Mark Shulman has had a job every day since he turned 14 and worked in music since college. Before he was booking Play Station Theatre, planning Panaroma Festival and now partnering on iconic venues like Terminal Five and the Music Hall of Williamsburg, the Senior VP for AEG Live-Bowery Presents got his start in the music business at Penn State.
“My first gig was as a stagehand on a student run concert,” he tells Amplify. “I worked for 20 hours, got $20, a B-52’s t-shirt, and I knew immediately that I wanted to make a career for myself in the live music biz.”
He eventually became the head of the University Concert Committee, managed bands, ran sound in clubs, and when the Bryce Jordan Center opened, took a full time position as Production Manager.
“During the summer and on weekends, I would do freelance production for promoters in Philly, Pittsburgh, and Upstate New York,” he said and was eventually hired by Laurie Jacoby (now with MSG) as the part-time Production Manager at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va.
“That summer, we produced 90 shows in 100 days and I somehow also managed to do my full time job at the Bryce Jordan Center at the same time,” he said. “After that, I wanted to start a new chapter and Laurie Jacoby introduced me to Joe Brauner who hired me as an assistant at APA in NYC. I learned a lot while at APA but I missed being a promoter so Joe introduced me to Debra Rathwell who hired me as a buyer at Metropolitan Entertainment. Four years later, we started the AEG Live office in NYC. Debra and I have been working together for 18 years. She is an inspiration, a mentor, and most of all a friend.”
Shulman said the best part of his job now is “that no two days are ever the same. Whether it’s booking shows, planning festivals, venue development, budgeting, or deal contracting, every day starts with a new agenda and a fresh list of tasks to be tackled.”
We asked Mark to pick his five favorite shows from his long career in music and he didn’t disappoint. He even threw in a few photos, including this mean mugging shot with Rick Ross.
Global Citizen Festival with Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Foo Fighters, The Black Keys and more at The Great Lawn in Central Park, NYC
September 29, 2012
In November 2011, Bill Fold from Goldenvoice asked me to take a meeting with a guy named Hugh Evans from a start up charity named Global Poverty Project who was looking for some advice on throwing a concert. I headed down to a shared workspace office where I met Hugh Evans and Ryan Gall from GPP. There were five of us in the meeting in a conference room truly only large enough to hold three people. Hugh told me of their goal to hold a concert in Central Park timed to occur during the UN General Assembly and as anyone who has ever taken a meeting with Hugh will attest to, he will inspire you to action. I spent the better part of the next hour explaining the challenges of doing a show on the Great Lawn and how it was never going to happen, and then the last 30 minutes scheming on how to make the impossible possible. The story of the Global Citizen Festival is worthy of a book and far more than I can write in this space but a team of All-Stars including Rick Mueller, Brian Murphy, Marsha Vlasic, Michelle Anthony, John Silva, and so many more came together to create an event with the power to change the world and fulfill Hugh’s vision.
There was never a plan to do the event again but as all the artists came together to perform “Rockin’ In The Free World” at the close of the show, I looked at Hugh and said, “I think we need to do this again next year.” No event had ever played the Great Lawn more than once. GCF just completed its 5th year. Calling this event groundbreaking doesn’t do it justice and if you haven’t attended one yet, you are doing yourself a disservice.
Radiohead with The Beta Band and Kid Koala at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J.
August 16/17, 2001
I should say from the start that while I was working at Metropolitan Entertainment who promoted these shows, they were really run by Debra Rathwell and Mike Donovan. Looking back at them, I’m just happy to have been there to witness history. Two magical summer nights where the perfect marriage of amazing music in an electric setting paired up to take the whole experience to another level.
These are the shows that I most often hear from friends and fans as their favorite shows ever. There were 15,000 people there each night but considering how many people say it was their favorite ever, you’d think it was hundreds of thousands.
The stage was positioned such that the twin towers were in the background. They would come down three weeks later.
Paul McCartney at Irving Plaza, New York
Feb. 14, 2015
In January 2015, I got a call from Barrie Marshall who said that Sir Paul was going to be playing at the SNL 40th Anniversary show in three weeks and he’d like to do a warm up show… on a Saturday.. while the NBA All-Star Game was in NYC… and it was going to be Valentine’s Day. Finding any available venue to do the show on that short notice was going to be a challenge, but the waters do tend to part when you tell people the show is for Paul McCartney. However, the complicating matter here was that the name of the artist had to be kept secret.
After many site visits, a couple confirms and cancellations, we landed in Irving Plaza as a show promoted by AEG and Marshall Arts in a Live Nation venue. I got to work with Jason Miller on the show who I have been great friends with going back to before he was in NYC.
The house was packed with Macca fans, A List celebs, the cast of SNL, and a bunch of NYC concert promoters who couldn’t believe we actually made it happen.
AC/DC at Madison Square Garden, New York
July 12, 1991
The early 90s were a music wasteland for suburban teenage rock fans. Turned off by hair metal and not knowing the sounds that would soon be reaching us from Seattle, my friends and I sought out our favorite rockers and no one was doing it better during the Summer of 1991 than AC/DC who arrived at the Garden during the Razor’s Edge tour.
I saw many shows on that tour but this one is most memorable because it ended with an overnight stay while handcuffed in the Port Authority jail. I’m afraid that’s all I can share though… I was 17 and the records are sealed.
Grateful Dead with Little Feat, Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
June 16, 1991
You can not compare anything going on today with any artist anywhere to what it was like to see the Grateful Dead around this time. They played three nights at Nassau Coliseum, two nights at Giants Stadium, and nine nights at the Garden, all sold out in a six-month time period.
It was unusually hot for June with temps in the mid-90s. It seemed like my entire high school was at the show and we baked in the sun while wandering the parking lot all day taking in the sights. The caravan of fans following the band from city to city made every show its own form of festival. I really hope we get to see something that can compare in the future. For now, I will just need to be content with the memories.