Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, despite all of today’s trendy articles that would tell you otherwise. Now try to image being an entrepreneur in the fast-moving and fierce music industry, and you’ll perhaps begin to imagine the immense challenges that self-made business owner Clayton Hutson faced as he sought to form his multitude of skills and passions in the music industry into a single, entrepreneurial enterprise.
After obtaining his Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Design, Clayton, also known as Clay, worked in Chicago as a designer and rigging consultant and then for a regional light and sound company in Central Michigan before landing a position as a Production Manager for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; it is this position that would serve as a basis for his future work and as a launching point for him to move into the realm of live music.
Clay would go on to work with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Guns N’ Roses, Prince, P!nk, Kanye West, and Alice in Chains, just to name a few. When asked about his accomplishments in the music business, Clay states, “I think my passion for the business and my hard work make me successful. I make sure that I put forth my best effort for every project.” From an entrepreneurial and management perspective, he also emphasizes the importance of being surrounded by a strong team, working to ensure he’s aligned with people who have a solid work ethic and aren’t afraid of hard work.
How Clay Hutson begins his day
The public tends to view a career in the music industry as glamorous. In reality, it’s anything but, requiring long hours, hard work, quick thinking, and, most importantly, extreme adaptability. Add to that a tendency to be required to live together with a number of other people in a small space, and you’ve got a recipe for a very taxing environment.
Yet through all of this, Clay Hutson considers himself lucky every day that he gets to put his talents to use in an industry he loves. The workdays themselves start very early, typically around 6 or 6:30am, and although Clay would love to get his full eight hours of sleep a night, late shows and even later load outs make that virtually impossible for him. Despite this, Clay’s passion drives him, and he is up and working ahead even prior to the early call times, ensuring that the day is all set to run smoothly.
All in a day’s work
When you’re Clay Hutson, a typical day in the life can take on so many different forms. However recently, after a string of positions in the high-stress role of Production Manager, Clay has opted to take a breather and come back to his roots by taking positions in stage management and as lead rigger. Although less strenuous, these are still demanding jobs that require being on the floor for events from start to finish.
In a day as a stage manager, Clay still has to find the time prior to each morning’s call to complete a venue walk-through, develop a plan of action, and create an efficient but workable day’s schedule and to-do list for the crew. Then, during the day of event, he’s concentrating on various stage aspects and the logistics of the show itself, making sure that show goes up as quickly and as safely as possible. But it’s not just about the before and during…it’s also about the after. Everything that goes up must come down, and the same is true of any show, large or small. Once the curtain falls there’s still a plethora of work to be done so that the break down and load out runs smoothly. This is also Clay’s responsibility to organize, maximizing productivity whilst making sure everyone knows their role and keeping everyone functioning as a team.
While a day as a lead rigger doesn’t always start quite at the crack of dawn, it’s still an early day, beginning with chalking the floor and creating a layout of points for lifting and hanging various show necessities into the air around 8 am, as well as a meeting with all the riggers about safety and the day’s game plan. The official rigging call begins at 9 am and commences the flying of all that show equipment, taking anywhere from 90 minutes to 5 hours depending on the venue. When everything is up in the air and at the precise location it needs to be, the rigging crew will then do a safety check and put all of the gear cases into their appropriate storage locations. The final preparation step is hanging any soft goods, such as special curtains or a kabuki, and to clean up the stage area for the opening act. But the work doesn’t stop when the show starts – that’s when you’ll find Clay and his crew on call for any automation that’s a part of the performance and keeping their eyes peeled for anything that’s going amiss.
No matter the position Clay’s working, you will always find him as an active participant in the post-show loadout. Loadouts begin immediately at the final act’s conclusion, and conclude whenever all of the show’s gear has been packed and loaded into a truck for transport to the next destination. If there’s a little extra time, Clay might get lucky and have the opportunity for a shower at the venue’s facilities before heading to his bus and calling it a night, gathering as much sleep as he can before it all starts over again the next morning. Someone once compared road life to Groundhog Day, and it’s easy to see how that description isn’t far off!
Growing a business
Even with his workdays as busy as they are, Clay still has to find the time to tend to his own business; although it’s tied in with the day-to-day activities of whatever position Clay is currently holding, he still has to set aside some time to ensure continued growth and expansion.
All of Clay’s experience in the live entertainment sector, from sound engineering to tour production, provoked continued thoughts of starting his own business. The universe handed him the opportunity when the United States economy went into a major recession and the company he was working for started to struggle. Deciding his best course of action was to take this opportunity to strike out on his own, he took a leap of faith and went into business for himself, offering a variety of services derived from his background in sound engineering, rigging, logistics, stage management, and live production. As Clay’s instincts paid off and he rapidly began to acquire clients, he also started working to add the kinds of services that feed his passion and creative side, primarily stage and lighting design.
The spare time in his day continues to be dedicated to growing his business and his vision. Clay strongly believes that he offers a unique and valuable perspective in creating truly memorable events, thanks to his incredibly extensive and varied background in the music industry. All of his experiences have left him perfectly poised to speak with authority about what’s going to work and what isn’t when it comes to show creation and development. He also continues to grow his company wherever he sees new opportunities, adding services like CAD and keeping on top of emerging technologies that will improve the industry.
It’s evident that Clay has chosen for himself a far from easy professional path, but it’s one that he still loves to this day, and one in which he takes not only pride, but also great reward in the shows he creates and the joy he helps his artists to bring to thousands of fans every day.