Live event production
Changes in legislation
Over the last decades, live event production has developed from being a fairly informal activity to a highly organised and professionalised job.
Large-scale public events held in the UK over the last twenty years contributed to this process of formalisation. For example, many live events organised in the year 2000 as part of London’s millennium celebrations were scheduled to last longer than the three months stipulated in legislation for ‘events’, and therefore were subject to more stringent legislative and planning regulations.
Organising companies issued contracts mirroring those used by the construction industry, with rigorous demands in terms of planning, organisation, financial management, risk management, health & safety and delivery. Live event production companies were forced to adapt their practices to meet their clients’ expectations.
The next large-scale event in the UK took place in 2002 with The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Public attendance on the Mall was estimated at 2 million over the weekend with TV viewing figures of over 200 million. Those commissioning events such as this adopted many elements of the more rigorous contracts instigated in the run-up to the millennium, and so the shift in the contractual arrangements of the events industry became standardised.
Most recently, in the organisation of the 2012 Olympics, the London Organising Committee’s aspiration to deliver ‘one planet living’ made it a requirement for event producers to meet stringent requirements in terms of sustainability and accessibility, as well as demonstrating certification in terms of quality assurance and health and safety.
The BSI (British Standards Institution) published a new standard (ISO 20121) inspired by London 2012 to help support this change in the industry. Live event production companies are now expected to address these additional criteria as standard practice.
Before the event production company can begin work, the client should set out a brief for the proposed event. This should include:
- The purpose – outlining why the client is holding the event and what they hope to gain.
- Objectives – describing how the client would like the event to be delivered. These may include:
- To ensure the safety of the members of the public attending the event, those appearing at the event and those working on the event.
- To ensure that the members of the public enjoy the event and feel they have received good value for money.
- To ensure that the build-up and breakdown of the event is carried out safely and with the minimum of disruption.
- To ensure all event-related operations comply with local authority requirements.
- To ensure the client receives the best service and best value for money.
- Scope – setting out what is included in the project. The scope may include:
- Stage, set, screens.
- Backstage technical area to include medics, catering, security, emergency liaison team (ELT) and welfare.
- Guest/artist area (non-technical backstage area including dressing rooms and production offices).
- Broadcast facilities.
- Security fencing.
- Services (eg power, water etc).
- Amenities (eg catering and toilets for the audience).
- Date(s) – establishing the event date(s) as soon as possible is important for efficient planning.
- Location for the event – it may be held in a greenfield site, such as a park, or it may be in an existing venue. Each type of venue has specific requirements. The event producer will need to consider issues such as; the venue’s level of access, any environmental sensitivities which might limit the erection of temporary structures, the level of existing infrastructure and so on.
- Audience – the client needs to define who the event is aimed at and how many people are likely to attend. The brief should note whether different audience groups will have particular needs.
- Budget – if the client group has a particular amount of money available, it is helpful to indicate this at the outset as it assists the event production company's understanding of the scale and scope of event they can design.
- Establish the programme.
- Specification, cost and procurement of services.
- Schedule of build, show and breakdown.
- Provision of staff to manage delivery on site.
The following tasks are ongoing through the life of the project
- Attending to health & safety, access, noise and sustainability issues.
- Provision of financial planning, cost management, tender management and financial reporting.
- Coordination of stakeholders.
- Management of permissions, overseeing production of required documentation.
- Regular event planning meetings. These are likely to begin as monthly meetings and increase in frequency to weekly meetings at about six to eight weeks from the event, but this will depend on when the project begins.
- Regular stakeholder meetings to be held with the venue and stakeholder groups.
It should be noted that events with too short a production time can attract additional and unnecessary costs from contractors, as well as putting elements of the project at higher risk, such as securing permissions (which can take a number of weeks) sustainability, access, health & safety and so on.
If the event is outside, it is important to build in a contingency for inclement weather, both during construction, de-rig and the event itself. An additional contingency should be built into the programme for unforeseen problems.
It is an important part of an event production company’s role to ensure that all parties involved in the event are kept up to date with any changes in programme, scheduling and staffing. Efficient communication systems are vital to ensure smooth running of an event.
Designing the event can be broken down into:
- Creative content design – what the audience see and hear during the event.
- Technical design – how the stage, lighting, audio and other technical elements deliver the creative intent of the show.
- Programming – how the event timings operate in practice.
An experienced event producer will establish key production criteria with the client to ensure that the technical aspects properly support the creative intent. This process ensures that if future rationalisations are made to the event, as the budget develops in more detail or as saving need to be made, priority is given to the most creatively important elements.
A well-designed layout significantly influences an event’s success and is crucial to comfort and safety of those attending and taking part. In planning the layout, the event producer should consider:
- The venue’s capacity.
- Routes for access, egress and visitor flow. It is important to consider potential pinch points.
- Whether there are sterile areas set aside from public circulation, for example to act as a rendezvous location.
- Whether the event is to be standing or seated or a combination of both.
- Existing features (trees or site line obstructions), and how they reduce the event capacity.
- Requirement for facilities within the audience space which reduce capacity (such as front-of-house areas, media stands, camera positions, judges boxes, sound delay towers, platforms for people with disabilities and so on).
- Surface/ground conditions.
- Placement of equipment and services. If the site/venue area is extensive, the event producer may consider the viability of placing screens (and audio relay) at key points around the site to increase capacity and extend the reach of the entertainment.
- Amenities and their level of access.
- Neighbours (these may be part of the stakeholder group).
- Signage (directional, information, health & safety and welfare).
- Litter and waste.
The below show the Chelmsford site of the V Festival, which attracts a total audience of 85,000 with 70% camping on site. Over the last sixteen years the event has expanded to include 80 musical acts, ten stages, comedy, cinemas and stadium-scale production elements for headline acts.
Specification of event infrastructure
The event infrastructure includes all the technical elements required to deliver the show, from the stage to trackway and toilets. In order to specify the event infrastructure, the event production company should review the creative design and engage with potential contractors to clarify exact costings and ensure availability of infrastructure. (See Procurement of services below.) The specification process is crucial in adding detail to the budget, and may require revision of the design.
A reputable event production company will run an open and thorough tender process for each element of the services to be provided at the event. The tender process should establish that all subcontractors are suitably qualified, in terms of legality, competence and experience to provide the services for which they are being contracted. The tender process should also establish that the client has received best value for money by comparing like-for-like tenders.
The event production company may be asked to provide evidence to the client of a rigorous tender process in the form of the subcontractors’ tender submissions. All tender returns should be stored as part of the financial accounts of the event.
Schedule of build, show and breakdown
The event production company should produce:
- A production schedule indicating the management of each stage of the project (build, show and breakdown).
- A list of staff required to deliver the work.
- A list of contractors indicating which contractors will be required and for how long.
Provision of staff to manage delivery on site
The event production company should provide experienced and qualified staff to manage every stage of the event. On a large-scale project this would include the following roles:
- Technical Director.
- Event Producer.
- Project Coordinator.
- Health & Safety Manager.
- Stage Production Manager.
- Site Manager.
Health & safety
The event production company should supervise and coordinate all aspects of health & safety, including securing, checking and submitting the relevant documentation from contractors, suppliers, security teams, and other organisations. This will include:
Site installations and get-outs need to be conducted with due regard for safe working practices. This may involve site inspections by local authority structural engineers, environmental health officers and other interested parties.
Live event Health & Safety can be subdivided into three main areas:
The event production company should prepare a procedure for reporting incidents and occurrences for every aspect of the production and operation of the event. An Event Safety Memo should indicate how and to whom individual incidents should be reported. Each incident or occurrence should be written down and described in full. The event production company needs to brief staff and volunteers on how to report any incident.
Incidents are likely to include:
- Accident or injury.
- Lost or damaged property.
- Safety issue or a system failure.
- Lost person.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (the DDA) sets out the primary legislation for accessibility. Event producers should consult with their client to define the exact services to be supplied at the event. These may include:
- Widened access/egress doors and routes.
- Dedicated sanitary facilities.
- Lowered surfaces – for instance at food outlets and info points.
- Accessible floor surfaces & ground coverings.
- Dedicated parking facilities.
- A courtesy shuttle service to and from car parks and around the event.
- Dedicated seating.
- Elevated viewing areas.
- Hearing systems such as induction loops
- Dedicated staff or stewarding support.
- Specially designed light and sound levels.
- Specialist accommodation.
- Free access for carers.
The exact facilities provided will depend on the type and location of the event, as well as the provisions acceptable to the client. More information can be found on the direct.gov website and on The Health and Safety Executive website.
The event producer needs to ensure that noise levels are monitored and maintained within the agreed levels set by the venue and local authorities, both during the build and de-rig, and during the running of the event. Causing noise nuisance is an offence (see Environmental risk assessment below) and if noise is likely to be an issue it may be advisable to contract a specialist consultant.
Environmental risk assessment
The event production company should consider any environmental risks associated with the event:
- Waste – what waste types will be generated at the event site? Is a waste contractor likely to be required? Event production companies are legally required to identify and manage all waste streams.
- Water – what activities will use water or create waste water? Are any activities near rivers or reservoirs, polluting water is an offence.
- Natural environment and wildlife – will the event’s activities affect the natural environment and wildlife? Is it a protected site? Damaging protected species or their habitats is an offence.
- Air pollution and noise – what vehicles, plant and equipment will be used at the event? Will there be any special effects? Will activities take place close to sensitive areas, such as residential properties? What time of day will these activities take place? How long will activities last? Polluting the air or causing noise nuisance is an offence.
- Heritage – is the event site of architectural or historical interest? This includes buildings, structures, objects and features on the site. Will there be any construction work or alteration to sets and/or buildings? Note that some heritage features may be buried and not instantly visible. Much of the UK’s heritage is protected by law and prior permission to undertake events must be obtained from the authorities.
Live events can be extremely resource-intensive. Adopting sustainable event management practices (also known as event greening) in the planning, production and delivery of an event can make a significant difference. Sustainable event management offers the following potential benefits:
- Cost savings – by getting the event to consume less, reduce waste and conserve energy.
- Social benefits – by providing jobs locally and selecting regional suppliers.
- Influencing contractors and stakeholders – by encouraging them to adopt more sustainable practices.
- Influencing reputation – by making the event a demonstration of the client’s commitment to sustainability.
To be delivered in an integrated way sustainable event management needs to be part of an event’s planning from the very earliest stages . Every member of the team should be involved in considering sustainability, including the client, event production company, the venue, contractors and suppliers and stakeholder groups.
Sustainable event management includes consideration of:
- The overall design of the show, its layout and infrastructure.
- The technical design, how the creative intent is realised.
- The procurement of infrastructure and services.
- Strategies to minimise and manage waste, conserve water, reduce emissions and, where relevant, to conserve biodiversity.
- Strategies to support the local community.
Depending on the type and scale of event planned, some key areas to consider include:
- Does the event's location encourage the use of public transport?
- Are food and beverages sustainable in terms of production, packaging, transport, storage and preparation?
- Can sustainability be encouraged in the supply chain?
- Can Audio Visual equipment (AV) be designed to reduce energy consumption?
- Can the event be ticketless?
- Can marketing and PR be planned to minimise printing, for instance using digital displays and social media?
It is important to monitor sustainability through the project. It is possible to rate an event’s sustainability success by calculating the impact of changes implemented through the process in terms of reduced consumption and minimised carbon emissions.
Financial planning and reporting
Finalising the budget is a complex task which involves a series of creative and practical decisions about the event. A typical budget may include items such as fees, permissions, and special effects as well as costs for the design, build and breakdown of the infrastructure and more visible elements of the show.
The client needs to have confidence in the event production company’s capability to manage the budget. Exact arrangements depend on the scale of the event, the size of the budget and the financial capability of the event production company. In some circumstances, the client holds the budget but the event production company prepares tender specifications, contracts companies and forwards all invoices to the client. On other projects, the production company handles everything, providing regular, detailed budget updates for the client.
Coordination of stakeholders
Large-scale events require the involvement of complex groups of stakeholders. These may include:
- Client groups.
- Event sponsors.
- Broadcast teams.
- The local authority.
- Other statutory authorities.
- The emergency services
- Other groups with an interest in the event.
Large-scale events are best organised using a multi-agency approach where the stakeholder groups and the event production team meet on a regular basis to discuss the project’s progress and review any important issues, such as licensing, noise or safety.
Management of permissions and insurance
Depending on the scale and type of event, a range of permissions may be required:
Licence to play recorded music
PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) and PRS for Music (Performing Right Society) are two separate independent companies and in most instances a licence is required from both organisations to legally play recorded music in public. While both organisations licence the use of music and collect royalties for the music industry, each represents different rights holders and have separate licences, terms and conditions. PPL collects and distributes money for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers. PRS for Music collects and distributes money for the use of the musical composition and lyrics on behalf of authors, songwriters, composers and publishers.
Land use agreement
This defines the tenancy period, hours of working and sets out the liability for any reinstatement required after the event. It details the areas of each venue to be made available to the project and any hire and staffing costs involved.
Larger venues may already hold a licence but the event producer should establish as soon as possible whether an event can be staged using an existing licence or whether a new application needs to be made. In England and Wales this is a Premises Licence (England and Wales) and is required for the following activities:
- The sale or supply of alcohol.
- The provision of public entertainment.
- The provision of late night hot food and drink.
Applications for premises licences must be made to the licensing authority within whose area the premises is situated. Application forms can be obtained from Home Office websites or, on request, from the licensing authority.
In Scotland a Public Entertainment Licence is required for the use of premises as a place of public entertainment. In Scotland, a Public Entertainment Licence is NOT required for:
- An athletic or sports ground (while used as such).
- Premises in respect of which a licence is required under section 41A of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (indoor sports entertainment licence) while such premises are being used for the purposes mentioned in that section.
- An educational establishment (while used as such).
- Premises belonging to or occupied by any religious body while being used wholly or mainly for the purpose connected with that body.
- Premises under the Theatres Act 1968 (Section 1 of the Cinemas Act 1985);
- Premises which have a club gaming permit (within the meaning of section 271 of the Gambling Act 2005), or a prize gaming permit (within the meaning of section 289 of that Act of 2005).
- Licensed premises within the meaning of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, in which public entertainment is being provided during licensed hours within the meaning of that Act.
- Premises in which machines for entertainment or amusement are being provided incidentally to the main purpose or use of the premises where that main purpose or use is not as a place of public entertainment.
NB from 1st April 2012, the exemption for not requiring a public entertainment licence if no charge for admission to a place of public entertainment has been removed by the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act.
Section 89 Structures Application (required in Scotland only)
The Building Standards section within the venue’s local authority is responsible for inspecting raised structures and issuing consent to use such structures under section 89 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. This consent is required for all raised structures which take the form of a platform, stand, staging or other similar structures. Common examples include:
- Temporary grandstands at sporting events.
- Staging at pop concerts and other public events (including trailers used as a stage).
- Media platforms.
Conditions may be attached including the maximum number of people permitted on the structure. To apply, the event producer must complete an application form. Note that prior to accessing forms the producer will be required to register through the government gateway site and on making formal application a Design Certificate (signed by a Structural Engineer) and a detailed plan to a scale of 1:100 including elevations and cross sections will be required with a specification showing the sizes and types of materials used in the structure, the details of escape routes including widths of passage, gangway and seatways, stair details (rise, going, pitch, handrails etc).
Fees are calculated on a scale according to occupancy and applications are not registered or processed until the appropriate fee has been paid in full.
Public events need to carry public liability insurance . Some insurers offer event production companies a combined insurance including event cancellation insurance, event liability insurance and event all risks insurance. The event producer should assess the risks and associated costs carefully in order to be able to judge the best cover for a particular event.
Overseeing production of required documentation
Depending on the nature of the contract, the event producer may be required to submit a range of documentation. This may include:
The Event Management Plan (Event Manual)
This contains all risk assessments, method statements, site plans, build and de-rig schedules and a contact list to cover the activities of the client, third party contractors and any other parties involved in the event.
The Fire Risk Assessment
This is produced in consultation with Fire Officers, the venue and the Heath & Safety Manager.
The Major Incident Plan
This may also contain a business continuity plan. The document is developed in consultation with the client and the venue. It is intended to mitigate risk and ensure availability of the services in the event of a disaster or disabling event which materially affects the services.
The Stewarding Plan
This tackles issues including crowd management, artist/performer/competitor/guest protection, equipment protection, entrance, exits and perimeter security, traffic/car parking management, sterile and danger areas, assistance to emergency services, emergency procedures, overnight security, cash storing and handling.
Post event evaluation
It is important to build in the time to evaluate an event. Evaluation can be undertaken in a number of areas:
- Financial evaluation – did the event generate the anticipated revenue? What were the factors in this? What could be organised differently at another event?
- Procedural evaluation – experienced event producers tend to monitor an event’s progress and adjust elements as an event is running. Capturing these changes, and gathering views from those involved about what went well and what could have been undertaken differently, enables all parties to learn how to improve the complex process of event production.
- Sustainability monitoring and evaluation – a fact based analysis of any carbon emissions savings and other sustainability benefits brought about by applying sustainable thinking to the event.
- Audience experience evaluation – this can be prepared by interviewing the audience about whether their expectations have been met, or by monitoring social media for feedback.
Other issues to consider
Many live events are created to enhance the brand of a sponsor. These events require event production companies to liaise with a brand management team on the design of the event to find interesting ways for brand amplification and brand actualisation.
Branding opportunities include:
- Signage structures and information signage.
- Overhead entrance gantries and towers.
- Internal and external fences.
Many significant live events involve broadcast and media involvement. TV companies and media organisations have specific requirements, from design preferences to requiring the construction of specific infrastructure (for example a requirement to accommodate camera platforms into the stage design or a need for specific angles for filming).
- Promoting the event in advance through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn with polls, reminders and event advice.
- Creating a live broadcasting stream and a hashtag (#) to enable attendees’ conversations to be followed. Sites like twitterfall enable producers to put a live feed of tweets on screen displays.
- Posting signs at the event to remind attendees of the social media presence, with URLs and hashtags.
- Post photos and videos, get attendees to submit their own photos and videos. Set up a flickr feed.
- Video streams enable people to view the event online. Tools to enable producers of smaller-scale events to participate include Upstream and for slide presentations, Slideshare.
- Some recent larger scale events have created Apps with a map showing festival locations and real time events.
Note that people respond to incentives.
- Reward online participation.
- Award prizes live at the event.
- Retweet, tag, follow, and like people and companies that interact with the event.
Public catering and merchandising
The event production company may be required to host tender processes for the supply of event concessions, bars and merchandising. If this is the case, the tender process in Procurement of Services (above) should be followed.
The event’s hospitality requirements will vary according to the event type, size and commercial set-up. Sponsorship deals may give specific rights to sponsors, and these need to be considered and accommodated at the earliest stage in the design process. Hospitality arrangements might include:
- Dedicated VIP areas.
- The requirement for exceptional stage views.
- The potential for artists to meet and greet guests.
- Specific access and parking arrangements.
This article was created by --Nine Yards 17:23, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Architecture of concert stage designs.
- Building regulations.
- Building regulations exemption for temporary buildings.
- Health and safety.
- Impact of pavilion design on sustainable outcomes.
- Planning permission.
- Property development and music.
- Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury Festival.
- Structure relocation.
- Temporary building.
- Temporary demountable structures.
- Temporary use.
- Wembley Arena.
- ‘The Event Safety Guide – A Guide to Health, Safety and Welfare at Music and Similar Events’ (The Purple Guide), HSG195, HSE Books 1999, [Special:BookSources/0717624536 [Special:BookSources/0717624536 [Special:BookSources/0717624536 [Special:BookSources/0717624536 [Special:BookSources/0717624536 [Special:BookSources/0717624536 ISBN 0 7176 2453 6]]]]]].
- ‘Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds’ (The Green Guide) by the Department of National Heritage and the Scottish Office, the Stationery Office, 1997, [Special:BookSources/0113000952 [Special:BookSources/0113000952 [Special:BookSources/0113000952 [Special:BookSources/0113000952 [Special:BookSources/0113000952 [Special:BookSources/0113000952 ISBN 0-11-3000-952]]]]]].
- ISO 9001 Quality Management.
- ISO18001 Health & Safety Management Systems.
- Disability guidance on the direct.gov website.
- Disability guidance on The Health and Safety Executive website.
- The National Heritage Act 2002.
- Phonographic Performance Limited.
- Performing Right Society.
- Premises Licence (England and Wales).
- Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.
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