Beyonce performs during the opening night of the Formation world tour at Marlins Park on 27 April, 2016 in Miami, Florida

Picture copyright
Frank Micelotta/Parkwood Entertainmen

Picture caption

Beyonce wanted seven air freighters simply to get her stage package to the UK

What do Beyonce, the Rolling Stones, U2, AC/DC and Girl Gaga have in widespread? 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 along 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 largest transfer we have ever completed,” says Martin Corr, the managing director of rock and roll transport agency Sound Strikes.

Extra companies are selecting to make use of air freight to get their items to market, from diamonds to automobile elements, regardless that it’s six instances dearer than sending them by sea – and rock superstars rely on it too.

Picture copyright
Sound Strikes

Picture caption

Heathrow is essential for the agency’s operations, says Sound Strikes’ Martin Corr

Picture copyright
Sound Strikes

Picture caption

The corporate is among the largest logistics companies within the music business

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 value of products passing by way of in a yr. That is greater than the worth of products passing by way of the nation’s largest container ports, Felixstowe and Southampton, mixed.

Regardless of air cargo’s expense, utilizing planes as an alternative 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 highway connections, frequent flights and capability,” says Martin Corr.

Sound Strikes – based mostly in west London near Heathrow’s cargo terminal – is among the largest logistics companies within the music business with an annual turnover of £17m.

Picture copyright
Frank Micelotta/Parkwood Leisure

Picture caption

Beyonce’s stage present took up a number of baggage area…

Picture copyright
Worldwide Helicopters

Picture caption

…and wanted two airports to take the air freighters, and a fleet of vehicles to unload it and transfer it

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 residing with my dad and mom mendacity on the couch when my mum informed me to exit and get a job,” says Martin.

“Residing in west London, Heathrow airport was the plain 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.

Picture copyright
Getty Pictures

Picture caption

“Our first tour was for the Rolling Stones, we began with a bang!” says Martin

Picture copyright
Sound Strikes

Picture caption

Sound Strikes’ warehouse is stacked with pre-packaged package

Martin himself is an AC/DC fan, and an Angus Younger Gibson guitar signed by all of the members of the band takes satisfaction of place in his workplace.

“However no I do not play it, I by no means needed to be a musician,” he says. “I’m a freight-forwarder by way of 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.

Picture copyright
Getty Pictures

Picture caption

Air freight can herald important earnings for airways – even on their passenger flights

“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 fellows on the highway and that is the place we are available in, we assist them on the highway”.


Extra tales from the BBC’s international commerce collection taking a look at commerce from a global perspective:

The country losing out in the breakfast juice battle

Why a $1.6bn car plant has been left to decay

‘You don’t have to be a squillionaire to buy art’

The slimming pills that put me in hospital

How Scottish salmon conquered the world

Read more global trade series here.


When Beyonce arrived final yr, Sound Strikes had to make use of Doncaster and Prestwick airports fairly than Heathrow because of the London airport’s lack of flexibility.

“It was a rush to get the plane unloaded. There’s numerous attracts on an artist’s time. They nonetheless wish to be seen by the general public however within the shortest doable time,” he says.

Picture copyright
Getty Pictures

Picture caption

Heathrow is already working at near-maximum capability

The truth that Sound Strikes could not use Heathrow for Beyonce’s tour is important, 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 supply 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 visitors.

“We’re pushing visitors away from us.

“We have to increase and construct a 3rd runway simply to fulfill the pent-up demand that’s on the market, not to mention address 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 charge is considerably greater.

“Our booming long-haul routes have pushed an enormous cargo enhance,” says Gatwick Airport’s chief government 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 enhance an airline’s revenues between 5-20%.

“Take that away and the route is probably not viable,” says Heathrow’s Nick Platts.

Picture copyright
Getty Pictures

Picture caption

Delivery nonetheless accounts for the majority of products traded

“The explanation Heathrow is profitable will not be as a result of we’re transferring individuals – it’s as a result of we’re transferring automobile 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 will be coming into the UK by air over one weekend in July – it is a very tight schedule.”

Picture copyright
Getty Pictures

Picture caption

“U2 are long-standing shoppers,” says Martin Corr

He is eager to dispel any concept that his business is glamorous. “We do not get to hang around at backstage events or fly on non-public jets, that is not what we do.

“For us there isn’t a time without work till the tour is over.”

Thoughts you, he does preserve one bottle of champagne in his workplace fridge.

“Nicely it would not be rock and roll with out champagne, wouldn’t it?” he laughs.

Observe Tim Bowler on Twitter @timbowlerbbc