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Setting the Stage for Success: The Power of Collaboration

BY | 2020-10-31
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“When you get to design a set and stage and create a show for the likes of Madonna, you see the success of all those long nights, trying times, and hard work.” — Jeff Consoletti
An Interview with Jeff Consoletti of JJLA, A Live Events & Entertainment Firm
ELA: Tell us more about what you do and how you got involved in the events/experiences industry. What drew you to the industry and what are some of the things you like the most about what you do?

Jeff Consoletti (JC): In short, I get to have fun every day! We get to dream up creative and unique ideas that try and elevate brands and drive excitement around anything from a premiere party to a product launch to a concert or festival, or other types of fan experiences.
I come from a big agency background in the advertising industry right around the time when words like “experiential” and “activation” were just becoming a thing. I was a fast-tracked young leader, working my way through the ranks quickly until the economic meltdown of 2007. I was an easy target to let go. I've always been tenacious to find new opportunities for myself, so I didn't let the setback affect me too profoundly. I had experience working with big brands such as Sprint, Turner Classic Movie, Kathy Ireland Home, CBS/Paramount, and others, and reached out to that network to get started. While new jobs were hard to come by, many of my former clients did have one-off projects for me to supervise; from running up-fronts and planning, to executing creative design at trade shows and exhibitions, JJLA was born. At about the same time, I had sought-out a volunteer opportunity with Christopher Street West (CSW), the non-profit responsible for producing LA PRIDE. The show needed a revamp, and I was able to pitch myself on getting a small contract to help align them. CSW and the LA PRIDE event would become my longest client and remains one of the most significant projects of our year.
When I started my business, I found a niche in live events by helping clients and brands with either brand new experiences or launches or helping to invoke change around something (be it a show, or product, or set) that simply needed to be refreshed and reinvigorated. I've always found this as the strongest and most defining differentiation between JJLA and other agencies and continues to remain true today. We want the challenging work that allows us to dive deep with our clients to come up with the most innovative and fun and attention-grabbing solutions. This remains one of the best parts and certainly the most favorite aspect of my job.

ELA: Mac. Cadillac. Madonna. JJLA has had the opportunity to produce quite a lot of great experiences! What have been some of your favorite experiences to imagine and bring to life?
JC: It sounds so cliché, but there is truly something special that comes out of every show we get to produce. You'll notice I like to describe everything we work on as a “show.” Be it a corporate dinner party for 40 to a festival for 40,000, people are coming to experience something new and unique. You want them to leave with that same feeling a rousing round of applause gets after an incredible concert. That's my approach to creating experiences that are memorable and invoke emotion to those who get to attend.
We produce close to 100 unique events every year, but there are certainly a few that stand out as some of my favorites, or just simply plain cool opportunities that I feel fortunate to be a part of:
  • We were sought-after to produce the live-concert scenes for Bradley Cooper's acclaimed film “A Star is Born.” As concert producers, our team was responsible for recruiting fans to attend shoot days at venues like The Greek Theater and Shrine Auditorium all the way to a week's worth of shoots out at Coachella. The filmmakers turned to us since they truly wanted us to recruit fans, not just film extras, and each of the concert scenes was indeed shot with the energy of a live show behind them. It was thrilling to see our work on camera in the finished project.
  • For about three years, we worked with our dear friends at Epic Records and music industry pioneers LA Reid and Sylvia Rhone to create EPICFEST. The event was known as a flagship party during VMA's weekend, with a star-studded guest list and incredible performances. During this time, it was when I really started to see JJLA take off. We would be sitting in planning meetings with these industry powerhouses, and Justin Timberlake, J.Lo or Kelly Rowland would just pop in the meeting to say hi. The event was a mini-festival, featuring a full line-up of performances, and we had the opportunity to produce shows for amazing artists including Future, Travis Scott, Meghan Trainor and Ozzy Osbourne. I wish I could share some of the BTS of getting artists like Ozzy or Travis on stage, but, that's another story... ;)
Credit: VoyageLA & Graye
  • JJLA has been so lucky to have deep roots in the PRIDE community. As a gay man myself, I got involved to help elevate a movement. PRIDE isn't a celebration JUST for LGBT people; it's about connecting communities in a broad sense, telling a story of acceptance, love, tolerance, equality — benchmarks of society. When we started our work with LA PRIDE, the event was a small street fair. Today, that event is one of the largest ticketed LGBT events worldwide and remains the biggest festival in metro Los Angeles. We attract big name music acts, have engaged with top 50 corporate brands who help to fund the show and raise sponsor levels to new heights, and are responsible for bringing half a million people to West Hollywood each year. Our team grows to over 150 employees to help pull off the event, and I'm so proud of the work we've done to set the bar for this community in tremendous ways. Our success at LA PRIDE opened the door to work with PRIDE organizations all over the world. We help up and coming cities with their artist negotiations and talent booking, have begun work on helping smaller markets develop their festivals in broader ways, and last year were engaged to produce the tentpole show of NYC's WorldPride Festivities, Pride Island, headlined by Madonna. When you get to design a set and stage and create a show for the likes of Madonna, you see the success of all those long nights, trying times, and hard work.
Credit: VoyageLA & Graye

ELA: In producing events and experiences, you have to manage quite a bit of scenario planning. And even then, sometimes things — even the best laid plans — don't go the way you intend. What have been some of those things you have experienced and how did you deal with them when they were happening? What did you learn?

