Having worked with some of the biggest artists in the world including Metallica, Kylie Minogue, Muse, Katy Perry, and many more, ER Productions is a well-known name within the live events sphere, specialising in lasers and special effects. It’s a name that most from the Middle East will also be familiar with, with the company working on numerous large-scale events in the region, including the Dubai Canal Opening, The Dubai World Cup and MDL Beast in Saudi Arabia.
Seeking to cement its presence in the region, the company has now put down roots, opening a permanent base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “The Middle East has been part of our growth plan for almost five years,” began Creative Director, Ryan Hagan speaking from the company’s HQ in London. “We have been producing shows in the region for some years now, always shipping equipment from London. This simply isn’t practical moving forward, so it was an obvious decision to build on our already trusted client base and presence in the region.”
As well as there being more potential regional work, Hagan explained that several of the world tours that ER has worked on over the past few years have included dates in the Middle East, such as the Backstreet Boys’ last global set of tour dates. So, it became even more tempting for ER to pursue a more permanent stock of local equipment to cater for the ever-increasing demand in the region.
While the UAE might have been the natural choice for ER’s Middle East base, according to Hagan, the opportunities in Saudi Arabia have become abundantly clear. “We’ve kept a close eye on the development of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision plans. That as well as the uptake in interest in our services within Saudi Arabia saw us quickly reverse a lot of our planning and select Riyadh as the base for ER Productions Middle East. There are a lot of great opportunities in the pipeline already, so we are incredibly excited to be part of this vision.”
While Saudi events will undoubtedly benefit from the new facility, the goal for ER’s new outpost is to service the entire Middle East region, with Hagan pointing to events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as the level of event they could provide a better service to.
“Saudi Arabia is very interesting as it is just at the beginning of its journey when it comes to live events,” stated Hagan. “Things are changing fast and investment is only going to gain traction as we get closer to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.”
From his own experience, the Creative Director explained how setting up the new branch was a fairly simple process once they had officially registered the company. “Admittedly, the warehouse situation in the country at the moment is not catered to the requirements of the production industry, but the entire infrastructure is improving at a rate of knots,” he remarked.
‘A FLYING START’
After such a tough time for the live events sector, it might not seem like the ideal time to be starting a brand-new, international branch, but from ER’s standpoint, it was all about preparing for the increased demand. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it felt like a cliff edge, with all tours being cancelled and a lot of gear coming back to the warehouse,” Hagan described. “However, we didn’t want to just sit down and wait it out. We turned our attention to growth, training as well as R&D.” He explained it was a “blessing in disguise”, as this forced time off gave the ER team a chance to really focus on these three factors while the attention was not on live events.
In the past year-and-a-half, the ER team has worked on five new products, two of which have already come to market – the Kinekt AS and LaserBlade 2. Hagan also revealed that the company’s training offerings, with a greater focus on creativity, saw a vast improvement in programming skills and methods across the entire show technical team. “Every tech was able to take a control system home, including a lighting desk of their choice,” Hagan described.
ER then supplied weekly programming challenges from different design scenarios, from concerts to corporate events to mapping, all using different music genres. “Using Depence2, the company would all log on to Twitch every Friday evening and watch all the work produced. It was a great success and a great way for us all to keep in touch, support each other and fine-tune our creativity and learning.”
Aside from training and R&D, this forced downtime gave ER the opportunity to focus on the company expansion – namely the Saudi Arabia branch. “We will have in the coming weeks 40 crew on the ground in Riyadh with full support from our London Headquarters,” stated Hagan while outlining ER’s plans. “We aim to invest in Saudi Arabia and ultimately employ locally,” he added, noting that the company has already got off to “a flying start” in the region, with jobs booked all the way up until May.
The opening of a new office in Saudi Arabia is perhaps yet another indication of the changing nature of live events. “There’s usually a quieter period for touring in January and February, but this is no longer going to be the case for the next two years at least, as we play catch up with all the events that have been postponed since March 2020,” Hagan speculated. With increasingly unpredictable demand throughout the worldwide industry, ER’s decision to open a new base in the Kingdom and cater specifically for the Middle East could well prove to be a shrewd one.
Photos: ER Productions