INTERVIEW: Whether it was the top-grossing concert of One Direction (50,000 tickets sold out) or the lower-key (but still enormous) Ed Sheeran performance (30,000 tickets sold out), Ovation Productions never fails to draw the biggest names to the music-loving audiences of the Philippines.
While basking in its commercial successes for the past 43 years, the company also sets out to achieve positive impacts in the HR arena, attracting some of the best talents the industry has to offer, and retaining them for the long term.
This is what Chief of Staff Asia explores in the second installment of its interview with Renen de Guia, President and CEO of Ovation Productions. Previously, he discussed the importance of a good brand reputation to succeed long-term in the entertainment industry.
Now, De Guia gives us a glimpse into concert production and how it is a family business, with a focus on loyalty and flexibility in the job. He also explains why online concerts don’t necessarily deserve a standing ovation.
Despite the slim company size, Ovation Productions manages the work demand of staging concerts and events through ongoing training.
“We have developed and trained key personnel to do specific tasks whenever we have events,” De Guia says. “Seasoned personnel is assigned to help road managers, production assistants, and event coordinators learn the ropes (and), eventually, everything becomes routine for everybody.
“They know exactly what their job is and we are proud of their quality of work. After all, we trained them to do it!”
De Guia’s wife, Cel, is the Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer, and directly supervises the ticketing and accounting staff.
Some people work full-time for Ovation Productions. Others have day jobs working in hotels, call centers, venue facilities, and other companies, with Ovation Productions engaging them on a gig-by-gig basis.
But De Guia says one of the company’s most important staff members is his son, Bogie, the company’s Production Manager who also handles security and road management.
“We are all multi-tasking,” the all-around company chief discloses.
Even he wears several hats in the organisation, including providing the voice for the company’s digital and broadcast advertising. De Guia worked as a radio disc jockey in the early part of his career.
He describes the company’s work environment as “informal”, “casual”, and “homey”, adding that the office set-up is not “stiffly corporate”.
“The facility used to be our garments factory for a once-famous t-shirt brand in the 1980s,” he says.
Aside from the comfortable office set-up, he notes that employees get to travel with the artists on Philippine tours to provincial cities, staying in five-star hotels, and enjoying daily buffet meals with the tour entourage.
Not everyone can afford concert tickets, especially if it is a foreign act. But Ovation Productions makes free tickets a part of employee perks — for both staff and their families.
Not only that. De Guia says, “Everybody gets to have a souvenir photo as a group with the artist at the end of a tour.”
On top of their regular salaries, staff members working during concerts also receive additional pay.
This kind of work culture paves the way for less attrition as De Guia proudly reveals, “Some of our original factory workers still work for us after almost 40 years.”
"No" to online concerts
Concerts and live events have been badly affected during the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. We asked if Ovation Productions had any special work arrangements at that time when onsite events were impossible to stage.
“We closed down Ovation Productions temporarily,” he admits. “As our office building was close to our home, we had the whole office to ourselves during the lockdowns.”
De Guia recounted that the office became his studio after he started painting as a diversion from the gloom of the movement restrictions.
“The people of our newly-started TapGo worked from home. We operated remotely and communicated over video links,” he adds. The team used Slack to communicate, and Asana, a web, and mobile work management platform, to further ease the workload.
Ovation Productions did not join the bandwagon of doing online events and concerts during the early days of the pandemic.
“We were not keen on the idea that doing things online would capture the ‘live feel’ of the actual performance,” De Guia explained. “Concertgoers don’t like it since ticket prices are (still) expensive. Many tried and failed. One of the few exceptions was (the Korean pop group) BTS, whose online concert grossed over USD 40 million.”
Now that society is moving towards endemicity, Ovation Productions has not let go of work flexibility. “We have been quite lenient with work schedules, post-pandemic,” De Guia says. “Some of our people come to the office on certain days and work from home on other days. Others haven’t even come in yet.”
He admits that this flexibility might change soon, given business volumes and competition are returning to pre-pandemic levels.
For events and entertainment companies, such as Ovation Productions, De Guia thinks that an in-person office set-up remains the preferred mode of work. “Work from home has limitations; efficiency suffers as some degree of communication is ‘lost in translation’, among other issues.”
This feature was extracted from Chief of Staff Asia's exclusive interview with Renen De Guia, President and CEO of Ovation Productions. For further coverage please see any of the below links: