Gareth Stuckey’s career started two decades ago when he was a teenager taking all the gigs he could by mixing live sound, recording demos for local bands and loading in gear for corporate gigs. The name ‘Gigpiglet’ was coined for him as the Front of House Engineer and Tour Manager for Machine Gun Fellatio, keeping the name to establish his studio and label Gigpiglet Recordings in 2004.
While helping artists like Josh Pyke and RÜFÜS DU SOL in the studio, Gareth continued to take on bigger and better gigs in the live realm as an engineer, tour manager and production manager. His ongoing relationship with Billions Australia has seen him tour with many acts including Nick Cave and Bon Iver and add to his diverse resume of more than a hundred shows by working as Production Manager for A Day On The Green festival.
Expanding his business model in 2008, Gareth created ‘Gigpiglet Presents’ which helps to design, produce and manage events for clients including Nike and The Australian Open. Gigpiglet Productions moved from Gareth’s Waterloo studio in 2017 to a bigger location as they took on more live broadcasts and location recordings. In recent years, the company’s audiovisual live recording and broadcasting credits have included Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Laneway Festival.
With live music taking a different shape this year, Gareth shows how sets and studios are looking during a pandemic.
A job description in your own words
I am the Director of Gigpiglet Productions. Gigpiglet is a smaller production company and I work hands-on throughout the cycle of a gig and all elements of the business. This means I assume the role of Production Manager in most events that Gigpiglet are involved with. The gig cycle begins with an initial event concept from the client. This concept is developed as various challenges and implications are discussed with the client and the budget is set.
Next, I liaise with artists, record labels, venues, promoters, radio stations and make sure all elements of the event are in place and expectations are set (and met). Tech specs are sourced, day sheets and timing schedules are put together and information is sent out to all those involved. There is a particular emphasis toward making sure anyone involved knows timings, locations, restrictions, roles & responsibilities, accommodation details… the list goes on. There are many details that need to be considered in advance of show day. Planing correctly is vital to make a bump in, setup and show go smoothly. I also oversee quotation, equipment spec and prep, maintenance, purchasing and sale of production equipment and delivery of final content to clients.
A brief daily journal over a week
COVID has really turned the industry on its head. We have had some really varied and unusual weeks. Sometimes we have had no work at all, and other weeks we have had heaps of little late notice streams come up, alongside some large long format online and broadcast events. We had a particularly busy week earlier in the month. I chose this week because it represents what we would like to be doing every week.
We started the week with a studio audio and video recording with Delta Goodrem. It was an early start (6 am at the warehouse) to load up the main video van and another van full of a full monitor system and head to the studio location. The rainy day made load in a bit harder than usual, but the fact that all the control gear is setup ready to go in the van means that most of the work is done. It also helped a lot being able to park right next to the load in door and put the awning out from the side door to cover the access the whole way in! We did a 6-hour shoot to get four songs for promo, plus a few interviews filmed and recorded. We headed straight back to the warehouse to start mixing and cutting as we had to turn these around in a couple of days for TV.
The Gigpiglet team trundled down to The Regent in Wollongong for a live stream to youtube gig for Hockey Dad. This was a “make up” gig for a larger show that had been cancelled the week before with our second OB truck. The band decided that since they couldn’t do the show as planned, they would get a director involved and shoot a little arthouse film/ live gig cross over to mark the release of their new album Brain Candy. This was a bit of a hustle, getting it all organised on only a couple of days notice, but again, with a lot of the equipment setup already it all went smoothly. We drove down in the morning with the OB truck and a van with a complete moniter system. We did a 7 camera shoot, monitors, and broadcast audio. The stream went out live to youtube on our bonded internet solution and has had three quarters of a million views!
Deprep/ turnaround day for the trucks from these shows into the second half of the week. This meant lots of data backup (for which we have a full station setup at the warehouse, an iMac Pro hooked up to two staggering large lacie RAID drives) and lots of mixing in the studio (we have a few Pro Tools stations but I do most of the mixing on my hybrid setup, PT HD with a Neve summing mixer and lots of outboard/ FX on hardware inserts).
Today we broadcast a live stream to a private corporate audience for AUDI with multiple participants in various locations. This one is a bit different to the music events, and goes to show how versatile the vans can be. This was one of a series of events we have worked on with AUDI to promote client engagement. Some of the gear in OB1 was shifted around to make a tech zone at the rear, and all the video desks taken up by content producers, and V-Mix dial-in virtual computers. Guests of the stream enjoyed an interactive evening and learnt about Australian produce with the celebrity chef host.
Have you considered live streaming your music?
Back down the coast to take sound level measurements and met with the council for the DA approval process of a potential festival. This job was one for another company, Gardiner Stuckey Acoustical Services, that I own and run alongside my business partner, Gus Gardiner. We provide acoustic consultancy for music venues, festivals, and the odd house build under the flight path. The gig today was to take background noise measurements in a lovely rural setting near Wollongong, then we began work to prepare and lodge a Noise Management Plan and DA on behalf of the promoter hoping to start a new festival in the area.
Challenges and accomplishments in your week
Gigpiglet has diversified a lot over the years. Twenty years ago it was just me, mixing live gigs and records. Now it’s another whole thing — a warehouse, staff (not just tech crew but accounting and office), six vehicles, 2 OB trucks, loads of audio equipment, and an entire video department. I feel like I have accomplished a lot, but now more than ever, the challenge to stay relevant and stay working is huge. We have “pivoted” many times over the years. I started investing heavily in video gear and our first OB van a few years ago as that was the direction I saw being important for future work.
As it’s turned out, due to the current state of the world, this is our biggest line of work by far. This is something I could never have seen coming but was nonetheless prepared for. The biggest challenge I see at the moment is to keep staff and equipment working through this period enough to get through to the other side. It could be a different world this time next year! We will keep changing and responding to stay relevant in however that world looks.
Words of wisdom for people considering a job in your field
Be as prepared as you can be. Think ahead. What could the client ask for once everything is set up? – “Can you play this for us?”. What might be asked for after the gig? – “Do you have a rough mix of what we recorded yesterday? Can we have the files? Do you have a rough edit of the shoot?”
You have to love the work. It’s time and energy-consuming. You have to be a self-starter and you can’t be complacent. Keep moving and keep thinking of what your next move is to make your future situation better.
Highlights of the week (pros of the job)
My biggest highlight was watching the stream viewers on the Hockey Dad job climb as the hours went by… from the 30,000 amazing live viewers we had, to 100 thousand views the next day, 300 thousand a couple of days later, and now three-quarters of a million views.
I love that the work that we do gives people the opportunity to be involved in their community and be part of something. It’s super satisfying. It’s a bit like when I am mixing a live gig in an arena or stadium and seeing the crowd react and a mass of people having a great time… it’s a really special feeling.
Lowlights of the week (cons of the job)
COVID-19. The uncertainty of what’s coming up next makes planning so difficult. Previously I would be looking at the next week, two weeks, next month, six months, next year – based on what’s happened previously, and making plans, buying gear, booking staff based on how things are looking in the future. Preparing like that just isn’t a thing now, we don’t know what the future is. It makes me feel uneasy and anxious. It’s a really difficult time and can take its toll on relationships outside of work too. I’ve found it really difficult to manage that while still keeping things on track at work. It’s definitely a lowlight to know that you can’t give your staff/ crew/ family certainty of what’s coming next.
As they say though – smooth seas never made a good sailor.
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