Trend Watch: How Rock Concerts Inspire Events
Looking for event production inspirations? Look no further than the biggest events of the summer--concert toursby Rachel Globus | Published in June 2009 Focus on Production | production | rock concert
Events draw from many sources for inspiration — interior design, architecture, fashion, pop culture, and the list goes on. But when it comes to summer, there’s just one crucible of innovation: the spectacular musical events of the touring industry.
To find out what developments are headed for the corporate sphere, meetings industry podcaster and CEO of Grass Shack Events & Media Michael McAllen caught up with event manager Kyle Gustie and production manager Tom Nicks of 262 Five Ltd./McGhee Entertainment. Gustie, who got his start as social chairman of his fraternity, has worked with some of the top names in entertainment. Nicks, meanwhile, has been fascinated with sound from the time when he was playing with his Radio Shack electronics kit to when he does the sound for presidential debates. Here are their thoughts on what planners can learn from the touring industry, what innovations are coming our way and why you should watch the Country Music Awards.
Michael McAllen: Let’s talk a little bit about the corporate world, because we both work in events and meetings. What do you see that comes back over into the corporate area from the concert area?
Kyle Gustie: It’s an interesting thing. Tommy and I had this talk quite a bit too, because we’re just trying to figure out, does the touring industry drive what corporates do or is it the other way around? A lot of corporate events, as you know, are extremely large and extravagant.
Tom Nicks: Well, one thing that the corporate and the special events side has gained a lot from is that rock shows and touring are a lesson in packaging and efficiency. The biggest thing that has been realized over the course of the past 20 years is just simply trying to get things to move in and move out of the special events spaces, because they’re one-offs and they’re not a pre-packaged tour that’s had weeks of time for everybody to get everything done. With corporate events, you essentially package things to the point of their best productivity, but so that it’s not so overproduced that you actually get overcomplicated. So the thing is, first and foremost, that the packaging and the productivity level goes way up because of a lot of the things that we’ve learned from rock tours.
And then there are the technical aspects. For example, now, in a simple audio application, I’m able to take something that was for a special event or a corporate show that initially sounded like a very well-polished record and essentially remove some of the polish and make it more believable. And if you, for whatever reason, can’t have every single instrument live on a particular show but you can get the vocals and the key few instruments that are the front runners, that can be played live and you can have the rest of the remaining information coming off of a Pro Tools rig.
KG: And that can help us tremendously in an event. We have one coming up in Central Park in New York in September. We’re doing something with Netflix and it’s going to involve several big artists that are going to be performing together for an event that we really have to do in quick order. We don’t have a lot of time when we get in there. So Tommy is going to be working with us and what we’ll end up doing is supporting what they do live, much like Tommy would do for the NBA All-Star game, for example. It’s very much supported by the audio playback so that it makes the transitions between several big and important artists who are very concerned about their image and how they sound, really be live with the support of the different things that the Pro Tools can do. It’s just a question of enhancement.
MM: Do you see trends coming from the touring world?
TN: It’s the chicken-and-the-egg kind of a story as to what comes first. I think that there’s a lot of validation that happens, but I think that the product development is equally usable and deployable at the same time and involves the rock market in music and also special events and corporate shows. I think that special events define a long-term usage of a product because if it’s something that is able to be adapted to so many different environments, then it’s going to have life and it’s going to be able to have a long-term life. You might get something that works well on this rock show and the moving head only goes 30 degrees to the left and the right and it looks awesome in that application, but if you try to put it into a ballroom or a stadium and do a special event, it may not work.
As for the development of a product and the product’s availability, I think that it’s, again, the chicken and the egg. I think the products are there and being used, but a lot of times the notability doesn’t come until somebody on the far end of the entertainment community grabs it and uses it and it’s used for the Grammy’s or the CMAs, and then it’s validated and everybody reads about it and it gets sucked up into all of the mid-scale and lower-end budgets of special events and corporate shows.
MM: Do you have any kind of cool innovations that are coming up now that you want to talk about? Can you think of anything right now that might inspire meeting planners to think about?
TN: I think that in the audio world, definitely it was a kicking and screaming battle with a lot of engineers, but obviously, analog consoles are a bit of a way of the past. I’m a big fan of the Digidesign products and Venue consoles for live applications, because you essentially have Pro Tools for the live environment. You’ve got the ability to take all of these crazy and fantastic sounds and plug-ins and use them, and you can have the focus right in the massive preamps and equalizers and all these other crazy things that you’d never have been able to afford, but you have now got the ability to have all of these plug-ins and all these various things to make it sound fantastic.
On the video side, all of the low-resolution video curtains and all of that, it’s unbelievably adaptable and being able to have a canvass that’s really, really open to do just about whatever it takes for an artist to show. And the video and lighting integration has been just over the top with the L3s and all the rest of the instruments that now incorporate videos as well as lighting in a moving head instrument that’s controlled by the guy at the lighting console. So I think that there’s a ton of the new technology.
I think it’s a really, really, really good time to be doing a show, even though the economy is a little bit in the tank. I think that there’s a lot of cost efficiencies that you can find. With a few key bits and somebody with a very good library of visual elements, you can paint a very beautiful picture and make it sound fantastic.