Dialogue With Mark Tasker
Event manager Mark Tasker has been involved in the music industry for over 20 years. His journey so far has taken him from local radio to international event management where he now works with high-profile clients and big-name artists to deliver unique entertainment experiences. He speaks to Richard Lee about his career so far.
Q: You've enjoyed a long and fruitful career... how did it all begin?
A: It was the early 1990s and I was walking past a radio station in Reading called 2-Ten FM and they were advertising for the position of Commercial Producer. I thought that sounded like an interesting job but, having no previous experience, I decided to research the position further before applying. At that time I was living in Liverpool and the local radio station was Radio City. I met with the Commercial Manager, Stan Alexander, who offered me the chance to gain valuable experience by sitting in on the weekend shows, watching jingle and voice-over sessions, as well as logging carts and helping with the music. I built up relationships with the presenters and it wasn't long before I started having input into the shows. One presenter in particular, Paul Jordan, quickly became a good friend and I started producing his weekend breakfast show which became the highest-rated show on the station.
I decided to stick with Radio City and see where it would take me. Things moved on and I soon became more involved with the station’s live events, in particular the ever-popular Radio City Roadshow. This led me to set up my own events company so that I could create and develop new and innovative ideas and take live events and roadshows to the next level. So whilst the other local radio stations were sticking their presenters on a small stage and playing party games with an equally small audience, I created a roadshow that used a 60ft stage and included major acts of the time like Take That, East 17 and Deacon Blue. My company soon grew and I knew I'd made the right career choice... but I never did become a Commercial Producer!
Q: What were the early days like and how has the music industry changed?
A: As the live events became more popular I started putting new twists on things. At that time the format for almost every UK radio station's roadshow was to play music and interact with the audience through the usual games like Beat The Intro and Bits & Pieces. Radio 1 had Smiley Miley who was good fun and added a little extra to the live shows they were doing, but for me it wasn't enough and I wanted to push the boundaries further. I started adding live acts to the roadshows and it completely changed the feel of the show, plus the audiences grew. Instead of a few hundred people turning up we were now seeing thousands of people. By taking an existing format and giving it a twist I had created a unique experience for the radio station and their listeners. The early days saw my events team continue to experiment with staging, PA and lighting on the various live events we were involved in until we were happy that we had created a winning formula.
The music industry has had to move with the times. In the early days we could stick a presenter on a small stage and play a few records but it had to progress or run the risk of being left behind as a tired format. When I work on an event I always try to put a spin on it to ensure it is different to anything else. I use a similar strategy now, as I did back then, when planning for an event. I assess the project and decide what it is that needs to be achieved and then work out the best plan to ensure this is delivered.
Q: Technology plays a huge part in your work. What is your favourite piece of equipment?
A: Anything from the Tricaster range. We have several pieces of kit that we use and all of it is amazing and essential for our line of work. We do a lot of filming, video editing and live video playout and Tricaster helps us deliver everything to the highest of standards. Our clients include the BBC, Sky TV and ITV so there can be no compromise on quality. It does everything and more... awesome kit! I also like my Apple Mac. I use it for a range of video and audio editing and would be lost without it.
Q: Fruition...tell us more!
A: Fruiton is an event production company that was formed to deliver unique events to clients around the world. I used my media background to create a service for radio and TV companies that includes live shows, corporate events, production, sound, lighting and stage management. We now work with many international clients to provide them with everything they require for their event. This includes creating high-quality graphics, sound and lighting packages, and innovative stage production. We can bring a TV-style production to corporate events that includes multiple camera positions and celebrity hosts, creating unique experiences for the clients who use our service. We also have a fully equipped tour bus that houses mobile radio and TV studio facilities and we use people like Steve Ryder and Trevor McDonald to create and deliver an online TV channel for clients.
We recently produced a three-day event for the Blackpool Illuminations which included artist liaison, stage management and working with local radio and BBC TV to co-ordinate the whole thing to ensure the smooth running of the event. We have gained a reputation for being able to deliver precise timings on events, which is crucial when you are working on shows like Blackpool Illuminations or Capital FM's Christmas Light Switch On where the lights, music, artists and hosts have to all be co-ordinated to deliver the impact moment at exactly the right time... which is often easier said than done!
Fruition takes the client’s brief and comes up with the concepts before delivering them to the audiences. We pride ourselves on going that extra mile and nothing is too much trouble for our clients. We are very creative in our approach to business, which allows us to stay ahead of the competition.
Q: What have been your most challenging events and how did you overcome the problems?
A: I won't name names but one event effectively had three production companies involved, which had the potential to cause a disaster. Fruition had been brought in to freshen up a tired format that hadn't changed for a number of years. One of the other production companies didn't want to work with us, they weren’t happy with the proposed changes and wouldn't share anything that they were doing as part of the event with any of the other parties involved. Fruition were the lead production company, so we had to decide what had to be done to make the event a success and what we could let go in order to avoid any further complications on what was already a difficult and testing event. Rather than lock horns, I worked the situation to get the best possible result. It didn't matter what was going off behind the scenes as long as the client and audience were happy. There were a few parts of the event that didn't go exactly as we would have liked, but overall we managed to work through the problems and deliver the event as the client had requested.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 74, Pages 62 - 66.