Leadership / 10.06.21
Veteran Independent Ticketing Contractor on Returning to Concerts and Work
Editor's Note: In normal years, Phoebe Joecks clocks a lot of miles on the road traveling to different venues across the country — both as an independent ticketing contractor and a huge fan of live music. Now, as the pandemic wanes, she is once again packing her bags, although not yet as often as she would like. Here, Phoebe shares her thoughts about being in the audience again, helping to keep audiences safe and important new realities facing ticketing and live entertainment professionals.
My first show back live and during the early days of reopening was fifth row center at Red Rocks seeing Bob Weir. Liz Baqir and I have the same taste in music, and I saw her at that show. We both live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it was cool that we were both off again on our travels.
I was elated to go to a concert. Originally, I am from Colorado, so I consider Red Rocks my home venue. I have been going there for years and years as a fan — I have had the opportunity to work a number of events there, and I even got married there, which is another testament to how special Red Rocks is to me. [I loved] seeing old friends, making new friends and enjoying the music at one of the best venues in the country.
Red Rocks was the perfect place for me to be able to go back, go to a show and just be among people. Some people were wearing masks and some people were not. At that time, it was early June. I don't remember what the mask mandate was at that time, but because it was outdoors, you were not required to wear a mask. I remember that I did not wear a mask.
My first show back in the audience at the amazing Red Rocks Amphitheater.
I was also in the northeast this summer and I went to see some Dead & Company shows, among them, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. It is adjacent to the famous Woodstock festival site, and it is such a beautiful facility. I have a friend who is a significant supporter and donor to the Bethel Woods organization, so he had really great seats. We were sitting second row center, which was fantastic.
Photo of Dead & Company taken from second row center at Bethel Woods.
Hanging with my friend at Bethel Woods and clowning around.
The Dead & Company tour requires everybody to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours before the event. They had people out in the parking lot with a golf cart and wristbands checking for vaccine cards. Again, you saw some people wearing masks, but not everybody was wearing masks because it was outdoors. I was there toward the latter part of August and the Delta variant certainly was a threat, but I did not feel uncomfortable because I was outside 99% of the time. All the measures they are putting in place are for a reason. They are protecting the artists and they are protecting the fans, and we all need to get back to work. When we work in this industry, you have to take as many precautions as you can to be able to safely put on an event, so I was happy to oblige and comply.
I have a couple of friends that work on the Dead & Company tour. I saw my friend on stage and just waved. He could not come out and say hi or catch up because a lot of the larger tours these days are secure tours. Once you are backstage and in the clearance safe area, you cannot go back out to the front of the house or leave the secure areas of the tour because of the risk of getting COVID. It was interesting to see that and to know what is going on internally as well. I completely agree with it. That is what they have to do in order to get back to work and present music and the feelings that go along with that.
I had two work engagements in Telluride, Colorado [this year]. I have been the box office director for SBG Productions for 14 years. They produce the Telluride Jazz Festival [in early August] and the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, which takes place in September.
Me and a few members of the incredible team from SBG Productions in Telluride, Colorado.
At the Telluride Jazz Festival, we had a two-tier box office set up. Our box office is a temporary trailer that is brought in and parked across from the post office, which is right at the entrance to the town park where the festival takes place.
There was a COVID check station [at the entrance even before you get to the box office] where we had a team of folks checking for vaccine cards and negative tests. We required that people test negative within 48 hours of the festival or be fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to the event. If you didn't have that, then we could direct you right over to the Curative bus that was processing rapid tests. Attendees would get their results within 15 or 20 minutes, receive the results on their phone, show us that result along with their ID so we knew that everything was copacetic, and then they would be given the [COVID] wristband to proceed. Once people cleared the COVID checkpoint, they could approach the box office to pick up or purchase tickets, then we would give them wristband credentials to allow them to enter the park.
Our vaccine/negative test checkpoint in Telluride.
