Autograph Sound: ‘The industry knows us for theatre – our clients know us for so much more’

Autograph Sound unveils a brand-new structure, shares news on its future direction and the amalgamation of two departments. TPi's Jacob Waite reports...

Projects and Installations Manager, Adam Broom; Hire Manager, Will McGonagle & Head of Special Events, Andrew Hedges.

After 18 long months in exile, London Olympia’s PLASA Show 2021 marked an important landmark for the UK’s return to live events trade fairs, and an equally important milestone for Autograph Sound. Speaking exclusively to TPi from the tradeshow floor, core members of the audio-visual equipment rental service detail a consolidation of two departments and its future direction.

Autograph Sound Recording was formed in 1972 and soon established itself as a forerunner in sound for theatre. A decade later, Autograph Sales was incorporated to bring the hard-earned skills and knowledge from theatre into the sales and installations markets.

Autograph Hire Manager, Will McGonagle is a stalwart of the company with 13 years of experience. “Over the years we’ve been getting closer to having everyone under one roof and improving our ability to offer a service from one space. We’re branching out from what we’re traditionally known best for – theatre,” McGonagle said, explaining how, for all of its faults, the COVID-19 pandemic afforded the troupe time to consolidate and improve existing systems. “Our clients are often impressed by the level of detail that goes into our theatre delivery, which has opened up doors for us in the past. Now we hope to deliver that same standard of consistency to multiple applications.”

In recent years, Autograph has been progressively extending its unique services to clients, both at home and overseas. By combining its vast depth of technical expertise with a growing team of like-minded people, the company has proved itself to be a full-service provider in many areas of professional audio.

Autograph Head of Special Events, Andrew Hedges shared what he believes is the ‘beauty’ of this recent announcement. “We’ve got that theatre blood but we’re transferring that into the live events market – delivering product activations, conference work, car shows, and large-scale projects – using the knowledge and passion accrued from our theatre expertise. There’s a lot we do in the background to facilitate that, such as critical redundancy, planning, and being aware of clients’ needs.”

He added: “There will be some growth coming out of this announcement; we’ve traditionally focussed on theatre, however, with this expansion we hope to make some increased audio-visual links with manufacturers. We’re already delivering an audio and video touring package, which is totally new for us – having a touring and installation projects out at the same time. We’re not just a rental shop.”

With live shows becoming more theatrical, Autograph is primed to deliver its expertise and technical infrastructure to productions. “We have one spare of every item on the shelf ready to go, because as they say, ‘the show must go on’, and I believe that same service and ethos feeds through to our delivery of a range of projects,” Hedges remarked.

While theatre remains a core and much-loved discipline, the company’s activities now encompass sound design, equipment rental and sales, event solutions, technical support, consultancy, infrastructure design and installation, training, and product development.

“All these attributes are already in place across a broad range of completed projects within the many-headed hydra that symbolises the scope of our industry,” Projects and Installations Manager, Adam Broom, who has been with Autograph for five years, said. “This consolidation affords us the opportunity to share and tap into the knowledge and resources of multiple departments. Being able to have a crossover between departments, building on the knowledge is a great thing to be able to be in the same office and collaborate. We no longer have to worry about the blurred lines of theatre and live events. It’s about Autograph as a solution as opposed to what we supply. After all, anyone can provide equipment but what you do with that kit is what is important.”

Autograph’s portfolio has also developed outside of audio and now includes advanced digital networking, data management and visual media. Recent projects in which the company has delivered fully integrated audio-visual solutions include several independent schools, including: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), The British Museum, and a soon-to-be-completed major car launch.

Broom thinks this ‘holistic’ approach is the right way to go. “Working in theatre is a unique experience – it’s about redundancy, technical consistency, delivering the same experience night after night. The way we work and build the sound from the bottom is completely applicable to several disciplines and what we can now offer as a cohesive unit is what sets Autograph apart.”

The two companies of Autograph Sound and Autograph Sales are now under one banner and, literally, one roof, as they now share the same HQ in London, NW5. Further, to reflect both the new structure and the company’s extensive range of services, a new website has been launched coinciding with PLASA Show.

Managing Director, Scott Arnold shared his final thoughts: “The enforced lockdown periods, though not welcomed, gave us the opportunity to concentrate on completing the changes we are now pleased to announce. We are able to deliver all of the qualities and expertise that are uniquely Autograph to a much wider range of customers and applications – whatever the project, the experience our customers receive will very clearly have the Autograph stamp on it.”