What do you want to become?
CONCERT HALL MANAGER
Alternate Career Titles:
Theater Manager, Arena Director, Facility Director, Director of Hall Operations, Production/Facilities Manager
Career Overview: Manages concert hall, oversees all activities and employees in the venue.
Career Salary Range: $26,000 to $90,000+
Become a Concert Hall Manager
Concert Hall Managers oversee the staff and daily operations of a concert venue. Nashville-based Production/Facilities Manager Stephanie Bettig says, “Some days I might be working more on hiring, training, and scheduling our staff, scheduling a facility and writing contracts, doing maintenance checks on the facility or looking at upgrading some of our technology. It’s surprising how much administrative duties are a piece of that. Every day is different. We had a piano concert last week; that was a fourteen hour day. It started with a visit from the Piano Technician, then a dress rehearsal, and while all that was rolling, I was hiring new employees and setting up a training event. Then we went into operational mode for a rehearsal that afternoon with one of our on-campus clients, the School of Music. After that, it was back into concert mode. Staff came in and there were a lot of our usual event duties but we were also doing a lot of training with new employees because it’s the beginning of the season. It’s a lot of running front- and back-of-house for event days. A non-concert day might start around 8am or 9am and be a lot more administrative stuff — doing payroll, for example. Today we had a small internal classroom event for the university and some ensemble rehearsals as well. So that type of day would end around five o’clock.”
Since Concert Hall Managers are involved with so many different aspects of the hall’s day-to-day operations, they work with a variety of people, including Stage Managers, Sound Technicians, Lighting Technicians, Ushers, Security, Box Office employees, and musicians.
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Concert Hall Managers usually begin their careers as Ushers, Operations Technicians or really, any other role involved in the daily operations of the venue. Once they’re in a management position, advancement comes through working at more prestigious, well-known venues.
Education & Training
While Music Business or Event Management degrees can be helpful for this position, Bettig believes work experience is more important than a diploma. She explains, “I would say it’s more of a skill set than a degree. It’s more important to get experience and perhaps professional certifications than concerning themselves with a bachelors or masters degree. Really, at the end of the day, the person in this position will need front-of-house, back-of-house, and managerial experience so you can assemble the right team and run things appropriately. I’m not sure a degree would ever get you to that place.”
Experience & Skills
As is often the case, the experience and skills required to be a successful Concert Hall Manager are best learned while on the job. However, aspiring Concert Hall Managers can benefit from certain skills training courses, and from making their own learning opportunities. “I would get some emergency preparedness certifications, whether that’s basic medical training and/or life safety skills training, which might include training with weather preparedness, terrorism, or active shooter preparedness,” Bettig advises. “This can be very venue specific but there are some general things out there. Another certification you might want to look at would be an event management certification.
One of the most important things is just to find ways to be the best leader you can be because so much of what your success is in this position is surrounding yourself with the right team and communicating well. There’s a part where you just need to run out and create your own events sometimes. You can create your own opportunities to learn. We just hired about 120 new employees for this year and some are front-of-house and some are back-of-house; some are students who are trying to do what I do. I’ll always try to start them in one or both of those positions so they can get experience being an Operations Technician or Usher. Across the board, those are part-time positions or on-call positions. So, what if you can’t work a concert [because of your schedule]? Well, create your own events. That’s how I gained most of my experience; putting on my own productions and working with Venue Managers as I went. That at least got my foot in the door.”
What kind of person can best manage all the various duties required to keep a concert hall up and running? Bettig says, “I would recommend they have a certain level of levity to their lives and do not take everything too seriously. They need to play well with others and not be easily ruffled by high emotions because you’ll always get the bad feedback. You never get the good feedback! You just want to solve the problem and get everything moving.”
Concert Hall Managers work long hours on the days when performances are scheduled. “I’m thinking about getting a hammock for my office,” Bettig says. “We joke we live in our offices. It’s kind of true. Like I said, there are fourteen hour days, but there are also some days because I’ve worked so long the night before, I’ll work half a day the next day. There are definitely evenings and weekends involved.
Because I work in academia, my specific concert hall is on a college campus. The rest of the staff work 8-4:30 and while they might expect to find me in the office during those hours I might not be there 1) because I might’ve worked a long day the day before and 2) because it’s not an office job.”
To get a foot in the door for a position in concert hall management, Bettig advises, “I would tell them to work as many front-of-house and back-of-house positions as possible, just to get to know the customer service and operational side of things. If you can’t get a job, create your own opportunity. I’m a hiring manager and it’s interesting, I don’t actually look at educational experience. I don’t look at that for students or even care about that for when I have to hire non-students. I just look at [work] experience. I’m looking at people who have customer service experience and who have done their own productions, people who are getting their hands dirty and making things work. They’re out there troubleshooting. When you’re doing your own stuff there’s a little bit more learning that can happen.”
Most Concert Hall Manager roles are salaried positions, although Bettig says “it might run the gamut. My job might be a little different because it is on a university campus. Non-university venues might be a little different. Usually, it’s not a very well paid position and most are working more than a forty hour work week.”
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
“There’s a professional organization called IAVM (the International Association of Venue Managers) and they have quite a few training programs as part of their organization that help different Venue Managers of all kinds,” Bettig says. “There are some that apply to Managers of all kinds and some that are more venue-specific; for example, they have conferences for Arena Managers and Performing Arts Hall Managers. The other day I was doing their Event Manager training that helps with emergency preparedness.”
- “Go to one of your local venues and either get a job as an Usher or volunteer. Get some of that experience.
- Help set up, do some strikes and help out during any event you can at your local venue.
- Work on your own events. Find another way to get experience by working with clients to create a production and coordinating the needs of that production with other people so you can get experience on the planning end as well.”
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Get curious. Do as much as you can to learn and if you can’t get a job, volunteer and figure it out. You’ve got to work hard. Much of the venue work is part-time or on call and there’s a big list of people who are trying to do that work. There are more and more people looking for ad hoc work so you’ve got to stand out. You have to work hard and be persistent.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“One thing I would say is you’re involved in all aspects of the venue and production a lot of the time. The Managers I see that are having the most difficulty in their careers are those who maybe have overlooked some aspects of personal development. A person can be very good and have very good knowledge technically of how to make that venue run and how to do some managerial things, but if they don’t have leadership qualities and are difficult to work with, they’re going to have a hard time keeping a reliable staff. They’ll find themselves training a lot and will burn out faster. It’s bad for business; clients can go to other venues and get exceptional service with the same quality of production.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
“I am a lifelong learner. I’m never done learning and I’m always trying to get better.”
Stephanie Bettig is the Production/Facilities Manager at Belmont University’s McAfee Hall in Nashville.