When fans see their favorite artist put on a truly amazing show, part of the magic is how the whole performance feels effortless and allows one to just be in the moment. But those of us in the live industry know that to pull off a tour or festival it takes dozens of people working diligently behind the scenes.
While honoring the executives who are having the biggest impact on the live industry, we wanted to shine a light on the greatness behind the greatness: folks helping the agents, managers and promoters do their thing. Pollstar spoke to assistants at WME, Levity Live and UTA along with coordinators at Wasserman Music and a tour director at Live Nation to learn more about their roles and what makes for a great leader.
ON BEING AN ASSISTANT IN THE LIVE BIZ:
Pollstar: How long have you worked as an assistant in your current job? Who are some of the clients you’ve worked with?
Matt Delaney, assistant for Kirk M. Sommer, WME: I’ve worked for Kirk for three years. It’s been an honor to work on some of the biggest touring artists in the world while also laying the foundational work for some future stars. Everything we do is with purpose and intention, so playing a role is very rewarding. Some of the artists I’ve had the privilege of working on include The Killers, Adele, Sam Smith, Miley Cyrus, Arctic Monkeys, Weezer, Morrissey, Lewis Capaldi, Hozier, Tegan and Sara, Amos Lee, Michael Kiwanuka, Pet Shop Boys, Holly Humberstone and Sam Fender.
Jack-Henry Kay, assistant for Judi Marmel, Levity Live: I’ve been working with Judi since the end of July 2021. While on Judi’s desk, I’ve mainly dealt with Bert Kreischer and Sebastian Maniscalco.
Hope Murray, assistant for David Zedeck, UTA: I have been working with David as his assistant for a little over a year now and have had the opportunity to work with many clients on his robust roster including Lil Nas X, Jonas Brothers, Anitta, Pitbull, Demi Lovato and Monsta X.
Kinsey Shomo, assistant for Judi Marmel, Levity Live: It’s been 14 glorious months! I started working with Judi just under a year into quarantine and when sadly most of the support staff was still under furlough. At that time, things were slowly coming back with productions restarting with heavy COVID restrictions including Sebastian Maniscalco’s “Well Done” and Bert Kreischer’s “The Machine” film as well as his “Hot Summer Nights Tour.” As well, we were gearing up for live entertainment to come back in a very big way, prepping tours for Whitney Cummings, Taylor Tomlinson, Darci Lynne and Dusty Slay.
What’s a typical day like for you? What does your role entail?
Delaney: Part of the fun is how different and diverse the days are. Tours can take many months to plan and execute. So many things happen between deciding to tour and shows playing, and there are many clients each with different timelines and goals. You can sort a club announce and onsale in the morning, while routing an arena or stadium tour that afternoon. All shows big and small are treated with the same care – the introductory club runs and festival looks are just as important as some of the biggest tours.
Shomo: Working as Judi’s assistant is so much more than rolling calls and scheduling meetings. I work directly with our clients on everything from press and marketing to advancing live show dates. I even join her on the road for important dates, such as Sebastian Maniscalco at Madison Square Garden and Bert Kreischer at The Opry, to see how they run. Judi treats me as a colleague and acts as a true mentor.
What are some of the biggest challenges of the job and are there any particular strengths that make for a great assistant?
Delaney: Kirk might be the last person I hear from at night and the first person I hear from in the morning. You definitely need to be in sync and it certainly takes time to learn and adapt to a new situation. The biggest challenge is making sure the many things you’re working on are always moving forward. A great assistant has to be a critical thinker and resourceful – knowing the answer or knowing where to find the answer respectfully and swiftly.
Kay: Any and all assistant roles require an ability to anticipate the needs of your supervisor. The job is to help your boss run their business in the most efficient way possible. Thankfully, Judi allows us to act more as team members and encourages us to come to the table with new ideas. Levity is big on creating a work/life balance, so with that in mind, it’s important to also ensure your boss has a moment to breathe, or is able to give time to other areas of their life (while also keeping the business running). Some of the biggest challenges of the job are knowing the priority of a task or situation that may arise in a timely manner at an unfortunate time. As far as strengths that make for a great assistant, I’d say time-management, attention to detail, and consideration.
