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Winter Quiet No More for SR Providers

This time of year used to mean that things slowed down in the live sound sector—but the operative words there are “used to.”

It’s the dead of winter; the summer months and all the work they provided for the national sound reinforcement companies—tours, festivals, destination events and the like—are but a distant memory. This time of year used to mean that things slowed down in the SR sector—but the operative words there are “used to.”

“There’s no such thing as downtime these days,” laughed Jack Boessneck, executive vice president of Eighth Day Sound (Highland Heights, OH). “It really has changed—20, 30 years ago, nobody did anything and we all suffered from the January doldrums. Now everybody’s decided they want to eat 365 days a year.”

Kelsey Brandon Gingrich, director of engineering, manufacturing & marketing at Clair Global (Lititz, PA), concurred, observing, “It’s not an off season. We stay pretty busy these months from a gig perspective, which is great. A lot of it is one-offs like New Year’s Eve events—for instance, Phish does a bunch of one-offs around then. There’s also some awards shows. It’s more events than long-term tours around this time, but we’re supporting our clients wherever they go, so if they have promotional stuff that they’re ramping up for, we’re offering a good amount of support for those as well.”

While the work is a bit different from the rest of the year—Boessneck noted Eighth Day was providing audio for a trio of themed cruises and the NHL All-Star Game, among other gigs—the winter months still provide an opportunity to size up the previous year and rethink how the new one will be approached.

“We take a look at what our biggest challenges were from the year before and create training that will help make those things better for 2018,” said Gingrich. “We get a lot of our road staff in here to Lititz to brush up on the latest technology, pick their brains on the problems they’re seeing and spot opportunities for improvement. Education and training is huge for us—I think at the end of the day, our people end up setting us apart. You can spend as much time as you want on the gear, but if the people aren’t well trained, you’re going to fall flat on your face.”

The educational insights flow both ways, too, he noted. “We’re getting a good cross-section of different kinds of tours and different kinds of skill sets so that we can have a really good conversation,” he added. “It’s not just [training]; it’s a lot of us trying to get feedback from the people who are on the front lines. It’s a huge opportunity for us, because we design our own speaker enclosures, to ask, ‘What’d you guys like about this? What didn’t you like?’ Obviously we get that throughout the year, but getting that when we have larger groups of people is very helpful.”

But with many major artists’ income increasingly dependent on touring instead of music sales these days, the slow time of year isn’t that slow anymore for the sound companies that support them. Many acts are doing promotional work, appearing on awards shows or are deep in rehearsals for the productions they’ll mount this summer. As Boessneck noted, “The more you can work in January, the better off you are. It helps everybody that the industry is working at this time of year. It isn’t ‘Oh, we wait until January to fix the mic cables.’ In 1980, you did that; you don’t do that in 2018.”

Clair Global •

Eighth Day Sound •