‘For each time you made money promoting a concert, nine times you lost it,’ he remembers. ‘It was a gamble, but I didn’t want to leave the industry because it was thriving, and I saw that some people were making money – the artists and the production guys. So I decided to venture into production.’
Francis cautiously invested in a small PA system and began handling production for concerts staged by his own promotion company. Business picked up fast, and before long he was drawing up a wish list for a bigger PA system. With his background in event management it wasn’t difficult to evaluate the brands on offer, and top of the list was Nexo.
‘I’d worked with just about every brand in the world,’ he explains. ‘When it was time for us to move to the big league I wanted to buy a PA system which should not only be outstanding in terms of performance, but also the most acceptable in terms of technical riders. On top of that, I didn’t want to buy the same brand that others had, I wanted to stand out in the crowd. This was 2009, and no one else in India had Nexo.’
An initial order of 24 Nexo Geo D cabinets,12 CD18 cardioid dipolar sub bass units and a quantity of PS15 speakers arrived in Bangalore in time for Mr Big’s reunion tour of India. ‘This was an artist we were promoting, so it was our concert and our own PA, and it blew my mind,’ he says. ‘I had certain expectations but the Geo system exceeded them.’
The system soon went on to be used in venues all over India as well as in neighbouring countries, including a large festival in Sri Lanka plus concerts for Bryan Adams in Nepal and Swedish metal band Arch Enemy in the Maldives. Three years down the line, both Total Productions and the subcontinent’s live sound market have been transformed by Francis’ Nexo purchase.
‘Until then, nobody took us very seriously,’ he says. ‘The minute Nexo arrived, people started to take notice of us. Nexo wasn’t really heard of in India, where the masses tend to go with whatever’s here already. Now our Nexo system has created a scene, and a lot of the Bollywood stars and Indian artists are putting Nexo on their riders, while international acts know they can hire it here. I feel it’s down to the effort we made to choose the right system, and of course the fact that Nexo is such a great product. Life has changed ever since we bought the system. It’s brought us lots more work. We don’t have to do too much to it to make it sound good, just plug and play and it’s ready to shake up the place. It’s clean, it’s got the power, what more do you want!’
The versatility that Total Productions’ Nexo system provides has certainly allowed the company to move to the next level. The system can be used in its entirety for large concerts or split into smaller systems. ‘It’s the perfect combination, and offers so much flexibility,’ says Francis. ‘Being completely scaleable it provides a great-sounding system, no matter what size the venue. You simply add more boxes and it will sound consistently good; the concept is amazing.’
India is developing fast, and Francis is in the vanguard of the changes sweeping the country. One noticeable advance in live sound is that hire companies are updating their inventories more quickly. ‘The leading companies are catching up with the rest of the world, investing in everything an international PA hire company would be expected to provide,’ says Francis. ‘We’ve seen a real increase in western acts that are coming to India; there are at least 20 in next few months. We are handling a good proportion of them, including some big metal and hip-hop acts. Here in Bangalore we get a lot of bands coming because it’s more cosmopolitan than the rest of India. There are lots of ex pats and middle class Indians who have come here to work in the software and IT industries, so it’s definitely a hip crowd.’
In just three years, Francis has established Total Productions as the main Nexo supplier on the subcontinent. The company is now so busy he’s supplementing the inventory by subhiring available systems from other Nexo users across the country during peak seasons. ‘I’m currently dry hiring Nexo Geo systems from two other companies; I have leased everything they have for two months,’ says Francis. ‘This allows me to do three concerts per night.’
Francis is very modest about his role in establishing Nexo in India, saying, ‘It has been good for the brand here, though I’m not taking all the credit! I just bought it and used it properly, that’s the only thing I’ve done. But the fact is, the product is amazing.’
With three Nexo systems in full time use, Francis is looking forward to his next delivery, and is standing by to become one of the first STM users in the world. With the inventory this will give him, Francis should be in a good position to keep the crowd entertained throughout India and beyond.