Have you ever wondered about all the details and levels of organization needed to make a production look effortless. It’s mind boggling really. Just think about all the things that happened at the last show you saw. Who’s responsible for all of that planning? Just how does it all get done night after night? Justin Lizama about what it takes to plan and execute an event or tour.
As part of the Music Industry Insider Collection, this funny and entertaining interview gives an insight into how your favorite concerts come life and how the global music business really works. By talking with everyone involved in the music industry and by understanding what they do, who they report to, how they started out, and what their jobs are really like, we get an entirely new sense of appreciation for all the work that goes on behind the scenes during music festivals, concerts, and record release dates. If you enjoy this particular interview — please feel free to poke around when you’re done and read more about all the different crazy jobs in the music business.
Hi Justin – thank you so much for taking with us today. From time to time, we ask experts in the field about how the music business works. As fans, we usually only see the end results — the CD’s or the concerts and we never really think about all of the work that goes on behind the scenes. So these interviews really help illuminate a whole new world for music lovers. You’re really in a unique position to tell us about what it takes to put on a live performance. So with that, can you please tell us a bit about your company, The Solidman Group?
TSG provides turn-key solutions in the audio/video world most specifically TV/Film, Event/Tour Management and Logistics (Freight & Human Transport).
Our current client roster includes: Steve Aoki, Lisa Hannigan w/ Joe Henry, Bag Raiders, CSS, Lyoness (a global consumer portal), Dr. Pepper/Complex Magazine (The One of a Kind Tour), and Warp Tour 2012 to name a few… We also ship Trike Motorcycles to Japan (via our motorsports division).
Interesting. You mention that you facilitate the planning and the logistics of the technical aspects of an event. But what does that exactly mean? What kind of logistics and technical stuff goes into planning an event?
We bring an idea to life… If you want to have an event or party, we want to make it successful! You conjure up the idea and if you are able to fill the event space, we get everything else there.. We take care of the band/artist, the gear, the food, security, set pieces, plus setup accommodations, flights, transportation… If there is something you want, we can find it for you. Need something to happen? There is a great chance we can get it for you.
How many people does it usually take to execute a single performance. Besides for the band, who needs to be hired and what are they all responsible for?
It’s a dynamic equation… Example 1: Steve Aoki. We went from 24 people on the Deadmeat 2012 Tour to just me, Steve and a videographer traveling the world for the rest of the year. Example 2: Lyoness Corporate North & South America Tour. We had a core of 7 matched with Lyoness’ regional execs… It’s all scalable but safety and productivity are always in the forefront when planning.
You really have to take needs and wants into consideration and most importantly budget to determine crew size. This is not a one size fits all business; we customize everyday. With that, we learn and grow everyday. This is what keeps me excited and interested in this field… It can take anywhere from just 1 person to hundreds of personnel to make an event happen.
And you can coordinate all of this? Don’t bands usually travel with the people and positions that they need? Or are there new people at every show?
We are always up for a challenge. Bands may or may not travel with their own crew. They may want regional crew, they may want new crew. We help by matching the proper skilled individual with the proper temperament with an artist or event.
Do you focus on tours or on one-off festivals?
We do both. Steve Aoki keeps me on my toes by mixing both frequently. I have 2 employees on solid tours and Keith, my partner, is shooting a TV show on Warped Tour starting this week.
Who hires you exactly? Is it a band? A manager? A venue? A promoter? How’s it work?
Our relationships are built with Artist, Event, and Business Managers; then solidified with the actual artist or event. I am proud to say we have kept every one of our clients by excelling at the technical, sociological and logistical aspects. It’s all about the little details and Jedi mind tricks. We pride ourselves at being steady and calm in all situations.
OK. So what about gear? I understand that you not only provide the people and expertise, but you also rent the stuff that’s necessary for a show? How does that work? Don’t bands own that stuff?
We do have our own gear. We also use some great vendors if there are items needed. You let us know what you require and we will price it out for you. Bands typically own their own stuff but hiring gear tends to apply to international/high level artists and events looking to consolidate backline needs.
Most bands don’t own a full PA or lighting system either. Not really cost effective…
So, this is really turn-key. You provide it all. But wait – what if a band doesn’t hire you? What do they do? Do they coordinate all of this themselves?
Most bands deal with everything themselves. Some have a gutsy manager to assist. It’s hard to say these days; there are options and resources readily available to everyone. We are always available to consult. Like the band Fun. Right before they started touring on their most recent album, I assisted them by implementing some gear and deciding how to approach hiring crew —like what to look for, what to expect, ways to manage expectations…
Why wouldn’t a band hire a turn-key service like this?
It all comes down to the realization of the need of taking a project to the next level, then the budget to execute. We can assist with both. I like to go visit the client and review all available options .
We believe in the future and growing with our clients. We always try to meet somewhere fair and build; there is always an option for a creative solution.
Conversely, some bands are content at doing it all themselves, some just come up that way. I’ve been there.
This is all fascinating. How did the company start? What’s your background?
TSG has been evolving since the early 2000′s. It started as an idea when I was at school in Boulder, Colorado — working at the Fox Theatre — then it evolved into a small studio in Chelsea, NYC. Then it grew as a support entity for a band that my partner and I started, culminating to what it is today.
Amazing. And you have some huge clients. Are your services different for each tour? Let’s take a specific example. What do you do for Christina Perri versus what you do for The Pretenders?
For Christina, I was initially approached to Tour Manage and do Front of House; timing was a little off and several months later I joined as her Monitor Engineer. For the Pretenders, I bounce back and forth between FOH and Monitors depending on who is available. I also Tour Manage and do FOH for Chrissie’s side projects. My club production management experience enables me to bounce around to different positions. I can’t do it all; I don’t do lighting (LD jobs are safe out there), but have been dabbling with video lately.
Wow! And with that, we wish you continued success and can’t wait to cross paths at one of your shows. Many thanks Justin.
Justin Lizama is a Managing Partner of The Solidman Group, his focus is in the Live aspect of TSG. With a humble beginning as a Stage Manager and Monitor Engineer at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado, Justin jetted his way to NYC interning at Philip Glass’s Looking Glass Studios— working as a musician, as a freelance engineer at The Blue Note in the West Village, and at the start-up Solidman Studios in Chelsea (the first incarnation of TSG). After some years of networking and development, Justin became Production Manager and Chief Audio Engineer of Highline Ballroom. Two and half years after the Highline opened, Justin joined up with Chrissie Hynde & The Pretenders as one of their Audio Engineers (and is still to this day.) From there, the hardcore touring and event managing blossomed into TSG.
This interview was originally published by Mike Dias for Ultimate Ears