It seems that there has been a longstanding prejudice in regard to women working in the business end of the music industry. For a female to be involved in music, many think that you either need to be on stage slithering around in barely-there outfits like the mainstream pop stars, or you must be regulated to being a band relationship, supporter, or at least a groupie. It seems that even in this day and age, women are just not as common in percentages for running venues, managing bands, or calling all the shots as their male counterparts. I find that surprising, to be honest. I personally know many that fall into the fairer sex that work as bouncers, national talent buyers, publicists, and record company executives. One of those that I mentioned is a prime example of how maybe the music industry has dropped the ball far too often, and now she is professionally showing them a thing or two.
In the city of Las Vegas, things are dog eat dog! Only the strong survive and those who can’t rise to the top fade out as quickly as the signs in the Neon Museum. It is just a tough town regardless of your gender. A woman running the Talent Buyer and Production Coordinator duties of the Hard Rock Live on the South end of the Las Vegas Strip has to have a story or two about her struggle of getting into that heralded position. Michelle Queen has worked hard. She worked hard to not only get ahead in a business she loved, but to prove that women were a force to reckon with in the music business, without dancing on a stage with next to nothing on. Growing up in the Midwest and working in music venues, Michelle took a leap of faith and moved to the city of endless entertainment and quickly set out to stake her claim.
I had a chance to visit the multi-leveled venue that doubles as a kickass bar and restaurant. It is nestled behind the iconic Hard Rock Café brand guitar right on the Strip. There just so happened to be a show scheduled that night to kick off the Hard Rock Live’s Monthly Metal Series, and as hard as it was to get her to stop running around ensuring everything was perfect; I asked a few questions of Michelle about where she came from, her passions, and being a female running an entertainment venue in the city that glitters like gold. Take a look at our chat and think about the path she is forging for women everywhere.
Shawn Sixx- This is Shawn Sixx from Guitar Girl Magazine and I am here with who?
Michelle Queen- Michelle Queen… Talent Buyer and Production Manager for Hard Rock Live on the Las Vegas strip
Shawn Sixx- So, is it difficult being a lady running a venue in Vegas?
Michelle– I don’t if it’s so much about being a lady, it’s difficult in general for anybody. There is a lot of competition out here and it can be difficult being a girl. Ummm… I don’t have very many muscles so carrying equipment around can be difficult for me. (Laughs)
Shawn Sixx– Do you still think there is ah, I don’t know, gender stigma in the city or something like that when it comes to running what we figure is a popular place?
Michelle Queen- I think there definitely can be. The popular notion is that all girls (on the rock scene especially) are groupies. So, if you’re a female Talent Buyer you’re booking bands that you have a crush on or maybe you’re dating one of the band members, which is obviously not the case, you only want to book bands that are talented and are gonna get people through the door.
Shawn Sixx- So, how did you end up coming to Vegas? How did you start here? I mean, how did you end up here at the Hard Rock?
Michelle Queen- I am originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I worked at this amazing venue called the Rave Eagles Club. I started out as a street teamer stapling little packets together and handing them out after shows.
Shawn Sixx- Ha Ha, old school stuff.
Michelle Queen- Yeah and then eventually became a box office manager and I just kept working my way up from there. When you’re in the Box Office, you still deal with road managers and the bands extensively, so that’s really where I found my niche. It was in the back end of the industry and I like being able to help produce the shows so… I just got tired of the Wisconsin winters and Vegas seemed like the place to go. (Laughs)
Shawn Sixx- (Laughing)
Shawn Sixx- And it was 100 yesterday and it is very warm like that today, too. Was it a big step going from an environment like that (Wisconsin) coming to this part of the world? I mean, did you have like that one moment going “I shouldn’t do this, ah oh my God what am I doing?” or…
Michelle Queen- I never really looked back. I always knew that this was my place and the place to be.
Shawn Sixx- Okay.
Michelle Queen- The only thing that is intimidating is that the market is really competitive.
Shawn Sixx- Yes, it is, very.
Michelle Queen- For as in Milwaukee, it is a heavy metal town. You can have anybody you want.
Shawn Sixx- (Laughs)
Michelle Queen- It’s going to be a guaranteed sell out (in Milwaukee). Out here, you are competing with some of the best entertainment in the world from Cirque du Soleil to the major headliners like Celine Dion and Britney Spears.
Shawn Sixx- I mean everybody comes here too, so its an overwhelming onslaught of entertainment. So, if you can remotely stand out in this town at all just to get anybody’s attention, just to do something different; that says a lot about somebody who can do that. I can imagine coming from Milwaukee, which isn’t a small city, but coming from an environment like that to the big desert floor oasis; the onslaught of the neon and all the activity that is Vegas must have been tough. If you did get scared, somebody could totally appreciate that. I mean, how would you ever think of taking that step? How did you end up going from there (Milwaukee) to here, to this venue?
Michelle Queen- Well, when I first came out here, I worked for The House of Blues at Mandalay Bay. So, I spent the better half of my years in Vegas at the House of Blues and then it was just a time for a migration, an opportunity opened up and it was a step in the right direction.
