Welcome back to WIMI! This week we had the chance to talk with Anjel Lopez about her work as a production/VIP Coordinator. She is a great role model for anyone who wants to get their start in the industry. You can read more about her timeline of being in the industry and more below!
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
Hi! My name is Anjel Lopez and I’m currently based in Chicago. I tour in music as a freelancer, predominately as a Production Assistant/Coordinator or VIP Coordinator. I’ve done some Merch Management too. I’m going into my 4th year of touring with Kidz Bop, which has been my most consistent tour to-date, but I’ve toured in all sorts of genres and venue sizes.
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
I started out eight years ago doing concert photography and writing for some online publications, and as I got more into my college journey I ended up with an internship with a concert/festival promoter in Chicago, called React Presents. I started in marketing, and over time ended up working more in the backend logistics for their shows and festivals, which really introduced me to the festival world.
I began freelancing in the summertime on various Midwest festivals and got experience in almost every department – ticketing, guest relations, artist relations, hospitality, and eventually production. I had a few lovely mentors take me under their wing and start to teach me more about production and expressed to them that I really wanted to end up on tour and essentially said yes to every gig thrown my way.
During a really dry spell of having no industry work and taking on any side jobs I could find (one I found on Craigslist was literally being a fitting room attendant for American Airlines employees who had to get new uniforms), one of my mentors called asked me if I could last minute sell merch and drive a van for a small indie band who her friend was on going tour with. And like that, with only five days notice, and I said yes.
I did a month and a half long tour and when I got home I kept freelancing locally on one off gigs and doing a lot of VIP assistant work for tours coming to Chicago. I filled in locally for a VIP Coordinator who had a family emergency, and afterward the VIP company (VIP Nation) called me and asked me if I was interested in touring with them. That’s how I landed my first big arena tour, and I’ve been touring full-time ever since.
When did you know being in the business is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”?
I’ve known I wanted to be in the music industry since high school. I got into the emo/pop punk scene and more specifically, became obsessed with the band Paramore. I met friends across the country through being a fan of the band (thanks internet!) and after going to more and more shows, I saw that you could have a career in music without being a musician. I realized there were people managing the meet and greets I was attending and that there were crews setting up the stage and doing changeovers between sets. Growing up in Arkansas, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get into the industry because there really wasn’t a big music scene where I was, but I became pretty determined to make it happen.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
I think the hardest thing for me is the work-life balance. If you end up touring full time, you heavily sacrifice your personal life. Dating is almost impossible, friendships take a lot more effort and communication, and you miss important occasions like birthdays, weddings, etc. Life essentially goes on without you. I went through a really rough patch of being burnt out, and it’s because I fully focused all of my energy on my career. It wasn’t until this year that I realized I can’t do that and that touring isn’t a solution to running away from your problems. If you have personal life issues, they will still be there waiting for you when you get off the road. I’ve made it a goal of 2020 to really focus on self-care and becoming better at balance.
What is the best part of your job? Why?
The travel has been one of the most rewarding parts for me. I never in a million years thought that by the age of 27 I would have seen as much of the world as I have, and I realize it’s such a privilege to have a career that allows me to travel so much. I don’t always get to go out and explore each place I am for work, but with Kidz Bop, there are enough days off that I get to explore cities regularly. I hate being in my hotel room all day so even if I get out enough to grab a drink or a coffee from a local coffee shop, I’m happy.
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?
I’ve been lucky enough to find myself surrounded by incredible women throughout my journey of getting to the road. One of the first people who took me under their wing and really expressed that they believed I’d be great working in events/production, was my mentor Margaret Callanan. We met while I had an office job with React Presents and she was Production Managing for our festivals. One day I emailed her out of the blue and essentially said “Hey, I really want to freelance and work on more festivals and events – if there’s anything you think I might be a good fit for, please keep me in mind.” A month or two later she hit me up and asked me if I wanted to be an intern on a Mumford and Son’s show and I think I proved myself to be not an idiot, because from that point on she started hiring me on to paid gigs and getting me more experience. She’s even the one who got me my first tour, which I mentioned above. I can’t express how grateful I am for that relationship, and how much I believe in mentorship in general.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the industry? Specifically, in touring?
Get a mentor! Haha. But really, aside from the obvious things like be a hard worker, have common sense, learn all the skills you can, etc. I think mentorship is invaluable. Do a little research on who is doing something similar to what you want to be doing in your area and set up an informational interview. Take them to coffee. Ask questions, and show that you have a genuine interest and drive to be in the industry. I do believe that people are genuinely helpful when they can be, so as long as you craft those genuine relationships with people, they will keep you in mind and help you along your journey.
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? What did you do when put into that position?
I feel lucky that I can say that I haven’t really had this happen in too significant of a way. I think in general, the only times I’ve experienced this is when I’m dealing with settlements, local venue staff who have to report to me, or when I’m doing something physical like pushing a road case. I’m usually met with an attitude of “she’s a young woman, she has no idea what she’s talking about” or called “sweetie” or “honey” when I’m doing physical labor. When met with these attitudes, I’ve found my best defense is to stay calm and collected, but firmly, with a smile on my face tell them what I need done or that I have it under control. If you get overly aggressive, you’re considered a bitch. If you don’t speak up, you’re just letting them win. So I think finding a middle ground between the two has gotten me through those situations and my point across. It’s a learned skill, for sure.
