How We Work Now: Producer Entertainment Group Founder/Manager David Charpentier

David Charpentier
Courtesy Photo

David Charpentier

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 David Charpentier, founder and talent manager for Producer Entertainment Group, the management firm representing some of the industry's top drag queens and a number of up-and-coming LGBTQ artists. 

David Charpentier: At the beginning, when the quarantine started, I was actually on a plane from London to L.A. and I ended up getting stuck out here. That was pretty challenging, to suddenly only have a suitcase full of stuff and to have my husband in New York mail me my medical supplies. I've figured it out, and I'm really grateful to be healthy.

Now I’m quarantined in L.A. with my business partner in Porter Ranch. We've been business partners and friends for a long time, but now we're technically roommates during the COVID-19 craze. It's a good thing that we actually get along, and it's kind of fun to be running PEG under one roof, literally.

The one thing this pandemic has affected me with the most is finalizing my decision to move to Los Angeles -- I think being forced to stay here for several months has made me realize how much I actually love it here. I'm getting older, so I like waking up with the sun on my face. I love gardening, and the one thing I hate about New York is that everything dies in winter. 

I'm finding my days to be more efficient -- I'm spending less time in cars, traveling to meetings, traveling to the office, getting ready, and all of that time that gets wasted during the day that isn't very productive. I now have those extra two, three, four hours to apply to actually working, so that's been kind of nice. 

The biggest challenge was in the beginning, when literally every one of my artists' tours were cancelled or rescheduled to fall or winter of this year -- it’s actually looking much more like 2021 now. Obviously there's a lot of aspects to an artist's income, like merchandising and YouTube monetization, but touring has always been the number one, because that's where our artists make their money.

There are drag artists who really depend on every live show and every tip they get to pay their bills. For those people it has been the hardest, and I've had to almost be a counselor by letting them vent and express how frustrating it is for them, while also trying to think of ways to help them. I'm not the kind of person that gives up, so I almost saw this pandemic as a challenge that I needed to overcome.

I was out on a run right when the quarantine started, and I thought, "How can we still do tours and shows online, but not have it be free? How can we actually sell tickets to make this an intimate experience?" That's when I found this company, StageIt, which is essentially an online concert venue -- we called them the next morning, and three days later we announced our Digital Drag Fest with more than 150 different shows.

When we started, it was really just meant to be for our artists, because those are the people we are most loyal to. We didn't know what the response was going to be -- is it too much to ask someone to pay $10 to watch the artist live? But what we found is that people are actually wanting to support drag artists through ticket sales. There is a general understanding in our community that this is how queens pay their bills and make their living. 

People have gone above and beyond what I ever would have expected -- I've had other managers and agencies reach out, and there’s been a really big sense of solidarity and community amongst all of us in the industry. They’ve all had their artists join the festival, and then it went beyond just drag artists to also include LGBTQ artists, and allied artists. 

One of my first jobs was as an entertainment director for PrideFest in Milwaukee. That's where I learned a lot and got a lot of experience. Every year I would program a three-day festival on five or six stages, and it was 200 time slots to fill. Doing this festival now has been really nostalgic for me, because I haven't been able to do that much, since my focus now is on management. It's been fun.

I think this is going to become another part of the business of what drag artists do. They're still going to go out on the road and tour, but I don't see any reason to stop doing digital shows, because it's accessible to a lot of people around the world who may not necessarily be able to see a lot of these artists. You think about all of the countries in the world that we still haven't gone to on these drag tours, so a lot of people have been saying, "Thank you for doing this." It's just really cool to see that.

Coronavirus

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