In a live events industry saturated with ‘one-stop shops’, there’s something to be said for specialising in an individual discipline and carving a niche in the market. While some clients will favour the ease of dealing with a single company for every element of an event, for some more complicated, high-profile productions, there’s a need for each discipline to be handled by an expert in their field.
One company that is perfectly positioned to serve this demand is Agora, which has quickly become a major player in the region’s sound reinforcement space, offering its specialist approach to audio to some of the biggest shows including UAE National Day, the UAEFA President’s Cup Final and Expo 2020.
“We want to make a difference in the projects we take part in, and audio is the area where we can really offer something special,” said General Manager, Giulio Rovelli. “We want to keep the level of everything we do very high, and this lends itself well to the high-end projects that are taking place in the region.”
While Agora’s UAE branch is only a year old, the company was born in the early 1990s in Italy. “We started in live touring and we’ve built up over the years to now have the majority of the Italian market,” Rovelli commented.
The company soon began to branch out into international events, working on several global productions including the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Expo 2015 in Milan, and the 2016 Olympic Games Opening in Rio de Janeiro. This global experience proved vital when it came to Agora’s entry in the UAE market.
“We were invited to tender to be the resident audio and lighting provider for Al Wasl Plaza at Expo 2020 Dubai,” Rovelli recalled. “Once we won the project, we started to think that our expertise would be useful for the UAE and the region, because there are many other large-scale events that would benefit from our approach to audio.”
Although Expo 2020 has now come to an end, the legacy project, Expo City, is still in operation, with the Agora team still in situ delivering its services to Al Wasl Plaza. “We recently extended our contract with Expo City,” Rovelli revealed. “This gives us a large imprint in the market and allows us to work on a medium-term plan for the Middle East operation.”
Agora now has two separate teams operating in the UAE, with one serving Expo City and the other working on the various other projects the company is involved with. While the Expo City team includes a dedicated lighting department, Rovelli sees the future of the company in the region very much as an audio specialist.
“Our lighting team on Expo 2020 is excellent and doing a fantastic job, but for future projects,” he stated. “We’ve seen the demand in the region to have a specialised audio company, and we have the specific technology and experience to fulfil this demand.”
The company’s first major UAE job following Expo 2020 was supplying the sound system for UAE 50thNational Day – a spectacular production that took place at Hatta Dam and featured a hugely ambitious immersive sound system made up of 979 loudspeakers. The company also provided the sound system for the following year’s UAE National Day, supplying an equally impressive system that distributed signal to over 700 speakers delivering immersive audio to an audience spread over 100m.
“Projects like UAE National Day are totally different to normal concerts or corporate events,” said Rovelli. “They require a different approach to audio that is much more considered. We like to be challenged by the difficulties of projects and we want to produce something more in terms of quality.”
While Agora has a long history with L-Acoustics – “we were one of the first companies to invest in them back in the early 1990s,” Rovelli recalled – the company has kit from a range of manufacturers and a team who have wide-ranging experience. Matt Oliver, Senior Project Manager, commented: “It’s true that we have more history with L-Acoustics, but we have a good mix of people in the team who have experience on all the major systems.”
With UAE’s events scene quietening down over summer, Agora takes the opportunity to send its team to get experience working on large stadium shows in Italy. Edoardo Michelori, Head of Audio, explained the importance of this practice. “The best form of training is on the job,” he commented. “Stadium tours around Europe are a very different experience to the kind of shows we often get in the Middle East. Working on different kinds of shows gives the team the possibility of seeing a different approach to audio. Experience helps you grow, and the guys love it!”
Turning attention back to the Middle East, Rovelli stated the company’s intentions when it comes to the exciting growing market of Saudi Arabia. “We have done some great projects in Saudi Arabia, but it’s not our focus at the moment,” he commented. “Our UAE company is only a year old, and we’re looking to consolidate our position here. We don’t want to try and run before we can walk. Just because there’s a lot of work in Saudi now, it doesn’t mean there’s any less in the UAE.”
Looking ahead, Agora is set to continue its focus on long-term, high-profile productions within the UAE. “It’s not a tactic – it’s where we’ve come from and what we’ve been doing for a long time now,” Rovelli explained. “Our company is structured with the right equipment, experience and methods that are tailored towards delivering these kinds of events – not to mention to mentality to work on these types of projects.”