STARTUP

On Tour With the Boss

Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball tour couldn't keep rocking without a crew of entrepreneurial companies. Here are four of them.
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1. Pete's Big TVs
Screens that give the whole crowd a front-row view

On October 23, some 10,000 Bruce Springsteen fans packed the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. To ensure the entire audience could see the band close up, Pete's Big TVs of New Castle, Delaware, hung six huge high-definition video screens above and around the stage. The largest screen--seen here at the rear of the stage--measured 26.5 feet wide and 15 feet tall. During the concert, Pete's five-person camera team, along with four robotic cameras, recorded the band's every move, which technicians then projected on the screens. CEO Peter Daniel co-founded the company, previously known as Performance A/V, with Lee Griffin and Greg Gerner in 1986. Last year, Daniel traveled to China to oversee the construction of the screens for the Wrecking Ball tour. "The previous generation of screens were electrically noisy, and it would drive the sound guys nuts," Daniel says. Pete's Big TVs has 40 full- and part-time employees, $10 million in annual revenue, and 50 customers worldwide. The company has handled video production for NBC's Olympics coverage since the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.

2. Zildjian
Max Weinberg's cymbals

The E Street Band's drummer, Max Weinberg, uses four cymbals--a high hat, one thin crash, one medium thin crash, and a rock ride--made by Zildjian of Norwell, Massachusetts. The company traces its roots to the 17th century, when Armenian alchemist Avedis Zildjian  developed a mixture of copper, tin, and silver with unique sound qualities. Zildjian went on to make cymbals for the Turkish sultan. Three centuries later, in 1929, the Zildjian family immigrated to the United States, where its cymbals became the standard for drummers in every musical genre. "The process has evolved, but in some ways, it's still very much the same as it was back in 1623," says CEO Craigie Zildjian, the first woman to run the family-owned company. "The secret is how we mix those metals, and only a few people are allowed access to the process." The $50 million company has 113 employees, including 16 percussionists, and also makes drumsticks, mallets, and hybrid acoustic-electric cymbal sets.

3. Tait
Setting the stage

Springsteen and the E Street Band perform on a stage created by Tait of Lititz, Pennsylvania. The stage, which measures 78 feet wide and 47 feet deep, has six levels. It's much less elaborate than stages used by most big rock acts, according to Michael Tait, who started the company in 1978 while working as a production and lighting designer for the rock group Yes. Tait designed a breakthrough rotating stage for Yes, and his business took off in the early '80s. Today, the 300-employee company, which designed the stage for Lady Gaga's current Born This Way Ball tour, has six offices in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. It sells a variety of equipment, including mechanical structures and LED props, to customers worldwide.

4. Rock-it Cargo
Working on the highway (and the runway)

Transporting more than 150,000 pounds of equipment to a new city every few nights is no easy feat. Springsteen entrusts the task to Rock-It Cargo, a freight forwarding and logistics company with headquarters in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The 350-person business, which has 24 offices around the world, specializes in moving expensive, fragile, and unusual cargo to nearly any spot on the globe via air, land, or sea. The company's subsidiary, Airworks, handles the logistics of flying Spring­steen, the E Street Band, additional musicians, and touring personnel to each concert location. Chris Wright, who got his start moving equipment for the Moody Blues, founded Rock-It Cargo in London in 1978 and later opened offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo. American David Bernstein bought the company's U.S. arm in 1991 and merged it back with the European operations in 2005. Bernstein sold an equity stake in Rock-It to Calera Capital of San Francisco two years ago. Today, the company has clients in a variety of industries and is handling logistics for dozens of musicians currently on tour, including Bob Dylan.


IMAGE: Melissa Golden
Last updated: Dec 7, 2012




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