During the global Covid-19 pandemic we have talked a lot about how many businesses have shut down, and the effect that it has had on the economy. From the transport sector to agriculture, everyone has been affected. Some restaurants are still closed, and may never reopen – the list goes on.
But what about the live entertainment industry?
Normally my story starts off with freshly washed hair, coffee in one hand and remembering the scent of the backdocks of The Grand West Arena, but not this time. This time I’m driving into the deep south of Cape Town to a friend’s home to hear how they’ve been impacted by the pandemic.
Meet Jarred and Shaun from Gearworx Technical Solutions. Gearworx is an integrator of audio visual solutions, providing services to churches, corporates, retail and education. They also focus on supporting and training church organisations and they host I/O sessions that are aimed at audio visual training.
As I walked into the house I was greeted by two familiar faces. Faces I normally see backstage during big events. Same people, but a different setting. We started the morning with a cup of coffee and shared some memorable stories from back in the day. We laughed as Jarred told us about the ‘not-so-glamorous’ tour life in America and the importance of always showering with flip flops on. Yes, you can only imagine. We share many common interests, from wearing only black, 5am call times and an extreme love for excellence.
Many of us have had to adapt to this ‘new way of living’. Corporate conferences will be able to go ahead and stream live events, but let’s be real, the live entertainment industry won’t make it, especially not in South Africa. There’s a reason why you pay an arm and a leg to ‘experience the room’ when you purchase a ticket.
What happens now with the rigger who can’t offer to write personal songs, the sound engineer who can’t exchange his time to give drum lessons or the artists who finally got breakthrough after many years of giving but still aren’t signed by a big label?
There is no safety net in 2020, it’s adapt or die.
The Gearworx guys are lucky enough to have quickly changed their company strategy to keep up with the new demands of online lifestyle.
After a good cup of coffee, the guys showed me their office space and how they run things nowadays. I noticed a new sound desk panel in the corner of the room, Pelican cases packed in another corner and brand new video equipment being tested to assist people on a tight budget. Shaun sat by the desk and showed me a few of the new gadgets and then pulled up a drawing of a brand new installation that needs to be done. I had quite a giggle when I saw their sketching skills. HA maybe time to digitise that as well?
I asked about prices of some of the equipment because those boxes look hella expensive. Jarred laughed and said that they will meet new clients and encourage them to use what they have to a full extent or upgrade what is needed. They fully understand that the majority of companies are struggling with budget cuts or either no budget and need to make something happen.
The guys love what they do and are extremely thankful to still have some sort of income. But I couldn’t help but notice the sadness on both their faces when we spoke about events and what life was like backstage. They both smiled again and said that we are all in this together and we need to stay positive and make it work.
Jarred smacked Shaun on the shoulder and both laughed. The rush of runsheets, early morning coffees, being sleep deprived, are all but something in the past. There’s a sense of social anxiety when people talk about big groups of people. When will a show be jam packed, an arena filled to the rafters or drive in shows be organised? It’s only a matter of time before we know what ‘a new normal’ is in South Africa.