White noise: White Light gets serious about audio3 August 2015
The world of business is full of companies that started life as one thing and mutated into another: [The] Gap began as a record store that also sold jeans, the East India Company survives as a purveyor of fancy teas and jams and, closer to home, Celestion – nowadays solely a manufacturer of loudspeaker components – was once known for its PA systems and hi-fi speakers (enclosures and all).
While audio is new territory for White Light – a veteran entertainment lighting specialist which launched its new audio division in February – its new head of audio, Lee Dennison, is quick to point out that the company’s transformation isn’t as extreme as that of, say, ex-galoshes manufacturer Nokia: “White Light has always delivered audio to the events industry,” he explains, “but this has been on a more simplified level and generally involved sub-contracting out for larger, more complicated events. With the company’s direction becoming more focussed on becoming [a] complete production solution specialist, the decision was made to invest in both audio equipment and personnel in order to bolster our offerings to clients.”
In a recent press release, Dennison, formerly of Delta Sound and Sound by Design, hailed “an outstanding launch” and described the response to the new division as “phenomenal”. “[W]hat we’ve noticed is that customers who came to us previously for our many other services are now drawing on our audio expertise,” he tells PSNEurope. “There was also a sense of ‘about time!’ from some customers as many used to go elsewhere for audio, so the fact that they can receive all of their production solutions solely from one company has been greatly welcomed.”
Offering sales, installation and events services (“the fact that […] we own our audio equipment [means we] can supply it for events [and] install it for projects as well as sell it to our customers,” Dennison explains), the new team has taken advantage of Wimbledon-based White Light’s preexisting relationships to hit the ground running: Notable projects far include supplying audio, lighting and rigging for London Fashion Week AW15 in February and the Meet the Future conference at Central Hall Westminster in June (bottom) and a permanent EM Acoustics/Sennheiser install at one of the UK’s largest theme parks, Thorpe Park (above right), in May. “Many of London’s key event venues have long relied on White Light as a trusted supplier of lighting,” says Dennison, “so they are delighted to now be able to turn to the company as a trusted supplier of audio as well, whether this is separately or as a complete production package.”
Its strong start as a dedicated pro-audio supplier would not have been possible without robust support from manufacturers, as Dennison acknowledges: “I had already formed relationships with [a lot of the manufacturers] from my previous employment, and they saw this as a really exciting opportunity to work with a well-established company in building up its audio offering.” For sales and installations, the company is a dealer for EM Acoustics, Full Fat Audio, Shure, Sennheiser and Yamaha (“with even more manufacturers joining this list in the coming year”), while hire stock also adds Clear-Com communications equipment to kit from the above manufacturers courtesy of £300,000 worth of investment in early 2015.
That £300k will be joined by another £100,000 for equipment and infrastructure for the Rugby World Cup in September and October, with which White Light will have a “large involvement”, says Dennison. It also recently announced its appointment as production service partner for Central Hall Westminster – central London’s biggest conference venue – and plans to install “a full Dante network throughout the facility [which will provide] audio support to the main conference spaces”.
White Light’s other big news of 2015 is the launch of Studio15, a new studio facility at its Wimbledon headquarters. “Studio15 is an amazing space and has so many potential offerings for so many different clients,” explains Dennison (pictured right). “From sales demos to teaching sessions, off-site rehearsals to pre- and-post production, we can literally accommodate it all.” Offering a similar service to London Speaker Hire’s LSH Spaces rehearsal/production complex in east London, Studio15 includes production suites, a green room and a 120sqm (1,300ft) rehearsal space with Dante-networked backbone.
Where Studio15 (main picture) does diverge from LSH Spaces, however, is in its educational offering, regularly hosting training seminars and workshops by White Light’s manufacturer partners. “We recently had an audio networking day supported by Yamaha, Audinate and Focusrite,” Dennison says, “[which was] a free-of-charge session to the industry which looked at networking and the equipment that goes with it. We also have a Sennheiser [training] day in July and plenty more manufacturers and suppliers gearing up for more sessions later in the year.”
Is pro-audio/AV training a big deal for the new-look White Light? Dennison thinks so: “Teaching and training the next generation who’ll work in this industry is very important to us. There is no point in winning the work and then having no one to deliver it! I have been involved with teaching for some time, now so I think it’s really important to emphasise to the next generation of engineers the technology, the politics and the amazing times they could have working in [pro audio].
“We also have vast experience of dealing with educational establishments, particularly when it comes to installations. There are too many installations out there that have been specified and installed by the wrong people, resulting in the wrong equipment being used and the wrong practices being offered. At White Light, we are looking to offer a fully personalised solution experience for teaching and training facilities, one which can fulfil [our customers’] briefs and requirements.”
As White Light Ltd celebrates its 45th year of trading, its new head of audio is looking to the future: “We have already delivered some amazing events, sales and installations in only six months of official trading. There’s a very exciting future ahead for the audio team here at White Light and we want as many potential clients as possible to be a part of it.”