.

Elsewhere James Hanley shines a light on ten of Europe’s brightest indie festivals and finds out what makes them so special and, IQ reveals the Green Guardians 2023, our annual guide to the eco-warriors and innovators striving to make our venues and events more sustainable.

Plus, leading production managers weigh in while we profile several innovations new for the 2023 season.

For this edition’s columns and comments, Shain Shapiro discusses how we should be leading the change when it comes to supporting our local venues, and Michael Kümmerle explains how TikTok wants to expand promoters’ horizons.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ from just £8 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

A Rare Breed: Ginger Owl celebrates 10th anniversary

When you consider the baptism of fire that was Nancy Skipper and Julie Chennells’ entry into the live music industry, it’s no wonder their company became renowned for delivering when the heat is on.

The North London-born pair first met in 1998, working in the hallowed offices of Harvey Goldsmith CBE, the legendary English promoter who has worked with everyone from Madonna to The Rolling Stones but who is perhaps best known for Live Aid and the Teenage Cancer Trust shows.

Though Chennells gained some prior experience in the live music industry, working as a festival production assistant for Mean Fiddler, both women agree that Goldsmith’s office is “where it all began.”

“It was mad,” Chennells tells IQ. “It was a traditional rock and roll company – chaotic, fun, busy. There were lots of big personalities. It was incredible really.”

According to Goldsmith, the company at that time was producing 750-plus concerts a year, with Julie and Nancy supporting Pete Wilson, Dennis Arnold, and Andrew Zweck.

“Harvey [Goldsmith] was a great teacher”

“I worked in all the different departments in that company – from ticketing to production to marketing,” says Chennells. “It was a good exercise in being able to turn your hand to anything. And Harvey was a great teacher.”

Goldsmith, who is known as “our industry dad” to Skipper and Chennells, tells IQ he taught them as much as he could about the touring business: “They have seen it all, every bit of madness that our world offers, and have not only survived but have thrived. They are a great team.”

Chennells adds: “It changed me completely that job – more so than anything else. You had to be really resilient and – to use a cliche – work hard, play hard. I’ve never really experienced a job like that. Everything after that was never quite as mad.”

“Plus, he knows all the music industry legends,” says Skipper who worked as a bookkeeper at a media company in Soho before joining Harvey Goldsmith in 1997. “There aren’t many people in the UK industry of his generation that haven’t worked with him. As a result, we know so many big players in the industry.”

Some of those big players proved to be the stepping stones from Goldsmith’s office to their freelance careers to eventually launching their own company. Skipper left Goldsmith’s operations in 2005 to move to Devon in the southwest of England, and though she’d resigned herself to getting “a regular job,” her fate in the live music industry was sealed.

“When you’re repping on your own, you have to do every single thing, from security briefings to guestlist”

“Paul Loasby, manager to Jools Holland and Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, kicked off my freelance career,” she explained. He said, “It’s fine if you leave [Harvey], but you can take the work with you and do it remotely.”

“David Gilmour started touring in 2005/06, so I was really busy straightaway. If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have had the financial ability to kind of support myself and start my career as a freelancer. Allowing me to work from home was a really progressive approach from Paul. He just wanted to make sure that he had consistency with the people that he was working with.”

Skipper and Loasby went on to produce a Jools Holland tour every single year after that, as well as two more tours for Gilmour. To this day, the pair still look after the famed artists.

Chennells, meanwhile, left Goldsmith’s company in 2004 and also pursued a freelance career, primarily production-repping on behalf of Live Nation and SJM for increasingly large shows.

“I got some real hands-on experience during that time,” she says. “When you’re repping on your own, you have to do every single thing going, from security briefings to guestlist to production load-in. That time really cemented my knowledge of the other side of the industry that maybe I hadn’t got when I was office-based.”

“We did around 11 weeks of back-to-back festivals straightaway… our first year of [Ginger Owl] was incredible”

Though each of the women went their separate ways after the Goldsmith years, their paths crossed more than ever as freelancers. “More and more, Nancy and I got each other into jobs,” says Chennells. “Sometimes clients wanted two of you or sometimes I couldn’t do it and she could do it and vice versa.

“We both always worked as freelance artist liaison reps on the Live Nation festivals (before they became Festival Republic), but then we were asked to take over running the backstage. Between us, we were running all of their festivals that year, and at the same time, we also had other jobs coming in that we worked on together as freelancers.”

