JOHN DELF: Experiencing the ‘1D’ effect

I never wanted to travel. It was never in my life plan, yet here I am, 38,000 ft above Eastern Europe, on my way to Istanbul with Sophie Ellis Bextor.

There is a lot of turbulence and I have a real fear of flying. Not the best fear to have in this industry seeing as a huge part of this job involves travelling. Last night I was at Islington Academy in London, tour managing and mixing a show for 5 Seconds of Summer, an Australian band that are taking off in an incredibly fast way. That was our second show at the Academy this week, and they both sold out in under three minutes – quite an achievement seeing as how the band haven’t even had a single record out yet. Already they have girls hanging outside the hotels and queuing up at venues 12 hours before doors open.

It’s an interesting ride to be on. None of the subscribers of Audio Pro International have probably heard of them, unless of course you’re a teenage girl. Just ten weeks ago they were almost total unknowns, but then they got announced as the support band for One Direction (1D), and that’s when things went totally crazy.

I have been in similar situations before, but never one with this rapid growth. I was there at the beginning of Lily Allen’s career. Every show I did with her from day one was sold out and we went from playing Notting Hill Arts Club to the main stage of Glastonbury in front of 85,000 people within two years.

It was the same when I was working with The Script. Funnily enough that started at Islington Academy for me too. That’s where I first met the band and there were more people watching sound check than I have mixed some gigs in front of. There was a definite buzz happening around the Irish boys and again, 18 months later, we were playing in front of 65,000 people on the main stage at Oxegen festival near their home town of Dublin.

But as for this band now? Well I haven’t experienced anything like it. I put it down to the ‘1D’ effect.

Before the One Direction tour the band had less than 20 shows under their belt. The first weekend of the tour comprised of four shows in two days at London’s O2 Arena. So from playing in front of a few hundred people, in one weekend they would have performed in front of 60,000. Three months later that has turned into 600,000. By the end of the year? Well, coming up we have ten weeks in the USA and seven weeks in Australia – all with One Direction – and every show’s an arena. That’s before you add in their own shows too.

The turbulence on this flight has calmed a little, but I can’t see it calming for 5 Seconds of Summer. I feel very lucky to be working with them.

The funny thing is that however much we concentrate on getting the best sound, lighting and production, the most important thing for their fans is getting the boys to follow them on Twitter! I spoke before about how ‘old school’ bands thought the Internet was destroying their careers due to free downloads, yet it’s amazing to see how a band without a single record released yet can have over a million fans worldwide thanks to social media.

That social media effect can also spill over to the crew, and it’s something that they are going to have to get used to. One Direction’s tour manager has over a million twitter followers; their monitor engineer and even their stylist have a million followers between them. Obviously this is something you can choose to opt in to or not. It’s not a part of getting a gig, but its definitely a by-product of working with a successful band, something that a beginner into this industry may have not even considered a likely consequence of mixing live sound.

The industry is constantly changing and all of it is an exciting journey. That’s what makes it such a special job; every day is different and every year brings new challenges that you would never have expected. And here I am on my way to Istanbul, and the day after tomorrow I’ll be in Moscow. How the hell did that happen? Well if you want to know how it went, follow me on Twitter @johndelfsound or @jdelf on Instagram.

Picture credit: Graham Flack

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