Summer Round-up

The weather is positively autumnal today so I thought it was as good a time as any to round up the summer at Alex Fernie Audio Ltd. Overall, despite the general economic situation, it was a good summer season with some new festival clients added which hopefully we can maintain in the future.

The month of May saw the Inishbofin Arts Festival with a great performance from Mick Flannery. Later that month was the first Festival of the Valleys in Clare. There were a lot of flaws with the organisation of this festival in its first year, but under new management it has promise as an annual event.

June was the Galway Powerboat Festival which lasted for a week. Also on the bank holiday was the Little Havana Festival around the streets of Galway. We were also the audio contractor for the Special Olympics opening in Thomond Park which featured the Cranberries. Litton Lane Audio in Dublin were contracted by us to supply a 24 box Meyer Milo system for the event with Yamaha control at FOH and Monitors.

July was the Film Fleadh in Galway, which required a number of Nexo PS systems as well as featuring a gig by Alabama 3 for the wrap party. Then it was into the Galway Arts Festival. This was our 10th consecutive year working on the festival and there were great shows in our venues from Neil Hannon & Teenage Fanclub. We also supplied the PA for the Hofesh Schechter dance show which was an outstanding success.

Into August and having courted them for a number of years, this year we tendered successfully for the Kilkenny Arts Festival. There were some great world music gigs, the Tindersticks played a great show in what is now my favourite non-venue venue in Ireland - St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. We all had a fabulous time in a great city and look forward to doing it again sometime.

Currently, we’re doing a few shows for the Tuam Arts Festival, which is a pleasant, if low key, end to the Summer 2010. As we speak, Druid Theatre are preparing to premiere their production of O’Casey’s “The Silver Tassie” in Galway’s Town Hall Theatre. The show will tour the UK and Ireland over the next few months and is touring, for an Irish production, a comparatively large PA system from us. The touring package includes Nexo S1210s, S1230s, NXAMPs and a Yamaha LS9 for control.

On the inventory side, we rented in a second Venue SC48 for the summer. I’m presently trying to evaluate if we should make the acquistion permanent, however it is difficult to predict how the winter will pan out. Early signs are promising it must be said.

Other smaller acquisitions were additions to microphone stock: KM184s, Shure Beta 98s, Sennheiser 904s, 906s were the main ones. We also added some rigging hardware to offer more options for flying Nexo S12 systems as horizontal arrays.

For those of you using analysis software, I’m finding Spectrafoo a useful addition to the traditional method (ie using your ears). We’ve successfully implemented it as part of our larger PA system setups and, in conjunction with Nexo’s new NS-1 prediction/array design software make implementing multi cabinet PA systems quicker and more accurate.

Finally, we had some Nexo PS10-R2s on sub-hire over the summer. I really liked them and they are certainly a step up from the older PS10.

One other thing, we’re at full capacity with our Sound Support Scheme for the rest of this year. I’ll be releasing details for 2011 in October, and also tweaking the schemes to maintain their appeal for venue owners and gigging bands.

I’ll be disappearing on annual leave over the next few weeks. Thanks to all the engineers, crew, van & truck drivers that worked for us over the summer. Thanks also to our customers, old and new that made Summer 2010 a successful festival season.

Into the Autumn,

Galway Powerboat Festival Stage


Why a Rider isn't a "wishlist": Part I

Many people new to promoting events may be bemused by the artist’s accompanying rider. The rider is a document which forms part of the legally binding contract between the promoter and the artist or performer and should not be ignored. An artist’s rider is not simply a “wishlist” to be approximated in the interests of budget or expediency but an integral part of the performance.

It can generally be divided into two sections; a hospitality rider and a technical rider. The hospitality rider deals with accommodation, dressing rooms, food, beverages and security and contain items that are easily organised by most people in a hotel. The technical rider is, to non-production types, often a bewildering array of technical shorthand, model numbers and jargon. If you do not understand a technical rider, don’t sign it until you have consulted with a professional production person.

The quickest way to interpret a technical rider is to pass it on to some reputable sound and lighting companies in your area and ask them to price it – remember, unless you are sure your venue can accommodate the technical rider you will have to pay for any extra equipment. But just so that you have some idea what it’s all about, here’s a quick 101 on artist technical riders.