Eventually, the pair were working on so many freelance jobs together, forming the company felt like the next logical step. “It took us longer to decide what to call it than it did to decide to do it,” laughs Skipper.

Ginger Owl was officially launched in April 2013 and from the get-go, business boomed. “We did around 11 weeks of back-to-back festivals straightaway… our first year was incredible,” says Skipper. “We got a lot of work from Live Nation that first year. They’ve always been so supportive of us – from the festivals to touring to VIP work to guestlists work, we’ve always counted them as one of our major clients.”

Live Nation and Festival Republic weren’t the only clients that remained loyal to Ginger Owl. The pair retained Teenage Cancer Trust, One Fifteen’s Jools Holland Autumn Tour, The BRIT Awards, Loudsound, Beautiful Days festival, and MTV from their prior era.

“We often get calls where people say: ‘This is going a little wrong, we need a team in here”

And their offering has only gained value with the recent launch of their bespoke software systems, GO Advance and GO Backstage, which streamline event management, accreditation, logistics, and advancing.

On top of that, the pair have continued to build a reputation as ‘firefighters’ of the industry – a skill they believe was honed at Harvey Goldsmiths. “We do have a reputation as fixers,” says Chennells. “We often get calls where people say: ‘This is going a little wrong, we need a team in here.’”

“People come to us in a last-minute situation because they know that we have access to all the people that they need,” adds Skipper.

She recalls a time in the early days of Ginger Owl when she was asked last minute to work on a “wild concert” in Nigeria for an oil and gas company. Her response was classic: “Sounds dangerous; I’m in.”

“Within a week, I had all my jabs done and was on a plane. But I was the only female on a 64-person team when I landed there, so in the dressing rooms it was quite crazy – a real eye-opener.

“I was the only female on a 64-person team when I landed there, so in the dressing rooms it was quite crazy”

“There we really did face issues with me being a female – they just weren’t used to having a woman ask or tell them things at all. Obviously, the international team was absolutely fine – they were quite used to it – but dealing with the artist side was very hard. It was a real baptism of fire. I think that’s where my addiction to really difficult shows started,” she laughs.

It may be that addiction that led Ginger Owl to take on their biggest international client yet – MDLBEAST, the Saudi Arabia-based entertainment company behind Soundstorm Festival and XP Conference.

Contrary to what one might think, Skipper says that Ginger Owl’s challenges in the market have “nothing to do with them being female and everything to do with Saudi being a really new market.”

“They just have a completely different way of working,” she explains. “They will phone you at four in the morning and tell you that one of the artists wants to go on a trip into the dunes the next day and expect it done. At first, we fought against it, but it’s actually just a cultural difference.

“I think, in a slightly sick way, I quite enjoy the challenge”

“You still have to do your prep, but you also have to be ready to deal with anything. We get calls for Soundstorm where they say the head of a tech company is on his way, and he’s going to need cars, hotels, and visas, and his jet lands in however many hours. And there’s nothing you can do except just get on with it. I think, in a slightly sick way, I quite enjoy the challenge,” she laughs.

With MDLBEAST demanding ample time and manpower, Ginger Owl has set up a whole team in Saudi led by Skipper, who now splits her time between Riyadh and Suffolk while Chennells manages the UK side of the business.

In the last two years, the Ginger Owl team has grown to 12 full-time staff, as well as a raft of multiskilled industry professionals on a freelance basis.

Last year, that team worked on 85 events including 39 festivals, 20 awards shows and TV productions, 6 tours, 11 unique events, 6 film/ TV premieres, 2 landmark sporting events, and the state funeral. And with 2023 looking to be just as busy for Ginger Owl, IQ asks Chennells and Skipper what’s next for them.

“We’re trying to step back and be more strategic and let our managers run the festivals, and then we can oversee it all… I think we’d like to do less firefighting,” laughs Chennells.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

The LGBTIQ+ List 2022: Georgie Lanfranchi, Only Helix

The LGBTIQ+ List 2022 – IQ Magazine’s second annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the Pride edition (issue 112) this month.

The July 2022 issue, which is available to read now, was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each individual on their challenges, triumphs, advice and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Catch up on the previous interview with David Jones (he/him/his), chief information officer at AEG in the UK.

The series continues with Georgie Lanfranchi (she/her/hers), tour manager/production coordinator at Only Helix in the UK.

