Like the best organizations in today’s live industry, Musically Fed has pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic to address the specific needs of these unprecedented times. Maria Brunner, owner of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Insight Management, started the nonprofit in 2016 in honor of her late husband, who was a proud Vietnam veteran, to repurpose unused backstage catering from concerts and festivals to donate to community organizations that serve veterans. Musically Fed has recently expanded its efforts to donate meals to the families of production professionals who are out of work while mass gatherings are banned.
“Local entertainment and stage crews – an integral yet unseen group in our industry – have lost their ability to provide for themselves and their families and will be feeling the economic impact of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future,” Brunner says. “We’ve spent the past eight weeks partnering with Rhino Staging to provide meals, dry goods and produce for people who normally put on live event shows in Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, and Nashville. … And we’ll keep going as long as the need exists.”
Brunner has worked in the music business for more than three decades. While attending Montana State University she became the program board manager for MSU concerts and events and went on to become assistant director of student activities at Everett Community College. After working at Concerts West/MGT III, helping to run the marketing for album releases and tour promotions, she formed Insight Management 28 years ago with a focus on grassroots marketing.
During the pandemic, Insight Management clients have been sharing their family experiences in ways rarely seen by fans. Brunner says, “Working with managers and publicists, we’ve really enjoyed bringing these intimate, funny, and uniquely entertaining moments – like Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn’s ‘Banjo House Kids’ concerts – to the public.”
Reflecting on life prior to COVID-19, Brunner says, “There was too much emphasis on the economic bottom line and not enough concern for those serving on the front lines. My hope is that we’ll now not only be working to be productive and survive, but to create new ways of working together for the collective good of our industry. Each one of us has so much to offer.”
The show that changed your life?
How can you select just one concert? It can’t be done, and that’s the beauty of our industry! I remember the first Crossroads we produced for Clapton, and all the different artists that were onstage, including Buddy Guy, The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Honeyboy Edwards. The depth and breadth of the talent that was there was astounding.
Artist to watch breaking in the next year?
I would say LeRoy Bell is one. He’s been a mainstay in the Pacific Northwest and has a big record out with G.E. Smith, “America”. He’s an immense talent, and here’s hoping he gets his time to shine. Noted singer/songwriter Lori McKenna has a real hit with “The Balladeer.” I hope this breaks through for her as a good vocalist and performer.
Technology most impacting your daily work or personal life?
I’ve had triple, if not quadruple the number of emails I usually receive, and very few of them are spam. It’s almost crippling mentally to know that you’re going to wake up to 500-600+ emails every morning. To me, phone calls and conference calls actually are more relevant, save time, and are more productive. Tik Tok has caught our interest because content is quick and engaging.
Best/worst career-related advice you’ve received?
The worst advice I’ve received was from a very well-known promoter who told me it was totally acceptable to lie and to lie often. On the flip side, a renowned tour manager gave me the best advice, which is to always tell the truth. Telling – and knowing – the truth will always help to formulate objective decisions, a clear conscience, and a good heart.
The best live show you saw this year?
Again, hard to pick just one. I had the opportunity to watch Styx in concert and was reminded of how exquisitely talented they are. I totally enjoyed Lizzo, Brandi Carlile made me cry, and The War and Treaty are truly emerging artists to know.
Your favorite venue to see a show at and why?
Ste. Michelle in Washington is a classic outdoor venue, the scenery is beautiful, and it’s really well run. Any City Winery has great management/staff, great sound, good food and a terrific talent lineup in an intimate setting.
The role of live-streaming going forward?
I think it will always be present. If done properly, it can give developing artists a major shot and can further support major artists by allowing their fans to get to know who they truly are. It can also allow more interaction, which I think is the name of the game for the future. With that said, it’s the most overworked and overused mechanism right now.