As a concert production specialist for TSE Entertainment, I found myself somewhere close to Galveston, Texas this past winter conducting a site visit with a well-to-do client. The goal was to assess the possibility of doing live event production at a beach house with a top talent country artist or two. The initial idea was to have the artists perform on their outside second story deck for a surprise birthday party. It was not the typical type of concert production that I would normally manage but rather one of those rare once in a lifetime sort of events. Live event production is a service of TSE Entertainment and over its 47-year history, it has seen most live event kinds of venues. This one was unique for live productions.
Concert Production: Know the Venue
The house belonged to the Jones’ family–that’s a name I’ve chosen for this writing as to keep their identity private. The event was to be a milestone birthday party for the patriarch of the family. Since it was a surprise event it was all to be kept hush hush. The family had planned for no more than sixty guests to attend the party and view the concert.
The first major challenge of the concert production site visit was to inspect the outside deck space and see if a professional production like this could take place there. The client made it clear that finances and resources were no obstacle–they would do whatever it took to make to the show and party a success.
The specific artists themselves had yet to be confirmed at the time of the site visit. There were several well-known country artists that we were in discussions with for the private party concert. The talent booking side of it was being handled behind the scenes by one of TSE’s top booking agents. Regardless of what acts we ended up with, I instinctively knew that having a major artist or two, perform a house concert at a beach house would be a challenging concert production setup in and of itself.
Live Event Production with Major Artists Has Many Issues
I knew what a renowned country band requires for their live event production needs. There would most likely be a semi-truck or two full of band gear and multiple tour buses involved. If it could be done, we would find a way.
We took some measurements, pictures, and drone footage of the site. Like many of the beach homes in the area, this outside deck was over twenty feet above the ground on pilings. This one was beach front near the sand and sea of the Gulf of Mexico. This infrastructure of the beachside community had its challenges as well. Getting these large touring buses and trucks in and out of there would be another interesting task.
During the weeks following the site visit, the work continued behind the scenes until two major touring artists confirmed that they would do the show. The performance fee was higher than a normal concert due to the private event status of the booking. The Oak Ridge Boys and Gary Allan agreed to do the concert.
A few conference calls with the artists’ tour managers and production teams revealed the enormity of such a live event production. There would be four forty-five-foot tour buses coming in with one with an attached twenty-foot trailer. There would also be a fifty-three-foot semi-truck full of gear. Logistically, there was no way around this caravan of vehicles and equipment unless the artists would agree to a very scaled down acoustic performance.
After further discussions between all the parties, it was clear that everyone involved wanted full band performances. This resulted in the agreement to move the performance area off the deck and down to the ground below and bring in an outdoor mobile stage. It would be the safest and logistically wisest for live productions in this kind of setting.
Leading up to the private beachside house concert, many production obstacles popped up like changing the sound system the week before and securing the right amount of labor, lodging issues, catering challenges, security and parking logistics, additional machinery, on and on. You get the idea. It was basically like putting on a full-scale music festival production for a small group of people in their very nice backyard.
Partnering with the right companies to help execute those operations proved essential and everything flowed together flawlessly once the big day came. When all was said and done, there were more than double the amount of crew behind the scenes than the special guest attendees. The true success of this production is owed to the teamwork of all the individuals on site and their passions to see the event a success. My job of course, working in tandem with our talent booking agent who booked the event and who was advancing the show, was managing the connectivity, and timing of all the parts and pieces at the event itself. With the proper planning, a good budget, and great resources all the parts of the puzzle of a live event production really come together when it counts.
Sure, there were a handful of fires (not literal) that came up throughout the day, but because of the trust of the crew TSE hired, all were handled with the upmost professionalism. Yes, one of the tour buses got stuck in a field due to the soft sandy soil but was resolved quickly because of the responsiveness and flexibility all those involved in the concert production. All those little mishaps that took place get duly noted for the next time the Jones’ want to throw another backyard soiree.
A Full Weekend of TSE Festival Production Services
This event was one of several events TSE was producing that weekend, including two other country music festival productions. One was for an all-day, turn-key country music festival for Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas and the other was for the booking, advancing and production elements of an arena-based country music festival production with big name talent. It was to take place at the Oil Palace in Tyler, Texas the next day approximately 300 miles away.
The Kerrville event’s all-day nature and scope of work required a team of 9 people from TSE on site, including two stage managers. TSE handled everything involved with the concert production, including the cleaning of the site after the concert was finished. The headliner was Wade Bowen with other five other bands performing before him.
For the big Arena concert, our two-person team from the night before’ s private event was supplemented by another TSE logistics person to oversee any artists’ issues and local production needs for that event. I was to manage that live event production as well for TSE.
This event was a publicly promoted one-day indoor country music festival with four headlining artists. The booked artists included John Michael Montgomery, Casey Donahew, Aaron Watson, and Clay Walker.
This event involved a promoter who rented the venue and handled event issues not delegated to TSE Entertainment. TSE was responsible for the booking, advancing and local production aspects of this live event production. The preproduction for this event should have been a textbook classic concert production but things didn’t exactly pan out as smoothly–mostly due to the profit-driven nature of the event. You know trying to hold down expenses and such.
Managing this production after the private party meant a grueling four-hour overnight drive on little sleep to make the eight-a.m. load in call. The nature of this concert production had its’ own share of completely different challenges
Most of the issues concerning the promoted concert had to do with advance planning issues and support from the promoter himself–mostly in the areas of communication leading up to the event. It was the first time the promoter did this large of an event and the first time he used the Oil Palace as a venue. This would explain many of the issues experienced in producing the event.
Another of this event’s challenges took place on eve of the event, while we were busy with the private house concert. One of the top artists on the billing had to cancel his scheduled appearance due to sudden illness. TSE’s booking agent worked with the other artists involved to make up the performance times. It’s all part of having seen everything and learning to adapt to the circumstances. In the end it turned out to be not much of a problem and the audience was pleased.
The nearly 7,000-person capacity Oil Palace itself is an older venue and this contributed to some issues for an event of this magnitude. Because of budget concerns, TSE did not do a site visit prior to the event so that left the promoter dealing with any venue issues.
All these little day of show fires are to be expected and come with the territory of managing a live event production. But like the previous night’s private event, the saving grace behind the scenes was the professionalism of the production personnel, the artists, and crew. People always make the difference–and that is never to be lost when you’re managing a production of any size. You need to be able to adapt on the fly to issues as they arise.
In summary, there was a obvious difference in the execution of these live productions which revolved around the production budgets. For the private event, we worked with a client who was willing to spend what it took to do things the right way with the right people. In the publicly ticketed event, TSE worked with a client with budget constraints who needed to hold costs down, not knowing what his final ticket sales total would be. Budget was an ongoing concern, and this was reflected in the promoter’s preparation for the event.
In other words, the client who had the resources to spend had a flawless production while the client who was trying to pinch out a small profit margin had a more challenging day of show production. Regardless of the event size or approach, hiring the right production team from the beginning is the best decision any promoter or private client can make.
Although they were three very different events, the organizers of all three live entertainment events that weekend were happy they chose TSE Entertainment to produce their events.
You can see from the 5-star Google review from Schreiner University. Expect more 5-star reviews from the other events as well. You can also check out TSE’s Event Production and Management Services here.