Tech Issues in the Entertainment Industry by @AbbyTobias
My name is Abby Tobias, and I am the owner of Sole Power Productions, an event and production company in Toronto Canada. We help execute and or produce over 2500 events annually. Our Audio-visual team is made up of events managers, technicians, specialized Av leads, and designers.
Recently, we have seen a variety of concert and event cancelations, both high profile and not. Events ranging from local fairs, to major touring acts are having their end product affected by audio visual issues and mishaps. Below I have detailed some of the key reasons why this is occurring.
WHY? Isn’t that always the question? In this case there are a few keys to look at.
Let’s use the touring act as an example here. In the modern age of music, artists earn the majority of their income from there tours. Once upon a time when people purchased CDs, artist income was more evenly balanced between sales and live shows. This is no longer the case. Streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify are the way of the future and the way of the present. This is a big win for fans and music listeners, as it gives them unmatched access to music of all kinds. That said, for the artist it’s not as great. Profits from streaming services are exceptionally low for artists. Thus, in the past few years they have had to lean towards touring in an effort to stay profitable.
This brings me to the touring budget. Managers and show designers are being pulled in multiple directions. On one hand, the show has to be the best it has ever been. Guests need to be blown away by sound, lights, effects, and stages. On the other hand, the budget is limited. Artists can’t afford to over spend on these treatments, as they are relying on the profits from shows to keep them in the green. This causes cutting of corners, lesser qualified staff, and shorter blocks of time for sets and strikes. It’s not hard to then understand how we are seeing more high-end glitches than ever before.
2. Technology vs the Creative: We live in a world where what is advanced today, is considered old news in 6 months. There are consistently options for larger, brighter, louder, and more powerful replacements to product that we thought was incredible just a short while ago. When these products are put in the hands of the creative talents of stage directions and visionaries, a world full of incredible concepts can be thought of. In most cases we see an incredible outcome.
Think back to Kanye’s 2016 North American tour with the floating stage moving across the arena, and Drakes world tour where he had kinetic lite balls moving in sync from the rafters to just above the audience’s hands. These were incredible advancements in the concert experience. Only possible by the gift of AV and production. The down side, of course, is that we are still talking about technology. Just like your when your home TV doesn’t turn on, or the microwave at your office flashes the wrong time, technology has its own mind. As the advancements have grown, so have the complications. We are seeing some incredible failures live in front of our eyes as triggers don’t fire and in the worst case, the technology can be dangerous, and some concert doors don’t even open to the public.
3. Regulation: I am a fan of regulations. I will always choose safety over profit. What we are seeing now is that tours are being designed locally and expected to pass regulations internationally. So, when a tour bus and crew roll up on the other side of the world and start to work, they are finding push back from local officials where the rules and regulations regarding safety may differ. This is nothing new, but as my two points above-mentioned, the shows are larger and more complex, and are also expected to be designed faster, and cheaper than before. The losing team in these cases are the fans. Fans who buy tickets months out, only to find out a day or two before that the show won’t be put on in their city because the safety is not up to local guidelines.
For more info on Abby Tobias you can find him at Solepowerproductions.com