Voices Of Live: Alan Seiffert, Executive Director Of Paisley Park

For You:
Courtesy Paisley Park
– For You:
The foyer to Prince’s Paisley Park, which officially opened on Sept. 11 1987 with a basketball court, a sound stage and recording studio.
This past October, the Prince Estate announced the hiring of Alan Seiffert as executive director of Paisley Park, Prince’s famed “creative sanctuary.” Here, the legendary artist lived, created, recorded, jammed and threw some of the greatest parties of all time. Considered hallowed ground and a Shangri-la, Paisley Park now includes a museum,  venue (once a basketball court), sound stage, recording studios, community programs and more. Pollstar caught up with Seiffert to find out about his plans for the space, his experiences in the industry and how Prince’s legacy can help heal in these difficult times (and perhaps even a Prince statue in the Minnesota State Capitol).

Pollstar: What’s your role at Paisley Park?
Alan Seiffert: I was brought on last October as executive director of Paisley Park, Prince’s creative sanctuary and part of the estate, to take it to the next level. I’m responsible for day-to-day operations, programming, live events, our museum and more. We’re focused on keeping Paisley Park authentic to Prince’s vision. 
How do you accomplish that? 
My focus on programming is to ramp up the number of live events. Prince would have artists come to Paisley Park and play who were people he respected and wanted to share their music and create with. Part of our event strategy is bringing that to life.
What’s the space like? 
It’s an amazing space; 65,000 square feet with a 12,500-square-foot sound stage. It’s one of the few real sound stages west of Chicago until you hit Denver. It’s where Prince filmed his movies and videos and had rehearsals, performances and others play. We’ve worked out deals for artists to rehearse here before they tour. There’s also an awesome recording space. The other focus is giving artists the opportunity to record where Prince made almost all of his albums. We have two fantastic spaces and we’ve started to, as he did, invite certain artists in. The most recent artist we made public was Beck. 
So many people name-check Prince as their biggest influence or favorite artist, he sparked joy while transcending culture, class, race, gender and buckets that sometimes divide us. 
In these difficult times, especially in Minneapolis, he would seem a source of unity.
Prince and the Twin Cities are one and the same. I know for a lot of us who live here and a lot of us who are people of color, it’s been a very, very challenging time. We’ve thought a lot about how we can best spread the message Prince would have if he were here. In the state capital, protesters toppled the Christopher Columbus statue and now there’s a petition to replace it with Prince. 

The Beautiful One:
The Beautiful One:
– The Beautiful One:
Prince performing at the Ritz during his ‘Dirty Mind’ tour in New York City on March 22, 1981.
That would be amazing.
Our approach is to use Prince’s words to share his music and moments. The Prince estate released a note we recently found about intolerance we posted and was very powerful. Prince was brilliant in his vision, lyrics and the music obviously, so you just want to let it speak for itself. The note will be on display here at Paisley and it’ll be something that we’ll talk about. We’re also rereleasing some of his concerts; there was a rally for peace and a concert in Baltimore. 
What’s it been like in there during this time?  
On the ground it’s been a really tough couple of weeks. We’re very mindful of it and care deeply about it and we’re looking at later in the summer doing a couple other things Prince would do involving amplifying young people’s voices and sharing some of his music and insights. Those things will be later in the summer. 
Is Paisely Park open now?  
We are still under direct orders to limit access. We’ve been closed since March. We absolutely would have done some outdoor and indoor events, we just aren’t in a position to do that now.
What was your experience like breaking into this business? 
During and after college I worked in the performing arts for theater and dance companies. I went to graduate school at NYU in Arts Management where I focused on nonprofit arts groups. I worked for the Nederlander organization and my experience was very, very positive. I was one of two people of color and very junior. It was always clear that in order for me to become a producer, I would to have to find a different path. So from the performing arts I went to law school in Michigan to be an entertainment lawyer. 
Did you feel you hit a racial ceiling in the theater and dance world?  
I did feel there weren’t a lot of opportunities for growth and my goal was to become a producer. Part of my impetus to go to graduate school and the advice from people I respected was, it’s really important when you walk into the room you are perceived as being as credible and as smart as possible. My experience quite often was that if you’re a person of color or a woman the expectations are higher. There’s a scrutiny of credentials, background and experience that might not there be for others. My mentor at the time said, “You’re at the right school. Michigan’s a top-five law school. You have a great background and when you walk into the room people will take you seriously.” 
Who is your mentor?
He passed away. His name was Forrest Collins. He was at HBO. Very, very well respected African American and really fantastic. 

Did your strategy of going to law school work out? 
It did, but school and education only matter for the first or maybe second job. After that, it’s about the experience, connections, the network, and building community. It put me in a different playing field that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I wasn’t able to afford the William Morris mailroom for two years. 
How different was working at Viacom, NBC Universal, Fox and the NBA from what you had been doing? 
It’s all entertainment. Some of the platforms were different. In terms of what I was doing for a cable network versus a sports league, the deals were much bigger in scope. 
When did you get back to live events? 
At BET, which was part of Viacom, I was assistant GM of events. We produced the BET Experience, which in past years was 300,000-
person, week-long event. We did three nights at Staples Center, evening concerts at the Novo Club and had free concerts in the LA Convention Center. I was managing all of that. 

Alan Seiffert
– Alan Seiffert
Did you work with a promoter? 
At Staples, BET was partnering with AEG so we co-produced the concerts and partnered on the booking and production.
Who were you working with? 
Rick Mueller was the point person. As well as Lee Zeidman who runs Staples. And we worked with Shawn Gee. We produced a big event in Vegas for the Soul Train Awards, we did two nights of concerts. When they made changes to that group, it felt like the right time to leave. With Midnight Blue Management, that was a chance for me to focus exclusively on live. I produced an event called Black Girls Rock, a concert series in D.C. Then I was approached from an old contact who asked, “Would you be interested in working with Paisely Park?” I’m like, “Yes, of course!” 
What did you see in terms of diversity on your way up? 
I worked with a lot of big companies and, without exception, every one of these companies talked the talk and tried to walk the walk. With the exception of BET, I was usually one of the only ones of color at a senior level. It places a burden and expectations on you as a senior executive, but that’s fine. This is ongoing. There are real efforts behind the camera and in the C-suites, but the results are the results. 
Did you ever have the experience of going backstage and security says, “Oh, who are you?” 
[Laughter] I’m laughing because yes, constantly. I’ve been to events, including my own, where I have an all-access pass and the credentials and I’m stopped because, “I’m sorry. You don’t belong here sir, I’m sorry.” And then a white person has to come and explain who I am. 
So how the hell do we get out of this miasma of crap, what are the prescriptive measures? 
My approach is that when we’re looking at bringing people on, it’s mandated there be a diverse slate. I know it would be important for Prince to have a broad spectrum of types of people. We want to have a management-apprentice program where we get young people of color and give them exposure to what we do here in the music business and encourage others in town to do similar things. It’s about getting the next generation and making sure we’re seeing everyone who has the ability to be successful. 
Prince’s bands were diverse and he’d give younger musicians platforms, he personified diversity and mentorship in a music sense.
He very much fought for creative people to have the ability to create, to tell stories. The big takeaway about his career is the brilliance of his music. But then when you add a layer onto that of his forward-thinkingness on artistry, ownership of artistry, fashion, gender lines, goals of diversity, that’s a lesson for all of us. 
Prince’s battle with Warner Bros. Records had broader implications about institutionalized racism in the music business.
Absolutely. It’s interesting to look back at some of the messages he had. Some people don’t know what it meant to push back that way, to fight so hard in a public way for the ownership of his art. That had a profound impact. It was a real turning point. My hope is that artists will be given even more freedom than Prince had. He paved the way for more artists’ rights and broke the paradigm.

With your legal background, what advice do you have for artists approaching the business? 
My first advice is don’t sign anything without reading it and call a lawyer. But the second thing is, stay true to the work. A lot of artists, not just African American artists, are forced into these marketing-driven genres and a certain “Oh, you must be just like blank.” My advice is stay true to you as an artist. 
Prince personified that, too.
Absolutely. He wanted people to create and be true to their art. You can be inspired by Prince, he can move you, but you’ve got to do your own thing. That’s what makes Paisley Park so different and so unique, we’re in a position where we can find those artists. Lizzo had a great quote. She said when she came to Paisley Park she was a musician and when she left Paisley Park, she was an artist. That’s what we do here.