Green Guardians 2022: Sunbelt, Tait, Power Logistics
The Green Guardians is spearheaded by IQ and an expert panel of sustainability experts to recognise suppliers who are improving the live music business when it comes to being more environmentally friendly.
Our international panel of judges this year includes representatives from A Greener Festival, Green Events & Innovations Conference, Greener Events, Green Operations Europe (Go-Group), Julie’s Bicycle, Le Réseau des Femmes en Environnement, Sustainable Event Alliance, Sustainable Event Solutions, Tour Production Group, and Vision:2025.
The 2022 list of Green Guardians includes 20 entries across a wide range of event suppliers and solutions providers, all of whom are working tirelessly to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.
IQ will publish entries across all categories over the coming weeks. Catch up on the previous instalment profiling My Cause, Reverb and Smart Power here.
Sunbelt – one of the UK’s largest rental equipment providers are big on all things that matter, from equipment and service to sustainability and trust.
Whatever the sector, project, or challenge, Sunbelt Rentals have the solution, offering the expertise, the equipment, and
the team to make it happen.
The company boasts a nationwide portfolio of plant products, specialising in site storage and welfare facilities, plus a comprehensive range of tools available for buy or hire.
Alongside day-to-day equipment supplies, they can also provide a full range of market-leading, environmentally friendly temporary infrastructure solutions to help bring events to life.
Whether clients need complete event management or have a very specific requirement, Sunbelt can help. From planning, plant, and power, to access, safety, and welfare.
As existing energy contracts expire, TAIT intends to replace them with new green contracts
At TAIT, staff are committed to championing a sustainable future for the entertainment industry.
In 2022, the company rolled out a global training programme for all TAIT employees in Europe and North America. The initiative includes seminars and practical workshops introducing the concepts of working toward the linear economy; waste and energy hierarchies; embedded carbon; lifecycle analysis; material choices; and whole systems thinking.
From 1 January 2022, all travel for employees based in North America and the UK was booked and managed through one travel company. This initiative gives TAIT clear visibility of its travel emissions from a project and internal perspective. It says that it is continuing to collate emissions data on Scope 1 & 2 and will include travel in its Scope 3 data collection in 2022. This data will be used to create the company’s carbon reduction policy.
TAIT’s new UK premises at Haverhill, due to open later this year, will incorporate solar panels above the office space and a rainwater harvesting system for the building. EV charging points have been installed with the infrastructure to increase capacity as more people make the switch to using electric cars.
As existing energy contracts expire, TAIT intends to replace them with new green contracts, switching its gas and electricity suppliers to those who specialise in renewable sources. By 2025, all of the company’s UK locations will run on green energy.
The Power Logistics team has been involved with Radio 1’s Big Weekend, BST Hyde Park, Extreme E and Boomtown
Continually investigating new and alternative methods to make the events it supports and the day-to-day activities of the company as carbon efficient as possible, Power Logistics offers sustainable power and lighting solutions.
The team has been involved with numerous high-profile events in 2022, such as Radio 1’s Big Weekend, BST Hyde Park, Extreme E, Boomtown, and the Platinum Jubilee celebratory events in London. Delivering green-power solutions was paramount at all of them.
Power Logistics’ award-winning green credentials include the use of Green D+ HVO, utilising the smallest generators possible on a load-demand system, power monitoring, LED tower lights, and site lighting as standard practice at the events it serves.
Whilst implementing battery energy storage systems is commonplace at projects that benefit from the technology. The team is currently exploring innovative solutions, including hydrogen power, solar, and the incorporation of second-life batteries to optimise energy usage for event utilities reducing fuel and carbon emissions.
Devising and implementing an advanced energy management strategy, Power Logistics reduced fuel consumption at this year’s Radio 1 Big Weekend by 34% from 2019, even though its overall capacity was 25% bigger. It also reduced the number of generators onsite from 30 to 17 compared to 2019, contributing not only to fuel savings but also to a huge reduction in transport.
