Live Music Tour Director Not Slowing Down
By Tim Meehan
After growing up in a town outside of Pittsburgh and then moving across country to attend college at UC San Diego, Paul “Skip” Rickert spent a life traveling all over the world as one of the premier managers and tour directors for some of the greatest musicians of all time.
Now 68, one would think he’d be ready to settle into the retirement life with very little movement at his property in nearby Valley Center.
But rock and roll never rests.
Rickert, who will be at Cal State San Marcos on April 10 as the final Arts & Lectures series of the 2022-23 year, is considering pulling up roots yet again, this time to follow his daughter’s family.
“I'm not retired, and I don't intend to,” said Rickert, who is the current tour director for famed Latin musician Carlos Santana. “So wherever (she) goes, I'll just pull up and you know, a house is just a house. It's wherever we are is where the home is.”
Rickert will present “The Business of the Live Music Business” at 6 p.m. in the USU Ballroom. Tickets can be purchased by community members for $5 here. The event is free to CSUSM students, faculty, staff and alumni.
It’s co-sponsored by Sound Image, an Escondido-based audio solutions specialist.
His presentation will include what a typical day is like for someone who creates a live music tour from concept to execution. He will discuss marketing strategies and share tips as well as his experience of a life spent staging tours for some of the most famous acts in rock and roll history.
“I hope to make it entertaining,” said Rickert, who earned a Latin Grammy nomination for his work on the Santana video “Corazon.” “Happy, engaging. And I actually will not discourage questions in the middle of something because I hate trying to have to remember what somebody wanted to ask about. This can go in so many different directions so easily and go so deep.”
Rickert has worked in various capacities with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, Backstreet Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Ice Cube, ZZ Top, Korn, Paris Hilton, Diana Ross, Green Day, Ozzy Osborne, and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Upon graduating from UCSD in 1979 with a theatre degree, Rickert immediately went on tour with the Little River Band.
He had set up lighting and staging performances before, specifically in Colorado with the Shakespeare Festival in Boulder. That, combined with his backstage work in his undergraduate program, elevated him to elite status in that first professional tour.
An opportunity to serve as tour manager for Berlin for three weeks fell into his lap, a result of being in the right place at the right time.
Perhaps his career changed forever when Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn told him with a few days left in the tour that he was the worst tour manager they had ever had.
“She said, ‘But I have to say you are enthusiastic in your failures,’ ” Rickert said. “There was a compliment in there. She was right. I was very enthusiastic. I wasn’t timid at all about failing. I learned never to do things that way again. So that learning curve of three weeks led to the next opportunity.”
Rickert isn’t new to the concept of turning failure into chance. After all, he had been a biochemistry major at UCSD before switching completely to theatre after embracing the creativity and organization of backstage lighting, set building and stage management.
In the live music industry, much can go wrong from unpredictable local conditions to inconsistent vendors to problematic performers.
One of his greatest strengths to come out of his career in the music industry is his ability to read people.
“I have failed so many times I've been fired up about being fired,” Rickert said. “But I’ve never been fired because of the competency. I have been fired because of personality conflicts that I admit that I'm OK with. Because one out of 10 people don't like you. It's just the way life is. It's not television, this is the real world. That's the truth. And if you get an employer that you don't like, then you’ve got to make a decision on how far you want to go to gain the knowledge you're getting in that job.”
If failure and being open to change is part of every impactful journey, Rickert’s career is a testament to realizing one’s next opportunity is right around the corner.
Although this will be his first time on the CSUSM campus, Rickert has lectured at more than a dozen college and universities, including giving a regular advanced stage management seminar at UCSD.
After thousands of television events and live performances from 100 miles south of the Arctic Circle to all over Europe and Africa, he welcomes a short commute just across the 15.
“I'm passionate,” he said. “I'm passionate about the whole journey and the system. Not just because it's mine, but it's because it can be anyone's. It can be anyone's road of discovery. Everyone is on the road to discovery, always evolving. We're not the same we were yesterday or last year or five years ago. I still have the energy and the appetite to learn. And I know I don't know everything. I try to put myself into position to learn something every day.”
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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