I always tell my team that being successful at events is all about preparation. I like to compare it to taking a final exam. Chances are if you try to cram it all in the night before, you aren't going to do well. If you have confidence and an understanding of all the details of your event, just like as if you attended class regularly, you're going to ace it. Live events have so much energy and adrenaline, and I don't think I've ever had a 100% perfect show (from an insider's perspective). But when you prepare, whatever curveball is thrown your way, from late deliveries to wrong linens to sudden thunderstorms to a festival goer falling out of a tree (all true stories), you can get through them. Events are also all about teamwork. As the size and scale of our events have grown, I lean on and trust my team immensely with executing the details. No one person can handle one aspect alone. That trust and collaboration and empowerment has also helped in building our success.

ELA: Speaking of being able to plan, no one planned for the Covid-19 pandemic that has hit so many industries including the events space right now. How are you doing, and what are you learning right now? What advice can you share with other businesses that may have had to pivot their business plans in light of all of this? What is keeping you strong right now, what have you found positive about all this, if anything?
JC: Oh man, what an unprecedented and unbelievable time this is. I am grateful that I have my health and safety and have been reaching out to our team and friends and family members regularly and — knock on wood — everyone continues to be faring well. Being an entrepreneur and business-owner comes with such a big responsibility that I have never taken lightly.
To have people show up for you every day is one of the single-most humbling and proud experiences of my lifetime. As JJLA has grown, I've tried to remain selfless, bearing in mind that our success is so much bigger than me. I'm fortunate that JJLA is in a position to sustain through this uncertainty — and I think figuring out how to sustain is probably the most significant factor affecting business owners as we try to navigate through this. This certainly doesn't mean that we haven't had to make changes. Most of our staff is on furlough or have taken decreased salaries, which really eats at me every day. All of our live events have been canceled or postponed, and even events scheduled for the fall are already looking at dates in 2021. That said, I've taken this time to uncover new opportunities and service lines that we've always offered, but have been in the background of our large executions.
We are focusing on design and rendering and broadening our digital and streaming projects that can still reach audiences. We're focusing on interactive and web design and working with our clients more on marketing strategy and planning, instead of simply execution or fabrication that usually takes up a good deal of our time. While these are trying times, there does exist the opportunity to reassess elements of your business that you've wanted to reevaluate, improve or even embark on. I think staying in close communication with your existing clients is also crucial since those are the reliable relationships that will be there to pick up where things may have left off.

ELA: What is the next thing you're looking forward to — something you're doing personally or professionally?
JC: Through our experiences with PRIDE, we've built an incredible roster of LGBTQ and allied artists that have helped us to produce such vibrant and inclusive shows throughout the past decade. Before all of the COVID closures, we developed a concert series called #OUTLOUD that was to debut at SXSW as the festival's premiere LGBTQ music event. It was then our plan to produce the concert three more times throughout this year. SXSW canceled, so our Austin showcase went away along with it, and the domino effect of closures continued where we realized that #OUTLOUD, live in concert, was just not in the cards this year. That said, we had artists engaged and a concept that we're so proud of. We approached our artists to see if they would be interested in participating in a digital version of the concert. We received such overwhelming and enthusiastic responses that we are now developing the show into a mini-series event premiering in early May and extending through the end of PRIDE month in June. Each episode will feature several up and coming LGBTQ or allied artists and be headlined by a big name, with other special guest appearances. We also will profile non-profits throughout the series, including the many PRIDE organizations that are unfortunately unable to host their events in June, truly empowering and elevating the LGBTQ experience. We have an incredible partnership with a massive streaming partner that will help us launch the series, allowing us to reach over 20 million people — truly one of the broadest reaches for a JJLA produced show to date. I'm so proud and excited to have found something exciting to move on despite these uncertain times and can't wait to share #OUTLOUD with you all!
Credit: VoyageLA & Graye
ELA: What do you feel is the future of the events/experiential industry? Where do you see yourself and the business in 10 years?

People love to gather, to celebrate, to come together and experience life with one another. Even when we emerge from this period of self-isolation, the next several months or even year ahead will continue to have profound impacts across the industry. But I am optimistic that the big premieres and concerts and large-scale activations and trade shows or conferences and festivals that we have become accustomed to will return and will be bigger and more exciting than when we left off. I think, in the meantime, innovation and discovery will lead the industry, challenging agencies to think of ways to engage with consumers across many platforms, more than just in-person. I believe this sudden downturn allows businesses to be strategic and conscientious in their future planning, to come back stronger, more creative, and more poised to take on events in safe and unique ways.
For me, I look forward to continuing to develop JJLA as a leader and pioneer in the experiential industry. I hope we can continue to build our client base to include major events like the World Cup and Olympics that are making their way to LA within the next decade, and I'd love to elevate our events on a global scale, both in person and digitally. But through it all, if I still have the incredible, talented, smart, kind, and dedicated people that show up to JJLA every day by my side, I'll rest assured that I've continued to do something right that matters the most. Because I never want to do it alone.

ELA: Anything else you want to share?

Stay safe and healthy and go shake yourself a martini! Learn more about JJLA and our projects at Follow me on Instagram @jeffcons and see all the fun we have at JJLA @Meet_JJLA.

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