The Latest/Greatest For Live Music Production In The Wake of Supply & Staffing Issues

Production Live: This Is The Latest/Greatest For Live Music Production
– Production Live: This Is The Latest/Greatest For Live Music Production
Moderator Michael T. Strickland and speakers L-R: Danny O

Supply chain shortages and staffing issues are not something isolated to simply the live music industry. Over the past two years, employers across all industries have run into problems with getting what they need in order to continue functioning properly after COVID-19 disrupted the whole world. As live shows return and everyone aims to get back on the road, many initial problems are still not going away.

LED lighting is 25% more expensive than it had been pre-pandemic, and prices for most equipment have skyrocketed. However, while newer gear has been made over the course of the pandemic, Jeroen Hallaert, VP Production Services at PRG pointed out during Production Live!’s “This Is The Latest And Greatest For Live Music Production” panel that gear from 2020 is still perfect to use. 

“What is new gear? Is it new because of the manufacturing date or is it new because of the way you are using it in a show?” Hallaert said. “I’d like to think we challenge designers using existing inventory because there is enough inventory, believe me. I just want to find, or at least push or make people think of using things specifically in a way that has never been done before. More willing to adapt or even do custom adaptations to an existing product.”

With shortages of new products and not enough staff to go around, Bob O’Brien of SOS Global stressed that the most important thing for people to keep in mind is planning far in advance. With new gear sitting in the Czech Republic and China, shipping costs have skyrocketed – and there isn’t always someone waiting on the other end to collect what has been shipped.

“You get a plane to land in Chicago, but there might be no team there to unload the cargo,” O’Brien said. “So we’ve got it, we’ve brought it from wherever it is, UK or China, wherever. We’ve got it on the container on the ship and it’s sitting at LA port and there’s nothing we can do about it. You can make all the calls you want and all the people are connected, but there’s nothing we can do. It’s completely out of our control. Again, the global supply chain has just gotten in the way of that. And we really need to keep that in mind. Traditionally, pre-pandemic, we’d all have stories of something being stuck somewhere and it’s for a major artist, then pick up the phone and you’d call whoever and you’d put the stuff out to get delivered and the show is saved. But those days are gone really.” 

As previously postponed shows are beginning to pave their return for summer 2022, equipment and staffing shortages are at the forefront of their mind. While compared to two years ago there were not enough shows and too many staff members, the opposite is now true. And while previously it was always hard to say no to a gig, now it’s a necessity. 

“This summer, there’s so much work out there,” Danny O’Bryen, President of Screenworks/NEP, said. “It’s just a matter of what companies are giving away and whatever inherent reasons are, you just want to make a fair return. But where vendors very rarely say no, you always fall over each other because you’re trying to get the deal. Eventually, there’s not enough equipment because all of those sold out that carried over. You look at the amount of festivals, we do 32 festivals, and the product is booked. So you’re going to have to ascertain what you say no to.”

Laurent Vaissié, CEO of L-Acoustics, shares that higher wages and younger people are necessary to attract new blood into the industry. 

“Whole new training needs to happen,” Vaissié said. “Hybrid solutions. We have cutting-edge technology – that’s what makes it attractive. Normally it’s a cool industry with cool gear and equipment. to attract them we have to be attractive in terms of salaries and have adequate training. Pushing online training, education. It’s the coolest industry besides being blasted to space. And we should take better care of our freelancers.”

While supply-chain and labor shortages are heavily impacting the industry, Michael Strickland, Co-Chair and Founder of Bandit Lites, Inc., stresses that not only must the show go on, but that it will.

“On the bright side, what’s the unique thing about us? Unlike any other business, at 8 o’clock tonight there will be a rock show,” Strickland said. “That’s what we do, that’s what we’ve done since the ’60s. There are two-thirds to one-half the stagehands, but at 8 o’clock we have a show. We are that good at moving people that the military came to follow us around. We know what we’re doing. In the history of entertainment, the shows happen and you’re the people that make that happen. The challenges, supply chains, wages, we will get through this. It’s what we do.”