Sound companies handle “one-off” shows every day. It’s usually formulaic, and after a while, we do it by rote.
But what happens when the client wants one-stop shopping? This is also known as “full production” or “turnkey service,” and it’s quite a bit more involved than an average show. Generally months of planning and coordination are needed, as well as work with a number of subcontractors. It just can’t be done by the seat of the pants.
Normally, when a sound company is hired for a show, the client is a promoter or a venue. They provide the stage, they provide the power, and they provide the labor. The sound company’s job is to advance the show with the artist and show up with a rig. Not so when the full production falls into your lap.
Particularly for large, multi-stage festivals, hiring a single source to handle all the entertainment elements of the event is almost a necessity. The event director has too many other things to handle to have to worry about the details of his entertainment.
Steve Rosenauer, director of the St. Mary’s University Alumni Association Fiesta Oyster Bake in San Antonio, Texas, once told me his definition of full production: “As a client, full production means working with a knowledgeable and experienced company that can produce a turn-key operation with regard to organizing, building and operating the necessary staging, sound, lights and equipment needs, with all meeting the negotiated specifications of the event as well as the bands. A company that does this can greatly enhance the quality of the event and provide a solid peace of mind to the entertainers and the event organizers.”
For the purposes of describing the process of a full production event, I will use the Fiesta Oyster Bake as my example. It’s a two-day, six-stage festival which kicks off San Antonio’s annual Fiesta Celebration every April. Fiesta has been ranked as the second largest party in the U.S. (Mardi Gras being first) by the National Meeting Planners Association. (And yes, they bake tons of oysters!) For years, our company, Sound Services, worked with this event. (Note that we recently chose to close the company for reasons completely unrelated to business.)
PREP MAKES PERFECT
In order to be ready by mid-April, we would start working in November. To be fair, we had been doing this event for nearly a decade, and had amassed a team of subcontractors with whom we were all very comfortable. Until a company gets to this point, preparations probably need to commence even sooner.
In November, we would begin talking about what our needs were going to be. Because city electrical inspectors were involved, we checked the City Code Compliance for any new electrical requirements. For example, one year (and for the first time), we were required to ground all of stages to the audio power distribution services, as well provide non-conductive covering of all power cables running in public areas. Not fun to discover things like this at the last minute!
We provided staging, sound, lights, backline, labor and all technical personnel for the festival. Because the client uses many more generators than just ours, they made those arrangements, but they used our generator provider so we were assured that power would not be a problem. The generator provider also stayed in contact on any change orders he received that might affect us.