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Steeling the limelight
Derek Robertson takes a look at some of the companies responsible for event infrastructure and the multiple challenges they are facing as the live music industry returns to business after a two-year hiatus.
Cast an eye over the rest of 2022, and it seems that something approaching normal service – at least within the live music events industry – has resumed. Huge renowned festivals such as Glastonbury, Primavera Sound, and EXIT are all scheduled to return at full-capacity, while some of the world’s biggest pop and rock stars – Guns N’ Roses, Foo Fighters, Charli XCX – will be filling arenas and stadiums in typically bombastic fashion.
As such, it means full speed ahead for businesses involved in site infrastructure such as staging and steel. But with demand rapidly ramping up, suppliers face several challenges – not only dealing with what could potentially be the busiest period in their history after a fallow two years but also placing a renewed focus on sustainability and innovation, at the core of what they offer.
It’s all a far cry from the sudden shutdown most companies had to deal with back in March 2020. “We were loading-in on a BTS test build in Pennsylvania, dismantling the Tomorrowland Winter structures, and shipping for the intended Metallica South American tour,” says Tom Bilsen, operations director for Stageco Belgium. “Borders closed at midnight on March 1st – our last trailer had passed through only 30 minutes before.”
For many, the sheer scale of their operation made it a scary time. Stageco typically has structures out to 60 or 70 locations during a normal summer, using upwards of 450 subcontractors and freelancers. Others are equally as busy: eps executes 3,000 events a year; Megaforce supplies around 120 events during a typical summer; TAIT Wakefield employ over 900 people in 17 offices around the globe; and CT Northern Europe are the biggest suppliers of stages, rigging, and trussing in the Nordics, as well as delivering technology to corporate events and the sports sector.
The enforced downtime and ensuing uncertainty caused much consternation – more than one company placed staff on furlough and wondered what might be left of the live events industry post-pandemic – but many also made good use of the time to take stock and really think about their core offering. “We took a long look at our processes,” says Ben Brooks, managing director of TAIT Wakefield. “We created a global assets catalogue to make ourselves more efficient and, crucially, more sustainable as a business going forward.”
“We thought: ‘No events? What else can we do with our power and knowledge?'”
Stageco focused on the storing, cleaning, and maintenance of their inventory alongside diversifying what kind of projects they took on – “mostly industrial projects,” says Tom Bilsen.
All Access Staging also got creative. “We designed and developed things like rapid deployment homeless huts, backyard office structures for those unable to go indoors, outdoor patios for bars and restaurants, and an entire product line of Covid-response structures, including mobile hospitals,” says Jillian Forrester Braithwaite, chief operating officer. “We did our best to adapt to the changing landscape.”
Eps decided it was imperative to make good use of one commodity the live industry rarely affords: time. “We thought: ‘No events? What else can we do with our power and knowledge?’ So we questioned and challenged all our processes across every department – IT, logistics, accounting, project management, and staff education,” says Sebastian Tobie, COO of eps international. “We wanted to prepare ourselves and our staff for coming back stronger than ever.”
He also notes that R&D was busy working on new entry concepts regarding hygiene regulations for shops, schools, and factories, along- side innovations in their core disciplines such as flooring and barrier solutions. “All these concepts needed to be designed, engineered, and manufactured, but we accepted the challenge and broadened our horizons.”
“The coronavirus crisis forced us to be very slow and again look for ways to survive in the new reality”
Throughout 2021, order books remained in flux. Some, such as CT Northern Europe, diversified. “We shifted towards productions in TV, streaming, corporate events, and gaming,” says Fredric Holmgren, chief business development officer. “We also worked closely with clients to supply productions where they were allowed, taking into account local rules and restrictions.” TAIT Wakefield managed to deliver “several large projects,” says Brooks – Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre (London), Gary Barlow’s All The Hits Live 2021 tour, and the SOUNDSTORM festival in Saudi Arabia.
Having already relocated his company HQ – and his family – from Russia to Latvia in 2014, “for political reasons,” Alexander Strizhak, owner and managing director of stage company JSA Europe, has been dealing with a catalogue of challenges over the past eight years.
