Local Crew: Event TechCOMPLETE SYSTEM PACKAGING MADE EASY 4/01/2007 8:00 AM Eastern
A recurring theme in this column concerns local SR companies providing clients with a total rental package: audio, lighting, staging, personnel, etc. But Event Tech (Hanover, Md.; www.eventtech.com) takes that business model one step further: equipment sales and its Custom Shop. “It was tough to get decent service from the big music stores, which is what we had to deal with,” says founder Eric Maynard. “It was more of a necessity because we couldn't get the gear we wanted, when we wanted it. Also, we couldn't get answers when we had questions [about certain equipment] because we often had to challenge the performance and flexibility of some of the gear, so being able to communicate with the manufacturers as a dealer is very helpful.”
Event Tech's core business is providing full production to its clients — most notably the ACLU, The March for Peace on the National Mall and, most recently, the Maryland Governor's inauguration. However, rather than renting a console for “x” amount of dollars, wouldn't selling the gear to that client cut into Event Tech's rental revenue? “It's a delicate balance,” Maynard explains. “For example, one of our clients in Washington, D.C., is a large museum that has an A/V department. For a long time, we did everything for them, but they wanted to do more in-house. We don't want them to go elsewhere and we're all about customer service, even if it's not in our best interest. We were candid about what we thought they could handle and what was best for them, and they respected us for it.”
Event Tech also sells audio gear to friendly audio competitors. “By recommending and selling gear we know and use, we are in a better position to do bidirectional cross-rentals. It makes a pretty friendly environment,” Maynard says. “In our market, there's so much work, it works well for us having all of these areas that we can have some influence in. I'm the kind of guy who wants to be everyone's friend. To do that, you need to be consistent and maintain your integrity.” Maynard recalls his work as a tech director at The University of Maryland's production/promotion group 25 years ago (about the same time he began Event Tech), which created an event called Art Attack that he's still doing today, but now as a vendor. “I'm doing all of the lighting, the sound, the staging, the power distro, the crush barricade and bike-rack barricade on the site. When I was a student at the University of Maryland [where he studied electrical engineering], I was hiring a sound company from Washington, D.C., to work for us to do bands, and I'm still friends with that company and we're competitors; we still cross-rent our gear. We've had to live together for a long time and I don't think it's worth it to be brutal, cut-throat competitors because, eventually, it's going to come back to haunt you. I also didn't want to get uninvited to their annual Christmas party!”
But Event Tech has a leg-up on its competitors in packaging, which includes custom console cases and amp racks. “We've spent a great deal of time in making [the amp racks] universally flexible and relatively inexpensive to produce,” Maynard says. As for the console cases, Event Tech found a way to include a spot for power supplies, so those critical, yet often forgotten, components are never left behind. From these custom cases to a full-on JBL line array (or any number of high-quality audio products in the company's warehouse), every client knows that when booking Event Tech, they'll get everything they need. “We're kind of the ‘Home Depot’ of event production,” Maynard says with a laugh. “For example, we do the rallies on The Mall, and if you go to the job site and look 360 degrees, we've provided everything out there. And the clients see and appreciate our efficiency and the neatness that everything integrates together. And in our market, that's a nifty package because there aren't a lot of competitors doing that. When you're trying to be all things to all people, it's hard to be great at any one of them: Jack of all trades, master of none. We're getting to the point where we're becoming a master of quite a few of them.”
So from its ability to integrate all facets of event production to solid personnel — 19 full-timers and a huge freelance list (as opposed to labor companies) — what's next for Event Tech? “We'd love to find a market with an inverse peak schedule,” Maynard answers. “Long term, we're interested in expanding our corporate client base and hopefully international corporate clients and an international location, but that's a little ways down the road. There's so much more right here in our market that it's worth it to stick around and do what we're doing.”
Sarah Benzuly is Mix's managing editor.