Here is a question to you.
If you hire a venue and you're going to run an event at that venue, the functions manager may give you a "preferred supplier" recommendation for your AV (Audio Visual) needs. If you then get a quote from that supplier, and find it too expensive, you might then ask the functions manager if you could bring your own outside AV supplier in and not use any of the venue's in-house systems (which are owned by their "preferred supplier") at all.
The functions manager might then say to you. That's fine, but in that case you'll need to pay for a 'Technician On Duty" at $74.25 per hour from bump-in to bump-out. They explain the 'TOD' is needed:
- To protect the Fabric, Furnishing & Fittings of the venue while hardware is being handled and operated within the designated function spaces;
- To ensure all outside contractors work within the regulations and boundaries of the venue's Events Department & Management Team;
- To be in the assigned room at all times except where, under their duties, there is a requirement for them to be elsewhere;
- To observe the work practices of outside contractors to ensure that they are in line with the venue's policy, and advise on relevant safety matters in conjunction with the venue's Fire & Safety Officer;
- To act as a source of Technical knowledge and information regarding the venue;
- To provide access, advice, and assistance in the patching of various signals through the infrastructure within the venue;
- To provide access to the existing rigging infrastructure;
In your opinion, is this a scam?
Before you answer, let me give you a little "behind the scenes" info.
To become a "preferred supplier" all you need to do is to agree to give the venue a certain percentage of any work they generate for you at their venue. This is usually around 40%.
Of course, if the client hires an outside AV company, the "preferred supplier" gets nothing, and the venue gets 40% of nothing. Thus, the venue has created the 'TOD' so if you hire an outside company, they will still get (for an average 10 hour bump-in to bump-out period) $742.50 (of which a very small amount actually goes to the technician).
PLUS - The outside company is required (by the venue, not OH&S) to have Public Liability of an amount that most small AV companies simply cannot afford (but the "preferred supplier" can.) And any outside equipment that's brought into the venue (from extension cords and double adaptors to mixing desks and lighting consoles) must be "tagged and tested" by a licensed electrician, a cost which the outside AV company must pay for themselves.
The simple solution would be to use the in-house "preferred supplier" but, as they have to pay such a large "commission" to the venue, their prices are usually over-inflated. (So much so that many speakers and entertainers report they miss out on bookings once the client discovers the cost of hiring a basic PA system for the act from the "preferred supplier" is more than the fee they're paying for the act! (And, if the act brings their own PA system, the client gets hit with the TOD charges...
The other point is that, in order to cut costs, most of the "preferred suppliers" we have encountered pay their technicians such low wages that we end up working with techs who are extremely inexperienced.
Last week, we did a show with "preferred suppliers". We arrived to do the sound check and had to wait until they finished whatever they were doing. That's fine. Then when we told them we needed to patch in our mic & minidisc, they said they had no microphone leads. They told me the client had surprised them with extra lighting effects they didn't know anything about (the client hadn't) and they had to use all their mic leads in the ceiling to operate the dmx lights. Eventually, the tech said he'd go look in his van to see if he happened to have any there, then came back with mic leads.
Then, during sound check, they said my Countryman E6 headset was no good. They said the element had popped and that's why they couldn't equalise it. (I used it a few days ago patched into a very basic pub sound system with no equaliser at all and it worked fine.) They said I should use their lapel mic instead of a headset as I'd get better sound (which is the opposite of what is true in audio). I took my Countryman lapel unit out instead of using theirs (which they would charge the client for) and they tried, unsuccessfully, to get that working. Finally, after announcing to everyone that my mics were no good, they gave me their basic Shure radio lapel mic and spent the next 15 minutes (while guests were arriving) trying to equalise that.
You might think that radio mics are beyond the ability of all but the best techs. You'd be wrong. In a venue where they've spent the day setting up a soundsystem (or in this case, it's the in-house system) it should take 5 mins at most to get a lapel mic working, and 2 mins to get a headset happening.
But it doesn't end there.
Yes, the lapel didn't sound great during the show. It got feedback and they kept playing with the volume. But, when Sue-Anne went to get changed after the levitation she looked at the stage and saw I was pretty much in the dark. The client was paying $5,500 for lights and sound and was getting neither.
Later in evening, it was an auction night, things were being sold off to help the club. Things like $1000 worth of tanning sessions went for $1000. $500 worth of car care products went for $500. No bargains, just fund raising. The "preferred supplier" had kindly donated $3000 worth of AV. It attracted only one bid and went for $500.
To cap it all off, at the end of the night a guitarist came on to play. He simply had to plug in to the 'DI' box on stage. When he did, feedback filled the room as the techs scrambled to try to get his guitar amplified properly.
So, I ask you again.
Now that you know the money that changes hands behind the scenes.
Now that you know the quality you get for the big dollars you pay.
Now that you know that the only ones who benefit are the venue and the "preferred supplier".
In your opinion, is this a scam?