That hard work paid off, and pre-pandemic, things were looking rosy again for JSA. “[The company] again became the official seller of stage structures from world leaders – Layher, SIXTY82 and Protos,” says Strizhak. “With my old friend, Asteris Koutoulas, we prepared a unique FLEXODROM project – a mobile, modular and multifunctional hall, based on structural systems from the Layher plant in Germany. At the end of 2019, we started to gain momentum, but the coronavirus crisis forced us to be very slow and again look for ways to survive in the new reality.”
Elsewhere, as the pandemic decimated the order books of industry peers, many also fell foul of rapid changes in infection rates and new Covid variants. “In mid-May 2021, we had 24 truckloads of material on-site in the south of Portugal, ready for unloading,” says eps exec Tobie. “But the day before the first install, everything was cancelled.”
“Terribly exhausting” is how Megaforce CEO Michael Brombacher describes the never-ending postponements and cancellations that blighted 2021, but all agree that 2022 is scheduled to be busy. Sometimes overly so. “Our volume is up 20%, and we’ve been forced to turn down work,” says All Access Staging’s Forrester Braithwaite. Stageco is facing similar problems. “Demand is largely outpacing supply capacity in all aspects,” says Tom Bilsen. “If everything takes place, we might be a little short on gear, transport, and crew.”
“Costs are just much higher than 18 months ago, and if the current economics stay as they are, it’ll probably influence production design and the technologies behind it”
Such shortages are also noted by Alistage managing director Phil Christodolou, who points out a further related issue. “People are still planning, but in a lot of cases are unable or unwilling to commit to quoting, as prices are spiralling upwards at an alarming rate,” he says. It’s the same for eps. “With a lack of raw materials and supply chain interruption, there’s been a drastic increase in pricing for stages, steel, and productions in general,” states Tobie. “Costs are just much higher than 18 months ago, and if the current economics stay as they are, it’ll probably influence production design and the technologies behind it.”
Aside from cost issues, staffing seems to be the primary concern across the board when it comes to delivering in 2022 – the pandemic forced many skilled freelancers and subcontractors to seek alternative work, and many fear that they’ve been lost forever.
“Many professionals are now enjoying a normal 9 to 5, and they won’t come back,” says Megaforce’s Michael Brombacher. “As long as the situation remains unpredictable, and the conditions are so unstable, no one would quit a job for an uncertain future in the live events industry.” And it’s not simply a straightforward brain-drain either – Brombacher also notes a demographic issue. “For years, we’ve had problems with the lack of young professionals in this business; now it will be even worse.”
JSA’s Strizhak has also suffered from staff shortages – especially in roles that require skilled crew. “Many former employees have already found other jobs and either do not want to return or cannot end their relationship with a new employer so quickly,” he says.
“For us, the most important factor is to set a high standard and to not take on projects that we can’t deliver to that standard”
“We expected that we would be able to hire staff in Ukraine, and we planned to make a global step on this market in 2022. But now, because of the war, everything has changed, and we are again forced to find new solutions. I already found a way to [solve] this problem with the [scaffolders] for the staging, and now we have begun the process to form the new JSA Stagers team.”
Others also contend that the employee situation is improving. Forrester Braithwaite reports that All Access Staging is “finally well-staffed,” while TAIT Wakefield is coping with renewed demand by planning and investing in their teams, both in the UK and globally. That way, says Brooks, “we can scale quickly and bring in our specialists from around the globe to accommodate whatever a project’s needs are.”
The key for many is to retain the ability to deliver quality and, of course, safety. “For us, the most important factor is to set a high standard,” says Fredric Holmgren. “And to not take on projects that we can’t deliver to that standard.” And Tobie agrees. A significant challenge will be to “deliver everything with the quality we strive for,” he notes, “without burning out experienced people with a non-stop shift from April to September.”