Murray: The live music industry is known for being fast paced. It’s part of the reason I love it, but also what can make it difficult at times. One sign of a great assistant is someone who knows the difference between finding fault and accepting responsibility. I have found that reacting to mistakes by accepting responsibility brings control and trust to the situation. Perception is everything as an agent trainee. If I accept responsibility for more, I am responsible for more and that is the goal.
Shomo: You must anticipate the needs of your boss, which takes time and open communication. The biggest challenges come from misunderstandings, but at Levity, we are open and transparent with each other, which ultimately makes the team stronger. Communication, honesty, and respect make for the best assistants.
What makes for a successful working relationship between an assistant and agent?
Delaney: Communication, respect, and clear expectation.
Murray: Assistants are always striving to be more in sync with their bosses. We want to anticipate their needs and be on top of our responsibilities, but every agent has their own style and their own processes. It’s important to dedicate yourself to understanding the person you’re working for and not just the position you are in. A successful assistant is one that can anticipate needs in an atypical situation and react in a way that best serves their agent, clients and company.
Can you share one of your wins as an assistant – maybe a situation where you helped mitigate a challenge?
Delaney: The biggest win was the work that we were able to get done during the pandemic. It was a hard time for all, especially in the live industry. Tours were routed and rerouted (and rerouted). There were a million Zoom meetings. But we rallied together, got the work done and pressed on. I even have some hardware to show for it (a massive trophy sent out of the blue from Kirk).
Shomo: Last year, the management team went to a small show a few clients were on. Prior to show start, Judi was alerted that our client’s stalker was in the audience. Judi was in Alabama on set at the time, so I had to jump into action and work with the promoter and the venue to alert police, keep the audience unaware of the situation, and our client calm. The police came, we quietly escorted this person from their seat to the hallway where they were arrested, got our client home safely, and the show went on.
The following week, I worked closely with the LAPD, the DA’s office, and our client’s attorneys to obtain and serve a restraining order to the stalker, who was in jail. This person is still in custody to this day. The situation was intense and stressful, but I remained focused to ensure our clients safety. This was a big win because I knew how much this person was affecting our client’s well being and peace of mind. At Levity, we care about our clients like family, not just a bottom line.
With Pollstar’s Impact 50 list we’re honoring the executives who will most impact the touring industry in the coming year. Would love your take on what makes for a great leader.
Delaney: I think broadly speaking, great leaders make everyone around them better. Each leader has their own style, but the result is people across a company and department being equipped, empowered and motivated to collaborate and do the best job they can for the client.
[Having Kirk Sommer as a boss] is enlightening. Every single aspect is considered. He asks questions that you didn’t think about asking and he listens. He does whatever needs to be done, and proves there is no job too big or too small for a leader.
Kay: There is a plethora of qualities that, all combined, make a great leader. To start, it’s important to set an example for your colleagues, while also showing an appreciation for their work. A leader should be confident in their decisions, while also providing teachable reasoning. They should not only have incredible foresight, but also take the time to reflect with their colleagues on past actions. Overall, a great leader empowers their colleagues when the time is right.
Judi is an incredible boss all around. Not only is her work ethic admirable, but also she acts as a very wise mentor. Never once have I taken the ability to learn from someone with such a long career for granted. She is kind, compassionate, and understanding while also empowering us to grow/play a larger role on each client’s team. All of these characteristics aid her ability to succeed and to lead our group. Judi takes the time to listen, which serves as beneficial for not only the clients, but also her whole team internally.
Murray: A great leader is someone who is constantly learning, evolving and champions diversity and individuality. David is one of those leaders. He values our differences, works collaboratively, and really knows how to rally our team.
Shomo: A great leader is someone that never loses the vision, despite the obstacles put in front of you. Judi is always 10 steps ahead and always thinking of the future and the big picture for not just the clients but Levity as a company. She is one of the strongest women I know. Her work ethic and dedication to her clients make her the successful manager she is. Judi is well respected in the industry because she is a self-made, hard-working manager that thinks outside the box.
