15 hour days, weird riders, and difficult artists. But when things go right, being an Artist Liaison can be one of the most incredible jobs around.
We spoke to Michelle Rodriguez, who's worked as an Artist Liaison for Outlook, Dimensions, Hospitality in the Park, El Dorado and Forbidden Forest, to find out a bit more about life on the festival's inside.
Tell us what things you’re in charge of?
Artist Liaisons handle the artist management for the event. Coordinating the artists' transport, accommodation, and managing them while they’re on site, always making sure they have the correct information and updating them if there are any changes.
We also manage the riders and set up the dressing rooms and hospitality areas. Depending on the festival, the Artist Liaison and Stage Manager role can blend together to make sure the sets run smoothly and coordinate alternative options if an artist can't make it on time or there are delays.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of the job is when some of your favourite artists compliment your work ethic and are truly grateful for all the hard work you and your team have put in.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
I've had multiple people approach me on the street months after a festival and have a go at me because I didn’t let them on stage. People need to realise that although it is a festival, it's still an office for those who are working it.
There are always underlying factors involved which people don’t take into consideration when they’re screaming profanities at us – stage capacity issues, artists specifically asked for no one on stage, filming etc. If someone working says that you can't come on stage, just be respectful, and understand that it's not a personal attack; we're just doing our job and want no drama added onto our 15 hour days.
What’s the most bizarre rider you've ever had to prepare?
At one festival I kept having to go out to buy some of the riders and other bits-and-bobs with one of my mates. For one of the trips, we had four shopping carts full of snacks, booze, condoms, bottles of lube, diarrhoea medicine, gaffer tape, and rope. The festival was in a small town in a foreign country, so my mate and I stood out right off the bat trying to juggle two carts each. We were in work mode in our own little world, but judging by the looks of disgust we were getting from the locals, they probably thought we were part of a BDSM cult.
This wasn’t the most bizarre rider per se, but the situation it got us in was hilarious just to see the looks of absolute disgust from the locals.
What other weird requests have you had from artists?
To have a threesome with an artist and his wife, so we did it backstage. Just kidding, that would be weird... and unprofessional.
What's the most outrageous behaviour you've seen backstage?
There was a groupie front-and-centre in the crowd, and the artist who was performing motioned for her to come on stage. She hopped right over and had her 15 minutes of fame. After their set, the artists walked off stage and didn’t give her any attention so she tried to chase after him. The security guard asked her to leave since she didn’t have the right wristband and it was getting too busy backstage.
She refused to leave and started screaming profanities. One thing led to another and she punched one of the security guards in the face. Another security guard grabbed her and tried to walk away with her in his arms, but she kicked another security guard in his face while she was flailing in one of their arms. Eventually, a mob of security guards brought her to the security tent and they cut off her wristband.
Who have been the nicest artists you’ve met?
The majority of the time the artists are usually down to earth and lovely to work with, it's just their mates or management who act out of line and are difficult to deal with. Someone who did surprise me was Moodymann. I imagined him to be very introverted because of the mask, but he was so outgoing and such a gentleman – so appreciative, polite and respectful which made working with him a dream.
How do you deal with a difficult artist?
Difficult artists or their management are like spoiled little kids who need a good slap in the face. You obviously can't slap them physically, but you have to slap some sense into them for them to see things from a different perspective.
You can’t just say no and that's it, you have to give your reasoning for them to grasp the bigger picture, but then also be able to offer an alternative solution to flip the negative into a positive. If they see you're trying your best to make ends meet and to help them then it usually ends well.
What’s the most surreal situation you’ve ever found yourself in?
One of the artists on my stage had a cut on their finger and started gushing blood all over the turntables, so I rushed on stage with paper towels to clean up the mess. The stage was pretty big and was on a raised platform so anyone looking at the stage couldn't actually see what was happening, so it looked like we were going B2B.
A handful of people approached me after to congratulate me on my set, mentioning that it's nice to see more female DJs out there and some even asked to take a photo with me. Some interactions happened so fast I couldn't explain what happened so I just went along with it, but when people asked for my photo, I told them what actually happened. They found it hilarious and still wanted a photo with me. I guess that was my 15 minutes of fame and all because of a bloody gash.