In the music industry – as in wider society – momentum around sustainability issues is build- ing, with many organisations and companies taking drastic steps to reform and become an example of green recovery. The likes of A Greener Festival have done important groundwork in this sphere, which has been taken on by newer collectives such as Music Declares Emergency – a group of artists, music industry professionals, and organisations dedicated to making the “cultural and operational changes necessary […] for a carbon-neutral future” – and Earth Percent, a charity helping the music industry address the climate emergency.
“NO MUSIC ON A DEAD PLANET” warns Music Declares Emergency’s flagship campaign, emphasising that artists and fans can bring the issue into the mainstream and “encourage a global response on a global issue.” Meaningful change is certainly something that all the companies IQ spoke to are thinking deeply about; one positive to come out of the two-year pause in live events was the space and the time to properly consider their sustainability credentials.
“Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of everything we do has been a blessing”
“Sustainability has a lot to do with thousands of small steps,” says Tobie. “We’ve been working on topics like e-trucking and green materials in the production of our barrier and flooring systems, but we also developed an IT-based loading and trucking algorithm. In combination with our ERP, it helps us optimise loading space and material routing, ultimately reducing trucking in general.”
TAIT Wakefield has long been engaged in evolving a more sustainable model for the long- term but, says Brooks, the last two years allowed them to really focus. “Alongside constantly looking at our carbon footprint, that global assets catalogue we created means we’re not making everything from scratch every time. And, since we do not have to build things twice, we can do things more quickly. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of everything we do has been a blessing.”
Similarly, Megaforce has developed its international network and keeps materials in strategically favourable locations. Alongside a new set of national partners, this is helping them keep logistic costs – and the resources required to move equipment – as low as possible.
All Access Staging has been busy, too. Their core product line, the Versa system, is “inherently green,” according to Forrester Braithwaite, “because it can be used over and over again in countless configurations, like a really cool LEGO set. We also recently designed an upgraded version of our staging deck that is lighter, stronger, and more versatile than previous generations. In general, managing supply chain issues, and respecting the increased expenses that come with those challenges, is something we’re learning about all the time.”
“It still saddens me that I had to leave my strong and reliable team there”
War in Europe
Having fundamentally overhauled his life because of Russia’s military manoeuvres, JSA’s Strizhak is better placed than many to comment on the impact Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has had on the region.
He explains, “The quiet and gradual process of my withdrawal from the Russian market began a long time ago because of the Russian war in Georgia in 2008. Even then, I understood that the Kremlin would revive the hybrid USSR, using show business, including television, radio, press, cinema and, of course, live concerts and various events, as their weapons for propaganda.”
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the beginning of military aggression in the east of Ukraine in 2014, prompted Strizhak to close his premises in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “It was hard,” he admits. “JSA was the first professional stage company in Russia. I had a large number of employees, the company had many significant projects every year, great business connections, and a good reputation. I had to stop it all. It still saddens me that I had to leave my strong and reliable team there. To all these people, I express my gratitude for their cooperation.”
Acknowledging that the scale of JSA’s operations took a hit following its withdrawal from Russia, Strizhak tells IQ it took him a number of years to build a new team and find “new paths” for the staging company. Some of that work involved JSA fulfilling contracts in Ukraine: Eurovision 2017 and Olerome Forum One in Kyiv; Leopolis Jazz Fest in Lviv; and Underhill Music Festival near Ivano-Frankivsk.
“I am optimistic about the development of the company’s business this year”
Indeed, he contends that Ukraine led JSA’s pandemic recovery as the country’s quarantine rules facilitated a return to business. “In 2021, the [Ukrainian] market began to recover earlier than it did in Europe and [the] UK,” reports Strizhak. “That season, many outdoor concerts and festivals took place, and JSA made good sales of stage structures for Ukrainian production companies. But we could not develop and make long-term plans in the fog of remaining restrictions.”
Russia’s invasion earlier this year put an end to all such ambitions, and Strizhak says JSA in Latvia is now involved in humanitarian projects for Ukraine in partnership with local Ukrainian societies and the local Embassy of Ukraine.
