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Shop Talk

February 11, 2012

Shop Talk: liveLIVE! Productions

How long have you lived in the area?

I've lived in Otsego County my entire life, minus the 5 years I spent in NYC working for one of the biggest advertising agencies in the country, Grey Global.

Tell me about your business:

Well liveLIVE! Productions started as a company that booked music and threw festivals and quickly became a multifaceted organization covering all aspects of the music industry. We book, manage, promote, record, produce, publish, and even went so far as to lease our own bar venue in Kingston, N.Y. (The Lounge at BSP) to truly have our hands in every aspect of the industry.

Describe a typical day in your business:

In a typical day, I spend about 4 hours on the phone and/or writing emails, booking and promoting, negotiating with advertisers, cross promoting with local businesses. Then it's on to web updates and show posters. By the time that's done we clean the bar, make sure it's fully stocked and open the doors at 7 p.m. The entertainment starts at 9 p.m. and we generally close our doors between 1 and 2 a.m.

How did you get started in this line of work?

Trevor Dunworth and Dan Votke had been throwing a yearly festival in or around Oneonta for over 5 years. Two autumns ago they approached Daniel Sternstein and I, we had all worked together at the Black Oak Tavern at the time, about throwing a new festival in Oneonta... So we did... Well it was close to Oneonta.

Where do you see this business in five years?

In five years we'd like to see liveLIVE! a household name. A couple CDs in your collection should have been recorded in our studio and on any given weekend you'd be planning to go to one of our shows. Daniel Sternstein will be on tour with whichever act he's decided to manage personally, keeping his eye on our other tour managers. Trevor Dunworth will be checking in at all our venues making sure everything is running smoothly. Dan Votke will be managing our team of sound engineers, both live and recorded. I'll be sitting behind a desk booking for all our venues, and managing our marketing and promotions department.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

When we first decided to lease our own bar venue, the place was a mess. So the great liveLIVE! cleanup of 2011 began. We had all of liveLIVE!, all of our interns, a bunch of our friends from Oneonta, and new friends we'd made in the Hudson Valley all came out for five days of garbage removal, and fun! No joke, we removed three 15-ton dumpsters of garbage from our space in Kingston (The Lounge at BSP). It was a lot of work, but a really good time. It was also the first time we'd all been together in about a month, and that's what made it worth it.

What have you learned from your work?

I've learned you get what you put in, period. You're not getting the results you want, guess what, you're either not doing it right or not working hard enough.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

Booking openers. No one wants to play for free, and when you have a great band with a good draw but no opener, it can be difficult to get another act for the bill. Especially since the opener has to fit the genre and be good too.

The most enjoyable?

Going to the shows we book. There's nothing better than watching hundred of people having a killer time at a show you put together.

How do you define success for your business?

When three days after a show I still hear people talking about it, that's a good show. When I hear them talking about it three weeks later, that's success.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

The advantages for us in this area are the two colleges, and the fact that we're all still in our twenties. We actually listen to and enjoy the music we book and the artists we decide to work with. We don't book bands just to sell tickets, although that is the goal, we book bands we want to see.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

A lot. Our age, I think we are more informed and have a better idea of what our peers are listening to and paying to see since we are listening and paying for it too. Our diversity, between the four of us our strengths are so different it allows us to branch into so many different areas of this one field. Our experience, by now we've been booking and promoting in a college town for a year and half, and booking in a no-college town for six months. Two very different places with very different demographics to say the least. It was a serious learning experience at first, but the lessons have been learned. We've also recorded with four different artists, in very different genres. As well as booked and managed several tours for two of the artists on our roster. Now we may not be millionaires yet but we believe we've accomplished more in the short time we've been in business than most businesses do in twice the amount of time.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

If you can do it, do it. Never turn down work. Don't pass on a show because you're too busy. You are never too busy. If you can't do the work yourself, there is someone out there willing to. Pay them to do it and if you break even or lose a little money, who cares at least your name was on it. Word of mouth is more important that you'd ever think before entering this scene.

This industry runs on a 24 hour clock, your phone is your best friend, and if you don't have a smart phone that handles email and Facebook by now... get one!

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Cassandra Miller. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 255, or email

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