Last week I sat down with one of my oldest friends, Michelle Baraga, fresh off her return to Sarasota from Bonnaroo. For those who don’t know, Bonnaroo is one of the largest music festivals in the country. It takes place every summer in Manchester, Tennessee over a period of four music packed days and draws in over 90,000 attendees.
Michelle has always been into the music festival scene, as many of my friends have, but what makes her journey more interesting is that she is one of those rare people who took their passion and turned it in to a thriving career. It was actually upon her return from her first trip to Bonnaroo at age 19 when Michelle decided to attempt to get into the business. Afterwards, she spent 3 months interning for free at a total of 10 different festivals around the county. Michelle then spent the next 8 years working in the restaurant industry to supplement her income in order to continue to work at festivals throughout the year without pay. She worked any and all jobs needed and climbed her way up the festival food chain. She’s done everything from site administration to working in the lost and found. She’s found a great niche now, working in artist relations. She’s the girl who caters to the artists’ rider. A rider is a list of demands that the artists “request” for their performances, as well as their personal needs. They are infamously outlandish and bizarre. However, Michelle claims she hasn’t come across anything too crazy…yet.
Michelle now works at over 20 festivals a year, and has successfully turned her love of live music into her career. She does annual shows in Mexico and Canada, but more locally here in Florida, she works at the Gasparilla Music Festival, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and Ultra in Miami, just to name a few. She also works on concerts that are just making stops along their tour.
I had the pleasure to work with her a couple months ago at the Luke Bryan concert in Fort Myers. We worked in VIP relations, and it was really hard work! It wasn’t quite the glitz and glamour that I was hoping for, but it was an amazing experience to watch how the show comes together and the number of people who are involved from set-up to breakdown. And, you do get to the huge perk of watching the show from wherever you want once your duties are done. I, of course, chose the front row!
The really rewarding experience is interacting with the fans. Being able to help them have the best night of their lives is what makes Michelle keep coming back. As a massive music fan herself, sometimes it can be difficult to miss the shows and the artists that you would die to see as a fan, but as Michelle put it best, “It’s just like going to Disney World as an adult. The magic will always still be there; it’s just that now I know how it’s all happening.”
photos property of The Sarasota Post