Colorado is an incredible place for live music -- from our outdoor venues, one of which is world-renowned, to the vast festivals, shows and venues we have to choose from. The growth of the music scene has created a small niche of music-industry jobs, including these five coveted positions. Continue reading to see what they are and learn more about the people who fill them.
5.Guitar Tech (Darrell Plampin)
Enthralled by the crew running around on stage at Red Rocks making the show happen, Darrell Plampin knew he wanted to work in music from a young age. To date, he 's been a guitar technician and stage manager for bands like Denver's own DeVotchKa, STS9, My Morning Jacket and Gogol Bordello. This fall, he'll be on the road with Bon Iver.
Although he's usually busy maintaining all of the gear that the guitar players will be using, his role can shift into maintenance of the entire stage, making sure everything runs smoothly and on time all day. A normal day is a marathon -- sprinting between loading the gear, setting it up, sound-checking, gear maintenance throughout the show, then gear breakdown.
"Ideally," he says, "we're done packing everything up by the time the bus is scheduled to leave for the next city, hop on board, and crawl into our bunks to get as much sleep as possible, before waking up in the next alley, outside the next venue, in the next city."
The excitement of this whirlwind has its share of exhaustion, but he wouldn't have it any other way. "What keeps me in the industry are the constant and consistent opportunities for growth and improvement around every corner. I'm excited to go to work every day, knowing that I am gaining experience and skills that will help me move forward to the next level. Additionally, I believe that there's a power in music to connect people, and as the shows that I do get bigger and better, I know that we are connecting with more and more people worldwide."
4. Marketing Manager (Sarah Finger, AEG)
Sarah Finger got her start when Chuck Morris, president and CEO of AEG Live Rocky Mountains, "took her off the streets," as she puts it, and offered her a position as his office manager.
After working there for a year, Finger moved on to the Fox, where she stayed for five years, doing everything from management to talent buying and working closely with Don Strasburg and Eric Pirritt, who she feels taught her everything she knows. Additionally, she dabbled in festival work and band management, all of which made for an already well-rounded career history.
After a year hiatus in Chicago, Finger returned to Denver and AEG; she missed Denver, and the people she worked with, way too much to stay away for long.
"At this point," she says, "I haven't had a normal day in ten years. Part of my job does have structure: We send out e-mails, we buy print ads, we buy radio spots, we buy Facebook ads...did I mention we send out e-mails? But at any given time, I'm working on forty-plus different shows, so where I'm buying that advertising is always different.
"My favorite part of the job," she goes on, "is coming up with new and different promotions, outside of the ads we run, to get the word out about our shows. That's where we can get creative and have some fun. We have staff meetings every week, but our staff meetings are highly entertaining; I think our office should get our own reality show."
But while the people are what keeps her at AEG, the music is what keeps Finger in the game after all these years. "I remember looking over the crowd at Phish last year at Dick's Sporting Goods Park and being in awe of how many people were there and that I was a part of something that big," she says. "There was a moment at Brandi Carlile's Red Rocks show earlier this year -- she was on stage playing in front of 9,000 people and telling the story of how she played at the Fox in front of forty people years ago. I had worked on both of those shows, and that really brought the last ten years full circle for me."
3. Artist Relations (Annabel Lukins, Cloud 9)
Annabel Lukins has worn many hats in her career in music. In college, she interned at a record label, where a chance encounter with Steve Miller revealed her potential skills in artist relations. A memo had gone around the office saying that Miller would be in the office, and that in no way was anyone to approach him -- but Lukins took this edict with a grain of salt and approached him about signing a CD. Not only was he receptive, he was curious about her role there.
"It was at that moment that I knew I would be successful in the music business," she recalls. "I didn't even know what artist relations was at the time, but I felt very comfortable around a big musician. He's just a person, like all of us."
After stints at MTV and Planet Bluegrass, Lukins started booking, managing, and emceeing the Sonic Stage at Bonnaroo, and landed an interview for the marketing director position at Cloud 9 Adventures not too long after. That opportunity opened the door to the role of director of artist relations.
"With Cloud 9, I created my position and took it to new heights year after year," she notes. "Not only do I run artist relations, but I am the emcee of Jam Cruise. My nickname is Julie McCoy, who was the cruise director on the Love Boat. The great thing is that any of the passengers who weren't born in the '70s don't know who Julie McCoy is and think my name is really Julie. A little anonymity goes a long way with me."
For Lukins, it's the music, plain and simple, that keeps her in the game. Because she's befriended so many of the artists she's worked with, she gets to work and spend time with the people she loves. "I feel immense passion for what I do. My interests are taking care of people who surround themselves with music. Plus, I have ADD, and I'm skilled at multitasking and dealing with multiple personalities at once -- a great asset when handling a hundred musicians all with their own agenda."
2. Talent Buyer (Ben Baruch, Fox Theatre/Boulder Theater)
Ben Baruch, who grew up on gospel, and started playing the drums at seven, can't remember a time he wasn't involved in music. "I still remember when I saw four guys singing in harmony when I was ten and told my dad I wanted to 'manage' them," he relates. "I literally had them come to my house and sing while my dad and I sat on the couch and watched them. I obviously didn't have a clue what 'managing' meant, but for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be involved in music."
These days, Baruch books talent for the Fox Theatre and Boulder Theater, and manages numerous clients, including Big Gigantic, which recently confirmed slots at Red Rocks and Bonnaroo in the same week. As expected, no day for Baruch is ever really "normal." It typically starts with an early morning walk with the dogs, followed by answering emails and plotting out his booking strategy.
Booking requires starting with Thursday through Saturday dates and working backwards from there. The process begins with researching who will be touring in the area, deciding what bands he wants to book, and then reaching out to agents and managers. When availability is confirmed, Baruch sends offers and tries to confirm three calendar months in advance. But that's just the tip of the iceburg for him.
"Being that I manage musicians, a film and TV writer and an actor -- all on different time zones -- in addition to booking theaters, my day can go in any direction at any point," he notes. "No day is ever predictable. People always ask if I'll have a busy day tomorrow, and the answer truly is, I'll never know; it changes second to second and lasts way beyond a twelve-hour work day."
The natural drive he feels for the industry keeps Baruch passionate about what he does. "When you love something, you feel it," he observes. "I wake up every morning -- no one ever believes me, but I swear, every morning -- and I can't wait to do work. Healthy? Not a chance, but it is what it is. Whether it be to book shows, read one of my client's scripts, listen to a client's new song or take a 5 a.m. flight to a concert, I love every second of it."
1. Band Management (Brian Schwartz, Red Light Management)
One of the best moments of Brian Schwartz's career was having breakfast with Jerry Weintraub at his house. Before that opportunity ever presented itself, however, Schwartz had come a long way in order to find his place in the industry.
"I was on the road doing tour accounting work for Ozzy Osbourne in 1998," Schwartz recalls, "and an amazing music industry veteran named Jane Holman told me, 'Don't get stuck on the road for more than ten years, or you'll be stuck on the road forever.'
Once he heard that, Schwartz started thinking about the next step. "I realized that Ozzy's manager and wife Sharon Osbourne was the woman calling all the shots," he remembers, "and I immediately started watching and learning from Sharon and other powerful managers, with the intent that I would work towards becoming a manager."
Schwartz' first client was Marie Beer, a musician out of Boulder, and he also worked with Rose Hill Drive. These days, he works with John Denver's Estate and represents artists like Lucero, Dinosaur Jr., J Mascis, Milow, Bestfriends and Baywood at Red Light Management.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music