Shawn Sixx- This is a new venue too, I mean fairly new compared to what we would consider standard venues on the Strip. When a lot of people come to Vegas and they think of The Hard Rock, they think of the casino.
Michelle Queen- Correct.
Shawn Sixx- They think of that off strip location. They don’t really realize that there is one here, too. It’s been five years since I’ve been to Vegas and when we met this January at NAMM, I didn’t know your spot was here.
Michelle Queen- A lot of people don’t; or they know the cafe exists here, but they don’t realize that there is a full-blown concert venue right above their heads.
Shawn Sixx- Fourteen hundred people that can fit in here correct? So, tonight we’re here and you are starting a new thing called the Monthly Metal Series. You being from Milwaukee and metal is big out there, is this a personal goal for you to bring Metal to the strip?
Michelle Queen- I would say it’s about 50 percent personal, and 50 percent there is a lot of really great local metal talent that I feel doesn’t get the support that it needs or deserves. A lot of the metal bands play at smaller bars off the strip. I just feel that I have the ability to create something to give them a platform to really take it to the next level, and give them more exposure. We have the tourist traffic that will wander up and maybe see their show and really dig them. They get an entirely new fan base that they might not have gotten playing at their local dive bar.
Shawn Sixx- You put them in this area right in the middle of the strip for the most part.
Shawn Sixx- So thinking about that… you are putting a harder genre on the strip when you have predominantly pop acts at best. Did you get any kickback? Did somebody give you any slack about trying to bring a heavier genre into this area?
Michelle Queen- They all think I’m crazy!
Shawn Sixx- (Laughs)
Michelle Queen- So (Laughs), I just kinda deal with it. It’s the good kind of crazy though. So, for the most part, everybody is really supportive. A lot of the local bands are super excited to participate.
Shawn Sixx- Oh they’re absolutely crazy, out of their minds like “Oh my God, I’m going to play on the strip and it’s not going to be me spending $50,000 to play across the street?”… or something like that.
Michelle Queen- Our drink prices are really reasonable, too. We do “Happy Hour” specials during the shows, so they are some of the cheapest drinks you can get on the Vegas strip.
Shawn Sixx- That is amazing for me because where I live, “Happy Hour” doesn’t exist! We have no drink specials, there is no Happy Hour, there are no 2 for 1’s, and there is no takeout like they have in Jersey and Philly.
Michelle Queen- We have $4.00 beers in a large concert venue. So that’s pretty much unheard of.
Shawn Sixx- Ok, so the Hard Rock Café in Boston charges $6.00 for a Pabst! Can you talk to them or something? (Laughs) Can you make that happen?
Michelle Queen- (Laughs) I will see if I can use my womanly wiles to talk to them…
Shawn Sixx- (Laughs)… The whole thing about it is, having somebody that had a dream to do something different and you really enjoyed what you did, where you were from, and you came here. You have a big city like Vegas and that could be very daunting for a lot of people to come in here and say, “I’m going to actually have a chance, I’m not going to end up being a cocktail waitress in Henderson.”
Michelle Queen- My grandmother actually told me, “Michelle you have the biggest balls out of anyone I know.” (Laughs)
Shawn Sixx- (Laughs) Go big or go home! I mean really, it’s kind what she meant. So, what would you give for advice to… whether it be a young girl or young guy saying, “I want to go to Vegas and do something big.” What would your advice be?
Michelle Queen- Umm… don’t gamble! (Laughs) But also, don’t second guess yourself. Because that’s when you start getting into trouble, when you’re second guessing yourself. They always say the first year is the hardest. So, once you make it through the first year, you are home free.
Shawn Sixx- You then realize it’s just a big city and a lot of it is fake. Just as long as you can get through that first-year goal…
Michelle Queen- Yeah, you will be met with plenty of challenges, but that’s what makes you stronger.
Shawn Sixx- Ok so what was your biggest challenge?
Michelle Queen- I would just say breaking into Vegas in general, because they see an out of state address on your resume and they don’t want to give you a chance.
Shawn Sixx- Gotcha, I can appreciate that.
Michelle Queen- You really have to win people over with your knowledge and your background.
Shawn Sixx- It would be like me coming from Boston to Vegas. Everybody would be like, well we know where that town is, but what experience do you have here?
Michelle Queen- Um Hmmm…
Shawn Sixx- So, we have this Monthly Metal Series that is starting tonight… so who are the bands?
Michelle Queen- We have a great band out of Huntington Beach, California called Valor & Vengeance. They are a great up and coming band and I see great things out of them in the future. We also have a special guest appearance by Burton C. Bell of the band Fear Factory. He will be doing a DJ set and spinning some great industrial and heavy metal favorites. It keeps the party going so everyone can just hangout, drink, dance, and socialize with each other after the bands are done. We do that rather than ending the concert and everyone going home.
Shawn Sixx- Perfect… Awesome! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me for Guitar Girl Magazine.
Michelle Queen- You’re Welcome.
For more information on the Hard Rock Café Las Vegas and the Hard Rock Live venue Michelle Queen oversees: