Robin Shaw, Upstaging, Inc.

Robin Shaw
– Robin Shaw

In Her Own Words: My Tentpole Police Moment

Robin Shaw
Upstaging, Inc.  

When our company first started, we were based in Chicago and we were doing Midwest bands such as Bob Seger, Styx, KISS. Because I wasn’t directly involved with any of those clients a tentpole moment for me was when a friend from A&M Records gave me a cassette of a band called The Police and he told me, “You need to call Miles Copeland. Here’s his number in New York; talk to him about doing their tour.” I wasn’t able to get Miles on the phone, but I was able to get his assistant, a woman and still a good friend by the name of Kathy Gallagher. And she said, “Can you meet me tomorrow in New York and let’s talk about it.”

I was very young and this was very early in my career and I wasn’t used to just getting on a plane and going, but I got on a plane and went to the office. I sat down and spoke with Kathy and she said, “If you can call up all the promoters and let them know you’re our lighting company, you can do the tour.” And so I did. And that was the beginning of our relationship with The Police. And even now, to this day, we still work with Sting. 

So that’s a big moment because it opened the doors for me to feel confident about calling up lots of other bands about doing their lights and their trucking. We also did the trucking for The Police. And of course, they started out in theaters and moved to very large venues quickly. 

From that tour, when they were in major cities, like when the band played Los Angeles, I would go out to Los Angeles. And then because I was part of their entourage, I was able to meet managers, agents and some promoters. So, they got to know me, which led to me being able to get new bands to work with our company. 

I think the biggest challenge in my career was being a female in a very male-dominated business. I was young and there were not many women in the industry. Most of the men that I met were so professional and helped me wherever they could. For the most part, the men that I worked with remain very close friends to this day – and the few of them that were difficult to work with I just had to learn how to teach them to work with me.

The other challenges were that everything was very new, and everything was changing. You had to constantly learn in the moment. At that point, there really wasn’t much of a touring industry. So, we all learned as we went along and we all helped each other. There really weren’t a lot of people going before you telling you what the rules were – you kind of had to make them up. And if you made a mistake, basically fess up and move on from there. You had to learn from the mistakes that you made and there were phenomenal opportunities to be there.

I think the thing I loved the most about what I was doing in the early days and even now is the camaraderie and the relationships that you build. 

Nothing is like being in the music business and the touring business.

Hot Takes

The business philosophy you live by? 

Communication, communication, communication. I’m a person who likes to talk. So I think the biggest thing that I learned over the years was to listen. If you listen very clearly and you listen wholeheartedly to somebody, you will find out exactly what they need because they will tell you.

Communication is the best way to learn something new. I tend to be nervous and try to talk over what’s being discussed. And so I’ve had to learn just to calm down, relax and listen to what people are saying.    

Which music artist or band has most helped you get through this year? 

Beethoven. I’ve been playing classical music at full blast. My mind gets distracted when an artist plays. Like if I listened to Ariana Grande my mind goes to the visualization of her last tour. And all of a sudden, my mind gets distracted on that. Any song that comes on that I play, if it’s an artist that we’ve worked with, same thing, I visualize their tour.

It was also difficult on an emotional level, because with the pandemic there were so many people that were going to be going out in 2020 that canceled. And it was so devastating to our entire industry that listening to the artists just kept on bringing me back to what their tour would be like. Every once in a while, I would just go, “Wow, I can’t believe this is real.” 

And the other thing that got me through was just doing tons of meditation.  

The artist you would most like to see live when touring and festivals return?    

All the artists. Who would I pick? Would I pick Coldplay, would I pick Billy Eilish? Would I pick The Rolling Stones? They’re all fabulous. I can’t wait to do the first show. I cannot wait to be at my first rehearsal.  

When it’s safe to do so, will you go back to the office, work remotely or   a combination of both? Why?

A combination of both. I’m hoping to go back to the office. I like working at an office. I don’t mind if somebody wants to work remotely every once in a while. But when you’re doing conference and Zoom calls, everybody’s a little bit distracted because they’re doing other things, even though they’re trying to listen to the Zoom call. 

We’re in a creative business. When you’re hearing other people speak in their offices or you just walk into the office and you start speaking with them, I think there is much more spontaneity and much more creative flow that happen. Somebody might come into your office and say, “Hey, Robin, this just went on” and you can talk about it. Or, “Hey, Robin, do you know anybody from this artist?” Or “Hey, guess what happened today?” like the spontaneity of working with other people. I just think that I’m a better person when I have somebody else there to throw ideas off of.  

Artist to watch break in the next year?

Well, last time [during my Impact 50 interview] I mentioned Em Beihold, who I still love, I love all of her material. And I know that through my daughter, she’s always playing interesting things for me. I think you have to answer that question after we’re done with 2021. It’s been such an interesting challenge to get through this year that I haven’t really been thinking about new artists. I’ve been more focused on the artists that we have and also just getting through our pivot and being prepared so that once everything returns, we’re absolutely ready to go.  

 How do you think livestreaming will or won’t be integrated into your business going forward?  

Well, I’m in live production and I love live production. I like a live show. I’d like to be somewhere where somebody is sitting next to me and I get their excitement along with my excitement. I think that energy feeds on people. So I’m more of a live show person than a livestream. And we’ve done many livestreams during the pandemic. And they’re great, but I still think that being with a live audience, watching a live show is the best thing you could ever do.  

Zoom, Clubhouse or TikTok? Why?  

Clubhouse and that’s because of the variety. At any time, I could just go on and find something interesting to listen to or something interesting that I can discuss with other people. The other day,  I just happened to find somebody I needed to speak to and rather than give them a call, we just discussed it on Clubhouse. And even when I’m relaxing, I’ll do the Lullaby at night and just listen to it. And sometimes when I’m working, I will just leave a live chat going on. Sometimes I pick on things and go, “Oooh, that’s really good.” I just think it’s a brilliant platform.