Dedicated to the Business of Contemporary Live Music

Backstage Star – Jon Wood

Backstage Stars
10 March 2020

Having worked as a tour manager and van driver, huped equipment about and played in bands, Jon Wood founded Ooosh Tours in Brighton 11 years ago. The company, which now has six full-timae staff, supplies transport, backline and rehearsal studios, along with a host of back-up services, for artistes and events, both in the UK and internationally.

What are your first live music memories?

“I grew up in a small town on the Kent-London-Essex border where there was absolutely sod-all going on. Through various school friends I had a growing interest in music and bands, so I ended up organising gigs myself in local village halls. Because no-one had much to do, we always hit capacity far too soon.

“The first proper gig I went to as a young teenager was Blur supported by Super Furry Animals at the Bournemouth International Centre [cap. 6,250] in 1997, I think. I’d never seen a big band in a big venue before and it was mind-blowingly good.”

How did you get into the entertainment industry?

“I moved to Brighton in the early 2000s to study at uni and had a job as a sound engineer in a couple of local venues, most notably the Freebutt [150], which eventually shut down.

“I was at a bit of a loose end after my degree, but had done a few bits of driving for friends’ bands so I toured for several years all over Europe as a band driver, eventually moving into tour managing.

”After a few years, I was getting a lot of offers for work, too many to handle really. It struck me that all the non-UK bands I was working for would start the tour by driving to London and hiring a load of backline. I also noticed that apart from a few others like myself, there was otherwise no way of getting a splitter van south of London.

“I owned a few bits of musical equipment from playing in bands myself over the years and so bought a second splitter and struck a deal with a local rehearsal studio to act as my shop front and use their card machine. This worked very well and within a few years I’d progressed from a small cupboard at the top of their stairs, to my own premises, a few self-drive splitters and a growing stock of backline.

“We now have premises that houses two world-class production-style rehearsal studios, our vast inventory of backline, 20+ splitter vans as well as our tour supplies shop, repairs, staging, client storage, DJ & PA equipment etc.”

What were your high and low points?

“The first year that we were the main suppliers for The Great Escape festival was pretty exhilarating. It was 28 stages of full backline, plus several PAs, staging, ad-hoc pop-up events, logistical support throughout and all the usual dozen or so May tours too, all crammed into three days. It’s absolutely bonkers but we’ve done it for the last few years and it’s a great feeling to be there absolutely smashing such an important industry festival.

“Possibly the lowest feeling I’ve ever experienced was around eight years ago, when we failed to deliver everything on time for a relatively new festival. It really kicked me in the arse and cost me a lot of money. I can look back and see how it really shaped the future of the company – we invested heavily in software and training to make sure we’re the best we can be.”

Where do you see the industry going?

“Ours has been a very steady and organic growth. I’m not a great believer in growth for the sake of it, but I believe we’ve got more great things to do for sure. I’m floored some

times when I look over our client list and see some of the famous names that rehearse or tour through us.

“Continuing to support them and enjoying organic growth through word-of-mouth is what we’re looking forward to this year, as well as a steady and focussed refinement of our methods and inventory.

“I love collaborating with other companies and am always interested to see new ideas and try new things – I much prefer seeing four smaller companies pooling together for an event rather than one big one supplying everything.

How do you unwind?

“I play in a couple of bands and manage to dabble around the outskirts of the job whilst enjoying a degree of separation.

“I’m happily married to my wife Kat and we have a five-year-old son called Lenny. Kat’s mum lives on the edge of Dartmoor and we go and stay there every couple of months, which is just lovely. A windswept walk across an moor is a wonderful respite to heaving a Hammond organ into the back of a van.

“The job can be all-consuming, especially as it’s my own company. It’s the nature of the business though, especially as so many of our clients are based in Australia and America – as our day is ending theirs is starting which often means a lot of work at home in the evenings.

“I’d certainly like to try and work a bit less but it’s hard as I really just love the music business and love working for our amazing clients.”

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