Q) What is your job title and where do you work?
I'm currently working for Britannia Row Productions (BRP). There are two parts to my job...
I'm employed day-to-day in BRP HQ in Twickenham, where I basically work with a team to service, prep., build and de-prep. all the equipment we own for shows, tours and corporate events.
I am also a Crew member, meaning BRP employ me to work on the events that they provide sound re-enforcement for. There are a few different roles on these events (depending on the nature of the job) and so as a crew member you have to have a skill set wide enough to take you from one end of the multicore to the other.
I'm focusing on becoming a System Engineer so I normally get put on a gig as a System Tech to help the (more senior) Engineer. Most of the crew we employ are freelance engineers who work for several different companies/bands etc. and I too am aiming to gain the valuable knowledge and experience needed to join them.
Q) When did you start working there?
A) I started at BRP in November 2012 & have been there ever since!
Q) In a typical day, what do you do?
A) Day to day in the warehouse it can be anything from rigging inspection to looming cables! Because we are a relatively large PA hire company, we can provide anything from speakers to microphones and everything in between. Our warehouse is split up into several different departments; Analogue, Digital, Cables, Speakers (& Rigging), Amps and Maintenance and as part of my job I have to get to know the ins and outs of every area including all the equipment. This means testing, maintaining and building takes up most of my day in the warehouse. Along with that I am also a rigging inspector for all the kit that we send out with our PA systems. I am also one of the people responsible for PAT testing our electronic equipment and repairing any faulty items.
I also worked for some time in our operations department where I was an assistant to our Operations Manager. This job involved retrieving quotes for the hire of equipment and transport for tours, assigning equipment to jobs and liaising with the warehouse staff and crew to ensure all prep was completed on time and all the kit fitted in the trucks!
On a gig, as a System Tech, my job is pretty much anything that needs doing! Firstly unloading the trucks (normally a 45 ft. arctic, or 2 or 3!) and loading it into the venue. Depending on the nature of the gig, there may be limitations as to when we can start to set up certain things but for the most part, the cables are normally run first. These will be the multicores from FOH to stage. There are normally at least 2 or 3 depending on the kind of consoles that are being used. We also run a returns multi for the drive system where we control the PA and amps from. The amps are also set up early on. Again, depending on the type of gig and how many amps you have, the set up may vary. Sometimes they are flown with the PA, sometimes they are built in huge racks called MeatRacks and sometimes they are in really awkward positions away from the stage or on a balcony. Their favourite place (and ours!) to be, is on either side of the stage, on the ground. From then on, it is my job to help get the PA in the air (if its being flown) or ground stacked. I'm also responsible for setting up side fills, lip fills and delays. I have to rig the speakers with the appropriate hardware (rigging, angle straps, ratchets, inclinometers etc.!) and ensure that they are in the optimum position to cover the venue sufficiently. The angles and positioning are worked out by the Engineer who uses specific software to plot the room and design the system around it.
Once speakers are in place it is time to cable up and patch the amps so that the correct signal goes to the correct parts of the PA (sub to subs etc!) Then we "pink" the system to make sure we have everything present and correct. We may also have to time align the system if its a larger venue and especially if we have delay hangs. Once the Engineer is happy, he/she will normally play a few tracks of songs they know the frequency range of very well and walk the room to make sure all areas are covered and no phasing is occurring. Once we are happy with the PA and the amps, it is time to make sure the rest of the crew are ok and help out with any remaining tasks. This whole process can take many hours and this is all before the main act arrives for their load in. Once they headliners are in, they usually soundcheck for at least an hour by which time the support/s will be ready for their soundcheck/s too. This takes us up to opening time and straight into the gig itself. Once the main event is over we then have to pack down and load out all the equipment and get it back on the truck/s!
Q) How did you get the job?
A) I was offered the opportunity through a lecturer at BUCKS to volunteer as an audio assistant for the 2012 Olympics. I went for an interview and was asked to cover the gymnastics at the O2 arena where I worked with some BRP crew. After graduating I was looking to pursue a career in live audio and decided to take a chance and contact BRP once the Olympics were over. The next day I got a call from the HR manager asking if I wanted to go in for a few days and I have been there ever since!
Q) What are the best bits of what you do?
A) There are loads of awesome things about this job. The obvious stuff like being backstage all the time and meeting lots of amazing artists is fantastic and I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it! But, there is nothing like going to work everyday with your best friends…sounds really lame I know but the live industry, especially my company, is like one big family and everyone knows everyone. Being on a tour with a brilliant crew and making an incredible show happen is the best feeling in the world. That and all the free stuff!!
Q) What are the worst bits?
A) We work VERY unsociable hours. This is not a typical 9-5 job and you have to be prepared to work seriously hard if you want to make it out there. Sometimes it is also a very high-pressure environment, especially when dealing with high-profile clients. Also, touring means long periods of time away from home, friends and family.
Q) What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the same line of work?
A) Keep at it and don't give up. This industry is incredibly tough and you have to be prepared to get your hands dirty and earn respect. Don't expect just to waltz up to a console on your first day and be thrown out on tour as a FOH engineer just like that. No matter what your background, you will start at the very bottom just like everyone else did. Listen to everyone you work with and take advice from the ones who have made this their career. Also, be nice to everyone!!! There is nothing worse than Engineers/Techs who are rude to venue staff/local crew/anyone they think is below them. At the end of the day, people aren't paying for tickets to see you!
Q) Anything else you’d like to add?
A) I think I could go on about this forever!! I guess, you get out of this what you put into it. There are no shortcuts and you never stop learning.