 


Tell us about a personal triumph in your career
I have had the privilege of looking after so many outstanding performers and crew but my journey with Years & Years, growing from being their production coordinator to their tour manger, has been by far the most rewarding of my career. Being queer and working for one of the biggest gay icons of our time is a true honour, especially when it’s someone as talented, authentic, and kind as Olly [Alexander, Years & Years]. He is a truly special individual and that trickles down to make a wonderfully remarkable touring family. Working their set on Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2019 was a real top 10 highlight of my life.

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Try your best not to hide who you are. This can often be instinctive for queer people but the industry is changing, opinions are changing and the best way to help drive that forward is to be visible. The more diversity we push forward, the more that follows. The main advice I give to anyone, in general, is to be kind, be a team player and take a moment every day to take in how amazing our jobs really are.

“I actually feel that being a woman is more of a hindrance [than being queer] in this industry”

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
Without sounding too corny, every mistake I have made is the best mistake, it’s the best way to learn how to do things right. Those cringy, stomach-dropping, mortifying moments that stick with you when you realise you’ve messed up stick with you for a reason. You don’t make those mistakes again! I’ve made a lot of them, and I will make more in the future, and I will be a better learner and teacher for it.

Tell us about a professional challenge you’ve come across as a queer person in the industry
I’ve had to think quite hard about this. I’m not sure I have ever had any challenges specifically because I am queer, as I actually feel that being a woman is more of a hindrance in this industry, but it can be hard to distinguish I suppose, the two are probably quite entwined. I have been incredibly lucky to work on tours that have been very inclusive and with people who have never made it a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I still get a lot of ignorant questions from people that perhaps don’t (knowingly) have queer people in their life, or even bother to think about the answers before they ask the questions, but I’d say you’d be hard pressed to find a queer person that doesn’t!

One thing the live industry could do to be a more inclusive place
There are a lot of incredible people who are creating the spaces they need to feel included within the industry, so get involved! And if you can’t find the space you need, go and make it! I think it’s so wonderful to see the industry changing to represent marginalised groups as a whole, and people are finally starting to feel seen and heard. I think what we really do need to remember to do is not to isolate ourselves within these spaces. The industry itself will not grow if we pocket ourselves into our groups; we need to make sure everyone is included, and everyone supports everyone else’s cause so that we are integrated into the industry at large. This is not a courtesy we have been given in the past, but to move forward, we have to be better.

“The industry itself will not grow if we pocket ourselves into our groups; we need to make sure everyone is included”

Causes you support
Music Support, CALM, The Trevor Project, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, WWF, Rainforest Alliance.

The queer act you’re itching to see live this year
The list is extensive but I’m normally on the road, so I tend not to torture myself looking up gigs I’ll never be able to go to! That is the joy of festival season though; seeing a plethora of artists you never thought you’d get to see. I’ve still yet to see Tash Sultana after their gig got cancelled due to the pandemic… maybe one day!

Your favourite queer space
It will forever be my first queer outing – Flamingos Nightclub in Bristol – which is sadly no more. The first time I went was with two friends, we all told our parents we were going to each other’s houses and hopped on a train with some IDs from girls a couple of school years above us. ‘Drink the bar dry’ was Flamingos trademark, and for £20 we got in and gave that a good go! I felt a real absence of queer spaces growing up, from the countryside towns I grew up in and even the cities I frequented in my university years. It’s so important to keep these spaces going so queer folk have a safe space to go, and a place to find and express themselves. Support your local queer spaces!

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

IPM 15: Production heads on perfect storm of Covid and Brexit

The IPM programme concluded with what organisers referred to as the mega panel – a session that revolved around the current industry conditions, summed up by the strapline Covid & Brexit: The Perfect Storm.

Split into two parts, the mega panel involved multiple guest speakers from around the world, with Bonnie May from Global Infusion Group chairing part one and applauding those businesses who managed to get through the survival period by adapting their operations to negotiate two years of severely impacted activities.

Indeed, with the war in Ukraine adding to that ‘perfect storm’ analogy, hiking costs even higher and exacerbating the supply chain crisis, May turned to a plethora of experts to tell their stories over the past two years, as well as citing their early experiences of the industry recovery.

Singapore-based Paul Sergeant (ASM Global) underlined the fact that a lot of debt had been incurred during the Covid pandemic and that would continue to impact the live entertainment sector over the coming months and years. He advocated the pandemic’s effect on improving communications from top to bottom in his company as a massive tool in motivating employees.

Sergeant also talked up the Venue Management school in Australia that has been running for about 30 years and awards people diplomas when they graduate. He said that numerous sectors across the live entertainment business in Australia had bought into that programme and market its benefits to their various audiences.

