This week on the XLIVE Interview Series we sat down with Brennan McFaul, Vice President at Trixstar, a live event management & consultation firm based in Nashville, TN. We spoke to Brennan about a number of topics about event production, Trixstar’s strategic approach to event production and 360 talent buying, and more. Read the full interview below!
Original Article from XLIVE: https://online.xlivecon.com/event-technology/brennan-mcfaul-trixstar-xlive-interview-series
> Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, Brennan. Tell us a little more about Trixstar. When was the company founded and how has Trixstar grown and changed since its founding?
Thanks for having me. I have been following along with the XLIVE Interview Series for awhile and I am honored to be included among the industry leaders you have had thus far.
Trixstar was founded in 2005 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada by Mike Anderson, who had been producing events for the local college (NAIT) and COCA (Canadian Organization of Campus Activities) for a number of years. With the experience he had gained and industry relationships he had developed, he saw an opportunity to take that and open his own event production company. What started as a 1-2 person shop with not much of an office has developed over the last 14 years into a premiere boutique live event production company that has produced events all over North America and now has offices in Canada and the US with 9 staff members. Although, we do offer concept to completion event services our most requested and most utilized ones are entertainment procurement and strategy. Strategically helping our clients bridge the gap between the entertainment industry and their event or venue.
> What industries does Trixstar work in most, and who are some of Trixstar’s clients and notable productions?
We have worked in many facets of the entertainment industry from live TV productions to developing a touring show to casino entertainment to festival production to celebrity activations to half time shows at professional football games to entertainment booking for fairs and festivals. Over the past 14 years, it’s really been an eb and flow with what area of the industry we work most in. If you would have asked me 7 years ago when I first started it would have been celebrity activations and casinos, 6 years ago mostly corporates and casinos, 3 years ago casino and festivals. Currently our portfolio involves more fairs/festivals than anything and we are looking at starting to promote more of our own events once again.
Some of the major clients we have worked with include the Grey Cup Festival (Canadian Football League’s Super Bowl Week), Big Valley Jamboree (one of Canada’s premier music festivals), Soundwave (electronic dance event inside North America’s largest indoor waterpark) and Red Bull Crashed Ice (extreme winter sport involving downhill skating in urban environments). We have had the privilege to build a show from the ground up and tour it to multiple cities with the likes of William Shatner, Kenny vs. Spenny and Paranormal State. Right now, some of our most exciting projects involve creating a new entertainment, marketing, production and ticketing strategy with fairs like K-Days in Edmonton and StagEX Music Festival in Lethbridge. Seeing the success these events have had after a shift in strategy has been very rewarding, especially knowing how much work all parties have put it in to it.
We have also helped the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League produce some excellent gameday entertainment by booking some great talent that has been in the national and international spotlight again and again. There is many teams in professional sports who are trying to do what the Eskimos are doing with a strategic entertainment program, but there are few getting it right, they are getting it right. Currently we are in planning mode for Soundtrack Music Festival Vol.3, it’s a top 40 mixed genre festival catering to 30-45 year olds. In partnership with a local Kinsmen Club this festival has grown every year, selling out last year with even bigger plans for 2020. It’s awesome to see a community help grow an event like this because the Kinsmen Club donates all proceeds back into the community through the many charities they support.
> How did your career take you into the live event industry?
Music and festivals was a huge part of my upbringing. By no means can anyone in my family play any instruments nor were they involved in any aspect of the entertainment/music industry, but my parents were always playing great music and having great parties while I was growing up. Every year we would be going to different festivals all over the place as a family. This really helped engrain the power of music and events into me from an early age. At University, between football practices and parties, I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Recreation, Sport and Tourism. It was in this period that I realized I wanted to work in the events and entertainment industry, I just wasn’t sure how or where yet. Coming from nearly a decade of management in the restaurant and nightclub industry, I had developed some knowledge around live events and formed some relationships in the entertainment industry.
I began working with Mike and Trixstar in 2012 and I finally knew what I wanted to do. He helped put into action my passion for live events, entertainment and helping people. Since then we have grown year after year. I am now based out of Nashville operating our US office as Vice President. Notwithstanding the business operations of our US office that I carry out, I focus on entertainment procurement and account management as well as spreading the good word on how we might be able to help future clients.