On the business side, he is again scrambling for solutions to keep his business running and says that despite the war, enquiries from other countries mean he and his staff are being kept busy. “Currently, we are focused on active work in the Baltic States and for the European market,” he reveals. “We constantly receive requests for stage structures in different countries. As a rule, these are requests for help and support opportunities for unexpected projects. So, in my opinion, we will be able to take part in big and worthy projects this summer.”
And, while other companies are suffering from a scarcity of equipment, Strizhak believes JSA is in good shape for the year ahead. “We already have a sufficient stock of Layher, trusses, podiums, and large roof systems,” he says. “JSA engineers are already making structural drawings for customers. In addition, customers are quickened to purchase new designs, and we have orders. So I am optimistic about the development of the company’s business this year,” he adds.
“To overcome this crisis, it’s imperative to stop producing or procuring everything ever more quickly and cheaply”
Quality of Live
But something else that companies are keen to emphasise is a deeper, more fundamental consideration of their place not just in the live music industry but society in general, and what that might mean in the post-Covid 21st Century. As Forrester Braithwaite puts it, “We are more focused on maintaining the quality of life for our hardworking crew. During the Covid pause, people had the opportunity to re-evaluate their lives and priorities, and as a company we are trying to take a modern approach to our teams’ workdays.”
It was the same at TAIT Wakefield; “Improving our work/life balance has been a big focus,” says Brooks, “and the ways in which we’ve been forced to work have not been all bad. For example, some of the virtual commissioning we did was a great proof-of-concept, so we can take that forward into 2022 and beyond.”
“The key is in personnel; good training, attractive remuneration, integrative framework conditions for the family and career, and appreciation for all participants in the value chain,” says Megaforce’s Michael Brombacher. “To overcome this crisis, it’s imperative to stop producing or procuring everything ever more quickly and cheaply. We need to remember that quality has a price and that secure and quality preparation takes time.”
“2022 will be the busiest and strongest year in the history of eps, and maybe even the entire events industry”
Yet, as long as the industry in general takes heed of such factors, many believe the future is bright – and that the live music industry can be better than ever. Sebastian Tobie predicts that, as long as Covid restrictions remain minimal, “2022 will be the busiest and strongest year in the history of eps, and maybe even the entire events industry.” Phil Christodolou is more cautiously optimistic. “We’re starting to emerge out the other side,” he says. “But we hope that all of us in the live sector have learnt lessons from what’s happened and use this knowledge to navigate the future.”
“The biggest lesson learned is to be nimble,” says Forrester Braithwaite. “We had the ability and necessity to pivot to offering different products and services, and this creativity and willingness to branch out into new areas will allow us to thrive in the years to come.”
“We’ve been able to figure out what ‘better’ looks like over these last two years,” adds Ben Brooks. “It’s absolutely affected what we do and changed our approach to live events, but in many more positive ways than negative ones.” Such a sentiment is shared by Megaforce’s Michael Brombacher, who says that while times will remain turbulent, “there will also be new opportunities. Success will certainly be redefined in the future, but I’m not worried – we will survive this crisis.”
For as he – and others – note, music will endure. “The value of culture is pricelessly important – all the politicians on Earth should understand this by now,” he says. Brooks points to events like British rapper Dave’s London O2 show selling out in four minutes as indicative of just how healthy public demand will be going forward, and why companies such as his can finally be optimistic again.
“I think there’s a renewed appreciation of what live music means to people,” he says. “You could argue it was taken for granted; the ability to walk out your front door, travel to a venue where you could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with like-minded music lovers, and enjoy that visceral experience of a live show. People want that more than ever now, and that bodes well for the industry.”
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Green Guardians: Event Infrastructure
The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) and IQ Magazine, is a new yearly initiative boosting the profiles of those working at the forefront of sustainability, in the hope that it might also inspire others.
The 2021 list, which originally ran in IQ 103, includes 40 entries across eight categories, highlighting some of the organisations and individuals who are working so tirelessly to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.
This year’s winners have been chosen by a judging panel that includes experts from A Greener Festival, Greener Events, Julie’s Bicycle, the Sustainability in Production Alliance, the Sustainable Event Council and the Tour Production Group.
IQ will publish entries across all categories over the coming weeks. Catch up on the previous instalment of the Green Guardians Guide which looks at artists and activists.
Continest container units are a market-leading, award-winning and eco-friendly portable accommodation solution, utilising innovative foldable container technology. The flat-packed containers are specially constructed to enable quick and easy transportation, installation and relocation, and their groundbreaking design has won plaudits around the world.
A great solution for events, venues and brands looking to increase their facility and temporary accommodation capacity in an environmentally conscious way, Continest provides solutions to help meet sustainability targets. Due to their patented design, multiple units can be transported on a single truck, enabling huge savings on road.
In 2020, d&b launched its Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) programme offering customers reconditioned loudspeaker systems
Aware of the impact that the live entertainment industry has on the environment, d&b makes a conscious effort to ensure that sustainability is a permanent part of its mission with the company developing effective programmes to support this undertaking.
d&b is EMAS certified, meaning it observes a set of guiding principles, including upholding human rights and well-being, resource protection, energy and emission reduction, product responsibility, sustainable innovation, and much more.
In 2020, d&b launched its Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) programme offering customers reconditioned loudspeaker systems. Purchasers benefit from a rider-friendly sound reinforcement system while helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the consumption of raw materials.
This programme makes d&b one of the first sound companies to adopt an organised approach to sustainability and reliability in the pro audio industry. The first-ever CPO J-Series system was recently installed at Westville Music Bowl in Connecticut, USA.
d&b is committed to ensuring its new products are environmentally responsible as well. The recently launched D40 amplifier combines advanced voltage management to drive systems that demand less input power. The D40 includes enhanced energy-saving features, power efficiency and automatic wake-up for environmentally responsible and sustainable green building requirements.
Alongside recycling and responsible disposal of end-of-life equipment, PRG regularly rebalances equipment to reduce freight
Sustainable practices have been at the heart of PRG’s ongoing development throughout the pandemic. The company now boasts a huge global network, having set up a group of 22 digital studios around the world in one year, including xR Virtual Production Studios in Los Angeles, Hamburg and Paris.
This ensures that the company’s EMEA customer base has access to PRG’s state-of-the-art facilities and expertise wherever they are in the world.
This global reach is aided by The PRG Alliance, a series of 15 partner companies worldwide that support clients locally with an exceptional quality of innovative event production solutions.
The company’s commitment to providing consistent service locally is mobilised largely thanks to the PRG Crew Platform, which allows warehouses and events to be staffed with local talent, reducing the global carbon footprint involved in transporting employees.
PRG is also committed to sustainable practices in its technology and is a member of various industry accredited programmes, including Albert.
Alongside its recycling and responsible disposal of end-of-life equipment, PRG regularly rebalances equipment to reduce freight.
Its products adhere to this sustainable mission. The PRG SpaceframeTM, for example, is an ultra-lightweight, collapsible and fully wind-braced, carbon-fibre touring frame with integrated LED panels. This product dramatically reduces pre-tour engineering time, shipping footprint/weight, carbon emissions, load-in and load-out times, as well as labour required on tour and locally.
NNNN has succeeded in designing speaker solutions that reduce energy consumption by up to 90% compared to other brands
NNNN was created to target the audio market with a disruptive solution and mindset, combining acoustic quality with sustainability.
The company’s patents enable it to do with sound what LED did with light, and it has succeeded in designing speaker solutions that reduce energy consumption by up to 90% compared to other brands.
As yet another UN climate report has made abundantly clear, developing more sustainable solutions is a no-brainer. Yet, NNNN says it still experiences challenges with businesses that choose traditional solutions over greener alternatives. Therefore, it has been key for the company to both initiate and join conversations, both nationally and internationally, with regard to sustainable development in the live entertainment industry.
In spite of Covid, a lot has been happening at NNNN in the past year:
▶ The company has been developing new products, making better and more sustainable audio solutions available for green buildings, houses of culture, and consumers.
▶ In November 2020, NNNN won the Green Founder award – an initiative established by Drammen Rotary to accelerate green and sustainable development in the region.
▶ NNNN has been Eco-Lighthouse certified, which is the most widely used environmental certification scheme in Norway, verified to hold the quality and standard matching international eco-labeling schemes (EMAS and ISO 14001).
▶ The company also became an associate member of A Greener Festival.
Tait is continuing to build dedicated resources to empower clients and design teams to call on its vast library
During 2020 and into 2021, Tait focused on updating its library of assets, making all assets available for use globally and throughout the business.
This builds on practices that the company has developed over many years and optimises sustainable use and reuse of equipment.
Crucially, this also reduces reliance on virgin materials. In addition, Tait is continuing to build dedicated resources to empower clients and design teams to call on this vast library of existing components.
This year, Tait’s UK offices are beginning the transition to renewable energy, and its waste and recycling streams are being monitored to ensure it maximises recycling potential.
The company’s UK facilities in Neasden and Haverhill are now both ISO14001 accredited, and it has installed infrastructure to collate carbon emissions for Scope 1 & Scope 2 and key elements from Scope 3 globally. This will form the basis for Tait’s carbon reduction strategy.
The group has partnered with organisations such as the Sustainability in Production Alliance (SiPA), Theatre Green Book, and Live Green to help drive industry-wide change, educate teams, and further sustainability efforts.
In order to give back to the communities and institutions that helped build the success of the organisation, Tait’s principal sustainability advocate, Carol Scott, guest lectures at colleges and universities on incorporating sustainable practices into the ecosystem of live events.
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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.
Tait expands in Europe with Brilliant Stages acquisition
Tait has acquired Brilliant Stages, the UK-based supplier of staging and design solutions to Coldplay, Take That, Spice Girls, Shawn Mendes and more, for an undisclosed sum.
Tait – founded in 1978 as Tait Towers – designs, constructs, manufactures and operates stages and installations for clients including the Rolling Stones, U2, Taylor Swift and Cirque du Soleil from its HQ in Lilitz, Pennsylvania. The company, minority owned by Providence Equity Partners, in June acquired UK motion-control company Kinesys.
Brilliant Stages (Brilliant Topco Ltd) was established in Wakefield, Yorkshire, 1983 and has also worked with Hugh Jackman, the Dubai Mall and the Virgin Racing Formula 1 team.
Brilliant will remain a standalone brand for the time being, though the “combined management teams see the value of building a global brand” and say “branding decisions will […] be clarified in the coming months”.
“Culturally we are 100% aligned”
Ben Brooks, managing director of Brilliant Stages, says: “We have built the brand brick by brick with an equal focus on spectacle, design, employees and customers. That is what makes being part of Tait a perfect match; culturally we are 100% aligned.”
“This really is a perfect cultural match,” adds Adam Davis, chief creative officer of Tait. “We are excited to share with Brilliant our technology, assets and lessons learned over our 40 years in the live event business. We found a true partner in Brilliant and share a deep belief in delivering excellence to our customers and their fans.”
In addition to Tait, Providence Equity Partners’ live events investments include festival operator Superstruct Entertainment, UK venue manager Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and event tech conglomerate Patron Technology.
Providence-backed Tait acquires UK’s Kinesys
Tait, the US-based production/staging equipment powerhouse, has acquired Kinesys, a London-based company which designs, manufactures and sells motion-control systems used on shows by the likes of Ed Sheeran, U2 and Garth Brooks.
The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, unites the “global leaders in entertainment automation”, reads a statement from Tait, which received “major” investment from Providence Equity Partners, the parent company of festival operator Superstruct Entertainment and technology firm Patron (Greencopper, Marcato), in February.
Tait core offering centres on Tait Navigator, an automation/show-control platform used to control machinery, lighting, audio, pyro, fountains and other special effects for live shows, while Kinesys’s Elevation, Libra and Apex product lines – used by venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and Sydney Opera House – are among the most-used solutions for modular automation (ie controlling hoists, winches and scenery and lighting rigs).
