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Tents in the music industry

Event Production, Features, Management | December 1, 2007 | By:

Collaboration and customer service are keys to pleasing your music industry clients.

On summer evenings across the country, drummers drum, banjo players strum and singers serenade concertgoers—all underneath elaborate tent structures. For the music industry, tents add a dramatic flair to outdoor concerts and music festivals. And as more event planners embrace tent structures as the backdrop to their music events, tent industry players are taking note of the unique attributes that these venues offer.

Expert productions

Industry experts agree that there are some inherent technical challenges when using tents for music venues. Suzanne Warner, of Tentnology Co. in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, points out that tents for concerts should be quick to install. “You also need structures that can be mounted onto a stage and structures that can be ballasted rather than anchored into the earth,” Warner says. Concert tents should also provide great sightlines and acoustics.

Bill Beck, sales manager at Wenger Corp. in Owatonna, Minn., says music venues have special requirements that industry experts need to pay attention to. “One of the biggest requirements is making sure you don’t underestimate the size of the stage and tent area required for different musical groups,” Beck says. “Determining the number of people in the orchestra or band, as well as their music stands or equipment layout, is very important.” As a rule of thumb, Beck recommends around 20 to 30 square feet per person, with the stage capable of meeting a moving load of 125 pounds per square foot.

When using tents for music or concert venues, one of the biggest mistakes that people make is not asking enough questions about how a tent will be used. “This can end up causing problems with the staging, lighting, audio and even the crew requirements,” says Cary Campbell of Eventstar Services in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. “Always ask for more detail.”

Making the band

So, what is it like to work with people associated with music events? “People in the music industry are very relaxed and laid-back compared to corporate events,” Campbell says. “We have worked with people that have showed up to meetings with messy hair, torn jeans and wrinkled shirts. I also find that they have more knowledge of all aspects of the production, from audio and lighting to tenting and staging. Because of this, they know exactly what they require, and nothing else is usually an option. I personally enjoy working on concerts and music festivals, as everyone is there to get the job done and then enjoy the event.”

Having more knowledge of the production means that concert clients may have an even higher demand for excellent customer service. “We have to be there for the client when they require us,” Campbell says, “and that sometimes means late-night phone calls and multiple meetings to discuss new ideas.”

When working on large productions, teamwork is key. “When you’re in this type of environment, you have to recognize that you are not the only person there trying to get a job done,” says Jeff Terry, of Atlanta-based Peachtree Tents & Events. “There are people that are doing the fencing, setting up the stage and lights, dropping off the restroom trailers, and working on the sound. You have to pay very close attention to the load-in and load-out schedule, and you all need to work together to make it happen.”

Terry and Peachtree partner Tim Dodd recently provided an ensemble of 127 tents for a concert featuring the Dave Matthews Band and the Allman Brothers Band at Piedmont Park in Atlanta. “We’ve done other music events, but nothing compares to putting together 127 tents for a crowd of 60,000 people,” Terry says.

The Piedmont concert was also a fundraiser for the Piedmont Park Conservancy, meaning that all the vendors had to comply with green standards of environmental care. “Because Piedmont Park did not allow us to stake down our tents, we had to use water barrels to support them,” Terry says. “After the concert was over, this water had to be recycled in an environmentally friendly way. It certainly did not make for a quick and easy job.”

Terry adds that flexibility is key when providing tents for the music industry. “Every day that we were out there setting up for the Dave Matthews Band, there was a tent being moved or changed,” he says. “We are going to do what it takes to make our clients happy. You have to be flexible in a huge job like this.”

When Rene Martinez and his team at A-1 Party Rentals in Covina, Calif., arrive on site, they like to meet the other vendors and get to know who is in charge for the different trades. “Most venues have only one way to move equipment in and out,” Martinez says. “So, imagine everyone trying to get in and out at the same time. The timelines and schedules are critical. If you fall behind, it can cause a domino effect. The promoters of these concerts are a tight group, and they talk about who finished on time, if you caused problems, or [if you] made their life easy.”

Martinez’ team recently had a 4 p.m. scheduled installation of 10,000 chairs and various other canopies and equipment for an outdoor music event. “We had 24 men scheduled to start installation,” Martinez explains. “At 3 p.m., on our way to the venue, the promoter called me and asked if we could push back the installation of the chairs a couple of hours. I responded by telling him that it was too late and that we were on our way right now.” When the A-1 team arrived, the flooring company had not finished its work, and A-1 couldn’t begin setting up the chairs.

The flooring had to go down first, but the flooring material was not even on site—it was approximately 30 miles away at another stadium. “We sent several of our own trucks over to the stadium, loaded the flooring onto our trucks, and delivered it to the site. We helped the other company install it, and then installed our equipment,” Martinez says. “We were able to help production get back on schedule. As they say, the show must go on. We all have to work together and make sure that the show starts on time.”

Maura Keller is a freelance writer based in Plymouth, Minn.

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