For music acts, the sound system forms the bulk of the technical rider. Touring theatre companies will concentrate more on the lighting side and will provide a lighting plan which will need to be accommodated by your venue.

FOH or Front of House system is the sound reinforcement system that the audience will hear. Professional engineers will look for reputable, relatively modern brands and designs that they are familiar with and also that there is enough “rig for the gig”. They will most often give a list of suitable systems and need enough of it to provide consistent sound throughout a venue. Professional sound engineers will never simply state that they need “a 4kW PA” or something similar.

FOH console is the mixing desk. The engineer/artist will want one that can accommodate all the individual channels from the stage and again, one that is a reputable, modern design. Most professional sound engineers no longer have a problem with using a digital board – some prefer them to analogue mixing desks. Again a list of acceptable digital boards will be listed. If an engineer explicitly states that she does not want a digital board, then suitable analogue boards will be listed. Do not assume that just because an act only needs 16 channels they are just being smart by asking for a 32 channel desk. Analogue boards will require a certain amount of outboard equipment; again suitable makes and models will be listed. Makes and models not wanted will be explicitly listed.

MONS or Monitor System deals with the speaker system the artist hears onstage and as such is in some ways more important than the FOH system. Do not try to skimp on the monitor system. Similar to the FOH system (see - you’re learning the jargon!), reputable, modern brands and designs will be preferred and listed. Monitor systems for bands will need to provide high sound pressure levels, and often detailed monitor speaker design and processing will be given. For larger venues and acts, an analogue or digital Monitor Console and outboard will be requested in a similar fashion to the FOH console.

Generally these specifications are followed by a
stage plan and a channel list. The channel list will detail what microphones and other equipment is needed such as short or tall mic stands. The stage plan will show where everything goes and will help your venue or house sound engineer get everything ready in advance of the band arriving. The stage plan will also detail where power is needed on the stage.

Finally, you may see some makes and models of equipment listed on the rider as
UNACCEPTABLE. There is generally a good reason for this. Maybe they break down a lot. Maybe they just sound bad to a trained ear. Maybe they are simply useless products. NEVER ASSUME THAT A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER OR ARTIST IS SIMPLY BEING AWKWARD, STUCK UP OR IGNORANT. If in any doubt, get a professional opinion.

Just like you, the band and their technical crew want the audience to enjoy the show so that no-one dies, we all get paid and we all go home. So remember a technical rider is just that, it’s not a wishlist but it is a list of necessary and minimum items required to do the job.

NEXT: The Backline and Lighting Rider.

AND AFTER THAT: How professionals deal with riders and advancing a show

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Photos March 2010

I’m not a great one for remembering to take photos, but here’s 3 from the last few weeks.


SC48 at work

So it’s a been a busy few weeks. Fortunately, the SC48 has been hard at work since its arrival 3 weeks ago. Over the past 2 weeks we’ve had a few shows with the Blizzards, Imelda May, Wallis Bird, the Magnets as well as the inaugural Galway Halloween Aboo Festival. The SC48 continues to impress. Though there is still some resistance to the digital console, the sound quality of the SC48 is really putting the analogue Vs digital debate to bed. though most of its gigs so far are at FOH, I did get to use it myself for monitors for Imelda May last week. Hopefully tomorrow I can spend a bit of time setting up a few events and user profiles to improve workflows as a monitor board.More soon....

Arthur's Day in Dublin & Galway.

Some of the crowd on Shop Street, where we supplied Nexo PS Systems for street music gigs for Arthur’s Day. Meanwhile, main sound contractor for the event in Dublin, EQ Audio & Events hired Alex Fernie Audio to supply Nexo GEO Systems and Logic System monitor systems to some of the 28 venues hosting live gigs for the event. Highlight’s from some our venues were The Magic Numbers, Paolo Nutini, Oppenheimer, Informatics, Roots Manuva and David Kitt.

Nexo PS10's go to US

Long-term freelance tech for Alex Fernie Audio, Mike Nestor, took a Nexo PS10 system for a Frankie Gavin & the new De-Danann (FGATNDD) gig in the house of the US Ambassador last Thursday night. So in effect, some of the PS10’s were in the US. How cool is that...
(Photo: M. Nestor - thanks)

Just added to the site - details of long-term PA hire . I’m trying to keep on top of the site though jobs are pouring in at the moment. Bear with me during the construction of it, because I think it’s coming together nicely.