Christine Rogerson - Vibee / Live Nation
Where were you at in your music career when you had your first child? Was there much discussion about how that life choice would affect your career within the music/entertainment industry?
I had my first child in 2014 when I was a Director with Union Events, then one of Canada’s largest independent concert and festival promoters. I was a senior leader within that company and there was definitely going to be an impact when I took the time away to focus on my new parenting journey. Thankfully, they were supportive of this part of my personal journey and what it would mean for the company. We hired someone to handle my responsibilities while I was on leave but I was generally available to answer questions or have conversations that were broader in scope than what my replacement would be contributing.
I was more established in that role than I was when I had my second child in 2017. At that point, Union Events was acquired by Live Nation and I transitioned into a Festival Manager role there. Despite support and encouragement from Live Nation, I took less than two months off with my second. Maybe I got in my own head here? Maybe I didn’t? I was so worried about the impact of a year-long leave when I had only recently joined the organization and was still making my mark there. The company was supportive of me but I was worried that the industry and the speed at which it moves would not be as kind.
As a working parent in the music industry, what are some of the biggest challenges you are facing?
The music industry is so demanding. COVID changed some of our perceptions regarding remote work and “balance” but there is only so much balance that can be achieved when you work on music and events. Show days (and the weeks leading up to them) are incredibly long and arduous. Not to mention the post-event collapse when you’re so exhausted and just need to recover. You don’t get to recover in the same way when you’re a parent. In the minds of your family, you’ve been away (absent or busy) and now they have you back. They want their time now.
The biggest challenges I am currently facing feel internal. I’m a senior executive with a demanding position in a growing company. I’m a mom and a partner too. A daughter. A friend. I struggle with giving everyone what they are hoping to get from me without taking every single thing from myself. Michelle Obama talked about the fact that you cannot actually “have it all”… certainly not at the same time. So, my current challenge is deciding what to give up at that particular moment. That struggle is real.
What is one small change within the industry that could make a positive impact for working parents?
One small change… Flexibility and acknowledging that choosing to be a parent is not choosing to sit on the sidelines of your career but more that it changes your needs as an employee. A working parent who needs to duck out early to watch a school recital or needs to work from home because their child is sick isn’t less dedicated or committed to their job. They just have different needs.
We’re not even talking about comprehensive programs that cost the company money, though there is value there too. Simply providing flexibility and a family-friendly company culture is linked to increased productivity, satisfaction, and retention of the employee.
How do you find support and community with other working parents in or out of the music industry?
Recently, I find it to be challenging to navigate the perception of our work in the eyes of others. Our industry can be perceived as glamourous, it’s creative and exciting, it’s entertainment, it’s late nights and stage lighting, it’s travel, it’s music. People don’t understand the stacks of budgets and invoices, endless tabs of Excel, coordination of elements – people, places and things, CAD drawings, project management tools, RFPs, communication tools, endless Zoom meetings, and everything else that goes into these glamourous events. It’s work and can be both incredibly rewarding and incredibly challenging. It can be difficult to find a receptive parent in the “real world” that doesn’t see our work or travel as a welcome escape where we’re sipping cocktails backstage while the band plays… I am grateful for a few close friends who are not in the industry, who appreciate that my job is also a job and allow me space to share.
Within the industry, the camaraderie seems to come more in commiseration over how tough it was or is for them. It’s not to diminish the gains that have been made with support and tools provided to working parents but maybe just an acknowledgement and knowing smile. The industry is changing but not overnight. Then we may trade photos of us with our kids at the events that we produce or alongside us in our work environments. Those moments are fantastic. I love seeing more and more networks and cohorts of parents within the business – there are groups on social media, Whatsapp threads, and other organizations. It’s great to show people that they don’t have to choose between having kids and staying in the business. It’s amazing to share tips and tricks, or things to ask of your employer. It’s great to have a forum to ask “how did you tackle xyz?”
What’s one specific example of an organization/venue/company doing something great to help support working parents?
I do believe that Live Nation is doing some great work in supporting parents and families. They have a myriad of employee resources and benefits that they offer. In my opinion, Roadie Babies was one of the most significant for employees who are required to travel for work where the company provides financial support for you to be able to travel with your child (under two years) and a caretaker. There are also dependent sick days, parental leave, childcare benefits, and the LN version of bring-your-kid-to-work with Kid Nation.
What could a music event (festival, conference, etc.), do or provide to make it easier for you to participate?
My kids are a bit older now, so it is less about accommodations like space to breastfeed or pump, space away from elevators for naptime, and so on. Nowadays, I do appreciate when I can upgrade to a two queen or larger room or if I can book additional room nights at the reduced conference rate, so that I have the opportunity to bring my family with me or make a mini-break out of the trip. Some trips are not conducive to having the family but there are times where it is possible and it’s nice to share the time with them. I was able to bring my family on a business trip to Los Angeles in January. They got to enjoy both the ocean and the hotel pool, as well as an afternoon at Universal Studios, and I got to assuage my guilt from being away.
Can you shout out another music mama doing great things?
Right now, I am inspired by women who are in a different place in their parenting journeys and having their kids working with them now. Robyn Stewart is rocking at Women in Music Canada. I have so appreciated my conversations with Kelly Shouldice at the Winnipeg Jets. I loved seeing Marcy Szabo from Country Nation working alongside her kids at her festivals. There are so many parents doing incredible things in the business and with their families. I also love seeing the women who are just starting this adventure and feeling like they don’t have to cut the path entirely on their own. ALL of those newer or soon-to-be-parents are reminding me what the rest of us have been working for.