Director of Promotions
LIVE MUSIC @ LIVE NATION
Music is a passion for Melissa Farrington, a self-described “total music junkie.” As Director of Promotions at Live Nation, she works with great bands coming through New England, from U2, Paul McCartney and Springsteen to Fleetwood Mac and Madonna. She also gets to work with up-and-coming bands on the cusp of finding their niche in the music industry at world-class clubs like The Paradise and Brighton Music Hall.
In October 1999, Melissa started working for renowned music impresario Don Law, founder of Don Law/SFX (then Clear Channel). Promoting concerts out of a modest office in North Cambridge, her role continued to grow as the company evolved into Live Nation, one of the largest and most successful concert promoters in the world.
All the while Farrington evolved as a popular DJ in the Boston area - she has spun at Avalon, The Paradise, WGBH studios, The ICA, Foundation Room and The Pavilion, and has two monthly nights at River Gods in Cambridge.
In 2009, she returned to school, earning her Master’s Certificate in Music Business at prestigious Berklee College of Music, all the while working full time at Live Nation. This year she completed a Professional Certificate in Music History at Berklee, further solidifying her role as one of the region’s most knowledgeable music professionals.
We caught up with Melissa recently to talk about her work.
When did you catch the music bug, do you remember the circumstances?
I think I was born with it! I can’t recall not ever being enamored of music. I dream music. Too bad I can’t remember it when I wake up. My mother was an aspiring opera singer, my dad loved to sing, and my siblings were both talented musicians. My parents threw great parties and had quite the record collection, which I routinely pillaged. I played viola and piano, and was truly awful at both. The only musical talent I have is a good ear. I got my start working in music by hanging around a record store at about age 13. Eventually I was hired, paid in records, sour pickles and bagels, and that was fine by me. I feel like I still get paid in records, since that’s where most of my paycheck still goes.
How do you assess whether a concert is successful or not?
Attendance for sure, who wouldn’t want every show to sell out? But as corny as it sounds, I gauge it a success when the lights go down and the band hits the stage, and the crowd just erupts. That’s always a thrill. Or the exact opposite: when there’s that rapt listening, the entire crowd completely silent, absorbing the music. And I’m a complete sucker for the crowd sing-along. I always try not to get choked up, but I always fail.
It’s also always nice to hear that a band loved a certain venue and can’t wait to come back, or when a show gets a great review. And with all the moving parts in putting on a show, when all goes seamlessly it’s wonderful feeling to have been part of it.
What do touring bands think of the audiences here?
Boston has long been considered a great music town; that was true when I moved here in the mid-80s and is true to this day. I feel it all the time, the passion for music of all types here is palpable. So many great artists have broken here, and it’s no coincidence. From the smallest club to the largest arena, New England has a huge appreciation for music. I’m fortunate to live and work in such a musically open-minded and progressive part of the world. Plus, Berklee and Emerson make sure the scene stays fresh and vibrant with a constant influx of aspiring new musicians.
How has your Berklee experience shaped your love of music?
Berklee was such a great experience. The professors and the students all share the same love of music, I felt so at home. I learned so much about the other elements of the business, which is extremely important. If you can see a situation from someone else’s perspective it makes it that much easier to work together and to resolve issues when they (inevitably) arise. The marketing/ promotions element is just one piece of the puzzle. Agents, production managers, ushers, merch, concessions, bookers, venue staff, band managers, tour managers, roadies, tech crews, the box office wizards, never mind the band itself! – we delved into it all and it gave me a much broader understanding of the world I live in.
Favorite live performance of all time?
My first concert, David Bowie at Nassau Coliseum in 1976, the Station To Station/ Thin White Duke Tour. Matched by his Orpheum show here in 2002. Pretty much every Bowie show I’ve ever seen! But there are dozens of shows I’ll never forget. The Pretenders, Blondie, Radiohead, The Stones, Patti Smith, Roxy Music, Al Green, Tony Bennett, Arcade Fire, Heart, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. I guess the list is endless.
Pictured: Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
You’ve worked in various settings – small clubs, large concert halls, outdoor
festivals – do you have a favorite venue to hear live music?
It’s difficult to choose just one. An intimate club like The Paradise is amazing because you can truly experience a star being born. Plus, the sheer history of that venue, it’s mind blowing to think of all the acts who have performed there. The collective excitement of a huge crowd at Xfinity is very powerful too. But my favorite place to see a show is Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. A beautiful outdoor venue right on the water, not too big, not too small, and the talent that passes through there is extraordinary. Every setting has its own charm but one constant across the board are the amazing people I get to work with every day at these venues. For most of them, it’s a labor of love and it shows.
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