A first-person account of an internship with Bon Jovi
By Amanda Fritz
When the five members of Bon Jovi took the Bell Centre stage on May 4, greeted by the screams, squeals and hyperventilation of a full house of Montreal fans, I thought “These guys know exactly what they’re doing.” And why shouldn’t they? After 28 years of rock anthems, sold-out shows and tank tops, they’re seasoned experts at wowing a crowd. Since the mega success of Slippery When Wet catapulted them into the public eye, they have always stayed true to their biggest passions: music, education, philanthropy and Jersey. And Montreal apparently, where the Bon Jovi Live tour has played three times over the last 11 months. Their fondness for our Habs’ loving hamlet is readily apparent when you talk with any of their 150-person crew, who praise the Bell Centre’s facilities, acoustics and crowds.
When I got the call telling me that as a student of McGill’s School of Continuing Studies I was being given the opportunity to participate in a one-day internship with Bon Jovi on their Montreal tour stop, I was absolutely floored. In each city they visit, the group allows students from a local university to spend the day with their team, learning real life lessons to complement their classroom studies. On May 4, eight other students from the Public Relations program and I shadowed the tour’s event management and customer relations teams, and were given carte blanche to ask questions and participate in the day’s activities.
Our orientation was delivered by Mike Savas, Bon Jovi’s Management Coordinator and Joaquin Phoenix look-alike. He explained to us that the band and crew had driven in overnight from Ottawa, arriving in Montreal at 4 a.m. Mike had spent his three hours of sleep on a dressing room floor before waking to organize the crew that would set up the stage for the night’s big show.
Build it up, tear it down. Day after day for 18 months, this is the team that will put together 58 shows across 19 countries. He calls it a secret life that doesn’t exist anywhere else; he also calls it the best job ever.
Among a long list of responsibilities, Mike created the tour’s VIP program – a great example of a real-life public relations mandate. By providing the best seats and best service, Mike is able to boast a 95 per cent satisfaction rate for those who have shelled out an impressive $1,500 for the experience, one in which you even get to keep your chair.
From the front row seat I occupy as I’m being filled in on the precision of the rigging crew’s work, I can just barely make out the grey of the 400 section where you would typically find me. Instead, I’m spending today on a mission of information, interviewing Fuzzy, the Bon Jovi fan club liaison, on the details of his role, and listening in awe as John, a sound engineer, explains the layout of the band’s 20-foot-long soundboard.
We also had the pleasure of talking to Meg McRae, Production Coordinator for the tour. She told us about the people management and event logistics that fill her every waking moment on tour, her anecdotes touching on so much of what we’ve learned in class.
The day’s highlight had to be when we were given the chance to take the stage just hours before the concert. We stood where Bon Jovi soon would, staring at the empty seats that would shortly be filled by a sold out crowd of more than 20,000 fans. Inevitably, air guitar solos followed.
The evening closed with the jaw dropping show we’d been waiting for. We saw the hours and hours of rigging and engineering and tests come together in a 28-song, double-encore spectacle that knocked our socks off.
This was without a doubt the most memorable experience of my academic career. The Bon Jovi Experience internship gave me first person knowledge of the role of public relations professionals in the entertainment field and hands on experience putting together an event of this scale. My sincere thanks to the School of Continuing Studies for providing us with this once in a lifetime opportunity, to Bon Jovi for recognizing the importance of providing internships like these, and to their team for devoting so much of their day to answering our questions and showing us where our education could one day take us.
Amanda Fritz is a student in McGill’s School of Continuing Studies.