When fans are attending a concert, the focus is naturally on the artist or artists on stage. Gasps will be uttered at the impressive nature of the show, which may include dazzling lighting effects, enormous screens, incredible sound quality, and perhaps even a bout of pyrotechnics. And, of course, these concerts generate a great deal of revenue for the artists involved. Few, however, will give much thought to the amount of effort that went into making the concert a reality.
The truth is that music concerts are not just a big task for many dedicated specialists from sound engineers to riggers to wardrobe co-ordinators, but also a big task that is often repeated multiple times, assuming that the concert is a tour with a number of stops. And to put it into perspective, a major artist will often travel with hundreds of essential staff, and thousands of tons of equipment.
Most incredible of all is that these tours can go on for months, with the only resting periods taking place as each show moves, and is transported from one location to another. Needless to say, the break is barely enough time to see a few sights or hit the casino and have some fun, let alone recover from the intense work required to manage a concert.
Big Tours – Astounding Logistics
The U2 360 Tour that ran from 2009 to 2011 is legendary. Not only because fans experienced something truly remarkable, with a stage that was fully viewable from all angles, crowned by breath-taking props and set design, but because of the level of effort that went into transporting the spectacle from place to place. The show required 120 trucks to transport the set, and hundreds of coordinated technicians, drivers, and managers to ensure the set went up correctly at each location. Despite the immense cost, this show went on to be the highest grossing of all time, with fans that saw the band perform still talking about it today.
Likewise, Beyoncé’s 2016 Formation tour was equally as challenging to arrange. In this case, a mind-blowing total of 7 Boeing 747 planes were used to transport the necessary equipment. The show blew the minds of fans, and was hailed as one of the most impressive tours to date. The hundreds responsible for making sure the show went off without a hitch, however, were largely overlooked, and the focus was firmly on Beyoncé instead.
The Anatomy Of A Venue
And, of course, it isn’t just those who transport the show itself that are involved. The venue must also be organised, which is a major task all of its own. The 2015 One Direction On the Road Again tour had thousands managing venues, all of which were responsible for ensuring that the various facilities did not descend into chaos as tens of thousands of fans flooded the location.
At a typical show, 700 people are assigned exclusively to safety and security. These security staff are in constant communication, and can react to any crisis instantly, before it gets out of control. Catering staff are numbered at about 500 in total, managing dozens of food and beverage shops across the venue. And, perhaps the most demanding job of all, 150 cleaners are responsible for keeping the venue respectable, and are required to stick around after the show.
Obviously, the logistics involved in transporting these shows, and ensuring they go off without a hitch and on time, is immense. Those responsible will, therefore, have multiple teams working ahead of time, in order to completely eliminate the possibility of a show not being ready according to schedule.
In the case of the U2 360 tour, there were three teams working around the clock, organising multiple venues days in advance. This also meant that there were three identical sets, each of which was being transported and assembled separately. After a show had been performed, the set was once again disassembled, and transported to a venue well in advance. This clever system ensured that each venue was ready to go long before show time. The genius system was the reason why the impressive set could be used at every show, and what made the U2 360 tour such a success.
When you look at what goes on behind the scenes of a concert it’s easy to see why so many people are involved. But it is also easy to see how the logistics generally get overlooked. After all, when we grab a quick cup of coffee we don’t consider where the beans came from, and when we watch a Netflix show we don’t consider the lighting team that made shooting night scenes easy – but now, we just might!