Industry Profile: Jam scene marketing guru Annabel Lukins cruises through Festivals



By Brian F. Johnson

Audience members of Jam Cruise, Langerado, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza may have seen a blur streak past them in recent years — a fiery ball of energy, just over five feet tall, that talks as fast as she moves and has a personality three times larger than her small physical stature.

That blur is Annabel Lukins, the director of marketing and artist relations for Jam Cruise. In addition to her duties on and off the boat for Cloud 9, the company that runs Jam Cruise, Lukins also handles marketing duties and artist relations for a variety of other high profile music festivals around the country.

The daughter of famed cookbook author Sheila Lukins, Annabel worked her way up to the job that she has now through a series of moves that started as an intern with Polygram Records while she was in college at Lehigh Univeristy in Pennsylvania. Now, several jobs and years later, she’s one of the top dogs helping to put on these legendary festivals, all the while helping to make sure that the artists playing those events are well taken care of.

Marquee: What was the first concert you ever attended?
Lukins: Paul Simon at the Beacon Theatre in New York in 1985. I actually grew up in the same building as Paul Simon, but the show wasn’t of much interest to me at that point. I just didn’t like the music that much. I was still kind of into my Michael Jackson and Madonna stuff.

Marquee: What was the first album you ever purchased?
Lukins: Well, if we’re going to get it all out on the table, Nelson. When Nelson was popular in the ’80s, I was like their number one fan.

Marquee: What was your first job in the industry?
Lukins: Well, my parents wanted me to grasp the corporate world. So I interned at Polygram and I worked for R& B radio and I loved it. I remember one day there was this big announcement that Steve Miller was going to come to the office the next day and that nobody was to approach him. But, I said to myself, ‘Hell, yeah! I’m brigning my Greatest Hits CD.’ So the next day he’s there and he opens up the president of Polygram’s door and asked if someone had a trash can, and I’m like, “I do Mr. Miller. Let me take that from you.’ And so I asked him to sign my CD and it was literally, the record skipped and I must have kicked a puppy, cause they all looked at me like, “What has she done?’ But I went running down the hall like Chariots of Fire and I knew right then and there that this was going to be my world because I wasn’t afraid to approach musicians.

Marquee: You worked at MTV, too?
Lukins: Yeah. Well after college, and Dead tour and Phish tour, I moved to Aspen to be a ski bum for a few years and then moved to San Francisco to work for an independent record label. And then I did move to MTV and I was an assistant in four different departments. I loved it so much. On the side, because I had access to phone and fax and Fed Ex, I became a street teamer for all these bands like Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, The New Deal and Dark Star Orchestra. And, I did it all for free.

Marquee: And then how’d you get to Jam Cruise?
Lukins: Well, I worked for a while with Telluride Bluegrass Festival and I knew I wanted to end up in Colorado, but after doing that for a year, I saw that Jam Crusie was looking for a marketing director, and they were having trouble selling out their second cruise. I put together a marketing plan and went down to Florida and presented to a bunch of people I had never met and they said, ‘You’re hired.’

Marquee: Tell me about your Jammy.
Lukins: It was the best day of my life, until my wedding. It was the industry award for the individual who contributed the most to the music scene that year, the Grahamy Jammy, named after Bill Graham. I remember my stomach falling to the ground, when I heard. And then the next year, I was on stage presenting one to Don Strasburg for the Fox Theatre.
Marquee: I don’t want to get all Barbara Walter on you, but you do all of this in a scene that’s kind of known for altered states, and you’re clean and sober, right?
Lukins: Yep, for nine years now.

Marquee: Is that hard in this business?
Lukins: Not as hard as you think. There’s debauchery and abuse all around me, I just don’t think about it. I have a real spiritual connection with the music and to me that is the high. I’m so high at shows people beg me to have some of what I have and I tell them, ‘You can’t buy what I’m on.’ And, I’m not afraid to talk about my sobriety either, because if it helps one person that’s worth it. I don’t preach sobriety. I preach life.

Marquee: How do you handle so many jobs at once?
Lukins: I have A.D.D. and it’s aboslutely to my advantage, because I can multi-task. I can do 10 things at once and it makes people’s heads spin. Some people think I’m overbearing. I’m a loud New York Jew, but for the most part, I don’t care what people think. I got over that a long time ago. Most people see my energy and enthusiasm as infectious.

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