In live theatrical and stage entertainment, the producer is the individual who initiates the development of a show. This person is tasked with fronting the cash or raising the necessary funds and is ultimately responsible for all aspects of development, including hiring the cast, crew, and other staff.
There are considerable differences between the process of producing a theatrical production and that of organizing a concert tour, but the role of the producer is essentially the same. Before any movement can be made, the first step is to secure the rights to the production to be staged; that means licensing the play or musical from the publisher or striking a deal with a recording artist and his or her management to produce a concert. Nothing can move forward without a signed contract. With deals and funds in place, the producer then hires a general manager to assist with planning a production schedule, establishing the budget, and hiring additional senior and creative staff. The producer and general manager immediately look for a director, company manager, production or tour manager, and creative talent like a musical director and choreographer. When the senior positions are filled, the producer leads the design process for sets, costumes, lighting, and the other necessary technical elements. This person’s role is as a top-level manager; his or her primary task is to facilitate the work of the creative staff and to oversee the business and logistical planning of the production.
While the “creatives” are designing and rehearsing, the producer and general manager are busy securing cast and other crew contracts, organizing a marketing campaign with the advertising firm, working out deals with ticket services, and pulling the appropriate permits and permissions associated with a resident performance venue or touring show. Periodically, the producer will check in with his or her creative staff to monitor the build of sets, costumes, and other necessary elements, but also to ensure that the cast and crew are adhering to the budget and meeting established deadlines. Inevitably, roadblocks will pop up. It is the producer’s job to mitigate hardships and see to the logistical concerns associated with a stage production.
Skills & Education
A producer should have a formal education in theatrical management, live show production, or related field. Courses in business administration, marketing, economics, and theatrical design are also encouraged. The producer deals primarily in the business and financial details of mounting a show, but must understand the technical and creative process in order to accurately estimate costs, negotiate with vendors, and hire appropriate staff. He or she must have a thorough understanding of the market in which the show will be produced, and be knowledgeable about the process of licensing creative properties. Experience as a company manager, general manager, or another senior position is recommended.
What to Expect
Most of the live event producer’s time is spent in negotiating contracts, communicating with vendors, and wrangling money. This person must have business savvy, but also be a creative genius who can see moneymaking potential in a dream. That said, not every show is a hit. Some producers strike pay dirt over and over, but for the most part, producing is a trial by fire. The goal is to pick the best property, hire the most talented people, market the heck out of the show, and hope people like it. Producers can make substantial profits from a hit, but a flop could tarnish your career forever. This is a job for a risk-taker.