I have also noticed it’s harder to get trained on more technical roles as a woman, too, which I still struggle with today. When I was getting started I wanted to be on stage more, learning about audio, video, lighting, rigging, etc. but I didn’t really know how to be taken seriously or who to ask. If you have an interest in this, I definitely would urge you to speak up and find someone who will help you!
What’s it like working for Kidz Bop + knowing it can be a lot of the audience’s first concert?
I think that fact alone is one of the most rewarding parts! Especially when I was the VIP Coordinator and working with the public more – our shows are so many kids first concert experience, so it’s so cute to see these kids getting excited and seeing what a large scale production looks like for the first time. Being more on the production side and working with our talent more these days, it’s also rewarding to see our Kidz Bop Kids accomplish these cool things at such a young age, too. Seeing their excitement when we’re doing big shows, like the Hollywood Bowl, or when we get to go out of the country to play shows, is just as fun and keeps me humble and excited myself.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)?
A Lyft driver asked me last year what I like to do for fun and I had no response. This made me realize I need to focus more on hobbies because it’s really easy to get wrapped up in tour life & work and lose yourself! I’ve always loved yoga so I’m trying to do more of that. I sell stuff for side cash on Poshmark and I’ve also started offering resume review/editing services to other entertainment professionals which has turned into a fun and fulfilling thing for me. I watch tons of Youtube, Netflix, and Disney+ to decompress. I’m trying to make myself read six books this year, and I’ve overall just been focusing on becoming a better version of myself!
What are some essentials you always have on your when you’re on tour?
I’ve gotten super into sustainability (SAVE THE EARTH, Y’ALL!) and touring can be extremely wasteful. I’m always trying to bring my own reusable bamboo cutlery, a collapsible/microwavable camping bowl, my own takeout containers, and reusable cup/water bottles on the road.
Best / worst tour memory?
Best: There are so many of these that it’s hard for me to pinpoint a specific one, but I’d say one that stands out is just the distinct memory of being in South America with Guns N’ Roses as a VIP Coordinator, and standing in the middle of a sold out stadium on our VIP platform. I was still on my first year of touring at this point and I just remember thinking, “holy shit, I did it” while watching this OG band play for thousands of screaming, insanely passionate Brazilian fans surrounding me. It still is one of the most surreal moments of my career.
Worst: On my first tour ever, our van and gear got stolen in San Antonio. It was all recovered after about 48 hours, but the thieves stole everyone’s personal items that were left in the van. I was the only one who didn’t leave my personal items in there/had a valid drivers license, so I became the only driver for the entire last half of the tour. It was BRUTAL. That tour basically prepared me for anything on the road.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
Paramore will always hold a special place in my heart, as they’re the band that made me want to tour!
What is something you can't live without?
My cats! They’re basically my children. I force my mom to send me photos of them and Facetime with them when I’m on the road.
Go-to Karaoke song?
Oh man, I mean, Smash Mouth “All Star” is just an unexpected classic, so I’ll go with that?
Tea or Coffee?
Definitely coffee! But more specifically, cold brew.
First concert you went to?
NSYNC! I cried through the first four songs, and when my mom asked me why I was crying, I responded with “I’m just so happy” while sobbing, haha.
What’s something that you always have on you?
Lip balm – I hate nothing more than chapped lips, and the Laneige Sleep Mask is a GAME CHANGER.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
This always varies per gig, but on Kidz Bop, I’d say my day starts with assigning dressing rooms/offices, then checking on catering and hospitality to make sure everything is the way I advanced it. Setting up wardrobe in the kids dressing rooms & quick changes, distributing day sheets, managing the runner & sending them out for any bus stock or supplies we may need. Researching local restaurants for after show food, collecting food orders, making sure the kids are staying on schedule in regards to when we need them on stage for sound checks, VIP, and the show. Making sure there are towels for the stage and showers, eventually finding time to feed myself, send some emails, and then I’m on stage for the show to help the kids with quick changes. Getting food and ice on the busses. And then load out – packing up and wardrobe, taking down signage. And then I do it all over again the next day!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is a hard one. I’m sort of giving myself five more years of touring before I reassess if it’s what I want to continue doing. Aside from touring, I’m super into skincare and cosmetics, and would love to go to esthetics school one day. I’m not sure I see myself touring forever, so I’m in the process of figuring out goals for the future!
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
Obviously, I’d love to see more women! And specifically in touring, more emphasis put on self care, humanity & kindness on the road (no more ‘I have to be an asshole to get shit done’ attitudes) and a little more structure in terms of HR & the industry as a whole. We’re one of the last very unregulated industries, which I love and hate at the same time.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of myself for getting out of my tiny hometown and making my career dreams happen so young.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
My lovely boss lady & HBIC, Amanda Andrews at Kidz Bop, gave me one of the best pieces of advice that has really become my mantra these days: “You have to let people make their own mistakes.” I became so used to solving everyone else’s problems and trying to make everything perfect, in both my personal and professional life, that I was becoming a detriment to myself. This little nugget of advice has really taught me to take a step back and focus on myself and my own tasks & problems first before attending to everyone else’s.
Thank you, Anjel for taking the time to talk with us! We're so lucky to be able to learn about everything you all do. You can follow Anjel on Instagram here to keep up with her work in the industry!