What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the live business?
Delaney: The people. At the agency, you start with a group of approximately 100 people around your age, from across five offices, who are all driven, hardworking and come together as a family. Within the live industry as a whole, it’s a unique opportunity to show up every day and have something in common with every single person you work with – a shared passion for music.
Kay: My favorite aspect of being a part of the live business is the ability to attend live shows in the evenings. Not only is it a great way to network with other members of the client’s team, but also an eye-opening experience to see how certain moving parts are executed in real time. For example, the timeline of soundcheck, production, breakdown, etc. for a live arena show, can only be fully understood when you’re there in action opposed to sitting at a computer, working from afar. Even though a minutia of the show may not be in your bucket of responsibility, the ability to witness and understand ancillary tasks/needs can improve your perspective when considering how to best serve the talent on show day.
Murray: My favorite part about working in the music industry is seeing an artist’s dream come true. I love working close to that kind of magic. There are so many insanely talented musicians out there who deserve a chance at making it. My goal is to become someone who can help make those dreams happen.
Shomo: Standing in Madison Square Garden watching your favorite client perform in front of thousands of people with your peers next to you is one of the most powerful and electric feelings you can have working in live entertainment, and I cannot wait to experience more!
ON BEING A TOUR DIRECTOR:
How long have you worked with Tara Traub? Who are some of the clients you’ve worked with?
Liz Kim, tour director, Live Nation: I’ve been lucky enough to work with Tara for a little over 6 years – some of our clients have included Harry Styles, Michelle Obama, 5 Seconds of Summer, Hootie and the Blowfish, Meghan Trainor and the Clintons. Always something exciting!
What’s a typical day like for you? What does your role entail as far as working with Tara?
I would say that there really is no such thing as a typical day for us. Touring is a dynamic business, and Tara encourages our team to be just as dynamic and adaptable as our clients are.
My role is to support Tara and execute whatever is needed to ensure our clients’ touring experience is successful. I primarily live on the business side of things, but Tara has created such a collaborative team environment that we all have our hands in a little bit of everything. We work hand in hand with our marketing director, Alexa Torres, and our ticketing director, Valerie Tovar – and as a team we will always find a way to get “it” done, whatever “it” may be.
What are some of the biggest challenges of the job and are there any particular strengths that make for a great tour director?
One of the biggest hurdles I face is that I’m too wordy! It’s so important to me to make sure everyone has “all the info” and my emails become essays. Everyone in this industry is moving fast, and it can be easy to forget that it doesn’t matter what you’re communicating if it’s buried in unnecessary fluff.
Every tour director has different strengths and weaknesses, and as we return to working in the office, it’s great to see how those play out – there’s always something to learn from our peers. That said, you absolutely need to be organized and know how to communicate with different kinds of people to be successful in this role. These are both skill sets that can be sharpened with experience and are things I personally continue to work on.
With Pollstar’s Impact 50 list we’re honoring the executives who will most impact the touring industry in the coming year. Would love your take on what makes for a great leader. More specifically, what has made Tara such a success in the live business?
A great leader inspires confidence, both internally with her team and externally with clients – we pull off a lot of crazy accomplishments in this industry and without belief and trust in each other, everything is a lot harder.
Tara’s success in the live entertainment business can be attributed to the personal touches she puts on each tour – she’s a true promoter in that her intentions are driven by not only her “business” mindset, but also from her heart. She cares about our clients’ experience on and off the road, and will always act in their best interest – our clients are telling a story through their live shows, and we’re here to help them do that.
What’s your favorite thing about being part of the live business?
Concerts! I didn’t realize how much I missed them over the last few years until I went to my first concert last fall. I am always chasing the feeling I get the moment the lights go down and the crowd goes wild. There’s not much better than that.
ON BEING A COORDINATOR:
How long have you been a coordinator? Who are some of the clients you’ve worked with?
Kathryn Callahan, coordinator for Sara Bollwinkel, Wasserman Music: I’ve worked at agencies for about three years now, started with Sara a year ago, and was moved up to coordinator in February. I’m lucky enough to work with all of Sara’s wonderful clients including Billie Eilish, FINNEAS, Joji, Dora Jar, Maude Latour, Eloise, etc.
Alex Christie, senior coordinator for Corrie Martin, Wasserman Music: I’ve worked with Corrie for 11 months, June 15 will be the one-year mark with her and Wasserman. I’ve worked alongside her on acts such as Imagine Dragons, Rise Against, Dirty Heads, NOFX, Descendents, K.Flay, and VINCINT to name a few.
Eli Gelernter, senior coordinator for Marty Diamond, Wasserman Music: I interned for Marty when I was 19 in 2015, and landed a job with Andy Adelewitz in Communications after school and shortly moved over to Marty’s desk. It has been five-plus years at this point working with Marty! Some of the clients that I work on are MARINA, Years & Years, Wet Leg, RAYE, Slayyyter, and Pussy Riot.
What inspired you to work in the live music industry?
Callahan: I am a sucker for the emotional rollercoaster that is a live show. There’s nothing better than hearing that song or album that’s gotten you through the good and bad times live. I know I still hear stories and tales of shows that happened decades ago. Being able to bring those impactful life experiences to people all over the world is pretty neat.
Christie: I knew I wanted to work in this world since a very young age. I have always been in awe of how a concert can bring so much connectivity between so many different individuals. Being able to facilitate that is fulfilling for me.
Gelernter: My first concert was Stevie Wonder with my mom at 7 years old, belting “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” with an arena full of people. To this day, when I think of this show, I immediately re-feel those moments of joy and excitement. I want to provide the opportunity for artists to connect with an audience the same way and help create these precious memories for their fans, ones they will never forget and cherish forever.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Callahan: Oh man, a typical day! I’d say it’s hardly typical, but that’s why I like the job. It’s the definition of putting out fires, while learning how to build the bucket. This job takes a ton of communication whether it’s with promoters, managers, or your own team. On the daily, you’re servicing different parts of a tour whether it’s working on setting up an announce, putting together a routing, settling out a tour and, my favorite part, going to the shows. It’s a lot of seeing what needs to be done and who I can help where.
Christie: I still love the art of a phone call, so mostly on the phone – whether it be with managers, promoters, other agents – I find it’s the quickest way to get tasks completed and strengthen relationships with my peers in this industry. My role is to be the co-pilot, the right-hand woman (if you will), help steer the ship and making sure the work is running smoothly.
Gelernter: Marty and I book a lot of artists together, so we work tirelessly every day focusing on servicing our clients and helping them achieve their goals for their touring careers. Every artist and their goals are different, as is every day working at a booking agency.
As an agent’s coordinator, do you have to be in sync with that person and anticipate their needs? What are some of the biggest challenges and are there any particular strengths that make for a great coordinator?
Callahan: My biggest challenge with the job is boundaries between my personal life and work. It’s really easy to get swept up into the work and not take time for yourself. I am constantly reminding myself that to be good at my job I don’t have to work 24/7. There will always be more work to do whether I do it that moment or later. I think a strength in a coordinator is being personable and kind. After the past two years, everyone can be more patient and understanding to each other. You’re in constant communication with so many people in a day … everyone has a better time when there is some sense of compassion. I want to work with people I like, and to do that, you have to take the time to get to know them.
Christie: Absolutely. Being in sync and attuned to who you work with day in and day out is very necessary. Some challenges could arise when you need to make time sensitive decisions, but having that telepathy of knowing what your boss would do in that moment and then executing that task is a strength that makes for accelerating in this position.
Gelernter: The entire job is about anticipation. Whether it is your boss’s or a client’s needs, the best employees are those who can act without needing constant direction. You do have to have a boss who helps build that confidence and knowledge to act autonomously, which I am thankful for.
What makes for a successful working relationship between a coordinator and agent?
Callahan: Respect and understanding are huge for me. From day one, Sara has introduced
me as her colleague and teammate. It didn’t matter who she was talking to, I was never just her assistant or coordinator. That act alone made me feel included and respected from the jump. Since then, we worked hard
to create a dynamic where we can openly
express our stresses, questions, and goals, while feeling heard. At the end of the day,
we all have our ups and downs and being
able have that transparency and understanding has been so valuable. I know that Sara is consistently advocating for me and not everyone has that.
Christie: Communication, trust, and synchronization.
Gelernter: The most important to me is communication and empathy. We are just kids who got older and love music, which is sometimes forgotten in the intense live music industry. Every relationship takes work, whether it is personal or professional. There must be a give and take on both ends to build a solid foundation for a successful relationship.
Can you share one of your wins as a coordinator?
Callahan: The biggest wins for me as a coordinator are when we sign acts that I helped bring in. There are very few things that feel better than becoming part of an Artist’s team whose work you admire and believe in. As a team, Sara and I are huge on working with people we enjoy, all the way from the Artist to their team. It’s so gratifying to see artists go from their first support slots, to selling out headline shows, playing their first festivals, etc. When you have an emotional investment in your artists, the wins feel ever bigger.
Christie: While Corrie was handling a major tour announce, we were also dealing with shows canceling due changing COVID restrictions. I was able to quickly renegotiate the deals and re-route the tour so the bands did not experience any financial loss for the run.
Gelernter: Marty and I wanted to focus on Pride festivals for clients this year. With determination and collaboration, we were able to exceed our own expectations and we are building plans for 2023 and beyond to integrate Pride festivals into certain artists’ touring strategies.
With Pollstar’s Impact 50 list we’re honoring the executives who will most impact the touring industry in the coming year. Would love your take on what makes for a great leader.
Callahan: Being a great leader means building those around you and really taking the time to identify people’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s easy to focus on yourself as a leader and what you can do, but to be a great leader you’re able to guide people to the places they want to be. Helping other people not only set goals but achieve them is such an important process. Fostering a supportive working environment where people are looking out for each other speaks volumes to someone’s leadership capabilities.
Sara is constantly looking for ways to make things better for those around her. If she sees someone struggling or needing guidance, she’s the first one to raise her hand and ask how she can help. She will fight for her team to ensure their needs and goals are being met. Sara taught me to not meet people with anger and frustration, but instead with compassion, openness, and understanding. She is just as emotionally invested in her team as she is her clients. Her team succeeding is truly her succeeding. I know Sara has my back and best interest in mind when advocating for me, and I do hers. Seeing her grow as a leader in just the past year has been outstanding and a beautiful thing to be a part of.
Christie: A great leader has perfected the art of pushing their team to their greatest potential in executing and performing on a professional level, while also creating an ethos of support and space for their growth. Considering the agents who work here at Wasserman, as well as other industry professionals who came up under Corrie – I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to be a part of that lineage. [Working with Corrie] is absolutely amazing. I get to work every day with an intelligent, creative, thoughtful, powerhouse executive, who has paved the way for other females in a very male-dominated side of the industry. She is my role model.
Gelernter: A great leader is someone who treats every person, whether someone is a receptionist or an SVP, with equal respect. This industry is based on relationships and if yours are not strong and positive, it is a lot harder to sign clients, get dates with promoters, or get that baby act you are trying to break on a marquee festival. This job and industry can be a lot at times, and Marty does have a true gift of being able to make me laugh in the most intense of scenarios. When you are in the thick of it, you can forget to look up, exhale, and appreciate the work and concerts we are working with artists and their teams to create.
What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the live business?
Callahan: Like most people in live music, I go to a concerning amount of shows, but outside of that, I’ve been able to meet a slew of wonderful people that I truly adore all over the country. I get to feel part of something that’s bigger than me.
Christie: I have made a career out of my biggest passion and have had the opportunity to be taught by the best of the best!
Gelernter: The people. Whether it is the artists, promoters, or colleagues at Wasserman Music, we all share a common love of music and the putting on of amazing (sold-out) shows for our clients.