Interview: Liam Clifford introduces us to the Howlaround Entertainment Group

Currently based in Los Angeles, Australian tour manager, engineer and label head Liam Clifford has a lot on his plate. His company, the Howlaround Entertainment Group, was initially established as a production rental business but as 2017 reaches its end, the Howlaround brand has enjoyed much expansion and has brought Clifford many more experiences that have helped bolster his approach looking forward.

He introduces us to Howlaround during a recent catch up.

“When I first started the company,” he explains. “We were just a production rental company. We’ve now grown into a full entertainment group spanning across two continents. I’m now overseeing multiple projects simultaneously around the world as well as developing the company further on a global scale.”

“I started many years ago playing music and as an early teenager playing in bands around Sydney. I ended up taking an interest in audio since a friend at the time was getting into doing live sound and recording. I ended up enjoying it just as much. At 17 I founded my first company (Howlaround Productions), a production rental company and started buying PA, microphones, consoles etc – renting them to events and bands. I started touring with small bands around Australia as their sound engineer & tour manager. Eventually, I teamed up with Sheppard working as their Tour Manager & FOH Engineer which led me to tour the world and gain a wealth of experience. Since then, I have worked with many of the world’s top pop and indie artists.”

When he’s not working with JoJoCharlie PuthStanaj and more on the road, Clifford and Howlaround have continued to broaden their own horizons, expanding into VR throughout 2017.

“We’ve naturally progressed as time has gone on.” Clifford says. “Initially just doing audio and supplying production rental we’ve now added a full creative and touring division, specialising in working with artists to design their live show and then tour it, staff it & scale it. We’ve also added an artist management, production sales/installation, event management and virtual reality divisions.”

“Our latest addition is our Virtual Reality department which is primarily Los Angeles based. Having partnered with VRLIVE, we’re bringing the latest and greatest tech to Australia and Asia.”

“We’re always looking at opportunities to expand our operations.” Clifford adds, commenting on the ever growing nature of the entertainment industry. “We’re currently based in Sydney and Los Angeles, however we’re able to offer a truly global service primarily from those two hubs. We also have partner companies all over the world to source local equipment & crew if required.”

Having split his time between the US and Australia over the years, both on the road and off, Clifford speaks about the difficulties and differences that come with working in each territory.

“The USA is very unionised.” Clifford is quick to comment. “Everyone has a very specific role when working on an event and nobody really crosses into other roles. This can be a difficult thing to manage especially in certain venues or cities where there may be more than one union involved, especially coming from Australia, where as a general rule everybody pitches in as a team to work together.”

“The way TV performances work in the USA compared to Australia can also be vastly different.” he adds. “TV in the USA is an incredibly big business and there can be an astonishing number of people involved to make a three minute music performance happen. Having the knowledge and skills to navigate these performances to not only make the artist feel comfortable as well as get the best result from the TV show only comes with experience.”

Any advice for Australian bands eyeing up America as their next market to tackle?

“More often than not, I see Australian artists put together a less than ideal tour routing which unfortunately drives the costs of their tour up. I also consistently see people under-estimate the time it takes to break the American market, you need to be consistently Stateside to ensure you’re not losing traction in a crowded market place. We also see artist under-estimate the importance of those major tv shows once they land them (Fallon, Kimmel, Ellen etc). We help build powerful creatives to ensure those performances are impactful.”

Similarly, for international acts looking to tour Australia, Clifford shares some tips from his time touring both ways.

“Your touring essentials are pretty standard, no matter where you are in the world.” he says. “So ensuring your budgets, logistics, creative vision, production elements are all taken care of in advance are must do’s. The variables are how you travel, for example Australia is mainly fly dates where as in the USA you’ll most likely be travelling by tour bus. Other variables include local labour calls, equipment availability, venue size etc.”

When it comes to making a business such as his stand out in a country like the United States, Clifford admits that it takes work, but the pay off has been worth it in presenting a company that offers the utmost in each field they dabble in.

“I’m very hands on in my role.” he says. “I personally sit down with every client and make sure we establish a comfortable working relationship. I’m also available 24/7 to all of our clients, I quite often take calls in the middle of the night to ensure everything is running smoothly or to talk out a creative idea.”

“[The] Howlaround Entertainment Group is really a one stop shop for all of your production, creative and touring needs. Our team has worked in 40+ countries across practically every continent. We’re able to collaborate with our clients and take their tour or project from a creative idea to a full production. We’ll handle the design, staffing, logistics, budgeting, accounting and everything in between to make sure our clients get the absolute best result possible and the best bang for buck.”

Find out more about the Howlaround Entertainment Group here.