Parnellis, Ideas and Innovations

by George Petersen
in Editor's Note

The entire staff around here has been up to our elbows this month, with back-to-back LDI and AES tradeshows (see our complete AES coverage) and of course, the 12th annual Parnelli Awards. There was a lot going on, but rather than feeling tired, it feels great.

Kudos to the Parnellis!

This year marks my first appearance at the Parnelli Awards, and I have to say, the entire event blew me away. I’ve been to other industry awards events in the past, but there was something special at the Parnelli Awards that simply couldn’t be ignored. This came in the form of an overall sense of community and a good vibe that, win or lose, we’re all in this together. No show, whether a festival, tour or a one-off, can succeed without the collective efforts of many working for a single cause. Trucking and transportation is just as important as the headliner onstage, when it comes to making sure what you need is delivered onstage and on time. And hearing the very personal stories of each of the honorees at the show — Lifetime Achievement Honoree (noted production manager) Charlie Hernandez, rigger Joe Branam (Parnelli Visionary recipient) and Parnelli Audio Innovators/Sound Image founders Dave Shadoan and the late Ross Ritto — was truly both memorable and inspirational.

Each one recounted shining examples of what the human spirit is capable of, and there wasn’t a single dry eye in the room after Hernandez offered his poignant call to action for the entire industry, citing numerous examples where the lives of families and children were saved by the generosity of others. And in this microcosm called the production industry, it all comes down to a single community, as when ATK Audiotek’s new  president Michael MacDonald offered a tribute to Dave Shadoan, where both men are friends despite representing competing companies. It was no different during the Parnelli Awards dinner and pre/post-show parties, when everyone — competitors or not — can meet and discuss common issues and interests in an environment of neutral ground.

The Spirit Continues

This same spirit exists  — albeit in a slightly different form — at trade shows, such as AES, LDI, NAMM, Prolight+Sound/Musikmesse or InfoComm, where networking is the thing. And sometimes as much (or more) business and idea exchanges happen in hotel lobbies, taxi lines and chance encounters — as occurs on the trade show floor.

And new ideas — new approaches, new enterprises — can spring from anywhere. Lately, FRONT of HOUSE “The Biz” columnist Dan Daley has presented some superb examples of ways that 1 + 1 = 3, in terms of how different parties coming together can each count on their strengths to make something entirely new happen. Last month, he focused on a new initiative from Clair Bros., offering live concert streaming capabilities to their clients, in a situation where all the elements were already present and it simply needed a facilitator to bring everything together. And when any such concepts result in a better concert experience for fans, the entire industry — our community — as a whole benefits. And this month, Dan explores Yamaha’s new involvement in forming a music label, calling on the power of its own collective resources to create something new and different.

The same can be said for venues. The economy might be down somewhat, but the number of new venues is on the rise. Even in a supposed downturn, the new SFJAZZ Center was able to rise to reality through a concerted public effort that combined public and corporate donations to make this $55 million urban jewel come to fruition.

Attaining funding and capitalization may not be easy as in past years, but there’s a reality that the general public still enjoys great live performances. Yet at the same time, people are more discriminating about ways in which to spend their entertainment dollars, and are wanting and demanding more in terms of production values.  In terms of the latter, you needn’t look farther than Madonna’s 2012 MDNA tour, which is on track to not only be the highest grossing tour of this year but perhaps one of the biggest in history. And if you want pizzazz, that show more than delivers.

Going in the other direction, consider the CSN 2012 tour, which — perhaps thankfully — doesn’t feature nonstop costume changes, elaborate sets, video, elaborate choreography or sparkle, yet was a definite success in its own right.  But the promoters definitely had a few slick ideas in mind for that one, where early on in the run, video was shot for a DVD/Blu-ray release, which was made available during later tour stops as well as for online downloads. It’s certainly another case of some smart revenue streams, while helping enhance the experience of the concertgoers and catering to those who may have missed the show.

Great Ideas and Opportunities

But the bottom line is that great ideas are still plentiful; they simply need someone with vision and the ability to put the right team together to bring them forward. Because sometimes when all the right elements come together, 1 + 1 can equal 3 and as Charlie Hernandez proved to us all what seemed insurmountable is possible.

FOH editor George Petersen



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