Local Crew: Clearwing ProductionsREDEFINING THE FULL-SERVICE COMPANY
Think back to this past holiday season. Rushing from store to store, trying to find the perfect gift. Or did you surf the Web, trying to make sense of the 2 million entries that came up when you searched for “toys”? Wouldn't it have been easier to go to one place? This same “one-stop-shop” business model appeals to clients of sound reinforcement companies, and Milwaukee-based Clearwing Productions (www.clearwing.com) is banking on its customers wanting this same accessibility to audio, lighting, staging, backline and the all-important crowd control by making one phone call.
According to audio operations manager Brian “BK” Koerner, “Clearwing's heart has always been in audio and outstanding service to our clients. As our client list steadily grows every year, so do their needs. As long as I have known Greg Brunclik [owner of Clearwing, who focuses more on the sales side, but will still be found on some gigs], he has never backed down from a challenge. ‘Lighting? Sure, we can do that!' ‘Staging? We have that, too.' ‘Backline? What do you need?' That is a big part of our success: the ability to sell audio and have the resources to give our clients a one-stop shop for their event.”
This mentality stretches across the U.S., as Clearwing opened a Phoenix office in March 2004. “The reason for the second location was because of the seasonal business,” Koerner explains, “although both the Milwaukee and Phoenix offices are seeing a consistent increase in jobs in what we used to call ‘off-season.' Our Phoenix office offers the same services as Milwaukee, and we've seen that Phoenix is a hot spot for corporate work during the winter. The best part of having two offices is we sell shows in each other's backyards.” However, it's not easy managing two locales when one considers gear coordination, especially during the busy summer months. Case in point: Clearwing has been supporting Milwaukee's annual Summerfest for the past 12 years. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, this 11-day festival will feature more than 1,000 musical performance groups entertaining close to 1 million patrons. Also, the same festival grounds hosts various ethnic festivals in the following weeks.
To meet the demanding SR requirements for any gig, Clearwing pulls choice gear from its predominantly L-Acoustics inventory. (Clearwing is an L-Acoustics/V-DOSC systems network partner.) Supplementing the company's V-DOSC rig (which is powered by Lab.Gruppen or Crown amps) is another P.A. comprising Martin F2 cabs (also Crown-powered). “We built a new monitor rig this past year with L-Acoustics' new Hi-Q wedges, but we still use a variety of Martin monitor wedge products,” Koerner says. In addition, Clearwing offers Yamaha, Midas and Ramsa boards; choice pieces of outboard gear (“You name it, we have it,” he says, “and if we don't, we'll get it.”); and a mic closet full of Shure, Sennheiser, Audix and Beyer models. This inventory can also be pulled out for numerous installs, including a recent one for Potawatomi Casino, where Clearwing brought in an L-Acoustics V-DOSC system. Clearwing will also be spec'ing the casino's upgrade from a 700-seater to housing 3,000 guests.
But what's a full inventory of gear without the know-how? The SR company's audio department has 11 full-time, year-round employees in the Milwaukee office and will usually hire on five or six freelancers during the busy summer months, as well as cull from the local union. On the other hand, the Phoenix locale has a few full-time audio techs, but Clearwing relies on a long list of quality freelancers. And these hired guns can be seen not only at local events (clubs, festivals, corporate, theater, etc.), but also on high-end arena tours: Steve Miller Band, the Righteous Brothers (who have been Clearwing clients for more than five years), Gipsy Kings, Natalie Cole — and the list goes on.
Clearwing continues to focus on providing all services for each and every client. In Phoenix, the company opened up a retail pro shop; Milwaukee's store is in progress and should be open by the time you read this. Both stores will be supported online at www.clearwingproshop.com. “In Phoenix,” Koerner recalls, “we had a client base that, while picking up their rental gear, would want to buy other stuff — gaffer's tape, batteries, rigging, rope, gels, et cetera. In Milwaukee, we're banking they'll want to do the same thing.” In these stores, Clearwing will focus more on consumables for lighting and backline purposes, and is focusing on church and school clients. The way business is booming for Clearwing, it's only a matter of time before these pro shops will be all-inclusive: lighting, staging, backline and, yes, pro audio.
Sarah Benzuly is Mix's managing editor.