Say hello to the distinguished dozen who make up IQ's New Bosses 2020, which celebrates the future leaders of the international live music industry
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Continuing a series of interviews with IQ's 2020 New Bosses, we speak to Joe Skarzynski, a production co-ordinator in the US
By IQ on 14 Oct 2020
The New Bosses 2020 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual celebration of the brightest young talent in the live business today, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 93 this month revealing the twelve promising promoters, bookers, agents, A&R and production experts that make up this year’s list.
To get to know this year’s cream of the crop a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2020’s New Bosses, to discover their greatest inspirations and proudest achievements, pinpoint the reasons for their success and obtain advice for those hoping to be a future New Boss. Snippets of the interviews can be found in the latest IQ Magazine, with all interviews being reproduced in full online and on IQ Index over the coming weeks. Catch up on the previous New Bosses interview with Sally Dunstone, an agent at X-ray Touring in the UK, here.
Our next New Boss is Joe Skarzynski (30). Also known as “Jersey Joe” or “Joe Skarz,” Skarzynski has been working in the live event industry since 2013, touring extensively for the last seven years. He began his career as production assistant on a Jay Z tour, which led to production co-ordinator for the first Jay Z + Beyoncé On The Run tour. Since then he has worked with the likes of Linkin Park, Demi Lovato, Meghan Trainor, Mike Shinoda and Beyoncé around the world in amphitheatres, arenas and stadia.
What are you working on right now?
Because our industry is on hold, I have been doing what I can to sharpen my skills, taking weekly industry-related courses, health and safety classes, and working with colleagues on their independent projects. I think friendship and positivity are really important right now, I’ve been reaching out to friends around the world to talk and listen. We’re all better together.
What are some of the highlights of your career to date?
I’ve spent a lot of time in Saudi Arabia during the last two years, producing events on behalf of an international promoter, in co-ordination with multiple stakeholders including the Saudi government and major sponsors. Immediately following the 2018 Formula E races in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, we successfully held the first concerts in the country where men and women could attend together. It comprised three nights of live music, fostering unity in the form of a shared live experience. It was professionally challenging but extremely rewarding personally.
We were asked back to Saudi Arabia in 2019 and 2020. Within four months we produced, built, and operated five different stages and held concerts every weekend. We worked extremely close with our partners and stakeholders, successfully fulfilling two “seasons” of concerts for the city. Because it was a brand new industry in an emerging market, we faced many challenges and hurdles at almost every part of the process.
It was incredible to see how a village of highly qualified and energised professionals in our international team could overcome these obstacles and pull off massive feats. Our teams were multi-national, with men and women from all walks of life. We brought a lot of joy to the Saudi audiences and gave them an outlet to express happiness together through music. Plus, the stages were epic! My official position was production manager for the stages, yet as we do, I jumped in wherever I saw a hole that I knew I could help fill. I am extremely proud of the unbelievable effort it took to be successful.
“It takes a village to create incredible and responsible events”
Other highlights include touring the world with Linkin Park from 2014–2017, which was an incredible time of learning and implementing, successes, failures, and friendship. It helped to shape my professional ability and personality. Stadium tours (Jay Z + Beyoncé “On The Run” tour, and Beyoncé “Formation” tour) showed me project coordination at a very high level, whereas the club tours have given me the opportunity to brainstorm with my colleagues on how to overcome obstacles of smaller venues.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt working in live music?
Together we go far. It takes a village to create incredible and responsible events. The more brainpower, expertise, and co-ordination, the more you can achieve. Every piece is equally important, and professionals who are dedicating their lives and time to their craft should have the ability to succeed and excel. One person cannot do it all, find those who you trust and give them the space to shine in their job.
Did you always want to work on the production side of things?
I went to school for audio and still have fascination in the art of audio and signal flow. Yet, once I joined the production side I found that it was a great fit for myself, and immediately wanted to take it further. I enjoy project management and having organised processes. I enjoy the fact that almost nothing is impossible with the right tools and expertise. There are so many ingenious men and women in this industry with spectacular ideas and visions. I like to be a driving force behind making each show happen.
What impact has Covid-19 had on your job?
I miss doing events with my friends and colleagues as well as working with new people. I’m very proud of my colleagues who have shifted their businesses to help respond to the needs of the public and the industry. Finally, I’m excited to see how the entertainment sphere will change and adapt in the years to come. I hope to see you all soon!
“I like to be a driving force behind making each show happen”
Do you have a mentor in the industry?
Jim Digby and Bobby Schneider gave me my first chances in the touring world. Both men brought me around the world, teaching me along the way while giving me space to grow. Jim Digby, who is a founder of the Event Safety Alliance and an incredible teacher, really took me under his wing.
We’ve toured on countless projects together and he has always allowed me to go at my own speed. He gave me the opportunity to grow into the production positions, starting at assistant, advancing until I was one of his first calls when the Saudi projects were on the table. I am grateful for his expertise. He always treated me as an equal, which gave me the strength to be myself and make decisions on my own. There are numerous others who have been extremely important to my growth, including many peers who give me inspiration and positivity.
What does the live music industry do well, and what can we do better?
If you haven’t gathered yet, my favourite part about the industry is the people. The live music industry can be very welcoming to people of all backgrounds. When done correctly, you can uplift the spirits of large groups and transform work relationships into trusting friendships in very short periods of time. We’re strong people with extreme technical abilities. We push the envelope on technologies, and what’s possible in the live sphere. We work countless hours and often don’t complain. We have compassion for each other and, under almost all circumstances, ensure that the show will go on.
“The only thing I’ve learned from countless 24-hour workdays is that no one should ever have to work a 24-hour workday”
Where we can be better: there is always room for more diversity of backgrounds and knowledge. There’s more room for patience with others. Women must be treated equally and respectfully. If someone isn’t feeling as though they’re treated properly, we need responsible team leaders who can have difficult conversations and make smart decisions. We find ourselves in time crunches sometimes that create extremely long days and I would like to find more time for sleep and self-restoration. I understand we have to do what it takes, but the only thing I’ve learned from countless 24-hour workdays is that no one should ever have to work a 24-hour workday.
What advice would you give to someone who’s new to the business?
Don’t talk, listen. Ask questions, but know when to ask them. If you don’t know an answer, don’t guess, look it up. Even if time is of the essence, being correct is more helpful than a quick wrong answer. Always ask yourself what task might come next, and if appropriate, follow-through. Be helpful and positive. Don’t complain too much. One complainer is the difference between 0 complainers and a gaggle of them. Communication is key. Keep your head down and work hard. Let your own work define you, and be consistent. Be proud of what you can accomplish in a day. Find passion. Do this job for the right reasons. Working often leads to more work. Never stop learning, no one knows it all.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing currently?
It makes me sad to see the struggles of our colleagues during this pandemic. Keep your heads up everyone. The rug was ripped from under us, so we must adapt and overcome together.
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
I would like to be surrounded by positive and highly skilled professionals who I trust, creating safe and remarkable events for countless numbers of guests. The network of wonderful humans in our industry is massive, and I hope to share these future successes with them. I hope to continue working on large-scale projects, and love when there are broadcast elements involved. The more complicated the project, the more exciting the process and outcome when accomplished.
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