Monday, May 3, 2010

The Music Business: What I Learned Working for AgapeFest

Disclaimer: Due to the sensitivity of the certain situations given, I'm going to keep names of non-Agape staff folks out of this blog.

Earlier this school year, I was asked by Micah Chapman to be the his assistant as the Director of Artist Relations for AgapeFest. From about October on, Agape quickly ruled my life. Whether it was calling band managers, collaborating with the production company and deciding what was needed, or planning a theme for the hospitality pavilion, I stayed quite busy for about 7 months.

Come April, it was go time. We got all of our bands lined up and we had our catering done. On the 10th, we had the Battle Of The Bands in the Blackroom, and I was the guy who spearheaded that. I spent that morning running around setting up the sound gear, getting the bands rolling, and keeping things on time. Things went very smoothly and it was one of the most successful Battle Of The Bands we have ever had.

Then came the festival.

Wednesday, we show up, set up the staging. Thursday, the entire staff shows up, we finish setting up stage and do audio work as well.

Friday comes, day 1 of the festival, and stress starts to take it's toll pretty quickly. We have to send two folks to the airport to pick up an artist. The two runners wait for approximately an hour and a half trying to find the artists, but have no luck. Despite our phone calls and text messages, we get no reply. So we send the runners back to campus and hope that word will eventually get to the artist so we can get them going. Finally, I get a text from one of the members saying their flight was delayed and that they had already gotten rental vehicles anyway, so our runners were useless. Despite all the worry, everything worked out great for all parties and things went on without a hitch.

Our next Friday near-crisis was the end of the day. We knew a huge storm was coming, and so we were trying to plan accordingly. We had talked to the headliner and told them that if they were interested, we could put them on Second Stage and they could play their set there. They told us that they would gladly do that if the storm hit. And sure enough, the storm hit. So we scrambled, moved their stuff there, set up the mics, and they helped us out with a huge smile on their faces and were just happy as could be to do this for us. So they played to 600-800 folks in a tin can. And it was incredible.

Saturday morning came quickly and harshly. We started the morning with two artists, and they weren't exactly easy to work with. They came in knowing what they wanted, and they treated us like we were little kids and that we did not have a knowledge of what was going on. We, especially Micah, was treated with absolutely no respect at all, and it was very frustrating to see. We even heard them talking over their radios about Micah. At one point they said:
Manager - "Have you seen Micah?"
Band Stage Hand - "No, which one is that?"
Manager - "The kid who keeps telling me no."
BSH - "Oh, no I haven't seen him."
Manager - "Figures. He's probably off somewhere crying."

Saturday for Micah and I was by far the most stress inducing day of the festival. There were more than a few times where we both felt like we were just going to vomit we were so stressed. It just seemed like every tiny thing was just building and building exponentially and there was nothing we could do to stop it. Once we got started, the first several bands went on and off with zero hitches thanks to the great work of Dallis Garber. It didn't get stressful again until the end of the night again. One of the managers, the one giving us the most trouble, was all over Micah trying to tell him how to run the stage and how to run the festival. When Micah continued to tell him no, the manager got pissed, and told him he was a useless kid who couldn't do his job. Micah took the high road, said he was done, and left. The manager said "Yeah, you better leave. And don't you ever come back!"

So here are just a few things that I have learned from this weekend:
1) If you are a music business major, it should be required to work for AgapeFest. If you want to have the business revealed to you, this is a great place to start.
2) AgapeFest staff is filled with wonderful folks. Whether they were on Main Stage, Artist Merch, Ministry, or Staff Services, everyone had a crucial job and this festival couldn't run smoothly if one job was missing.
3) As much as I love doing what I'm doing, I couldn't work with live production. I'm sincerely glad that there are people out there who love doing this kind of work, because this line of work is necessary. But I have quickly realized that this is not the part of the business that I want to work in.
4) I had the opportunity to work with lots and LOTS of wonderful bands. I feel like there are a lot of genuine folks that played in the bands that were at AgapeFest this weekend and that they sincerely do what they preach. It's people like this that make me glad to be involved in this festival.
5) Conversely, there are a few bands that I lost a LOT of respect for after this weekend. Their management was incredibly terrible to work with, and they made our lives a living hell.
6) I realize that to an extent, the bands don't have a whole lot of control over what their managers do. But whether they know it or not, every single aspect of their entourage represents every single member of their band.
7) I would not be where I was if it were not for Micah Chapman. He did a spectacular job of showing me the ropes and plugging me in as often as he could. I hope that two years down the road I can be the kind of leader that is willing to step back a little bit and show someone what this is all about and encourage them to be a great leader.

Do I still want to be in the music business? I think now more than ever. I know that I have a lot of ideas as to how I can improve it, and I know that I wouldn't be in that position if it weren't for AgapeFest.

If you are reading this and wondering whether or not you should get involved with AgapeFest: Give it a shot. I will admit, it's pretty time consuming. But it is such a great feeling of accomplishment to see all the hard work and all the time you put into it come together so beautifully and to realize, "Wow, I was a part of this." I realize that AgapeFest isn't for everyone, but if you have any interest in it at all, please come talk to me about it and I will try my best to sway you one way or the other.

4:37 pm

My Sweet Escape
Run Kid Run
Album - Love At The Core