What does it take to pull off a concert or tour?
There’s a lot more than having a band show up and paying them, said Ed Traversari, an associate professor in the Sports, Arts and Entertainment Management Program at Point Park University.
It’s teaching “young kids to learn things that I didn’t know in ’70s,” said Traversari, who worked as a concert promoter for 35 years.
His class, the “Business of Concert and Touring,” is the third college course in a series by The Incline, looking at some of Pittsburgh’s most unique and notable courses. Other examples: A class on texting at Carlow and one on Beyonce’s “Lemonade” at Chatham. Bonus: No homework for you, but you can sign up here to have the stories sent straight to your inbox, or send us class ideas.
A rare class
The class focuses on live entertainment and covers what it’s like to be on the venue side, as well as working for the band going on tour, Traversari said. It’s everything from how you book and pay for a band to what agents and managers do, he said. Students learn what it’s like go on tour and what it’s like to work at the same venue every day but with different bands.
He’s taught this class since 2008 and said Point Park was one of the first colleges to develop academic programs about working in live entertainment.
“In the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, people didn’t realize what goes into a concert,” he said, adding that concertgoers would come to a venue, find their seats, get their refreshments, listen to the show and leave.
No one thought about what time the crew had to be there or what time the lighting went up, he said. Traversari himself learned it on the job. But there are so many jobs that go into making a concert happen, and concert companies like Live Nation Entertainment that hire thousands of people. “It’s really a big business.”
Not every student who studies live entertainment in college will be guaranteed a job, Traversari said, but classes like his give students a background going in and more tools for interviews.
Most of students in “Business of Concert and Touring” are sophomores and juniors, and they aren’t entertainers, rather want to work in music in someway, he said. But Traversari also encourages students with a band to take his class, too. They’ll learn this side of the business as a backup and know what a manager should be telling the band, he said.
Going on tour
Traversari has watched the entertainment business change over the decades and said one of the big ways is how bands decide to go on tour. It used to be that bands went on tour — and picked the cities — based on promoting record sales, he said.
Now he said bands look at the budget and go on tour to make money. Because of that, more goes into the production of the tour and what bands want (like pyrotechnics), he said.
And don’t take offense that a band doesn’t stop in a particular city, he said. It’s not that the band doesn’t like the city, it’s usually about available dates. If there’s a two day window and a venue can’t do it, then usually the band has to skip that city.
Tickets in Pittsburgh
So what does Traversari think about the tours stopping in Pittsburgh?
“I think we’re doing well,” he said, adding that Live Nation adding a Pittsburgh office means they are “dead serious” about booking in this region. And there are a lot of options in Pittsburgh, for a city this size, he said, from PPG Paints Arena and Stage AE to Mr. Smalls and the Rex Theater.
Plus, a lot of cities don’t have a building like Stage AE that is devoted to shows and offers general admission, he said, adding that bands typically really like general admission venues, unless their audiences are a little older and would rather have assigned seats.
So what could Pittsburgh use more of? Venues doing jazz, bluegrass and blues, Traversari said.
“I tell my students, the books haven’t been written yet,” Traversari said, adding that all the people who will write the books are either working in the industry or like him and teaching about it.
But he did offer this recommendation, which he uses in class:
Here’s a look at his Point Park course schedule, too: