As live music venues re-emerge from COVID and lockdowns, musicians and concertgoers alike are eager to get back to the stage. But with increased demands and health considerations, venue owners need to employ more people than before the pandemic.
Although unemployment rates have been at their lowest since March 2020 (4% as of January 2022), many venues are struggling to find the people they need to ensure their events go smoothly. What post-COVID hardships with concert venue staffing need to be considered?
Between stagehands, lighting and sound technicians, ticket takers, and ushers, live events have always needed a significant number of support staff to provide a spectacular experience. But many people who took on these jobs in the past were forced to find other occupations when live events disappeared almost overnight.
Now, the industry faces a potential employee shortage as live events return. Even if your venue still has time before its next event, it’s essential to begin figuring out some strategies for moving forward and how you’ll manage your staffing needs for your upcoming concerts.
Concert Venue Staffing Hardships Created by COVID-19
When the pandemic initially hit, the US witnessed the end of the longest period of employment recovery and expansion. And while many industries have been able to bounce back fairly quickly, the live music industry has been slow to get moving.
Although the average unemployment rate across all industries reached 14.8 in April 2020, the unemployment rate of workers in the music industry alone jumped from 1.1% to 27.1% in less than a year.
It’s understandable—people have limited economic resources and are worried about spreading the disease. Now, as live events bounce back, venues are able to hire the number of people needed for their events. In fact, venues may even need to hire more employees to address health and safety protocols like vaccination/test result checks, or other ongoing and changing preventative mandates.
The issue is that many of the people who worked in the industry before the pandemic have found other jobs. Although some will likely want to get back to the music industry in any way they can, others may find that they’re satisfied with the new life they’ve built. Former crew employees have taken on jobs as carpenters, maintenance specialists, life coaches, and more. Because of the uncertainty that still revolves around live events, it may be difficult for people to leave their new positions.
Spectra Venue Management, a company that runs nearly 150 venues across the US, reported that only 50-60% of their part-time workers would return once events resumed. Aside from people who found jobs in other industries with better wages and more convenient hours, other workers are reluctant to return for health and safety reasons.
So, where does that leave venues trying to fill the gaps in their concert venue staffing needs?
What Considerations Need to Be Made for Concert Venue Staffing?
When you’re replenishing your staff list, you have two options: hire more people for your in-house crew or turn to a staffing agency to ensure you have all the people you need.
Considerations for Hiring an In-House Staff
Having a dedicated group of staff members is appealing because you’re able to build relationships with your employees, they’ll get to know the venue inside and out, and people can either take on specialized or flexible roles.
Attracting new crew members in the post-COVID world will look a bit different than your previous recruitment methods. People crave stability and reliability right now, and your venue must be able to offer these in some way. Your in-house employees need to know that they’ll have a steady stream of income, whether they get it in one place or through multiple channels.
Flexible Staffing Models
Some people are happy to take on a more freelance-style work-life by piecing gigs together. If you provide a flexible staffing model that enables people to work multiple jobs, they may be more willing to commit to you. This may mean offering more part-time or contract positions compared to full-time openings.
One of the more popular recruiting strategies at the moment is offering a one-time hiring incentive. Venue owners have put signing bonuses, retention bonuses, and cash incentives on the table to sweeten the deal for potential employees. And because so many employers are dealing with the labor shortage, the employees have the ability to be selective with the job they ultimately choose instead of snatching up the first offer they get.
Same Day Pay
Some venues are developing a same-day payment program to attract employees who don’t want to rely on bi-weekly or monthly payments. Cash in hand after a shift is incredibly alluring because people can reap the rewards of their work immediately.
Prioritize Worker Retention and Training
Once you’ve hired crew members, the next step is to keep them around. Employee turnover in the hospitality industry has historically been high (70-80% annually). The best way to prevent constantly scouting for new employees is to keep the people you already have.
Creating an effective retention strategy will significantly help your operation move forward. In additon to investing in your employees in ways that makes them feel valued and encourages their invest in your company, you can include retention bonuses, raises, internal promotion opportunities, benefits packages, and more to encourage people to stay with your team.
Additionally, if you plan to increase employee longevity, you need to emphasize a well-rounded training model. Your crew members should be cross-trained so they can assume different roles during events, while clearly understanding their job.
Considerations for Using an Event Staffing Agency
If you can’t find enough in-house crew members or just want to make sure you have enough people when you need them, you can use an event staffing agency.
Fostering a partnership with a staffing agency can be beneficial even if you have enough in-house staff. If you have multiple employees test positive for COVID, or you want to host a large event that requires a lot of staff members, you may need to reach for this lifeline.
Last Minute or Advanced Notice
Of course, it’s easier to find people when you give them plenty of notice. But one of the major perks of a staffing agency is that they can help you get staff members in a pinch. Staffing agencies provide a level of flexibility that can help you get through the rough patches of reopening.
Bring Them in Before the Doors Open
If you are using an event staffing agency, it’s crucial to schedule them to come in at least an hour before the doors open. This allows your managers to give them the lay of the land and discuss procedures and protocol before the fans get inside. Hosting an all-team meeting before an event makes it easy for you to clearly delegate tasks to each individual and identify go-to people for any issues that pop up.
Pair Temp Employees with In-House Employees
If you have the benefit of having both your internal crew and help from a staffing agency, do your best to pair in-house employees with temporary employees. This enables the agency workers to ask questions whenever they need and your staff to ensure your protocols are followed.
Although you’ll know the difference between the people who work for you directly and those from the staffing agency, your customers won’t. Every event employee will be representing your venue, so you want to feel confident that you’ll be represented well.
What Can You Do to Ensure You Get the Staffing You Need?
The first thing you need to do before you recruit new employees is to examine your budget to see how much room you have to hire in-house salaried or hourly employees. Because of the labor shortage, it may be better to offer fewer positions that pay more than as many minimum wage jobs as you can provide.
If you have a smaller team of dedicated employees, you can use an event staffing agency to fill in the gaps of your concert venue staffing requirements as needed.
It goes without saying, but you have to be the kind of employer that people love working for. Yes, your workers probably applied because of the free show perks, but getting them to stick around is a bit trickier now that they know they have options. Be kind, be flexible when necessary, and be the place where people are lining up to snag a job.
If you end up juggling your in-house staff and partnering with a staffing agency, you’ll need a powerful calendar tool to help you make sure you fulfill all of your concert venue staffing needs.
Trying to determine how many people you need for each event and creating a fair schedule is ridiculously inconvenient when using a spreadsheet. Traditional methods only open the door to mistakes and chaos, two things you don’t need right now.
Having an integrated system that handles every aspect of planning events will make it that much easier to collaborate with your employees. You’ll be able to assign tasks and shifts to in-house individuals, quickly browse your budget to see how many people you can have the staffing agency provide for a concert, and everything in between.
Prism offers venue management software that has everything you need to prepare your venue for the new normal. Dealing with concert venue staffing issues will be a breeze because you’ll have a state-of-the-art platform to help you make informed, real-time decisions. Get started with Prism today and revolutionize your venue management.