“I’m still now educating people who have only started getting back out in the road”

José Faisca from Altice Arena in Portugal highlighted the importance of everyone in the live entertainment ecosphere that make the industry work – and the fact that those at the bottom of the food chain need more help and support than those who are at the top, if they are going to remain part of the business, rather than taking their skills elsewhere.

“We are better together,” he stated, adding that treating the freelancers and suppliers as part of his company’s extended family – eating together, inviting everyone to team meetings, and investing in training – encourages an atmosphere where everybody is happy to work for the health of the company. “We sometimes invite the families of our suppliers, the riggers, etc, to events so that they can see what their loved ones do and the results they help produce,” he revealed.

Asthie Wendra, a show director and stage manager from Indonesia said her team was almost back to full strength post-pandemic, despite the fact that many found work elsewhere, suggesting that lot of people want to return to the live entertainment environment in her country. Wendra also highlighted the importance of education and training in the workforce. “They need to get something other than money, but education and helping them return to the industry and see that they can have a career there helps us to do that,” she said.

Lisa Ryan (EFM Global) said Covid was a blessing for the Brexit factor, as the industry probably would not have coped had there been the normal level of events through the red tape nightmare, carnets and other new regulations thrown up by the aftermath of the UK leaving the European Union. “I’m still now educating people who have only started getting back out in the road,” she said, hinting at the carnage that could await the business when the busy summer season kicks in. She adds, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this [situation].”

Ryan and May agreed that improving the conditions for employees was a crucial part of keeping people motivated and retaining their skills in the industry, with both citing pay rises, better holiday terms, facilitating people to work from home on flexible hours, and even allowing staff to relocate abroad to fulfil life ambitions. However, they acknowledged the difficulty of recruiting new people to the industry, as well as attracting people back who may have found work elsewhere that offer them a more settled life-work balance.

“I don’t think the artists have realised yet that the costs have gone up and the profits will be less”

Part two of the mega panel was chaired by eps holding chief Okan Tombulca who explained that he has been on a number of conference sessions during the past year to specifically address the supply chain issues that are beginning to hit the international industry, both in terms of personnel and equipment. He voiced his personal opinion that the business is continually in a perfect storm, in terms of spiralling costs and pressure.

Andrew Zweck (Sensible Events) suggested it’s too early to know if artists have changed their views because of the various limitations that are hitting the business post-Covid. “I don’t think the artists have realised yet that the costs have gone up and the profits will be less. It’s unfolding now as we speak and that problem is not fully understood by the artists.” He added that the fact there are no double drivers this year is having an impact on tour plans, including at least one stadium show he had to cancel because they could not get a stage for that date.

“Artists are going to have less and I’m not sure they know that yet,” Zweck added, noting that he did not know who was going to tell them.

Production manager Phay Mac Mahon reported that the production side of the industry has lost about 30% of its workforce. “It’s the vendors’ time – they don’t need to reply to you because they are so busy trying to fulfil the contracts that they have,” said Mac Mahon. “With larger artists it’s planned further ahead, but for the younger artists it’s tough because their production manager might not be able to get the answers and therefore they may not be able to get the suppliers.”

Julia Frank from Wizard Promotions in Germany revealed that she started calling around a year ago for a certain tour for summer 2022. “I’m now just six weeks from that tour starting and I’m still ten riggers short,” she said.

“I’m now just six weeks from that tour starting and I’m still ten riggers short”

Anna Golden of UK promoters Kilimanjaro Live revealed that the company’s focus was on UK touring artists and outdoor shows. “We’ve been in constant communications with our suppliers so that at least they know these shows will definitely happen,” she said. “One of the festivals that Kili owns has actually bought its own stage because we have a five-year plan and that was financially more viable.”

Tombulca pondered whether that might be a new concept for promoters to own the infrastructure. Mac Mahon countered that the artist ego and ambitions for bigger and bigger shows might work against that. “Artist ego is the vendor’s best friend,” said Mac Mahon.

Zweck noted that the likes of the Royal Albert Hall has its own in-house lights and PA that it encourages bands to use, which also helps with sustainability. And he told IPM that in Australia, agreements are in place that equipment will stay in specific cities this year for artists to share, rather than shipping that kit on long journies for days at a time between venues. And on a similar theme, Tombulca says Live Nation has set up 28 stadia across America with exactly the same stages and kit for the summer.

Delegate Bryan Grant from Britannia Row noted that there is not enough equipment in the world to supply all the tours that are going out this year, revealing he had tried to fly in kit from South Africa for some of his events, only to be told it had already gone on rent in Germany.

Tombulca also touched on the impact of the war in Ukraine. Frank said the cost of fuel was the obvious impact, but she had not seen any difference in ticket sales in Germany. However, Zweck said it was another doubt to plant in the mind of the ticket seller for festivals and tours in the latter part of this year, going into 2023.

We’re in for a tough year, but humans are resilient and we will find a way”

Lisa Ryan from EFM Global noted that many of the Antinov aircraft that might be used for bigger tours are grounded in Russia and the Ukraine, while the biggest of all was recently destroyed in the conflict.

And speaking from the point of view in the Baltics, Renatas Nacajus from ISEG in Lithuania reported that ticket sales dropped immediately when the Ukraine war started, as confidence disappeared from the market.

Golden concluded that this summer is just about surviving and getting through 2022 as best as possible. Frank agreed. “It’s like going back to the 90s – it’s not going to be pretty, but it will do,” she stated.

Zweck commented, “We’re in for a tough year, but humans are resilient and we will find a way. Market forces will have a correction in terms of giving more money to the people at the lower end. But overall I’m pessimistic and I think when we look back in two years, we’ll struggle to see what we learned from Covid and we’ll be back to the greed of the big promoters and that will become rampant again.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Sensible Events’ Andrew Zweck joins IPM 15 line-up

Sensible Events founder Andrew Zweck is the latest big name speaker lined up for the 15th-anniversary edition of the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM).

Taking place on 26 April, the day before ILMC (International Live Music Conference), IPM will return to an in-person format in 2022 with its biggest programme yet.

This year’s edition will feature a series of key production group and trade association partnerships, as well as a second programming tranche by the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S).

Live Aid production veteran Zweck, who has served as agent and producer of worldwide tours for the likes of Roger Waters, Depeche Mode and Mark Knopfler, will be lending his wealth of experience the two-part Covid & Brexit: The Perfect Storm mega-panel, chaired by Bonnie May from Global Infusion Group and Okan Tombulca from eps.

“I’ve never forgotten that I started in the back of a truck,” says Zweck. “That has stood me in good stead.”

Zweck will be joined by fellow panellists ASM Global APAC’s Paul Sergeant, Jose Faisca of Lisbon’s Altice Arena, EFM Global Logistics director Lisa Ryan, Kilimanjaro Live head of major events Anna Golden, Wizard Promotions’ Julia Frank, show director/stage manager Asthie Wendra and production manager Phay Mac Mahon, recipient of IQ Magazine’s 2022 Gaffer Award.

“We will be talking and listening to each other and learning about subjects relevant to the production industry”

Alongside the previously announced A Seat at the Table, Veterans and Rookies, the second main morning panel, The Power of Energy, will look at not just what energy solutions are available but also what different parties use and how we can decide on and manage the best sustainable options at event sites, tours and in different-sized venues.

The session is chaired by long-term IPM attendee Duchess Iredale from EPI ltd in Ireland, who will be joined by Jacob Bilabel (Green Music Initiative/Aktionsnetzwerk Nachhaltigkeit, Germany); Padraic Boran (MCD Productions, Ireland); Amy Casterton (ES Global Ltd, UK); and Pete Wills (Power Logistics, UK).

In addition to the four main panels, three production notes will take place throughout the day: The PSA presents…, The Weather Maturity Curve, and Fight or Flight Case: A Mental Health Update, alongside IPM’s Carl A H Martin’s special lunchtime Q&A with Penny Mellor, in which the health & safety/welfare expert will discuss her lifetime of experience on the frontline at festivals.

“The IPM has been part of my life almost since its inception, so imagine how I felt the last couple of years having to sit at home, in front of a screen, talking to people’s heads and shoulders as we ran virtual bloody conferences,” says IPM advisory group chair Carl A H Martin.

“Imagine then how excited I am going to be to be part of a live event. On 26 April, I will be at the IPM along with new and old friends from all around the world – not just the UK, we are international. We will be talking and listening to each other and learning about subjects relevant to the production industry.”

The afternoon at IPM will focus entirely on crew and resource shortages

The afternoon at IPM will focus entirely on crew and resource shortages and how everyone is getting back on their feet after the last two years, in the aforementioned two-part mega panel Covid & Brexit: The Perfect Storm.

Given the huge amount of content, all the main panels will be recorded and made available for delegates to watch on-demand for a month after the event has concluded.

Meanwhile, E3S sessions will run throughout the day, including a Crowd Management Tabletop created and delivered by the Yourope Event Safety Group (YES) & Mind Over Matter Consultancy (MOM), a ‘Crowd Communication and Behaviours’ panel, and a discussion around ‘Rethinking Risk And Building Resilience in Event Operations’ – both in association with EAA, UKCMA and the Global Crowd Management Alliance.

The full IPM and E3S agenda can be found here. To register, or for more information, go to ipm.live.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Production titans line up for IPM’s 15th anniversary

Phay Mac Mahon, Bonnie May, Okan Tombulca, Padraic Boran and Lina Ugrinovska are among the production titans slated for the 15th-anniversary edition of the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM).

Taking place the day before ILMC (International Live Music Conference), IPM will return to an in-person format in 2022 with its biggest and best programme yet.

This year’s edition will feature a series of key production group and trade association partnerships, as well as a second programming tranche by the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S).

“We are very excited to see our international delegates making time in their busy schedule to come back together in person,” says IPM & E3S producer Sytske Kamstra. “It’s an important day for everyone, filled with very relevant and urgent topics, a wealth of expertise on the panels and in the rooms. We can’t wait.”

IPM’s speaker line-up is led by Phay Mac Mahon, one of the go-to production managers in the international touring business and the recipient of IQ Magazine’s 2022 Gaffer Award.

“It’s an important day for everyone, filled with relevant and urgent topics, a wealth of expertise on the panels and in the rooms”

Since launching his career in the 70s, Phay has worked with household names including Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, Def Leppard, The Pretenders, Adam Ant, Paul Young, Moody Blues, Whitesnake, Aerosmith and many more. He was also a sought-after lighting designer until the 1990s, working with the likes of Shakira, West Life, Meat Loaf, Janet Jackson, Ricky Martin and Nicki Minaj.

Also joining IPM is Bonnie May, CEO of Global Infusion Group, which delivers world-class events and brand logistic support to lavish private events, royal weddings, governmental summits, international automotive roadshows, world expos and major sporting events worldwide, including the Olympics since 2012.

She’ll be speaking with veteran show director and stage manager Asthie Wendra, about the industry’s response to the perfect storm created by Covid and Brexit in part one of this year’s Mega Panel.

Okan Tombulca is CEO of eps holding gmbh – a globally respected event infrastructure powerhouse, which now operates in 10 subsidiaries across Europe, Australia, and North and South America.

Tombulca will be joined by Phay Mac Mahon to continue the discussion around Covid and Brexit in part two of the Perfect Storm Mega Panel.

IPM’s speaker line-up is led by Phay Mac Mahon, one of the go-to production managers in the international touring business

Lina Ugrinovska is founder and CEO of Banana & Salt and one of the best-known booking agents in the Balkans. Considered among the new generation of highly influential people in the industry, she’ll be joined by NoNonsense Group director Liz Madden and Britannia Row Productions director Bryan Grant for a panel exploring the relationship between the live industry’s old guard and its young, up and coming executive talent.

MCD Productions’ Padraic Boran is well-known in the event industry, with over 30 years’ experience as a project manager, site co-ordinator and event controller for major entertainment, sporting and public events in both Ireland and abroad.

He’ll be hosting a panel on The Power Of Energy, which will consider what energy will look like in the future and how it will affect events. It will look at renewable power and immediate problems around availability, practicality and expense.

Meanwhile, E3S sessions will run throughout the day, including a Crowd Management Tabletop created and delivered by the Yourope Event Safety Group (YES) & Mind Over Matter Consultancy (MOM), a ‘Crowd Communication and Behaviours’ panel, and a discussion around ‘Rethinking Risk And Building Resilience in Event Operations’ – both in association with EAA, UKCMA and the Global Crowd Management Alliance.

This year’s E3S programme will bring together leaders in the sector from all over the world such as Žalgirio Arena event manager Mantas Vedrickas, select security & stewarding at UKCMA & GCMA Anne Marie Chebib and head of arena experience at The SSE Arena, Belfast, Claire Cosgrave.

Also joining is chief inspector & specialist tactical firearms commander at MOM, Pete Dalton at head of production festivals at Gadget abc Entertainment Group AG Andy Mestka and venue manager at Forest National, Coralie Berael.

More information can be found at https://ipm.live/.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.