Coronavirus

How We Work Now: Cast Management Founder Jeff Castelaz

Jeff Castelaz
Courtesy Photo

Jeff Castelaz

In a new series amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now, with much of the world quarantined at home and unable to take in-person meetings, attend conferences or even go into the office. Submissions for the series can be sent to HowWeWorkNow@Billboard.com. Read the full series here.

This installment is with Jeff Castelaz, founder of L.A.’s Cast Management, whose clients include the Dropkick Murphys, Blues Traveler, the Violent Femmes and more. He is also a co-founder of Pablove, a non-profit that raises money to fight childhood cancer named after his son, Pablo, who passed away in 2008.

Jeff Castelaz: My home and my office are less than a mile apart on the West and East ends of the Silver Lake reservoir. I'm lucky that I have a really nice home office here and I live right above the lake, which is just absolutely beautiful. Zoom is really nice because I get the feeling that I'm in a room with people.

Our whole office is on the road so much and I worked from home so much anyway that this is not a huge culture clash for us. I can't remember a single client who's ever been to our office. We're doing a financial assessment of what it would look like for us to have everybody work from home [all the time] -- we're near the end of our office lease and we're pretty certain that we're not renewing.

We are adapting to the "new new," which is, "How do we get our artists to perform in a meaningful way?" For us, that means being able to put on a full concert for fans. The living room thing is super cool and I've really enjoyed being in so many artists' homes, “meeting” their kids and having that one-on-one experience. But we haven't done the living room thing with any of our clients because we're going for broke on this -- no pun intended, since we're all broke.

More than 15 million people on Facebook watched the Dropkick Murphys' live stream concert on March 17 and another 2.6 million watched via Twitter, YouTube and Twitch. We're finding major brands jumping up when we call them about these events, because they're in the same predicament all of us are. They would rather put money into a band, which is a one-to-one intimate engagement, rather than jamming things out on television. And frankly, it's a hell of a lot cheaper for them to sponsor a band’s live stream than it is to buy 50 ads on CNN.

We've been quarantined for six or seven weeks now, although it feels like it’s been a year. At first everybody was thinking, “This is going to pass.” People thought this was going to go on at least through Memorial Day and we'd be back on the road in August. And now, as of a week ago today, I think everyone's realized this is like, maybe second quarter 2021 when we're going back to business, which means putting tickets on sale. I would say they'd have to be on sale for either an extraordinarily long amount of time or an extraordinarily short amount of time, because people are not going to be confident to tie up their money for long periods of time.

I worried that there would be a second wave of the pandemic and Live Nation would decide to not give refunds to fans. Look what just happened. The artist and manager's experience was that Live Nation and Ticketmaster, for six weeks, told fans who were calling Ticketmaster's 800 number, “Dropkick Murphys don't want to refund your money,” or, “The Violent Femmes don't want to refund your money.” That is fucked up and couldn't be further from the truth. It eroded fan trust with the bands, which is just not fair.

If the fans don't trust the band, we have big, big problems. It's a given that they don't trust managers, Live Nation or the big record companies. That's a time-honored tradition. But there is trust between the artist and the fan and if we mess with that, we're creating a big problem.

Everyone has gotten really good at touring, packaging and having two headliners with great supports go out and making sure that they can be at home for periods of time and not ruin their lives. But the only thing you can't change or fix or solve is that artists and road crews are traveling on airplanes. They're living in tour buses. Road crews are generally doubling up in rooms, and of course, everyone is exposed to thousands and thousands of people a night, and the audiences are exposed to those same thousands of people a night.

This is a nightmare virus, and just like in 1918, there is so much misinformation and lies being spread. And once again, musical artists and actors end up being the people who are communicating the truth to the public in this country. But by the time we get to that point, no one's making a living.

Since the beginning of this crisis, we’ve been dismantling two years' worth of planning with each of our artists. And now that's all done. And we've all got through the emotion and the psychology and finally accepted that we're not making any money for the rest of this year. It’s really caused us to stop in our tracks and look around and say, "How am I going to show up and be of service to other people?" And maybe it's a little bit like the old airplane thing -- I have to put on my own mask and then I can help other people with theirs.

The normal that we had on Feb. 28 is never coming back. We're doing everything we can to come up with creative ideas, to work with our artists again, to tell stories. The question is, how do we keep that going and keep it fun for the artists and interesting for the fans? And I think we're going to come out stronger at the end of this. But as I said, you know, it's really painful right now and a lot of people are going to suffer.

Coronavirus

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.