For Telluride Blues & Brews, once patrons had this COVID check — which was a certain color wristband — we knew they were safe to come and go. At Blues & Brews we utilize RFID technology, which makes entering and leaving much easier. Because it was RFID, we had already sent out the bulk of the festival wristbands. That is an added convenience to the box office and the patrons, so many of the guests could just bypass the box office and go directly into the festival once they had their COVID wristband.
Telluride Blues & Brews ticket office.
Having that all under the umbrella of the box office, I was happy that we were enforcing [full COVID vaccinations and negative tests] because if we are not keeping things safe, then we could run into the problem of not being able to have events again. It is just as simple as that. I hope we get to a point where this is a thing of the past and we won't need a COVID checkpoint station, but until then I will be prepared to do it again in the future if necessary as an employee and as a paying guest.
An incredible team in Telluride.
I stood in the line quite a bit for both events helping to administer the wristbands needed to get through the COVID check because that was our longest line. Artists were taken care of backstage, but all staff, volunteers and patrons had to come through that checkpoint.
A map of our box office, vaccine checkpoint and testing site for both Telluride Blues & Brews and Telluride Jazz Festival.
Everybody on my team [at Telluride] was fully vaccinated. Even the volunteers were vaccinated. They could not come to work until they had gone through the COVID checkpoint. There was a sign that basically said, “We are vaccinated and we hope you are too.” Certain artists during the course of the weekend had a lockdown stage, meaning nobody could come on stage. Telluride is a relaxed environment, but if you are an artist on a tour, you have to take your measures and precautions, and we had to honor that and respect those specific protocols. The only way [the return to live events] is going to work is if everybody — artist and fan — is willing to participate and take all the necessary precautions seriously. It’s a partnership.
Throughout the summer I had [rapid tests] in my luggage. Any time I go to get on an airplane, I will take one to make sure [I am negative]. Every single time I have taken a test, I was thinking to myself, “What's my Plan B? Where am I going to go if I am positive?” Luckily, several of the places that I traveled this summer were places where I have close friends or family, so I could quarantine somewhere safely. I know tours carry Binax tests and I have seen social media posts [about this]. I think everybody has a responsibility to carry and have them at their fingertips. It is a safe thing to do, and it is the right thing to do in my opinion.
An essential item I now pack in my luggage.
What other shows and festivals do I have coming up? Towards the end of October, I am going to take in some more of the Dead & Company tour wherever possible. I am a Deadhead, so I’ll be attending as a fan. In terms of work, I do not have anything on the horizon right now because most of my event work for the summer season is gone. Normally in the fall, I book a lot of work in film festivals, lifestyle and wellness. Many of the events that I focus on during this time of year have not come back, have not recovered from the pandemic or have completely gone away. I am certainly in the market and open to discuss other possibilities for work … I am open to more of a touring role, whether that be a company manager for a Broadway or music production or a music-related tour. That is something that I started to shift [toward] before the pandemic, and then the pandemic shut everything down. Now I am resuming that search. I think that kind of work would fit well with what I already have established as an independent contractor. It would just be more work added to my roster of clients … and I am optimistic something will come my way.
Do I feel safe going to concerts right now? It's my church. Live music is how I congregate with like-minded people with like-minded experiences. For me, it may be going to see a concert, but for somebody else, it might be going to see a musical or a sporting event. For other people, it is actually going to church. Concerts just speak to a part of me and my being, and it is something that makes me whole.
[After] watching the INTIX community and the broader ticketing community be forced onto the sidelines for so long and then [having to] deal with … all the refunds, canceled shows and hurdles over the last 18 months, I think that first and foremost, this community needs to remember to take care of each other. Going out and working an event or going to an event after many, many months of not going to events, no matter how you look at it, can be a little bit overwhelming. I think that we all need to check in with each other and take good care of ourselves. A big conversation that I have listened to in the last several months is really about mental health awareness, and listening to yourself and listening to others. I think that is important, and maybe it is a silver lining of the pandemic.
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Tags: Music , Leadership , COVID-19 , Coronavirus