Fourth Generation: In Profile
Supplying power to some of the music industry’s biggest stars, including Muse and Robbie Williams’ stadium tours, Fourth Generation continues to excel. Tweed and Laura Hurlocker shared the company’s back story and recent developments with TPi’s Zoe Mutter and revealed why they believe there is no industry more rewarding to work in than the live event sector.
Established to serve the temporary power requirements of the live event and entertainment industry, Fourth Generation has powered numerous high profile concert tours, live broadcasts, sporting and corporate events - establishing itself as one of the industry’s major players.
“We founded the company in February 2004, but I first started in the business with Showpower, who were based in LA and were the first dedicated power provider for entertainment events,” said Director, Tweed Hurlocker. “Showpower was bought by General Electric Energy Rentals and I moved on to work for Caterpillar, after which someone asked if I would start my own company, which I agreed to do.
“That is where the pun on Fourth Generation comes from,” added Tweed’s business partner Laura. “It was the fourth generation of power companies Tweed had worked with.
Having had a love of working with machinery from a young age along with a passion for live events, Tweed was destined to work in the power sector. He enthused: “As an industry, we achieve amazing things all the time and I think it’s a real can-do business that’s great to be a part of.”
Laura continued: “We’re both immensely proud to have been a part of it for 20 years and hopefully we will continue to be so for many years to come. It’s just that buzz when you see it all come together and live TV is just the same as live events - the show has to happen. In other sectors sometimes things just don’t happen, but in our industry there’s no question about it. There is no ‘Oh sorry, the generator is not going to get to the show on time’, it just has to happen and it will get there. We love that ‘can-do’ mentality throughout our industry.”
Although Tweed and Laura Hurlocker head up Fourth Generation, the company also relies on a team of specialised crew. Initially sub hiring equipment, Tweed then approached Holland-based generator manufacturers Intertech. The two companies worked hand in hand to specify and custom build the top of the range units that currently make up the Fourth Generation rental fleet. “Since I started the business our generator inventory has continuously grown and the amount of cabling and distribution has increased tenfold in size too,” said Tweed.
The power sector of the live industry has progressed since Tweed launched the business and now more planning takes place at all stages of the touring process. “People give you more of a heads-up on what they’re doing and what you need to provide,” Tweed continued. “There are green issues that need to be considered too, which for me, began with starting to use synthetic oils and long range filters and working with the company that builds my generators to look for greener engines to use. I recently purchased the newest twin pack I have, which has the most up to date emissions package on the market and meets all the new criteria for Europe.”
EXPLORING INTERNATIONAL MARKETS
The company has expanded steadily since it was established, doubling turnover and profit year-on-year. “It was tricky for a year or so when the recession hit, but we rode that pretty well and now we’re on another upward climb,” said Laura.
The company survived tough economic times by exploring international markets and partners, utilising their equipment in markets overseas that were buoyant when the UK was not. “When there was a plateau we had our gear out working in Europe with one of our partners. So our equipment was at maximum utilisation, whereas the UK market was flat,” explained Tweed. “Being able to place your equipment globally where there is a hotspot of work is how we managed to do that and we have the international connections and the symbiosis with other companies to help us through.”
Tweed’s involvement in the international power industry since 1990 allowed him to build up a large number of contacts. “I may not have the biggest company, but I have a lot of contacts that I can work with all around the globe, anywhere in Europe, Australia, South America, North America, there are people I have worked with for years and I can call anytime,” he added.
Fourth Generation has built up such a glittering reputation with clients thanks to its dedicated team who are highly experienced in the areas of the market that the company services. “Particularly with concert touring, you need somebody that understands the pressure and rhythm of touring. Somebody that is used to working in the corporate world might not suit the rigours and speed of turnover that a touring system needs,” said Laura. “There’s a real experience and skill to knowing how you get those systems in and out quickly and efficiently in a short turnaround time. A large portion of our market is concert touring so we have a good base of people who are specifically used to putting in systems on a rapid turnaround.”
TOP QUALITY GENERATORS
Fourth Generation provides a wide selection of generators to suit the specific requirements of a project. Distribution products range from a single extension cord, transformers, aluminium cable ramps and crew through to generators capable of powering a small city. Thanks to 20 years of experience, Tweed and Laura Hurlocker also offer logistical and consulting services.
“The new FG 460 kVA Twin Pack generators we are supplying are custom specified,” elaborated Laura. “We don’t manufacture any products, but we work with Intertech and provide the detailed custom specifications that Tweed needs in terms of industry requirements, such as meeting the emissions criteria. We work hand in hand with them to look at new technology and put together a package that meets the industry’s needs.”
Whatever project the company is providing power to, the same generators are used. “Whether it’s TV work or a live concert, it’s all redundantly supplied and broadcast quality. You can’t afford to have failures,” added Tweed.
The Fourth Generation team takes great pride in its generators, looking after them in the best way they can to ensure they are kept in pristine condition throughout the year. Added Laura: “The generators have been stand out because they are custom built and spec’d to such a high standard that they really are our flagship product. We like to think they are of the highest quality and we are leaders in our field - they’re Tweed’s babies.”
WIDE RANGING PROJECTS
Although concert touring makes up the main percentage of Fourth Generation’s work, television follows quite closely behind. One of the company’s longstanding TV clients is Dancing On Ice, which they have provided power to for all nine series, alongside shows including Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
Theatre projects are also expanding with events such as the Olivier Awards and the company has worked with a large West End retail consortium running VIP shopping events. Corporate work the company has been recently involved with include events for Toyota and record launches for artists such as Bastille.
“We have also supplied critical power to the States of Jersey. They were doing a power changeover to get a bigger service so we had to provide non-interrupted power for all their government buildings, which had a feed to the airport as well,” explained Tweed.
TPi met Tweed on one of his larger shows last year, when he was powering Coldplay’s European stadium shows. Other artists the company has been proud to supply power to since then have included Muse’s recent stadium outing and Robbie Williams’ enormous Take The Crown production, currently making its way around the UK.
“Like Dancing On Ice, we’re proud to have been a part of Robbie’s tours since the beginning. Robbie at Knebworth was a big one for us because everything showed up on site, we not only had the show, we had BBC radio, world broadcast, one of the first internet broadcasts and everything from the emergency services,” said Tweed. “It’s all about the connections you make on shows such as Robbie Williams’. After we’ve initially done one of the shows we always seem to have a bond there and have kept those clients.”
To expand upon its London office, Fourth Generation recently opened a Luton-based depot where the equipment will be located. As a result, the company is also looking to expand the office and warehouse staff on a permanent basis in the future.
The new Luton premises offer 9,000sq ft of warehouse space and another 9,000sq ft of yard space. “We’re still very much a London-based company though,” added Laura. “Our equipment depot might be in Luton, but we can still access London clients and their productions quickly. We had been looking in north London originally, but Luton is ideally placed because of the transport network and gives easy access to the midlands and the north of England also. We looked long and hard to find the correct sized building offering the right criteria.”
FOURTH GENERATION FUTURE
Looking forward, the company is focussing on consolidating the new Luton office along with making plans to purchase new equipment. “There is plenty in the pipeline because we’re targetting various different markets” said Tweed.
Tweed and Laura are enjoying having a new base to work and grow from, consolidating everything the pair have achieved so far and pushing the company forward. “There’s a real platform for growth and we’ve been evolving steadily over the past 18 months consistently. There’s the new generator we added to the fleet last year and the trailer and we’ve added cable and distribution throughout the last 12 months, so that inventory continues to grow,” said Tweed.
“There will always be the odd challenge, but we conquer any we face. Anytime you are presented with adverse weather conditions, for example, it’s all about being confident in your equipment and how you’ve installed it. You do everything you can to make sure it’s properly installed and earthed and completely checked to make sure it’s up to standards.”
A PERSONALISED SERVICE
“I think Tweed is what has made Fourth Generation so successful,” commented Laura. “Looking after the people you work with and work for and making sure they are happy has been key to our success. It’s more of a personalised service than perhaps you get with a larger corporate company.”
Years of networking might have allowed the company to develop a close working relationship, but pre-planning and attention to detail has also played a large part in Fourth Generation’s success. Tweed’s 20 years of experience in the touring industry combined with Laura’s 20 years spent in the lighting, rigging and LED screen sectors has allowed them to build up a strong network of clients and industry friends.
Tweed continued: “We deliver the service we would expect to receive ourselves. In whatever walk of life it is, whether you go to a restaurant, a hotel or are dealing with a company, there is a certain standard at which we expect to have a service delivered to us and that’s the way we deliver it to our clients too.
“There’s a lot of word of mouth and our whole industry is about relationships. It takes time to nurture and develop those. It’s about being in it for the long haul over many years and sometimes you might make a contact that doesn’t come to fruition immediately, but they might come back round and you’ll have an opportunity to work with them.”
For Fourth Generation, every time they see the lights go up, the first chord being struck and the crowd roar on a show, they feel overjoyed to have been involved. Tweed concluded: “You just feel that surge of adrenaline and you get to see the end product of everything you worked really hard to put together. I don’t think you ever get over feeling immensely proud of being part of the process of putting on a great show. In my heart, my love is the music and every time we kick off one of the stadium tours, that’s a landmark for me.”
Photography: Hans-Peter van Velthoven,
Zoe Mutter and Fourth Generation