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Market report: Rental companies Road warriors

The PA/rental market remains highly competitive – even “cut-throat”, in the words of one survey respondent – but overall activity levels are strong and industry morale remains high, writes David Davies

THE 2013 PA/rental company report evinced some concerns about a spate of major event cancellations and a general feeling that some kind of saturation point for the live sector might finally be hoving into view. Well, the headline news going into this 2014 follow- up would seem to be that most of these fears have – for now, at least – receded. On the festival side, the arrival

of some more finely nuanced events – for example, Festival No 6, taking place in September in the exquisite Welsh town of Portmeirion (of The Prisoner fame) – has brought fresh energy into a sector that was in danger of becoming overly corporatised and bland. Meanwhile, highly successful tours by huge acts that are both accustomed to the rigours of the road (Kings of Leon, Beyoncé, Elbow) and rather less so (who would have put money on Kate Bush ever returning to the live stage?) have helped prise open gig-goers’ wallets outside the crucial spring/summer months. Once again, the breakdown

of respondents to our PA/rental companies survey is dominated by UK and Netherlands-based contributors, with Belgium and Denmark following behind. The full breakdown can be seen in Graph H1. Thanks to all those who spared their time to answer questions that, in several cases, required more detailed responses than in previous years.

CORE DATA Establishing the basics first, PSNLive asked its interviewees to mull over their current and expected forthcoming workloads. Demonstrating little change from 2013, the largest single share of respondents predicted that the overall value of their work will increase (49% vs 68% last year), with only 10% forecasting a decline. Full evidence of a sector that has clearly returned to consistency can be found in Graph H2. Average rental rates were

also expected to stay broadly the same, with 73% (vs 64%) forecasting relative parity for 2014 in comparison to the last calendar year (Graph H3). There


UK 51% Netherlands 14% Sweden 11% Belgium 5% Denmark 5% Germany 3% France 3% Croatia 3% India 3% Finland 3%


(% of respondents in each group)

Increase Decrease

Stay the same 2013 19% 24% 2014 8% 68% 35% 46%

Memories of the troubled 2009–11 period have now been double- flushed down the chemical toilet of history

41% 49% 10%

was, however, sign of a lowering of expectations in terms of number of days of paid rental, but once again the largest single share of companies expected to see a healthy 101–150 days of remunerated labour for each system this year (Graph H4). This slight downgrading of forecasts continued with regard

to an enquiry about companies’ expectations for an increase/ decrease in paid rental days. Whereas the largest single share (52%) expected to see an increase in 2013, that observation transfers to the ‘stay the same’ camp in 2014 (65%). But in a market that is getting more acutely competitive with every

passing year, perhaps that is to be expected (Graph H5). The revival of live music at the

grassroots level has been one of the most heartening developments of recent years, and that continuing trend is underlined by the fact that – for the second year running – small events constitute the most prolific area of activity

for our PA/rental companies. Notable, too, is an upswing in the contribution made by large events – borne out, no doubt, by the current number of successful big-name tours (Graph H6). Loudspeakers/amplifiers and consoles have traditionally vied for top spot in the list of top priorities for new audio investment, fuelled by new developments in line array, power amplification and digital mixers. The trend continues in 2014 with loudspeakers/amplifiers edging into top place with 32% of first preferences (Graph H7). The quickening cycle of technological renewal has led to a slight emphasis on equipment upgrading over expansion in 2011

An Audio Konstruktor-supplied DiGiCo SD8 desk at at the Eastern Orthodox New Year celebrations in Novi Sad, Serbia

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