I love concerts. Big or small, each has their own merits. A huge show in an arena brings the electricity of thousands of people gathered for a single purpose. A smaller show provides the excitement of seeing an artist up close. No matter the scale, each show requires a lot of planning and arranging. Hundreds of details have to be attended to, details that the audience will not notice, but would certainly note if they were absent.
I spend a lot of time exploring the motivations and processes of musicians, and naturally at some point I start to wonder about what goes on behind the scenes. A chance comment I made on social media about a year ago led to an opportunity to get a peek and find out the intricacies of an essential element of every concert: the promoter. I commented on an online article about a musician last year, saying how much I enjoyed seeing them recently. A woman replied back to me, “Thanks for coming!”. I recognized her profile picture as the person who had taken my ticket and showed me my seat. I looked further, Katie Orlandini, owner of KCO Promotions.
I reached out and told her what I do, and that I was interested in her role in the business. Katie was gracious and said she would be glad to let me tag along and get a behind the scenes look at one of her shows. Fast forward to August, 2018. KCO Promotions hosted multi-platinum artist Kip Winger. I joined Mrs. Orlandini several hours before the show in downtown Knoxville, TN. The Square Room is a great venue that holds a couple hundred people and is just upscale enough to feel special, and casual enough to be laid back. As I enter, Katie is arranging seating and double checking her reservations. VIP seating is front and center and she meticulously arranges these tables and sees to the perks those ticket holders have paid for (bottles of champagne, etc.).
Kip Winger arrives for a soundcheck, and the complex task of dialing in a good sound for the room begins. Kip is specific in his instructions, with the knowledge of settings that only decades of performing can bring. One of the stage monitors has no high end, and after diagnosis Kip switches out the speaker and has the soundman start over. “O.K., now flatten my EQ back out, and add 6k to the guitar”. He further explains “I don’t want an ‘acoustic show’ mix, I want the drums to come up under my guitar and be punchy, and don’t push my voice up too far in the mix. I want a balance”. Winger then confers with Mrs. Orlandini about when he is to take the stage and what the opening act will be using, equipment wise. Satisfied, he leaves for a bit to rest up before the show.
Guests begin to arrive, and by this point the merchandise table and bar have been set up. The soundman has worked with the opening act, Mike Patty, to dial in his sound as well. Patty delivers a nice set of originals and covers with charming observations and banter between. Winger takes the stage at 9:00 PM sharp and is, as usual, fantastic. His playing his crisp and flawless and his voice still fills the room. A smaller setting like The Square Room gives you the opportunity to appreciate the power in his voice that you can’t fully comprehend merely by listening to his albums.
Peter Harris and Kip Winger
Sitting down with Katie after the show, I get a better picture of just how much work goes into such a smooth enjoyable show. KCO Promotions has to first negotiate with and secure a venue. Then begins the daunting task of seeking out musical acts. A huge fan herself, she knows instinctively which artists she wants to attract and will be appropriate for the setting. She contacts the artist’s management and gives them the venue, the capacity, the equipment available, and her budget. At this point management will pitch to the musicians, who can agree or not. Keep in mind, she also has to work all of this around the player’s schedules. They aren’t going to trek across the country for a one-off show. They must be on tour, and have to fit the show into other shows in that area (nobody is going to play Las Vegas, fly to Knoxville, then fly back to play San Francisco the next day).
Once she has secured the artist, and paid them up front, she has to promote the show. Katie contacts local radio stations and pays for ad time for weeks prior to the event. In the months leading up to it, she must also be a social media machine. Hitting the internet with targeted posts multiple times daily is a must. Only once the show is complete, and the ticket sales are redeemed does she (hopefully) see any profit to show for it. First and foremost this is a labor of love for Orlandini. She loves the music, she loves the fans (and remembers repeat visitors), and I get the feeling if she didn’t make a penny she would still find it worth it.
Katie Orlandini, KCO PROMOTIONS, and Peter Harris
The show comes to an end. Kip as always is gracious with his fans and Katie, who hasn’t had a moments rest the whole time, assists the staff with clean up. KCO Promotions is one of the good guys. Fans first that are willing to do what it takes to bring live music to the people. As Katie walks out of the room with an arm load of empty bottles and plates, I can tell she’s already looking forward to her next show…