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Taking center stage

August 26th, 2015 / By: / Markets, Tents

Circle K and Kangaroo Express Speed Street entertained thousands of guests in May in Charlotte, N.C. Parmalee, a country rock band, and country singer-songwriter Corey Smith performed on the main stage in the heart of the Queen City. Photo: 600 Festival Association
Circle K and Kangaroo Express Speed Street entertained thousands of guests in May in Charlotte, N.C. Parmalee, a country rock band, and country singer-songwriter Corey Smith performed on the main stage in the heart of the Queen City. Photo: 600 Festival Association

Whether they are watching an orchestra performing under a soft-sided band shell or in a field with thousands of other fans screaming along with their favorite band, outdoor concert attendees probably aren’t noticing two of the biggest supporting players: staging and tenting. For rental companies, portable stages and large tensile structures represent opportunities for new revenue streams as the number of outdoor musical festivals grows every year.

To find these opportunities, it is important to first know how the market works. Popular bands that play large music festivals such as Bonnaroo or Coachella “prefer to work with seasoned professionals who understand the demands of the setup at these venues,” says Dan Hooks, president of Party Reflections Inc.

Hooks suggests that smaller tent and event rental companies offer their services to the larger ones in town in the event that inventory becomes scarce and the larger vendors need more equipment than they have available.

Another approach: Learn who is responsible for smaller events in your area, and supply to them to gain experience. This is the tactic that Bakersfield, Calif.-based JoRonCo Rentals Inc. took when it entered the outdoor staging market nearly 30 years ago.

Targeting local concert promoters and venues “allowed us to get our name and reputation out there on how we were able to meet deadlines, demands of the artist and so on,” says Ron Holbert, owner of JoRonCo.

It paved the way for supplying to larger events. Most recently, JoRonCo provided four of seven staging setups for the Bakersfield Rock and Country Music and Art Festival, which hosted more than 50 musical acts. Holbert also emphasizes the importance of forming relationships with other vendors, such as sound and lighting firms. As he puts it, “There is a lot of working hand in hand with other people in the industry.”

As with any big purchase, rental companies need to learn about the best staging product for their inventory. Portable stage manufacturers such as Wenger Corp. (Owatonna, Minn.), BilJax (Archbold, Ohio) and Signature Systems Group LLC (Flower Mound, Texas) offer platforms that handle heavy loads, easily install and withstand rain and wind.

On the tenting side of musical festivals, most tents go toward ancillary uses such as food and merchandise. However, some rental companies have supplied staging-related tents that serve as green rooms for musicians, front- and back-of-house applications and wings on a stage.

Traube Tents and Structures, Columbia, Ill., has installed clearspan structures and a range of sizes for various festivals. Clearspans are suitable for outdoor concerts because they require no support beams, handle heavier loads of lighting and audio/video equipment, and withstand winds up to 90 mph, says Deryck Dietz, Traube’s general manager.

Although roof covers typically are included as part of a popular music act’s set design, temporary events such as a summer music series in the park call for soft-sided band shells that promise durability, aesthetics and good acoustics.

Learn other tips about what events to target, how to pick the right staging products and working with other vendors to grow your business.

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