Behind the Scene: Nadia Prescher
Nadia Prescher with The String Cheese Incident, captured by her client C. Taylor Crothers
Nadia Prescher is the co-founder and owner of Madison House, Inc. The company, which she started with Mike Luba in 1996, handles booking, management, show promotion and even photography representation. Currently, there are more than 150 artists on Madison House’s roster, including The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, JJ Grey & Mofro, Mobb Deep and Lotus.
What was the live music scene like where you grew up?
I started going to shows in Columbus, Ohio, where I went to high school. We’d go to shows on the Ohio State campus because all the big bands came through Columbus. Being in high school and going down to a college campus to see a show was a pretty big rush. There was always some sort of trouble brewing and it’s not a coincidence that after high school, I ended up at Ohio State for my college degree.
What was your first job in the music business?
I started with internships at a radio station and an indie label. At the radio station, one of my first duties was forging the on-air DJs’ signatures. Literally, I spent the entire shift forging autographs on birthday cards that they would send to their fan base. I think I was allowed to deliver coffee once while the DJs were on-air. So today, I look at our educational internship program at Madison House, and I have a very low tolerance if someone complains about the work they are given. Mike Edwards gave me my first real industry gig, talent buying for a club (Ludlows and The Patio). After leaving Columbus, I knew I wanted to work for myself, since finding another incredible boss like Edwards would be impossible.
What led you to start Madison House?
Being a promoter in Columbus in the '90s was an incredible start. We did a lot of different music: Sarah McLachlan, Freddy Jones Band, CAKE, Todd Snider, Jackopierce, Better Than Ezra, From Good Homes, Aquarium Rescue Unit with Derek Trucks (who was 14 at the time), Edwin McCain, Howard Jones, Paula Cole, Vertical Horizon, Jupiter Coyote, Everything, Leftover Salmon and a lot of Aware label bands. But Ludlows was starting to make more money doing cover bands and, understandably, it was easier for the staff and club. Simultaneously, it was clear that it was time for me to leave Columbus. So I moved to Athens, Ga., to start Madison House with Mike Luba during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. We had met in 1994, and we had done some business together while he was at Cellar Door. We had a similar work ethic and the same belief that anything is possible in this business.
What was an early lesson you learned?
Pause when agitated— and don’t let anyone take their problems out on you.
What was your best day, and what was your worst or most stressful day?
Watching one of my bands play their first Red Rocks gig is pretty unbelievable. The amount of effort it took to get there, the beauty and color of the rock, and the artist’s reflection of their whole process is an honor to watch. That kind of day can make your whole year. The look on their faces from the stage during soundcheck is also irreplaceable. If they are conscious enough to acknowledge my significant role in the process, well, that’s a bonus. I think all of my colleagues would agree that even a super stressful day in the music business, unless someone is dying, is just a day filled with luxury problems. We are very lucky to work in an industry filled with good friends and talented musicians, no matter what this insane business brings us in a day.
However, last fall, my family and I went to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with the charitable group Conscious Alliance as part of a food drive. Our job there was to bring a message of hope, while delivering 600 holiday meals. Almost the entire Pine Ridge Reservation population lives below the federal poverty line, and the average household occupancy is 17 people. The day of the meal delivery, people were pulling up with cars that were falling apart—eight people to a car, children with torn clothes—and it was such a joy to carry the food to the cars and see the smiles on their faces. But, nothing could prepare me for the feelings when a family pulled up that didn’t sign up in advance. It wasn’t like they were looking for a free TV or a free trip to the Bahamas; they were looking for food. Many of them drove a great distance, but we had to turn them away. I would classify this as a stressful day—not canceling a show or rerouting a whole tour I was about to confirm, or firing an employee. This was the real stress of turning down a fellow human being who wanted a basic necessity: food.
What’s the best part about your job?
One aspect of my job that I love is giving back with amazing organizations like the Rex Foundation, HeadCount and Conscious Alliance. I also enjoy seeing the world and the unique schedule that comes along with it. It would probably drive most people insane to have such different schedules on different days, but I think people in our business thrive on it. Last night, I was in Sydney with Nahko and Medicine for the People. Tonight, we are in Melbourne, Australia. And tomorrow, I fly home to Colorado and head straight from the Denver airport to Boulder, where we shut down University Hill for The String Cheese Incident album release party. It’s a free concert similar to the Grateful Dead playing on Haight Street, mixed with the movie Animal House.
Where are you when the show is going on?
I can’t say that I am stationary for more than five minutes at any one time, but the team knows to look for me in these places: production office, promoter’s office, stage right, stage left. But if I’m still not anywhere to be found, then see the nearest coffee location.
When does your day end?
We all know in this industry, the day is never over. There is always a country that is just waking up when you are turning your light out, so there is always more to be done. But, in other countries, the music industry seems to take a bit more time for non-work related fun. I try to borrow that mindset from overseas about work-life balance.