I have always been amused at how the live events business has allowed such practices as referring to sound persons as “engineers“, and this is a good example of how the special events production industry has evolved outside of the mainstream. Real engineers have college degrees, face rigorous testing and must be licensed before they ply their trade. All a sound “engineer” needs is a Sharpie and a Maglite!
You need an architect, a licensed contractor and a building permit to add a bathroom to your house, but you can build a six story tall temporary structure in the midst of 10,000 people by just being lucky enough to win the bid.
I was in the outdoor staging business for many years, and must disclose, upfront, that I was guilty of more than one questionable decision, because we are all so deeply committed to the concept that “the show must go on“. I am now amazed that over a period of more than 20 years no one ever asked me who designed this roof, who built this stage, and what are their qualifications?
Somewhere along the way, our commitment to hard work and quick thinking has managed to allow us to escape the scrutiny (government and otherwise) that similar industries must submit to every day. Those days are likely nearing an end.
We used to joke that building stages was like having a construction job without a lunch break. The joke should have also included “and without a permit“. The building of temporary structures puts performers and audience members at the same sort of risk they would be exposed to when shows are in permanent buildings, but the fly-by-night nature (I don’t mean this in a derogatory manner, since we literally do “fly-by-night) of what we do has allowed it to escape the inspection and permitting process.
The evolution of stage roofs from being a tent over a flat bed truck to massive structures like that ones in use today has happened in rapid fashion, and the notion that an unlicensed contractor can hang thousands of pounds over the heads of audience members and performers without being subjected to formal training, licensing and inspection now must come to an end.
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