Brit Row Apprentice, Rebecca Nicol, Discusses Why Pursuing Live Sound Was Her Perfect Career Move

She Cites Dedication As A Key Component For All New Apprentices

After attending her first concert at just six years old, it was love at first song for Rebecca Nicol, one of Britannia Row’s Apprentices, who is now in her second year of training.

“My mum took me to my first gig and I absolutely loved it!” she beams. “I loved everything about it – the atmosphere, the audio, the fun of it all. After that, at first I thought I wanted to be a pop star, but we soon realised that I had no musical talent!”

It was taking a Music Technology course by the time she reached college that sealed her fate. “I fell in love with the live sound aspects of the course and have been pursuing it ever since. When I was studying at University in Manchester I was shadowing venues, and then after my degree, I did a tiny bit of freelance work.

“It was during this stint working on small pub gigs that a friend of mine sent me an application form for the Britannia Row Productions Apprenticeship course. I looked at the clientele Brit Row works with and I thought, right, if that’s the kind of show this company delivers, it must be the best one to work for!

“I applied, thinking I’d never get a place in a million years. When I got an email asking me to attend an interview, I couldn’t believe it. Then, when I was offered a placement, I was so shocked. The next thing I knew, I was moving to London!” she recalls.

“It took me a while to find my feet, but it felt like the right place for me. When I first started out, I was in the RF department, and I'd never done any RF before. I didn't know how any of it worked, so that was interesting. It was a quick learning curve, but I really enjoyed it.

“Coming into a company that works on the kind of gigs that Brit Row does, was a bit intimidating, even though everyone was so nice. Before I came here, I assumed that people would doubt me when prepping gigs. As a younger woman, I told myself to expect that, and looking back, I don’t know why. I thought it was going to be a real ‘boy's club’, and it’s not.

“There’s so many more women who have joined in the short time that I’ve been here and I’ve found everyone to be really welcoming. More diversity in the industry can only bring us strength,” she adds.

Representation matters. It matters at every turn in a young person’s career because it influences how we are able to see ourselves fitting into the world. Rebecca explains how by working with Brit Row, she has gained confidence in what she can achieve.

“I've been watching The BRIT Awards every year since I was a young teenager. So, when Brit Row let me shadow the RF team, it was amazing. Maybe for people who have worked in this industry for a long time, the novelty wears off, but for me, I couldn't believe it was something I was able to do. How lucky am I?

“It was all the more interesting because the RF Team, Sapna Patel, Adrian Roche and Jason Thomas, showed me so much. They’re great; whenever we had time, they were showing me how they were doing all of this important stuff for the show, and why they were doing it. I loved watching them work. Now, RF is actually the area that I’d like to specialise in.”

On the course, students will spend two years going through every department in the warehouse, a month in each, and then repeat the process to gain an in-depth understanding of each area.

The course takes apprentices through modules and experiments including the physics and properties of sound, the speed of sound, decibel applications, sound propagation, room acoustics, transistors and amplifiers, semiconductors and diodes, plus much more.

Rebecca continues: “You’ll all have different strengths and weaknesses, but you’ll work together to get your head around every aspect of the gig, from cables to the PA and all of the technical education in between. It really helps make the gigs that you're doing make total sense, as you've seen every element of it being built.

“Everyone here has so much knowledge, too. If there's something that I’m not clear on, I’ll ask one of the HODs or Marcel Van Limbeek, our tutor. In the whole time I’ve been here, I’ve never had someone unwilling to explain something, or show me something I’m asking about,” she adds. “Even if there's no time right that second, people do make time afterwards. When you’re interested in learning, they want to help you.”

While Rebecca describes the additional training on top of her full-time duties as “definitely intense”, she also says that when this is your passion, you make the time in order to succeed. Case in point; she has just scored top marks in her final exams.

“The last thing you want to do on the weekend is your homework, but if you can commit, this course is definitely worth it,” she enthuses.

The real world experience which balances out the study has only reinforced her love for live sound. Another highlight of her time with Brit Row so far was helping to build the RF for the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

“I grew up listening to the Foo Fighters and I actually got to do quite a lot for that gig, which was really special,” she recalls.

“It's gigs like that, a community that the whole world can share, that show you the real power of live events. They have the ability to bring people together, even in times of tragedy. What I’ve come to realise is that that would be impossible without new people coming into the industry and learning to keep the professional side going. Brit Row is really putting a lot into making that happen.”

What would Rebecca say to anyone thinking about this Apprenticeship as their next career move?

“I’d tell people that you really have to want this because it is hard work, but the opportunities you can get out of coming to a company like Brit Row are amazing. It would have taken years of shadowing and working my way up to have experienced what I have at this point. If you’re serious about it, apply as soon as you can!”

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