The Live Event IndustryWith Garth Green – National Training Manager for Gearhouse South Africa.
What is the Live Events Industry?
The Live Events Industry was derived from the Theatre. It ranges from Product Launches to Sporting Events. Wherever there is an ‘audience’ observing an event taking place, there lies the ‘Live Event Industry.’By introducing Lighting, Sound and Audio-Visual enhancement, the industry adds the ‘theatrical’ dimension to an event. It is this ‘theatrical’ element that makes the performer larger than life and so their message becomes more ‘real’.
Every event has a performer and an audience and through the event the performer has a message to be given over to the audience. Since the performer is not part of the context – the context has been removed – the message does not convey itself as well. Therefore, by placing the performer at the location where the context of the message is - selling a car where a car is usually sold (car showroom) and not in a theatre where is outside of its context - the sale becomes more powerful. Thus, the Live Events Industry tries to achieve the following objective: Locate the event where the ‘product’ is located or where it is to be used and then enhance the sale message through Lighting, Sound and Audio-Visual reinforcement to make it more ‘real’ in an ‘unreal’ way.  

What careers can one pursue in the industry?
One begins as a ‘stage hand’ or ‘gofer’ (go-for-it person) or ‘runner’. Here you will simply run around any live event getting things done – carrying things to and from events (or gigs) in order to make things happen. From there you will begin to get an idea of the career scope that is on offer. It is advisable though to try your hand at everything and then specializes later...much later. There are six main careers that are open to the stagehand: Lighting, Sound, Audio-Visual, Rigging, Structures and Power. If you are willing to ‘dapple’ in each one, then you can look at Project Managing a gig later. However, if you prefer to specialize in any one, you will then become a Senior Technician, then Head of Department and then Branch Manager.
If you feel that you have a client base and can get the contracts and would like to go on your own you could start an event company yourself. You must ensure that you have a creative mind to create novel events as you are only as good as your last event. However, it is important to realize that the Live Event Industry is where we take other people's products and bring them together in novel ways within novel locations to create a novel sale. This industry is about enhancing the sales pitch of someone else’s product.
Does one have to study to enter this industry, if so what qualification should an individual pursue and if not then what sort of practical experience should one be involved in?
NO! You do not need a qualification behind you to grow within this industry. Even when it comes to Power, you do not need to become a qualified electrician having done an apprenticeship and completed a Trade Test. Yes it does help, but if you do not have the money, the time and/or the inclination to go through a formal qualification, then simply start as a ‘stagehand’, ‘gofer’ or ‘runner’ and work through the industry learning as you go. There are too many educational institutions offering Sound Reinforcement qualifications that are resulting in an oversupply of ‘sound engineers.’ But there are none that offer Lighting, Audio-Visual, Rigging, Structures and Power. You do not need a formal qualification in Sound in order to become an accomplished Sound Engineer. Often a qualification may hinder your spontaneity and stifle your growth. Rather go into such a career riding on the ‘seat of your pants’; you will become more excitable this way.
An apt way to see the Live Events Industry is through the eyes of ‘Rock 'n Roll’. This industry was borne out of the ‘Rock 'n Roll’ age where people simply jumped onto a tour bus and went with the flow and did whatever seemed natural at the time with regards to Lighting, Sound, Audio-Visual, Rigging Structures and Power. As the industry became more sophisticated and the Occupational Health and Safety laws became more apparent, a more professional approach to the industry has emerged. But its the ‘go-for-it’ approach that still remains. However, there is plenty of time to learn the stuff on your own long before you get the opportunity to be in a position of control within a live gig. Many international artists bring out their own Lighting, Sound and Audio-Visual designers and operators, so you will be the ‘gofer’ for some time - plenty of time to learn it on your own. Take a good manual to bed and save on the tuition fees.
Although, if you feel that you want to get a formal professional qualification behind you, then by all means do it and enjoy it. This industry does need formally qualified people of all types. If you are going to do one, ensure that you select your subjects well and achieve high marks within each subject.
In terms of career development, what’s a good starting point to kick start ones career in terms getting into the industry?
Even if you do complete a formal qualification or not, the chances of fixed employment within this industry is very scarce at the outset; you will more likely become a freelancer – your own ‘company’. Whatever qualification you have, put it aside to begin with and let the industry dictate your ‘starting point’. You can always migrate towards your passion from there. Also, you may find that what you thought was right for you at the start is no longer right for you at the end and you may go into other areas of the industry you never thought possible. This industry is driven by PASSION and it is this passion that drives us to working non-stop for days or even weeks to get a large gig to work. Each gig is a learning experience complete and real in every way. It therefore is the ideal learning environment…it is just up to you to do the learning!
What sort of individuals are suited for this industry?
People with PASSION, PASSION, PASSION to make a gig happen no matter the odds.
This industry runs 24/7/365. We have no weekends and public holidays as it is at these times that gigs happen - we sleep during the day and work over weekends. We are constantly packing and unpacking and moving boxes full of gear, loading and unloading trucks and setting-up and striking equipment at very strange locations (no need for a gym contract in this industry). There is so much scope to get your mind into, that to define oneself at the beginning because you like playing CD’s would be very unjust towards yourself…This industry is ‘wide open’ to possibility and this is why you must enter this industry with ‘open eyes’.
Will there always be a future for the industry or is it seasonal, is it a sustainable job market that an individual can build their career properly?
The future is what you make of it. It is you that becomes the future of any industry. This is why people join associations and institutes; so as to ensure an industry’s survival longevity and prosperity.If you do not take active interest in an industries future, it is not the industry that will die, but you for not having secured you own future within it. There is more to a career than simply securing a job within an industry; you must become an active member of that industry and rally your voice behind it to ensure it grows and prospers. Personally to  secure my future I went into Education and Training something very alien at the time to this industry type. I believed in the need for a course in Live Event Technical Production that covered all the six majors; Lighting, Sound, Audio-Visual, Rigging, Structures and Power. So I created one. In so doing I created my own Career…I am an expert on only one of the – power – but through my passion to learn the other five and through my understanding of how knowledge and skill acquisition works, I was able to master the content of this course.
You too can do the same…
You can find out more about Gearhouse South Africa and the Live Event Industry at: