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The magic of a live Pink Floyd show may have seemed like a seamless burst of energy on stage, but the work behind the scenes to pull off the spectacular involved more than 100 people.
How those people — the band members, crew, technicians, promoters and endearing taggers-along — traveled across the country in unison nearly 25 years ago was a monumental task in itself.
“For me at the time, that was the most amazing thing,” said Amy Keeling, a travel advisor who has spent the last 27 years handling bookings for some of the world’s biggest rock bands.
It may have made the job a bit easier considering that she was a 24-year-old and a huge fan at the time.
‘I’m Booking Pink Floyd’
“I thought, ‘Oh my god I’m booking Pink Floyd,’” Keeling recalled during an interview with Skift discussing her exhausting and star-filled career. “I was literally working 24/7 to get that done. That was the most amazing thing to me.”
Keeling, an advisor with Tzell Entertainment, has spent the last two-and-a-half decades working with clients, including Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and AC/DC. During the early parts of her career, while working with Lauren Goldman at Journeycraft, the client list included David Bowie and Queen.
What started as a lucky opportunity, Keeling said, has continued in spite of the retirement of every band that she has worked with.
They all seem to announce their retirement at one point, but a love of a music never keeps them off the stage and tour for long. That is good news for Keeling, who has maintained a small but steady roster of some of the biggest acts in music for her entire career.
“Clapton has technically retired, but he just does tours when he feels like it,” Keeling said. “Phil Collins, who has retired, has recently gotten on the road and is making his fans happy. Iron Maiden, I think, will still go forever. They have all retired and yet are still all performing and keeping me in business.”
Handling the logistics for some of the world’s greatest musical acts has never been easy, she said.
During the early days of her career, before email and cellphones, booking multiple months-long tours meant working long hours and staying on the phone for long periods for most of the days.
“We had no ability to run a ticket. I was in the office at 11 o’clock every single night and spending the days on the phone with hotels, printing tickets, running them to FedEx at the end of every day,” Keeling said. “I was typing up rooming lists for groups and putting them in the mail. I can’t even fathom how that worked back then.”
Today, things are a bit easier as the bands that Keeling books for know what they like. The process always begins with the band’s booking agents, who send Keeling over their dates, usually well in advance of when the public is made aware of these upcoming surprise tours.
Keeling finds the best options for flights, hotels and at times busses, and in most cases, the bands leave the details up to her.
Personalization Travel Advisor-Style
There are of course some special requests, as these veterans of the road have learned what they like and what they don’t like. Among the stranger requests Keeling has been asked to accommodate over the years, the most common is that some band members ask for their hotel room layout to fit into the Fung Shui philosophy.
“Sometimes they want the bed to the right and the bathroom to the left type thing,” Keeling said. “I’ve heard a lot of stories from hoteliers and other agents that there are people that want their bedding very specifics ways, but again I look at it as comfort. You are away from home for months at a time. I truthfully couldn’t do it.”
Another request that may come as a surprise is many of the members of these iconic bands prefer a standard room in their hotels rather than an enormous suite.
“Hotels often like to upgrade my clients to the presidential suite, which sometimes they want but sometimes they don’t,” Keeling said.
So how does Keeling market her services? Her client roster is full and Keeling isn’t accepting new clients at the moment, so marketing isn’t an issue.
On the other hand, Tzell Travel Group President Monty Swaney said referrals are the main source of his company’s entertainment business, which has “always been a key part of Tzell’s DNA.”
Swaney said his agents clients include solo touring artists, stadium tours, touring classical orchestras, and touring Broadway/West End theater productions.
“We handle the ABCs of entertainment — artists, band and crew,” he said, adding that agents are there is anything goes wrong 24/7.
Tzell opened its Los Angeles office 25 years ago, and has offices in other entertainment centers such as New York.
On average, Keeling must handle all of the bookings for groups of about 10 or 20 people in the band party, and 35 to 50 in the crew. At times she just books for the crew and others only for the band.
“I really look at it as a relationship with the people I’ve worked with,” she said. “If everything doesn’t go well, [the tour managers] have band members and crew members driving them crazy. ‘Why are we here? Why did this happen?’”
In some of the bigger cities in the United States, including New York and Los Angeles, members of some bands that have been touring together for decades each have their own preferred hotels.
“With Eric Clapton, you just have to make Eric happy,” Keeling said. “That’s the foremost thing. When you have Iron Maiden, you have six band members who are six different people who like different things and you make it work.”