An excerpt from the best-selling book, An Introduction to Celebrity Protection & Touring by Elijah Shaw & Dale June. To get the full book, order at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles or Ebooks.com. Limited Signed Editions available at www.ArmsLengthAway.com
Almost without question, if you are a musician, the recording process is the part you love. This is where they get to be creative; it’s where they take an abstract concept and make it a sonic work of art, one that hopefully will generate revenue. While it can be hard work for the artists, for most it’s a labor of love. They have the ability to get paid and earn a living for doing what they enjoy most.
For protectors, particularly with personalities like mine, this part can be as exciting as watching paint dry. And while excitement need not be a prerequisite for the work that a bodyguard does, I think it’s fair to say that in the majority of cases, the recording process occurs in a pretty sterile environment, which means our protective posture needs to be modified to fit.
For example, unless some type of information leak occurs or fans spot the arrival, when a protectee goes to the studio, it’s traditionally unannounced, creating a degree of anonymity. Recording studios, by their very nature, are pretty well secured on their own. Not necessarily because of the celebrity clientele who come there to record, but because they’ve got thousands and in some cases millions of dollars’ worth of equipment that they want to hold on to. As such, most have some type of in-house security systems in place, ranging from access-controlled doors to uniformed guards and multiplex surveillance cameras.
So essentially, once you facilitate the movement of getting the protectee to the recording studio, your evening might well consist of a whole lot of hurry up and wait. Unless you were hired to play the drums, which is pretty unlikely, you just need to make sure that you are not in the way. With that said, getting out of the way doesn’t mean clocking out mentally. As protectors, we have to always remain in the moment, because Murphy’s Law will strike the minute you let your guard down.
We have to find a way to continue to keep our edge and maintain our focus for the duration. You might not think that’s much of a challenge for a couple of hours, but what about six hours, or ten, or 15? If your VIP is working on a full-length project, this visit isn’t just one isolated session. It could actually span several consecutive days, weeks, and even months.
So how do you keep your edge? How do you stay focused? In fact, one of the perks about a recording studio is that many of the nicer ones come packed to the rafters with amenities. Big picture-wise, every studio wants to compete for those recording dollars, particularly with the virtually unlimited budgets that come with major recording stars and their record labels. To do this, the studios have to come up with ways to entice the artists to want to come to their facility versus the one down the street.
One way to accomplish this is to be generous with the amenities. Usually located somewhere in the studio is a very comfortable VIP lounge, stocked with all the food and drink that you can think of, because requiring an artist to have to disrupt the creative process to go out and grab a burger is a waste of time and money. Instead, the studios will have runners who will gladly go out and get whatever you need, no matter the time of day.
In many cases, the food and drink are incorporated into the recording budget as an incidental cost; and, as part of the client’s entourage, you often have permission to order what you want as well. You want burgers? “Fine.” You want tacos? “Fine.” You want ice cream? “Fine.” Imagine, somebody’s going to run out and grab that for you and you don’t even have to pay for it out of your pocket as it’s included in the budget for what the studio charges for the session.
The luxuries extend beyond just food and drink. Almost all studios have cable or satellite TV with thousands of stations. Many have pool and ping pong tables and virtually every video game console system on the market. Now, these things in theory are for the client, but the reality is that, outside of the food and drink, the client doesn’t take part in much, because they’re usually so wrapped up in the process of doing what they love, namely creating their new music. As a result, the people who usually get to take advantage of all these amenities are the celebrities’ entourage, and while that might be large or small depending on the protectee, one constant in that equation is usually you.
So, let’s recap: it’s a secure location, you know you need to be out of the way, and it’s okay to partake in the amenities. With this in mind, you’ve located the VIP lounge and found its comfortable couch, the AC is on full blast, and you’ve ordered one of everything on the menu. You’re good and focused for the first three hours…for five hours…for eight hours. But that was only day 1. How about hour 12 on day 16? Nothing out of the ordinary has happened in all this time, so it’s okay to loosen up and relax a little bit, right?
Think about it: you’ve had nothing going on for hours on end, with the recording process running into the wee hours night after night. Your feet have been hurting all day, so you decide to slip your shoes off for a bit. With the air conditioner blowing, and your stomach full of pasta, your head starts to tilt back. Those eyelids start to get heavy, and that voice in the back of your head goes, “it’s for just a little bit — nothing has happened here for over two weeks.”
Now, Murphy’s Law could manifest itself in something catastrophic happening, but that’s more of a remote possibility. What’s much more likely to happen is that just when you decide to take that quick ten-minute power nap, that’s when the client’s manager walks in with a record executive from the label. From his perspective, viewing you with head tilted back and snoring, he doesn’t look at this as just an isolated ten minutes over a two-week period. Instead, what he sees is a person he’s hired and is paying, who not only doesn’t have anything strenuous to do all day long, but to add insult to injury, is sleeping on the job with his shoes off, surrounded by empty candy wrappers with Cinemax Late Night blaring on the TV. Welcome to your last day on the job.
In this setting, your mission is to figure out, in whatever way works for you, how you’re going to stay engaged and keep your focus. I’ll admit, based off of my personality type, the recording process is pretty grueling for me, but my method is to keep myself busy with paperwork. I work on everything from scheduling, to company payroll, to planning the Advance for the next assignment. Unlike many, I’m also a person who can read and not fall asleep, which is a big plus. You have to find what works for you and use that to help you figure out how to stay in the moment. I’m not saying that you can’t eat or watch TV; only the strictest of clients would have an issue with that in this setting. Just remember that you are still being paid to do a job, and appearances count.
Keeping Your Edge – Protectors & The Recording Process
By: Elijah Shaw
Elijah Shaw is the National Director of the North American Bodyguard Association and the CEO of ICON Global, and International Executive Protection Consulting Firm. Elijah, who has been featured in international publications such as Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, and Portfolio, runs the ICON Academy, an EP Training Program specializing in Celebrity & VIP Protection. He also currently sits on the Board of Directors of Executive Security International (ESI), the United States oldest Executive Protection Training School. His new book, An Introduction to Executive Protection & Touring: A Guide to Mastering the Business of VIP Security, hit the Amazon best sellers list, and available now.