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An interview with Oliver Richardson of DB Systems

Having spent the first half of the 1990s at the Reading Festival, Glastonbury, Phoenix, Tribal Gathering, Fleadh, Kiss Live and Big Love - to name but a few - Oliver joined DB Systems in 1999, and is now the company's sales and marketing director.

How did you get into the rental/staging business?

I was a student in London from 1992-1996 and working part-time for the events department of the student union. We had three venues and staged a variety of events, such as comedy nights, pop bands, dance acts and DJs. I also had a regular DJ slot on Thursday nights and played in pubs and clubs in and around town. My flat mate and I bought a small PA and we threw a number of ‘free parties’ during this time.

During my first summer at university, I got a call from my boss at the union asking if I wanted to work on the jazz stage at Reading Festival. I said yes and that started a four-year stint working for The Mean Fiddler. My first day onsite at the Reading Festival involved loading Herbie Hancock’s touring grand piano onto the stage!

I worked on every Mean Fiddler event from 1993 – 1996, including Glastonbury, Phoenix, Tribal Gathering, Fleadh, Kiss Live, Big Love and loads of others. My role changed over time and I ended up working for the production team rather than on stage. My last summer with Mean Fiddler was 1996 after which I took some time out, travelled around Asia and, for family reasons, I ended up in Bristol. I thought my event days were over but I met David Bulley, the managing director of DB Systems, and started with DB in 1999.

What is your favourite project that you’ve ever been involved in? What made it special/memorable?

I have very fond memories of the early days and I learnt a lot, particularly at Tribal Gathering 1997 when Kraftwerk played. The Sex Pistols in 1996 in Finsbury Park (and again at Phoenix later that year) was also an experience. Why?….I was 22 and having the time of my life. What a job!!

At DB, we’ve done amazing work, all over the world. I always wanted a job that offered travel, and only recently we had major projects in Bangalore, Abu Dhabi and Barcelona. Highlights for me over the years include CeBIT in 2002, where we utilised equipment that had previously been in the millennium dome; it was my first 2,000 square metre stand.

Is there are a particular product that you’ve come to look on as ‘an old favourite’ – something that’s stood you in good stead over time and has proved its usefulness over and over again? What is it – and why are you fond of it?

As a technology company, our inventory changes all the time. We’ve got thousands of items and they are completely different to what they were ten years ago. I love video wall technology used in unusual shapes….and I’ve never done a shoe.

Is there a recent product that’s caught your eye that you think will be very useful in your business? What is it – and what’s attractive about it?

DB Systems has always been proud of our ability to invest in products and technologies that we think will benefit our clients. We have a vast inventory of audiovisual equipment because it’s crucial to be able to provide the right kit, for any and every occasion. It was the combination of our service and ability to supply technologies that led to us winning the 2010 Equipment Supplier of the Year accolade at last year’s AEO Excellence Awards.

There are two products that stand out. The first would be the iPad. Last year, even before the iPad was available on the shop shelf, we put in an order for ten units as we knew it would be smart investment. In fact, soon after buying the first load of iPads and seeing exactly how popular they were, we ordered more. We now have 90 units.

The reason the iPad is proving popular is down to its versatility. A savvy AV provider can design iPad apps for use by clients at specific shows depending on their needs and what they wish to achieve, such as for entertainment or the distribution of corporate information. iPads can be used in many ways, from data collection to games and attention-grabbing quizzes or to control other AV systems.

For example, at one event we designed an iPad app that allowed the exhibitor’s customers to view various information, documents and case studies. The app also allowed customers to email selected items back to their own e-mail addresses. This was a bespoke app specifically for that show and the adaptability of the product is its beauty.

The second product that’s going to be significant for our business is NEC’s MultiSync 46” LCD video wall modules. This is our flagship video wall system because of what it can offer our clients. In fact, DB Systems is the UK’s largest stockist of the NEC MultiSync 46” LCD video wall modules, due to increased demand from clients. We currently have 60 units and associated accessories.

The technology provides the ultimate indoor video wall with super slim bezel, just 7.3mm between contents; ambient light sensor for improved brightness levels (up to 700cd/m2); and minimised power consumption. It is a display system that, when combined with the right content, ensures an exhibition stand has that elusive ‘wow’ factor, which gets noticed by event attendees.