Mahina Gannet is a tour manager and leads the Artist Relations team for Governors Ball Music Festival. She has served as Production Coordinator for huge Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service tours and is currently tour managing Neko Case.
After The Show: What’s your background career-wise – how did you get started working in music?
Mahina: I started as an intern at Superfly Presents, a concert promoter based in New York City during my senior year at NYU. That internship led to my first full time job in music, working for Superfly as their Office Manager.
What’s a typical day for you when you’re working on a tour?
A typical day on tour depends on where you are, the type of show, the size of your band and crew and what position I’m filling. Currently, as TM for Neko Case, I start my days earlier than load in, simply to catch up on emails and all the other advance work I can’t accomplish once we start loading in the show. There’s usually a bank run, a hotel run and then load in.
My job really focuses on backstage, not the stage itself, so I spend load in time putting up information, setting up dressing rooms, the production office, catering. I make sure the band has whatever they need. I work with the promoter rep on backstage security, guest lists and show settlements. I work on the logistics for getting to our next city. I’m sure there’s a lot more but essentially it’s just making sure everyone (band, crew, management, agents) is well informed for all show related items and as happy as possible.
How helpful was attending NYU Stern School of Business…do you apply what you learned to your current jobs?
I’d say attending NYU is directly related to what I do now. But it was completely unintentional and not because of New York University, per se. It was one of those “right place at the right time” situations. A very good friend of mine, Tom Russell, now co-owner of Founders Entertainment and The Governors Ball Music Festival, was a displaced Tulane University student during the fall of my senior year due to Hurricane Katrina. A Manhattan native, he transferred to NYU while his school recovered from the storm. He was at the time already an intern at Superfly and happened to be in my International Marketing class. We had to partner up for group work and he was the only person, aside from me, not wearing the typical Stern suit and tie uniform. I immediately introduced myself.
Tom eventually got me my internship and we’ve been friends ever since. So – was NYU helpful in getting me my first job? I’d say for its location and the notch on my resume, yes. But up until that point, I had no intention of working in the music industry. And I honestly only had two classes from NYU that still stick out in my mind as useful: my business law class and my entrepreneurship class.
The actual Governors Ball festival is only one weekend, but how long do you work pre and post that weekend? And how do you remain so calm and in control in the midst of the chaos of working a festival?
Gov Ball is essentially 7 months of work for me. I usually start working on it in January and don’t finish till a month after the festival.
And RE: Calmness During Chaos – lots of deep breaths. Managing Artist Relations at a festival is by and far the most consuming gig I have. It really does take a lot of energy to maintain a state of calm. But in all seriousness, I practice a lot of yoga in my personal time and really do try and apply those fundamentals to working in such a chaotic environment.
Besides being able to manage schedules, logistics, and accounting for bands, what type of personality makes someone well-suited to being a tour manager?
I think someone is a good fit to be a TM if they have a well-balanced personality themselves. The TMs I admire not only have a great job, but have great home lives as well. For me, it’s a combination of being relaxed, taking charge and being aggressive, being super organized, punctual and a good traveler. And at the end of the day, knowing it’s just a job and that I can go home to my loving family anytime I need.
I’ve heard horror stories about dishonest promoters and ill-equipped venues. What’s the most challenging thing that you’ve ever dealt with as a TM?
Gosh – I don’t know if there’s anything specific…Assuming that it’s not the tour’s fault for not advancing the show properly, awful promoters / venues are usually due to a lack of awareness about the other parties involved. Most bad days are due to either bad communication or a lack of understanding that most touring people just want simple comforts: a clean shower, clean towels, a safe place to put their stuff, laundry machines, good food. These things are the least difficult but most commonly overlooked – that’s when it’s most frustrating for me.
Is it ever a struggle to balance being professional and in charge while also being fun and friendly? It seems that once you’re traveling and living so closely with bands, a TM could easily go one extreme (too business-oriented / babysitter) or the other (too friendly and like another member of the band).
Yea – but I think a lot of people struggle with that balance in any job. I think it’s more accentuated on tours because you are working, living and traveling with your co-workers. But I just find that there’s a time and place for both. I’m there to get a job done, and when it’s done, I love to hang out. A lot of TMs I’ve seen definitely can go to either extreme (some actually thinking they are a member of the band, some so distant the band can’t talk to them) but it’s like everything else in life. It’s about finding your own personal balance that then can be translated to all the other facets of your life.
What are your current favorite albums or songs?
To be honest, ever since I’ve been touring full time, I don’t listen to as much music. I think that’s because it’s so hard to find time when it’s quiet. But, I will say over the last couple years, I’ve loved a band called Surrogate more than any other. I highly recommend them. There’s also this band Bad Rabbits I love, I always go back to LCD Soundsystem and recently I fell in love with Haim.
Any future projects you’d like to share, music or otherwise?
My most current project is that I started a Supper Club (aka an underground restaurant). A few friends and I essentially create a restaurant for the night at a house, invite 15-20 people we know and serve a three – four course meal paired with cocktails. I’m super lucky that I live in an area surrounded by amazing agriculture, so everything we bring to the table is made locally. It’s pretty awesome and will hopefully lead to me starting my next company, a local restaurant in Chico, CA.