> Trixstar works on many aspects of a live event, from the strategy and development to talent booking, marketing, logistics, and more. How is Trixstar able to produce better events by handling so many event components?
Whether we are executing those aspects of the events or consulting on them, making sure that the strategy set forth in the beginning of the journey is being followed throughout the process and touches all those areas is a must. Open communication between all areas and having tangible and measurable goals for success should be something that is set out in the beginning. When we are working with a new client, we always go through a strategy session. Some of those sessions are simplistic in nature or very comprehensive, depending on what our role is with a specific client or event. None the less, all those aspects are touched on even if we are not executing them. We can bring a wealth of knowledge to any client we work with and are there to help and advise on any aspect of an event.
Even if an event has been around for a long time or they do things a certain way, getting new experienced eyes and collaborating on something is sure to create improved results. I am not going to say we know everything, but if there is something we don’t know we will do the research to come up with the best solution. I think this aspect also gives the artists and their teams we work with a sense of comfort knowing that the events and clients we work with have been through an exercise that is helping them be set up for success, which in turn sets their artist up for success.
> Talk to us about booking talent. As album sales have steadily declined, playing live shows are where most artists make their money. What should event professionals know with regards to buying talent, and how does Trixstar approach talent buying?
Talent buying or entertainment procurement has been the backbone of Trixstar since we started in 2005. We have found the following points to be the key to success when it comes to being successful at talent buying, which in turn makes our clients and events successful.
Research – The information on an artist's worth or trajectory is at your fingertips. Previous plays in market and sales/gross, size of venues/events they are playing, social media following, chart positions, sales/streams etc. This info is all available to you online, some is harder to find than others, but it is all out there.
Talk with your peers – Sharing info and having an open dialogue with colleagues in other markets, marketing partners and the artists teams themselves helps foster trust and grow relationships. Obviously some information is confidential, but communicating with other industry players can help in such cases when you need some advice on what works, what doesn’t, marketing strategies or a routing partner to lower artist costs across a few dates or need a piece of gear or for many other reasons. This is an industry of collaboration and needed on all levels to be successful.
Treat Your Entertainers Like House Guests – Most entertainers are on the road 150-250 days of the year. When an artist and their crew show up after being on a long tour, making them feel as comfortable as possible can go a long way. When you need to get that extra meet & greet, get the best price available or you need to cut down on your rider expenses, having that mutual respect is invaluable. Word also travels through the industry amongst artists, agents and managers, your reputation is paramount.
Have a Strong Brand – Money isn't everything. Artists are attracted to strong brands and people. They want to be a part of something reputable and exciting that will make it easier for them to sell tickets, merchandise etc. When an entertainer wants to work with you, it's much easier to negotiate the best price than trying to talk an artist into working with you.
Ask for Help – The entertainment industry can be filled with smoke and mirrors, agents and managers are selling their artists and not always helping you build something. That’s not to say they don’t have an interest in you being successful, but their first priority is taking care of their client. Don't be afraid to reach out to a friend or colleague or a mentor. If you don't have these resources available, you can hire an event management company or talent buyer. A reputable event management company will have the resources to find out the costs or know off hand the costs associated with putting an event on and the level of risk or success associated with it. From artist costs, production costs, marketing costs a good event management company can help make sure you get the best value for your event.
> What is your favorite part of your job, and is there a part of your job which is most challenging?
The most rewarding is always seeing an event come to life. A client trusting you to bring their vision to reality and everyone working hard to make this happen, hitting the goals you set out in the beginning, fans engaging with the brand and having a great experience at the event, getting that right act at the right time, getting an act you worked hard to book. These are all of my favorite things. It’s never easy and there is lots of hairpin turns along the way, but with a solid strategy and the right partners across all levels you can have more successes than failures. That is what we are all trying to do in this high stress, high energy industry, when it all comes together and goes LIVE there is nothing like it in this world.
> Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, Brennan. How can people get in touch to learn more?