I spent last week with the General Manager and Operating Manager of the Huntington Bank Pavilion. Located on Northerly Island in downtown Chicago, HBP is a massive venue with picturesque views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. This season it has hosted Blake Shelton, Dave Matthews Band, Blake Shelton, alt-J, Chance the Rapper, and Post Malone to name a few. HBP is owned and operated by Live Nation, meaning that not only does the company own the pavilion but is staffed and managed by Live Nation. An example of an owned but NOT operated venue for Live Nation is Lollapalooza, which is produced and operated by C3 Presents. Live Nation owns 51% of C3 Presents, making Lollapalooza a Live Nation owned event.
If I had to sum up the roles of a venue manager it would be problem solving. When 10,000 drunk people are packed into a small place, decisions need to be made quickly and executed efficiently. Communication is key, which is why everyone is kept in the loop through walkie talkies and a clear chain of command. The GM directs the Operating Manager who directs the assistant operating manager who directs the supervisors who directs the employees. What makes GM’s and Operations Manager position vital is their ability to take a problem and either know how to solve it or delegate to someone who knows how to solve it.
The venue had two shows during the week I was there, Foreigner with Whitesnake and Barenaked Ladies with Better Than Ezra. Each show day I was able to see how everyone prepares for the show, from prepping gates to assisting production crews to meeting with security. During show is actually less stressful in terms of the number of things that need to get done, at that point it’s just solving any problems that arise. This is always my favorite part of working shows because nothing is more rewarding than watching a crowd erupt in applause when the headliner takes the stage.