Open Letter to the Concert Production Industry
first published in PLSN and Pollstar magazines
We are living in unprecedented times. As citizens of this country and as workers in the concert production industry, while we struggle to survive the turmoil and privation occasioned by the pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of our livelihood, we are also undergoing a moment of soul-searching and self-examination prompted by the realization that structural racism is so deeply ingrained in our culture that a police officer can slowly strangle a black man to death on a city street in the full light of day and expect there to be no consequence.
The killing of George Floyd and the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, coupled with the massive demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism, have caused a lot of us in concert production to pause and take stock of the state of diversity in our industry.
We’ve taken advantage of this pause to examine our baked-in assumptions and practices when it comes to hiring and staffing. We’ve come to realize that the subtle nature of systemic racism means that even though we may condemn racism in theory, in practice we are still subject to its influence.
Articles have been written and webinars conducted to discuss the issue of diversity. Artists and tour managers have vowed to be mindful of bias in hiring. Leading companies like Live Nation have announced initiatives to correct some of these imbalances. These are all positive developments. However, these are developments that exist in a vacuum. At the moment, no one is hiring anybody for anything, and the likelihood is that no one will be hiring anyone for anything for at least the rest of year.
So the question is, will all these vows and initiatives actually translate into real and lasting change? When the “all clear” is sounded, will the rush and excitement of getting back to work overrun and relegate all these pronouncements of good intentions and vows of change to the back burner? Will the dark days of 2020 be quickly forgotten and consigned to the trash heap where good intentions and hopeful resolutions go to die?
The answer should be “no.” However, it is human nature to want to forget and/or avoid the unpleasant and difficult. Right now, reality is overwhelming. The next few months will see continued damage to the economy, a hotly contested election season, the continuing effort to “flatten the curve,” the urgent quest for a vaccine and, hopefully, the discovery of one, followed by the herculean task of vaccinating the world. All of this will transpire before we get even a glimmer of when the business of concert production will resume.
It will be easy to backslide on our good intentions. Just like that New Year’s resolution to exercise more and drop a few pounds tends to evaporate in the sunshine of spring, so will it be easy to slip back into our comfort zone of doing business as we have in the past. As an industry (as well as a country), we have a chance to effect lasting change in the matter of racial equality, and we mustn’t let this chance suffer the erosion of time and forgetfulness. We can’t let the momentum generated over the last months slowly fade away.
We must keep our foot on the gas and keep this conversation going for as long as it takes to make real and lasting change a reality. As we work our way through the next difficult months, let’s pledge ourselves to keep pushing. —Bill Reeves and friends*
Bill Reeves, Co-Founder Roadies of Color United
David “5-1” Norman, Tour Director/ Tour Accountant/ Tour Forensics
Alan Floyd, Tour Manager – King B / Parkwood Entertainment
Dave Paiva, President – Tour Badgers Co.
Allen Cook, CEO – Tourtech
Henry Bordeaux, Tour Manager
Robert Roth, Senior Account Executive – Christie Lites
Dale Henry, President – Ozark Mountain Tourtrucks
Chris Gratton, Production Manager – Justin Bieber
Mark Clark, Tour Mgmt / Production Mgmt / Tour Accounting
Barry Claxton, Project Manager – Screenworks | NEP Live Events | US
Chris Kansy, Production Manager
Nicole Erin Massey, Production Manager
Malcolm Weldon, Production Manager
Lance “KC” Jackson, Co-Founder Roadies of Color United
Jim Digby, Co-Founder & President Event Safety Alliance
Ronnie Stephenson, President – Creative Production Partners
Tony Bulluck, Production Manager – Earth, Wind and Fire
Shannon Cook, COO – Tourtech
Pamela Harris, Tour Manager
Tina Farris, President – Tina Farris Tours
Denise Henry, Vice President – Ozark Mountain Tourtrucks
Steve Lopez, Tour Manager – Widespread Panic
Jim Runge, Tour Manager
Mary Jo Kaczka, Tour Accountant / Tour Manager
Jerome Crooks, Tour Manager
Dick Massey, Production Coordinator
Matt Doherty, The Unusual Company