Post-merger, the companies will link together their automation technologies and Kinesys will offer Tait products via its global distribution network.
“offering the power of both Kinesys and Tait to our customers creates a market-leading platform”
“I have long admired the amazing work that the team at Tait have delivered over the years,” comments Dave Weatherhead, CEO of Kinesys. “From groundbreaking touring shows to epic installations, they really have earned their reputation for quality and innovation. Being able to bring that magic to our Kinesys family of customers and rental partners is exciting.
“This will take the choice of automation available to every tour, production and venue to a whole new level. By sharing our respective experiences and expertise we can bring extraordinary solutions to an expanded customer base in integrated and affordable packages.”
Adam Davis, chief creative officer of Tait, adds: “Kinesys’s success in show control and automation products is unparallelled. We believe that offering the power of both Kinesys and Tait to our customers creates a market-leading platform. Together, Tait and Kinesys will continue to develop cutting-edge automation technology, to focus on our core client bases and to provide the highest level of excellence and service to our customers.”
Providence invests in Tait Towers
Providence Equity Partners, the parent company of festival operator Superstruct Entertainment and event tech company Patron Technology, has invested in Tait, which designs and supplies concert touring infrastructure for some of the world’s biggest acts.
Tait – founded in 1978 as Tait Towers – designs, constructs, manufactures and operates stages and installations for a roster of clients that includes the Rolling Stones, U2, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Disney, Universal, Cirque du Soleil and Nike. The company, headquartered in Lilitz, Pennsylvania, but with offices across North America, Europe and Asia, has worked on 17 of the 20 highest-grossing tours of all time.
The investment from funds advised by Providence, terms of which were not disclosed, sees the private-equity firm become a major shareholder in Tait, with the company’s CEO and president, James ‘Winky’ Fairorth, and chief creative officer, Adam Davis, each retaining a “significant” stake.
Fairorth comments: “We are thrilled to partner with Providence to help take us through our next phase of growth. The firm has an impressive track record of investing in businesses that deliver world-class events and experiences. This growth equity investment is a testament to the breadth and depth of Tait’s talented team and unique culture of excellence, which have advanced industry standards and exceeded client expectations for over 40 years.”
“Providence is the ideal partner to help us accelerate our growth initiatives and strengthen our market position,” adds Davis. “We are proud to be a part of the Providence family and look forward to working with them to expand our offering for artists, entertainment companies and corporate brands that consistently turn to Tait for spectacular live experiences.”
“Our investment in Tait is a great fit with Providence’s growing portfolio of … businesses focused on live, out-of-home events and experiences”
In addition to Patron – which recently acquired festival app developer Greencopper and event management outfit Marcato – and fast-growing Superstruct, whose most recent acquisition is Finland’s Flow Festival, Providence’s US$40bn worth of investments include venue operator Ambassador Theatre Group, sports marketing agency Learfield, US football league Major League Soccer and the World Triathlon Corporation, which organises the Ironman championship.
Scott Marimow, managing director of Providence, says: “Tait is regarded as the gold standard in the industry for its differentiated capabilities, global presence, client relationships and track record of delivering the finest live event solutions in the world. The company is also well positioned for sustainable growth from strong, secular trends, as artists, entertainment concepts and brands are spending more on live events and production quality to create memorable experiences that drive heightened consumer engagement and sharing across social media.
“We are excited to partner with such a passionate management team and look forward to working together.”
Michael Dominguez, also MD of Providence, adds: “Over the past four decades, Tait has grown to become an industry leader. We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with an outstanding team in order to accelerate the company’s growth and further invest in its vast IP portfolio and technological capabilities, which are applicable across multiple client types and end markets.
“Our investment in Tait is a great fit with Providence’s growing portfolio of category leading businesses focused on live, out-of-home events and experiences that are highly valued in an increasingly digital world, and that continue to benefit from attractive underlying consumer trends.”