There are few professionals in the technical eventing and entertainment industry that have not had the pleasure of working with Dave Tudor. As a freelance technical production manager and consultant, Dave has worked with an impressive list of rental and events companies throughout his career and has been a part of the production team on some of the highest-profile events to be held in South Africa over the past 20 years. Dave has also toured the world with some of South Africa’s most successful artists including Jeremy Loops, Johnny Clegg and Boo!, and has worked with some of the country’s most celebrated musicians such as Frank Opperman, Wendy Oldfield and Tony Cox to name a few.

Dave recently shared a few insights into his professional journey with ETECH magazine.

How did you start your career in the technical entertainment industry?

When I was a university student, I used to host house parties with some of my friends. We would invite some bands, get some beers and host an open house party. We would print fliers and distribute them across the university campuses in PE and brace ourselves as the onslaught of people came through the door – it was a little like the stuff of movies. It was during this time that I discovered my interest in organising events.

Once I had completed my fine arts degree, I moved up to Joburg and enrolled in an audio engineering course. While I was studying, I landed a resident position as an audio engineer at a jazz club in Melville called The Bassline. I worked there for many years and developed a strong relationship with the owners and got to meet a lot of artists and bands, which served as an opportunity to launch my career in audio.

 In 1999, I decided that I wanted to get involved with touring and did my first tour around the country with Wendy Oldfield. Through Wendy and her band, I got to meet a lot of other artists and started to work with some of them, including Frank Opperman, Jonny Clegg, and Tony Cox, among others. During this period, I got a call from Leon Retief who was the drummer in Boo! and travelled around the country with them and worked on their European tours in the early 2000s. It was, and always is a great experience being able to travel and work overseas.

When I returned from touring in 2002, I started working for the Gearhouse Group as a freelance audio engineer before taking on the role of the Audio department manager. I then served a stint in their operations department, finally ending in the project and sales department. I then decided to move on and worked for a number of rental companies in the country. After being retrenched, I decided to go full-on as a freelance technical consultant.

Are there people in the industry who have influenced your career?

I am fortunate to have a group of peers in the industry whom I enjoy working with, some of whom go back to my high school days, including Paul Newman from Lucidity, the management team at Mushroom Productions, Mark Daubeney and Graham Cunningham, as well as Damon Forbes from Breakout. Then recently I really enjoy working with Clint Seery from Showsync.

What highlights in your career have stood out for you?

As you develop in your career as a technician, you find yourself on great jobs that you that leave you with the thought ‘wow, this is the biggest event I have ever been a part of,’ and then something else comes along and tops it.

However, if I were to list some of the events that remain definite highlights for me, it would have to include the Global Citizen Mandela 100 concert, held at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg in December last year. I was also privileged to be involved in the 46664 concerts, the first at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town in 2003 and then Johannesburg at Ellis Park in 2007. I also enjoyed being involved in various iterations of the Coke Fests that were held in the early 2000s in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Another stand out event was Sensation, Inner Space – a big EDM production from Holland, which was held at the TicketPro Dome in Johannesburg in 2013. It involved about ten months of pre-production work and was, at the time, the biggest event of its kind that had been held at the venue. The DStv Delicious and Afropunk festivals are other great highlights that are regular events on the calendar that I take great pride in being involved in.

Late last year I was asked to tour manage the Jeremy Loops Levitation tour through Europe in January and February of this year, which was very well received and to be a part of that team and  be involved with a South African artist performing at that level at some of the most well established and historic venues across Europe was a great honour.

Right now, I am working on and looking forward to the Kyalami 9 hour Intercontinental GT challenge, being held at the Kyalami Race Track between 21 and 23 November. It is the return of international motorsport to the country for the first time in 37 years and is the season finale for the series, so it is very exciting with lots of challenges!

What are some of the challenges that you have had overcome during your career?

One of the greatest challenges is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. I went through a period a few years back where I got divorced and was retrenched within two or three weeks of each other. It took enormous will to bounce back from these setbacks and keep things together and tidy when under extreme pressure.

On a broader level, it is always challenging to stay abreast of all of the technological advances in the industry. One also has to be vigilant about how you manage your time. As a freelancer, you are your own marketing department, manager, accountant, business manager and labour force, and it is very important that you stay ahead of your game on all of those fronts.  

What advice would you give young people looking to enter the industry?

The best advice that I could offer a young person starting their career in the entertainment and eventing industry is not to choose a field of specialisation too early in your journey. There are many facets in the industry that a lot of people are not actually aware of. Don’t go in hard and fast with the single-minded idea of becoming an audio or lighting technician. It is best to use these areas of specialisation as a platform to explore all of the roles and opportunities that present themselves in the broader eventing industry. It is also important for those entering the field to understand that this is a challenging field of work that demands long hours in a high-pressure environment. Some of the skills that are most useful to be a successful crew member are the ability to multitask, being able to deal with situations that arise that are outside of your control, and being able to keep a level head when under pressure.   

What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of the job?

I am an avid cyclist and enjoy keeping fit, which is what I spend most of my time doing when I am not working. I also enjoy being out with friends eating good food, which is an important part of maintaining a good work-life balance.

I enjoy giving guest lectures at the Academy of Sound Engineering, telling stories and imparting knowledge to the youth who are the future of the industry.