A light summer rain was falling as I entered the grounds of the Buckle-Up Festival, a three-day, six-stage country music event in mid July held on the banks of the Ohio River in the Sawyer Point region of downtown Cincinnati.
It’s a beautiful setting for this first-ever festival, and also served as the site of the Bunbury Music Festival the week prior that featured a variety of rock performances.
My first goal was locating Grant Cambridge, the managing director of Event Enterprises, which serves as the production company for both festivals. Eventually we both arrived behind the Main Stage front of house position, covered by a tent intended to provide shade from the summer sun but now serving a vital role in warding off the steady drizzle.
I’d not met Grant in person and was a bit surprised by the youthful looks of the fellow hiking up to me with a full backpack and ubiquitous comm radio, but he exhibited the demeanor of an old pro despite serving as the tech pivot point in support of nearly 80 live performances over three days, including headliners such as Willie Nelson, Eli Young Band, Alabama, Emmylou Harris, and The Band Perry.
Making A Go
Upon graduating from Ohio University in Athens in 2003 with degrees in audio production and music, Cambridge started working free-lance audio gigs in the Cincinnati area, where he’d grown up. The work began to come more steadily, so he bought out a small local recording studio, essentially for the live gear that included a small PA and a couple of mixers.
A steady affiliation with the MidPoint Music Festival, an indie music event held annually in late September, led to strong ties with festival organizer Bill Donabedian, who’s gone on to found Bunbury and now Buckle Up festivals. “It goes to show the value of business relationships,” Cambridge notes. “And even though Bill eventually sold the MidPoint festival, we’re still a vendor for them as well.”
He continued with a “day job” to supplement his income through 2009, eventually reaching a point where he could see making a go of working sound full time. It came down to having acquired consistent repeatable business combined with enough new prospects to make it a realistic pursuit. He marks January 1, 2010 as the official start of his full-time venture, christening it Event Enterprises.
Next came the process of building the business while still staying busy enough (and liquid enough financially) to pay the bills. Acquiring additional inventory was essential to the plan of becoming a full-service audio (as well as backline and lighting) provider and rental house, but he resisted the urge to go on a gear splurge, taking a more calculated approach.
“Believe it or not, the recession actually kind of helped our business,” he says. “Some folks were getting in over their heads on gear, so I kept my eyes open for opportunities.”
For example, a church that had overextended itself led to the “right price” for a barely used compact main system comprised of NEXO GEO S8 line arrays, CD12 cardioid subwoofers and NX Series processors. And he smiles while recalling driving a box truck roundtrip to Nashville the day after Thanksgiving to pick up NEXO Alpha E full-range boxes as well as some processors.
By 2012, Event Enterprises occupied a small shop and began adding staff, as well as working with a host of free-lancers, to keep up with a growing client base.