Backstage with Crew Nation: Live Nation Urban

As we settle into month 8 of quarantine, we’re missing a lot of things: Our friends and family, live shows, social interaction…but we’re grateful for the important conversations that are happening surrounding Black Lives Matter and the changes we want to see in a post-COVID landscape.
In this episode of Backstage with Crew Nation, Live Nation Urban President Shawn Gee leads a roundtable discussion with some top touring industry pros. They're all founders and CEOs of their own production companies and they have resumes that are MILES long.
From Jay-Z to Prince to Eminem to Mary J Blige (seriously, it’s a lengthy list) they’ve worked with the biggest and the best. Join Curtis Battles, Tina Farris, Victor Reed Sr. and Michael “Huggy” Carter as they discuss diversity (and lack thereof) in the concert industry, their roles as well as artist involvement, solutions being put into action and what they hope for in a post-COVID world. Take a look:
Backstage with Crew Nation: Live Nation Urban
Shawn Gee: Why aren't there more black people in production?
Victor Reed Sr.: All the jobs that I've ever gotten the opportunities, were based on a direct relationship that I have either with the artists or management. And most of those artists who've given me opportunities have been black. Being that we have been able to navigate in this business on a level that we have, it hadn't stopped us from working or making a successful career and a positive brand for ourselves. But to answer your question, why we don't see us on some of those other tours, is because the team that's behind there, are not looking for us to fill those voids and those positions.
Tina Farris:
I believe some of it is just people don't even see you. You know what I mean? I can't even say people are just racist, which that happens too. But a lot of racism is just, "I don't even see you. I don't have no black friends. I don't know why there's no black people, 'cause I don't know no black people."

Shawn Gee: What responsibility do you feel the artist has, when they walk into an arena or a room or rehearsal to look around and say, "Wait a minute, time out."
Curtis Battles: Early nineties, I started working with MC Hammer. He told the production manager, he says, "If I'm paying people, I wanna see color faces in every department.” And that's where my eyes really started opening up on more diversity in this industry.
Michael “Huggy” Carter: Now you have a lot of artists that are very active in what happens around them. They pay attention. Most artists don't pay attention. All they know is when they walk in, that it works. They don't know who put it together. And I think that most black artists should look at who's on their team.
Tina Farris: I think it's not only up to the artists, but it's also up to if we're in this space, educating the artist on, "Hey, you know, black people do this too."
Shawn Gee: Educating the artist is going to be important to sort of pushing through this, and making sure that those decisions are made.
Vic Reed: Now I think right now we're in a different climate, you know, just based on what has transpired this year with Black Lives Matters and everything. So maybe we have a new day hopefully, and things will change.
Shawn Gee: One of the initiatives that my team at Live Nation Urban, we're working on Bill Reeves and Roadies of Color, they have an amazing database of production individuals that folks can hire, right. Then there's Jerome Crooks, he has a database and Noelle Scaggs. And so what we're going to do is build this, you know, for lack of a better term "Black Tour Directory,” where we're combining all of these individual databases of black tour managers, production managers, stage techs, lighting designers, you know, makeup artist, all of these individuals that are black, that are in this game and that are great on what they do. Once that resource is created, I can only speak for the company that I'm partnered with, I'm gonna hold them accountable. You know, 'cause now you can no longer say, "I don't know any.” I can speak for what I can do personally. But I think if we all do that, if we take some of these coalitions that are being formed, you know, these labels, these artists, these agencies, and say, look, "Here's the resource, here's thousands.” You know, now you have to choose, you know, you have to, there's no choice. 
Shawn Gee: So how important is it for you know, us as a collective for you as individuals to sort of groom the next generation of production folks?
Tina Farris: I think it's knowing that the job exists. I didn't know that that was something I wanted to do. I get tons of black women who call me and I've tried to put them into this stream. And you gotta use people for what they're good at. And that's been kind of my motto. I'll grab people with no experience, size them up, you know, have a clinical psych degree. I'm like, "Ah, you would probably work here."
Curtis Battles: Most of our young kids in school right now, they don't know anything about behind the scene. If they can make a really good living and live comfortable, and travel and see the world, all they know is the rapper and the singer with the microphone, you know. And that's the sad thing about it. And once one of them or two of them get exposed, they take a liking right away.
Shawn Gee: I think ultimately we have to plant these seeds, because it's these seeds that's gonna change it from a generational perspective. But we know the problem, it's time for solutions. 
Shawn Gee: So I'm gonna take a turn now, and just talk about the current times, Covid. Live Nation formed, Crew Nation, which was created just to try to lend a helping hand to crews, you know, that were impacted by touring. We've all been impacted.
Huggy: The virus has changed our priorities of everybody in life. You know, from what we normally did, there's a new life that's gonna happen now. Post COVID-19. Hopefully we all ready for it.
Vic Reed: This is something that we rarely get in terms of having this downtime. We don't get this because we work all the time. Just being able to take advantage of different things that are out there to learn and grow. And I'm trying to come out of this thing a little bit more informed than I was before going into it. I'm a plant based eater anyway. So yeah give me some damn vegetables I'm cool, I got a garden in the backyard. And I'm proud to say I like my garden.
Shawn Gee: First show back. You get to design the show. You get to tell me what artists, you get to tell me what venue. Curtis, what's that first show back?
Curtis Battles: Drake. I can do Drake at any stadium in the world so.
Shawn Gee: Tina Farris, what’s your first show back?
Tina:  They call me for the Antibes Jazz Festival, and they're like, "Tina, please take over, and bring Sid and Steve Lacey and Thundercat and Anderson Paak., and Marimba.” And then we kick it on the beach in the Mediterranean Come on Live Nation Urban, lets do it.
Vic Reed: I would like to get Kendrick Lamar back up and going. I'd really like to see him. It's a new day and you know with him, and I'd like to see that get up and going and be successful.
Huggy: Mary, Toni Braxton, Aruba Jazz Fest. Like Tina says sitting out on the beach for about a week.
Shawn Gee: Personally, I wanna see Jill Scott doing, "Who is Jill Scott" at the Hollywood Bowl. Y'all gotta see that show, Vic saw the show. Y'all gotta see that show. I wanna be in one of those boxes. I wanna wine. I want the whole, give me two boxes actually. Yeah, Vic, you gotta reserve two boxes for me Vic.
Vic Reed: You got it, no worries. no worries.
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Last updated: 27 Oct 2020, 23:18 Etc/UTC