One of the areas of the economy in 2009 that was least affected by the recession was the live entertainment industry. There are a growing number of events in the UK held on farmland and airfields, in the grounds of country houses and in city parks and squares, as well as in concert halls. Strangely the continued rise in popularity of live concerts may be due in part to the wider availability of recorded music for download which, because of its ubiquity nowadays, can render it less precious to music fans. The festival experience presents something unique that cannot be found on a website: a chance to see your musical heroes in the flesh ‘for one night only’, and RPS is proud to be a key player in the organisation of such events. RPS has just returned from Glastonbury and 2010 is so far proving a very successful year.
RPS’ role at these events is to make sure that any licence conditions relating to noise are observed. This often requires our involvement from before the date of the application and to give expert testimony at licence hearings, as well as working during the events themselves.
The way we work at these events is different to our other noise consultancy projects. We are there to monitor the music as it is produced and make any adjustments necessary to keep within the licence conditions, rather than make predictions or checking noise levels retrospectively. To help us achieve this, Robert Miller, one of our consultants, has developed a real-time sound monitoring system which provides accurate predictions of likely future noise levels (Leq) at the sound mixer position. This helps us to advise the sound engineer how best to alter the sound output of the PA to meet the off site limits. We call this system ‘Ellie Q’, and the pun is intended. Our system was a great success at last year’s events with both consultants and engineers alike. Recent modifications tested at Glastonbury this year have made the system more informative to users.
Alongside the technical aspects of the work, which includes a good working knowledge of sound system design and operation, there is a fair amount of diplomacy required. Engineers don’t always want to turn their band down, so we have to use our powers of persuasion to get results. We also often act as the contact point with the licensing authority on behalf of the promoter and deal with the day to day sound management issues. We are proud to be able to say as we were able to last year, that in 2010 there were no breaches of licence conditions which were considered actionable by the local authority at any of the events where we were working.
Last year RPS provided sound management at events throughout the country, which were attended by hundreds of thousands of music fans including Glastonbury, Leeds, Latitude in Suffolk, The Glade in Hampshire and events from London to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.