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Entertaming The Lions




Entertaming The Lions

It is not just Hotels, restaurants and pubs gearing up for the invasion of the British & Irish Lions along with the whole Barmy Army. As the money filters down there are many others in line for a windfall.

Economists believe the tour will add as much as 0.2% to the nations GDP and if you take into account that the America’s Cup added 0.3% then you will understand what all the brouhaha is about.

Groove Merchants ( is a company associated with the tour that is already experiencing an economic boost and they expect to remain busy long after the furore of the four ring circus dies down.

Most people outside the entertainment industry will be unfamiliar with Groove Merchants but ask industry insiders and you will quickly learn that the company established by Danish born Kiwi entrepreneur, Jacob Simonsen, in 1987 has an impressive track record.

The current thrust of Groove Merchants is Production Management, a division which has proved to be increasingly popular as clients require events to be themed to gain better exposure. Groove Merchants are skilled at taking an event from concept to reality by combining creative thinking with intelligent lighting systems, sound, audio visual, staging and entertainment.

Recent clients have included: Vodafone Warriors, NZ Rugby Union, NZ Herald, Westfield’s, North Harbour Stadium, Woolworths, Cullen Sports and Erotica Expo.

Groove Merchants are set to take the Lions by the mane when they arrive in New Zealand and while the public probably won’t come into direct contact with Jacob, it is likely someone associated with his team will be making sure a special vibe accompanies each game.

Simonsen’s squad are responsible for ensuring that pre and post match entertainment in the Official Marquees runs proficiently. While this may not sound impressive to the untrained event organiser; when sound commences at the right level, videos are cued correctly, performers arrive and begin on time, lights flash when they should or buses leave for venues punctually then Groove Merchants work is done.

Take, for example, the Auckland Test Match: there will be eight giant marquees around the venue and another twelve situated at key locations around Auckland accommodating over fifteen thousand revellers.

Typical production within each marquee will include up to five large video screens a state of the art sound system, customised stages for entertainers and a plethora of themed lighting.

There is an entertainment program to be adhered to so that guests can enjoy the festivities, dine before games and then return for after match celebrations. Some of the remote venues are 10km’s from the rugby grounds so transport travel times also need to be factored into the equation.

Including the various other companies Groove Merchants has contracted to assist, Simonsen anticipates co-coordinating the movements of over one hundred staff each time the British & Irish Lions take to a rugby field in New Zealand.

It is no wonder Jacob has had the title ‘Marquis de Marquees’ bestowed upon him.

Jacob says this is the largest single event Groove Merchants have taken on but he is also adamant all will run smoothly. “In fact,” he states unperturbed, “If you notice Groove Merchants doing what we do best, we probably aren’t doing a good job. Of course we realise that this tour is only possible because of many companies like Groove Merchants co-operating to create the finished event.”

Simonsen says the secret behind Groove Merchants success is, “A determination to supply a service of the highest standard possible.” He also attributes support given by suppliers and competitors who have been happy to assist with providing equipment even when Groove Merchants has beaten them to a contract.

“This Kiwi attitude of helping each other so that a job is done properly probably wouldn’t happen anywhere else. People understand that the industry only suffers if we don’t all help when it’s needed.”

It is Simonsen’s predilection for quality in abundance that has seen Groove Merchants remain market leader when so many of their competitors are no more than pretenders to the tech management tiara.

Even so, he is aware that pretenders only make-believe so long and it is a matter of time before a real contender to his throne will emerge. Jacob is certain that providing an unswerving adherence to client satisfaction no matter what the challenge can only further cement the Groove Merchant royal jewels at the head of the event co-ordination crown.

Another important part of the business is Groove Merchants website ( which has been expanded.

“Our clients can still find out what we do and how to contact us,” explains Jacob, “But the new features will give the site a multi-media facet and allow the public to interact with us. In time we will be offering invitations to exclusive parties, bar & club launches and movie previews.

Links to the events Groove Merchants are associated with have been added and we’ve also contracted a social reporter, our own paparazzi, who will be at events recording all the juicy gossip. Groove TV is part of this project with online celebrity interviews, comments from the public and organisers of events.”

Simonsen is a smart operator and Groove Merchants has survived in the competitive production management industry by refusing to stand still or being dictated to by what others believe the parameters of the business should be.

You may not have heard of Groove Merchants before now but be assured, you will be hearing (and seeing) much more of Groove Merchants before the Lions put their tails between their legs and shuffle back to their part of the world.

Jacob, a gifted musician himself, is adept with a range of instruments and he says the only instrument he doesn’t play is the violin. His early days were spent writing and recording original material and winning local ‘Battle of the Bands’ contests.

During the late eighties he toured and played with Fan Club; one of New Zealand’s most successful pop acts. Jacob also created and toured troupes of dancers, singers, cultural groups and cabaret acts throughout Australasia.

He quickly progressed to producer and set up ‘Groove Studios’ in Ponsonby Auckland where the emphasis was on music for TV commercials and soundtracks for radio and television.

It wasn’t long before Jacob was producing and supporting international artists such as Boney M, Snap, Bobby Brown, SClub7, Vengaboys and Dionne Warwick. The local creativity also flowed with production work for Che Fu, Satellite Spies, Purest Form and Deep Obsession; the latter of which scored five top 10 hits and three #1’s under the direction of Simonsen.

Winning the top production accolade for the television series ‘Get Your Act Together’ was another feather in the Groove Merchants cap beating out competition from some of New Zealand’s most recognised producers and studios.

Groove Merchants also won a Gold Medal at the ‘New York Festivals’ for the New Zealand Police advertising campaign against domestic violence. These awards are renowned as the Cannes of the advertising world.

Bar and nightclub installations became a large part of the Groove Merchants business during the late nineties and ‘Groove Installs’ was conceptualised to look after this demand. Leighton, (DJ L8N), one of New Zealand’s foremost DJ’s and technical specialists, is Installation Manager and continues the high standard of venue installations Groove Merchants clients have come to expect.

Groove Installs have given life to: Chicane Bar, Soul Bar, Sponge Bar, Firkin Fox, Roadhouse Tavern, Honey Bar, Moth Bar, Lenin Bar, Bubble Bar and Minus 5 Ice Bar to name only a few.



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