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U.S. firm scores Stones contract

  • Source: by Greg Quill - Toronto Star
Few jobs went to Toronto companies
'The money is going south of the border'

Millions of dollars worth of Canadian concert production equipment and the Canadian crews who operate it will be sitting idle on July 30 while American companies and mostly American workers reap the financial benefits from the Rolling Stones all-day event in Downsview.

"Our industry is hurting more than most as a result of the cancellation of hundreds of concerts, conventions and promotional events after the SARS outbreak (in March)," said Bob Spencer, who owns the Toronto concert audio company Band World, which he says is the second-largest in North America.

Band World's "top-of-the-line technology is exactly the same as or equivalent to what the Stones are using, but what they're using is being supplied by the American (subcontractor) Clair Brothers, out of Pennsylvania," Spencer said.

But organizers said that in order to secure the Stones, they had to agree to go with the concert company of the band's choice.

"One of the conditions on which The Rolling Stones and (their international business representative) Michael Cohl insisted was that they would be responsible for putting a team together that understood the dynamics of the Stones' stage, its unique design, construction, comfort and security features," said Dennis Mills, the Toronto MP who initiated the concert.

"They decided to use (U.S. concert company) Clear Channel, who are experts at tour management execution. They made the call and we promised no interference at this end. We're not comparing apples and apples here. If we were, the production would be 100 per cent Canadian."

Mills added that details of a "global satellite broadcast" of the event will be made public in the next few days, as well as the specifics of a formula "that will provide direct benefits" from the concert revenue to Ontario health care and hospitality workers.

Band World and several other Toronto companies " Westbury National Show Systems, PA Plus, Christie Lites and Optex Staging " have supplied equipment for and worked in the past with promoters House Of Blues and Molson Concerts as well as The Stones and countless other high-end international touring acts, Spencer said.

This time they've been shut out.

One Toronto-based company, Fourth Phase " the Canadian subsidiary of an American concern " has been awarded the contract to supply stage and audience lighting for the estimated $12 million event, to which the federal government has contributed $3.5 million and the provincial government $2.5 million. Molson and private investors have made up the remainder of the event's full budget.

Another Toronto company, Tower Staging, has been engaged to supply scaffolding to support speaker columns in the field, sources say, and a third Canadian operation, Sound Art in Winnipeg, has been subcontracted to supply about $4,000 worth of on-stage sound mixing equipment.

Late Wednesday, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 53, negotiated a contract with the promoters that will allow 100 of its members " fewer than half the number required for the event " to work July 30 concert.

They will be supplemented by crews with the U.S. equipment suppliers, more than 100 non-union workers.

Experts estimate the cost of the Stones' concert stage, sound, lighting and video systems for the day " and the labour to operate them " at over $2 million.

Mills, Liberal MP for Toronto-Danforth, said yesterday he can give no specific figures on how much of the production budget for the concert is being spent on Canadian companies. See Related MACCA-News Articles:

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U.S. firm scores Stones contract


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