What do Beyonce, the Rolling Stones, U2, AC/DC and Girl Gaga have in frequent? All of them use one London-based specialist logistics agency to maneuver their gear around the globe.
Final yr, when Beyonce got here to the UK together with her Formation world tour it took seven Boeing 747 air freighters and a fleet of greater than 70 vehicles to get her stage set and different gear to the venues.
And that did not embrace the backstage employees, musicians, performers – or Beyonce herself.
“It was the most important transfer we have ever achieved,” says Martin Corr, the managing director of rock and roll transport agency Sound Strikes.
Extra corporations are selecting to make use of air freight to get their items to market, from diamonds to automotive elements, although it’s six instances dearer than sending them by sea – and rock superstars rely upon it too.
Whereas air freight makes up simply 1% of UK imports and exports when it comes to tonnage shipped, it accounts for 40% of imports and exports when it comes to their worth.
Within the UK, Heathrow Airport is the dominant participant on this commerce with £101bn price of products passing via in a yr. That is greater than the worth of products passing via the nation’s greatest container ports, Felixstowe and Southampton, mixed.
Regardless of air cargo’s expense, utilizing planes as a substitute of ships cuts down dramatically on the time it takes to get items to market.
“We use Heathrow for many of our air freight. It’s near London, has nice street connections, frequent flights and capability,” says Martin Corr.
Sound Strikes – based mostly in west London near Heathrow’s cargo terminal – is without doubt one of the greatest logistics corporations within the music trade with an annual turnover of £17m.
Over the previous 20 years they’ve labored with everybody from David Bowie and the Rolling Stones to Girl Gaga and now Beyonce.
“I left college with little or no , and was dwelling with my mother and father mendacity on the couch when my mum advised me to exit and get a job,” says Martin.
“Residing in west London, Heathrow airport was the apparent place.”
After working with a basic freight firm studying his commerce, he then moved into the specialised enterprise of transferring rock teams and their gear. In 1996 he began Sound Strikes with two colleagues.
Martin himself is an AC/DC fan, and an Angus Younger Gibson guitar signed by all of the members of the band takes pleasure of place in his workplace.
“However no I do not play it, I by no means wished to be a musician,” he says. “I’m a freight-forwarder via and thru – it is what I do.”
Inside his warehouse, he factors out the pallets of sound gear and music merchandise able to be shipped wherever on the planet.
“You will be in London on a Monday and doing a present in Los Angeles on a Wednesday or Thursday.
“We used to have a really seasonal enterprise that was busy as much as Christmas, after which from Easter to September with the summer time festivals, however now artists tour 12 months a yr.”
Touring is what brings within the merchandise and ticket gross sales, he says, “and that will get the blokes on the street and that is the place we are available in, we assist them on the street”.
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When Beyonce arrived final yr, Sound Strikes had to make use of Doncaster and Prestwick airports moderately than Heathrow as a result of London airport’s lack of flexibility.
“It was a rush to get the plane unloaded. There’s a lot of attracts on an artist’s time. They nonetheless wish to be seen by the general public however within the shortest doable time,” he says.
The truth that Sound Strikes could not use Heathrow for Beyonce’s tour is critical, says Nick Platts, head of cargo at Heathrow Airport.
“I bear in mind having chats with Martin over a number of days understanding how we might assist him, however we could not provide him the flexibleness he wanted.”
The airport is working at nearly most capability and he says there may be little room for additional development in cargo site visitors.
“We’re pushing site visitors away from us.
“We have to broaden and construct a 3rd runway simply to fulfill the pent-up demand that’s on the market, not to mention deal with future development,” he says.
Each Heathrow and Gatwick are seeing a rise within the quantity of air freight they deal with – however Gatwick’s development fee is considerably increased.
“Our booming long-haul routes have pushed an enormous cargo improve,” says Gatwick Airport’s chief govt officer, Stewart Wingate.
Maybe surprisingly solely a fraction of air cargo is definitely carried in specialised air freighters. Most of it – 95% at Heathrow – is carried within the bellies of passenger plane and that may increase an airline’s revenues between 5-20%.
“Take that away and the route is probably not viable,” says Heathrow’s Nick Platts.
“The explanation Heathrow is profitable just isn’t as a result of we’re transferring folks – it’s as a result of we’re transferring automotive elements, Scottish salmon, blood plasma merchandise and different medicines, jewelry and treasured stones. That’s what air freight is nice for,” he says.
Again at Sound Strikes, Martin Corr is preparing for U2’s Joshua Tree tour.
“It is all deliberate and organised, they’re going to be coming into the UK by air over one weekend in July – it is a very tight schedule.”
He is eager to dispel any concept that his trade is glamorous. “We do not get to hang around at backstage events or fly on personal jets, that is not what we do.
“For us there isn’t a break day till the tour is over.”
Thoughts you, he does preserve one bottle of champagne in his workplace fridge.
“Effectively it would not be rock and roll with out champagne, would it not?” he laughs.
Comply with Tim Bowler on Twitter @timbowlerbbc