As always, my last couple of weeks has been full of excitement here at Capitol Towers. As I reflect on my final weeks at Virgin Records, I look forward as well. I’m hopeful that what I have learned this quarter will help me on my current and future endeavors in the entertainment and music industry.
Some especially memorable days occurring here at Virgin were when the indie rock band Arcade Fire performed on the Capitol Towers roof while fans flooded the streets. The famous Vine Street was even shut down for this event! East coast indie rock trio Basic Vacation was also in the building and I got to chat with them before their interview. One night, while I was at work late finishing up some charts and desperate for a break, a co-worker and I stopped by the signing party for our new artist, Mike Jay. It was great to see his supporters show up – as well as see the excitement that a newly signed artist exudes!
Last week, our newly signed band Grizfolk was recording in the Capitol Towers studio for a video called ‘One Mic, One Take.’ As always, I loved being in the studio and seeing the music come to fruition. Afterwards, we all headed up to the top of Capitol Towers to film them singing during the beautiful sunset in Los Angeles. It was truly a day to remember. We topped it off with a chipotle buffet in the artist’s headquarters above the studios. Creating relationships with as many artists and executives as I can during my time here has been very crucial to creating a strong network that will continue long after my internship.
Looking back, I have learned much about what the marketing and A&R departments entail. I have seen how marketing tracks social media numbers, creates an image for their artists and how they create a full plan for each artist’s success.
I’ve learned how A&R tracks the top music charts to see what artists and producers are popular: how they scour the local music venues for independent acts; what sounds they are looking to sign, as well as, how they help shapr that artist’s “sound”. But mostly I have learned how much everyone at Virgin Records works together to fulfill their common goals. I must say that of everything I have learned, the knowledge that Ron Fair, Virgin’s President, has shared with me has been the most significant takeaway. Through merely watching him interact in meetings, studio sessions or one on one talks he has helped shape me into the person I am today.
As the weeks wind down and the end of my time at Virgin Records creeps near, I begin to realize how valuable this experience has been for me. From partaking in the many fun facets of the industry to learning how all the many parts of a record label coincide; it has been crucial in shaping me into the music executive I hope to become.
Natalie Edell is a senior RTVF major at Northwestern interning with Virgin Records this quarter.
My first task of the morning was to assist with the Event Staff Check-In. The Event Staff Check-In was located in a room at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue. All of the supplies for this check-in had to be brought over to the Hilton from the office and the warehouse. My tasks included moving boxes of shirts, jackets, hats, packets, folders, gifts, and bags. After moving all of the supplies to the Hilton, we organized the room in an efficient manner. Each Bank of America employee and person that was a part of the race management program received a gift bag that I had stuffed and prepared.
In the afternoon, I walked over to Grant Park to start working on my main project, the Start Volunteer Check-In. The Start Volunteer Check-In is specifically for all volunteers that are assigned to work at and around the start line of the Marathon. I was the manager of this particular check-in. The Start Volunteer Check-In was created a year ago to eliminate the amount of people who check in at what is called the Harrison Volunteer Check-In. The Harrison Volunteer Check-In is a much larger check-in location for all volunteers working on course. The Start Volunteer Check-In has five different steps for a volunteer to check-in successfully. If the volunteer was a key volunteer, they checked in at the key volunteer check-in point. First, the volunteer checked into the right check-in station. Second, the volunteer received their merchandise which is a jacket and a hat. Third, the volunteer grabbed something to eat or drink at the hospitality station. Lastly, the volunteer checked any bags at the gear check station.
Initially, I just helped move things around and set-up the Harrison Volunteer Check-In. This included unloading the POD (a large storage unit), organizing signs, and preparing the merchandise for distribution. Shortly after, I started to check the supplies for my check-in. I had to make sure that everything was there and ready to be transported to my compound. My location was about three blocks away from the Harrison Volunteer Check-In. When all of the tasks were done for day one, I headed back to the Tremont Hotel that was the hotel provider for the employees for the weekend.
Day 2 – Saturday
I started off the day by working at the Event Staff Check-In at the Hilton Hotel. I was actually checking people in, giving them their credentials, and finding the correct merchandise for the customers. I answered questions and directed people to various locations. Another one of my jobs was to run any and all necessary errands.
After helping at the Event Staff Check-In, I had the opportunity to observe the press conference for the elite athletes of the Chicago Marathon. The press conference was held in the Media Center, which was another room within the Hilton. The elite athletes that were interviewed were Aleksandra Duliba, Yukiko Akaba (7th place), Atsede Baysa (55th place), Rita Jeptoo (1st place), Dathan Ritzenhein (5th place), Matt Tegenkamp (10th place), and Moses Mosop (8th place). This press conference also presented an opportunity for me to hear a speech from Carey Pinkowski, the President and Race Director for Chicago Event Management.
Later in the day, I made my way to Grant Park to continue preparing the Harrison Volunteer Check-In and the Start Volunteer Check-In. The product was being delivered to both Check-In locations on this day. The product for the Start Volunteer Check-In included water, bananas, fruit burst squeezers, Kellogg’s Granola bars, pistachios, Bevita Biscuits, and Fig Newtons. The hospitality items had to be organized in a productive, efficient sequence for the next morning’s rush of volunteers that came through the tent. The rest of the afternoon involved more setup and organization to make sure everything was in its correct place for race morning.
Day 3 – Race Day
Start Volunteer Check-In Timeline:
2:30am: I woke up, hopped in a cab, and made my way to my compound in Grant Park. Once I made it to Grant Park, I had to be checked by security and walk a couple blocks to my location.
3:00am: I arrived at the Check-In and began to set-up any final preparations for the morning. I also started to check in my early key volunteers.
3:30am: I continued to check in key volunteers. I gave these key volunteers their assignments for the morning and checked out radios for them all to use. Their assignments were to work the check-in station, the merchandise station, the hospitality station, or the gear check station.
4:00am: A group of extra helpers arrived at the check-in and assigned them positions as well.
4:15am: The first wave of over 300 volunteers piled into the check-in compound.
4:30am: The second wave of over 300 volunteers, including groups, went through the check-in compound.
4:45am: This was the time the first wave of volunteers needed to be departing for their start line assignments.
5:15am: This was the time for the second wave of volunteers to depart from the check-in compound.
5:30am: All course marshals departed from the compound at this time.
9:00am: Volunteers began to come back from their assigned jobs to the check-in compound to check out and leave.
10:15am: The gear check closed.
12:00pm: I walked to the Harrison Volunteer Check-In to give an extra hand in wrapping things up and cleaning up.
4:00pm: I was released to go home.
There were many key takeaways from this experience. I learned how to handle a multitude of questions in a short amount of time. I also learned the importance of strategy and how to think of solutions and move effectively to the next task at hand. When volunteers didn’t know what to do or when they needed to leave, I had to take charge and make use of the PA system to make announcements. This was the best way I knew to lead these volunteers in the right direction and keep them going through the tents and out to their assigned jobs. I had to make a big decision to not use the iPads that were working too slowly to keep up. I decided to use my back up plan and check in the volunteers with the lists I had made beforehand. I learned that you should not limit yourself to one position on the job when you are responsible for the management the entire check-in. I found it was better for me to check in on every station to make sure things were running smoothly.
Being the manager of the Start Volunteer Check-In for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon was an incredible learning experience. My leadership skills were enhanced because of the position and responsibility I was given. I will definitely be able to use these skills and experience in future opportunities as these skills will be transferable to any team or organization I will be a part of. Despite the Start Volunteer Check-In being hectic and quick, it was a great challenge and I am happy to say that I was able to accomplish each task I was given and be successful.