Safety first in rental and staging

Rental and staging is a profession where success depends on expecting the unexpected. Tim Kridel interviewed several veterans to find out what they've learned - sometimes the hard way.

In the early 1980s, Van Halen was the biggest band in the world, at least in terms of its concert productions. Its nine tractor-trailers of gear were three times what other bands typically brought.

Promoters and venue owners who didn’t pay close attention to the specs in Van Halen’s contract sometimes paid a hefty price: about US$190,000 in the case of a Colorado arena where the staging sank through the brand-new floor.

“As a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say ‘Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes ,” lead singer David Lee Roth recounted in his autobiography. “And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: ‘There will be no brown M&M's in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.’

“When I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl . . . well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you're going to arrive at a technical error. They didn't read the contract. Guaranteed you'd run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.”

It’s an anecdote that resonates today and in just about every type of event, from premiers to presentations to product launches. For rental and staging professionals, one challenge is getting a venue’s specs, which aren’t always as readily available or detailed as they should be.

“If the load rating is not provided on the website, the project manager or technical director should reach out to the rigging supplier to make sure they’re within compliance,” says Scott Senko, AV Concepts field operations manager. “Most venues and facilities have a rigging contract with their in-house audiovisual provider or they have an outside source that provides rigging. Once the project manager or technical director reaches out to obtain that information, they need to ensure load calculations are done for anything they’re putting in the air to ensure weight rating of the points aren’t exceeded.”  

Kridel explores issues related to responsibility as well as hearing about a few lessons learned by experienced rental and production companies including Eclipse, SenovvA, Gearhouse and Bluman Associates as well as the Production Services Association (PSA).

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A series of full Q&As for some of the representatives interviewed in this article can be found below:

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