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Inside Summer NAMM 2014, Part 2

Jul 10, 2014 3:46 PM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

Summer NAMM, the biggest show of the season is starting up in Nashville and at the head of the NAMM tech pyramid is Pete Johnston, supervising producer and technical director of special events. He’s here to tell us how he keeps all the tech plates spinning during the show. Coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Pete, it’s nice to have you back with us for part two on the SVC podcast, and by now you’ve got to be one busy guy. It’s the first day of the show as we post this, and I know everybody will be interested to know what you’re doing during the events. We talked about getting ready for it, but where are you while it’s going on? Are you going to be on the radio, running around or just sitting in a big throne room guiding all the technical aspects from a central command post?

That’s a great question and I will be at D. All of the above. I’ll be on radio, I’ll be running around, and when the show actually starts, I’ll sit at the tech table at the back of the room and kind of oversee everything from there. But we’ve got events starting, you know, our call time is early each morning. Our crew is there at 6:00 a.m. getting ready for the event to kick off at 8:00. I’ll be in there running through sound checks in the morning because we’ve got great musical acts that start off each morning, so we’ll be sound checking. A lot of these artists aren’t used to sound checking that early in the morning, but we do our best with them. Yeah, I’ll be all over the place. There’s a lot of running around. You know, I should probably log my miles at one of these NAMM shows. I’d probably be amazed to see how much traffic I do cover. [Timestamp: 1:53]

Get yourself a pedometer and charge by the step.

There you go.

That’s a tremendous job and you’ve got a lot of people. I would think that one of the most challenging parts of this is just coordinating all of the people. You have tech people that you’re used to working with but how big is the tech team there? Do you get into all the problems or is it just the bigger ones that get up to you?

I mean a little bit of both at times, depending, but we have a big enough crew where I don’t have to get down in the detail. I’m not a big micro manager and I believe in hiring people that are professional and can do their job. And I like to get through that the interview process and have them prove themselves. Once they’ve done that, I kind of leave them alone, so a lot of times I think I am spared some of the micro problems. As long as the big picture’s happening I’m okay. We don’t have a huge crew. We try to maximize our members’ money and we try to save as much as we can, so it’s not an exorbitant crew, but it’s gotten pretty efficient. As you stated and as I talked about earlier, I’ve been with this crew for awhile, so it’s like an old married couple. We can kind of finish each other’s sentences at times, you know? [Timestamp: 2:56]

Oh yeah!

So we’ve got a really good rapport with each other and I’ve got a great right-hand guy that helps me from my AV company. He kind of funnels the problems up to me. At the same time, saying that, I am very detail-oriented, so I do like to know what’s going on, but I try to do that without the micro management. [Timestamp: 3:13]

We mentioned before that your audience for these big events has a very critical ear. They’re all the top sound people. For the performers, it’s got to be kind of nerve wracking for them rehearsing early in the morning to play for such an audience. What kinds of things do they want from you other than lots and lots of coffee probably? What do you have to do to support them?

Yeah, you know again, we’ve got a great crew that’s pretty good at taking care of them. We do a lot of homework up front to make sure and talk to them before we get onsite to make sure all the background requirements are there. We kind of explain the environment to them. We show them clips of stuff we’ve done in the past and that helps to give them some knowledge as to what to expect. The acts we do in the morning aren’t super intense. We try to keep them kind of smaller acoustic, one or two or three instruments. We don’t get into any really large acts. That certainly helps in those early morning hours. But you’re right at the beginning of your question, our audience does have a very critical ear and this isn’t a dental convention, so we don’t get to fake it. Everything’s got to be good. The music has to sound right. The talking heads have to sound good. We don’t get to fake it. [Timestamp: 4:18]

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