In the Spotlight: Kat Tooley
Day job: Director Event Production & Operations, Superfly
Song on repeat: The Wedge by Phish
Aside from winning the juggling act of the year with her full-time job as Director of Event Production & Operations at Superfly and full-time mom to a 4-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, Kat Tooley prides herself on running the Superfly Fantasy football league (fun fact: she even won it two years in a row, as well). Growing up, Tooley observed her grandmother — an intelligent woman who used to write the curriculum for reservations to teach education — take out the newspaper every day in their Southern town of North Carolina, check the basketball and baseball stats, and analyze the math behind each game. For as long as she can remember, Tooley — someone who has risen through the rungs on the ladder at Superfly from intern to director over a period of 14 years — has loved NFL football and college basketball.
It was after Tooley attended Bonnaroo, an annual four-day festival held on a 700-acre farm in Tennessee, as a fan her junior year of college at North Carolina State, that she realized she had to somehow get involved. As a communications major, Tooley’s school encouraged students to take a semester and focus solely on an internship as if it were a full-time job. With this in mind, Tooley decided to reach out to Superfly and apply for their internship program. After no word from them, Tooley was weeks away from moving to Washington D.C. (sound familiar?) to intern for John Edwards’ office when he was still in Senate. Though politics wasn’t exactly the route she had foreseen for herself, the internship would provide real-world experience and would give Tooley a chance to move to a new city.
Those semester plans took a turn two weeks before Tooley was supposed to move to Washington D.C., dorm at American University, and soak in all-things politics. Superfly called Tooley and asked her if she was still interested in interning for the company in New Orleans. After a few interviews, Tooley went to her parents, told them that this was her dream, and although it took a day of convincing, her parents were very supportive. Within two weeks, Tooley found herself able to get credit and a dorm through Tulane University in New Orleans. Bye politics, hello music.
That semester Tooley found herself learning the ins and outs of event production, falling in love with New Orleans, and taking on responsibility and leadership at Superfly. When Tooley moved back to North Carolina to finish up college after her internship ended, she realized that although she got A’s in English and did well in Stats, her heart was left at Superfly in New Orleans. “I felt like I figured out and knew what I wanted to do. I went through the motions but wasn’t happy. I knew I wanted to work in that music scene,” says Tooley.
“At the time New Orleans was this amazing pressure cooker of all this incredible music,” she added. “Superfly was there. JazzFest had been around for a while — it was really starting to become mainstream and coming into its own more recognizable. A lot of bands were moving their studios there. New Orleans was such an inspiring place. The whole place exudes creativity all the time. It was this melting pot of people down there. I knew I wanted to be back.”
It only took a few conversations with her guidance counselor at school to make the move to New Orleans work again. Tooley decided to finish up college receiving credits through Tulane and thought she could do free work for Superfly here and there. Whatever would happen, she would figure it out.
“I was still very good friends with the marketing director from Superfly and one of the booking agents. We were all hanging out one night and they asked how the job search was going. I said it wasn’t really going that well. The marketing director, at the time, said, 'Well why don’t you come to Superfly on Monday and I’ll find something for you to do.'”
And that was that.
“I walked in on Monday. They told me how much they would pay me yearly. I was their front office person. I greeted people and made coffee. It was funny, though, because there were only five people in the company,” says Tooley. “Eventually three months in the position, I was the promotion manager, street team manager, and the executive assistant for two of the partners. A small business, being what it is, starts growing. Eventually I was working there 60 hours a week and doing 12 different jobs.”
“It was great for me because I really learned the ins and outs of concert promotion," Tooley continues. "I learned about the marketing efforts. I learned about how booking deals are constructed for shows. I learned about the box office and ticketing. I learned about backstage production, artist relations, advancing with the band. I was thrown into the fire and figuring it all out on the go. I would go from managing a show at the Mermaid Lounge, collecting money at the door, then running backstage talking to the band, then the show would end and I would go to our 2AM shows and do the same thing there,” Tooley recalls. “You just love it, though! I wanted to work and learn everything. I had this huge appetite for doing whatever it is I needed to do. No job was beneath me. When one job seemed scary to me, I wanted to do it as well. I would go wash the towels for the band and then settle a show that sold out. That was just the way we functioned back then. It was so good for me because I learned so much.”
Today Tooley is the Director of Event Production and Operations at Superfly. “From client events to signature Superfly events (like Bonnaroo, OutsideLands), we do all the operations,” Tooley explains.
From making sure everything is in compliance with the proper insurance, to handling labor contracts, working with the union, working with the Artist Relations department, handling special ticketing programs, as well as dealing with artist credentials, guest lists, transportation and hospitality needs, Tooley finds herself staying very busy day-to-day. One thing is for sure: no two days are alike.
“The hardest part, however, is figuring out the balance between being a mom who is involved, and working. I love my job and what I do is so specialized. I don’t want to give that up. For so long I’ve been nurturing and growing my career,” says Tooley. “I’m lucky I work at a company that values that work-life balance because a lot of places don’t. Superfly is the exception to the rule. Superfly wants me to be the best I can be at the company but they’ve also created these avenues for me to be a really great parent, too. They understand the importance and value of taking care of other humans.”
In addition to her admiration for family, dedication to a fulfilling and enriching career, and her love for the Carolina Panthers, Tooley’s passions lie in other things. These days it even includes reading a bit on Colonial America.
“I like being a jack of all trades. I don’t give into trends. People come to me for recipes, Fantasy Football advice, or stop by my office to see if I have extra tickets to a basketball tournament at the Garden. I like knowing a little bit of everything. It’s important to have hobbies! Do everything. Life is short. Not that I undervalue sleep, but take the hours outside of the office and delve into other things so there’s that balance. For me having children really pushed me to find that.”
What I would tell my 15-year-old self: “I sometimes think about how I reacted to some things when I was 15 or even 20, and find myself mortified! I would tell my 15-year-old self not to take high school so seriously and not worry about being the cool girl. Be the girl who thinks she’s cool, but don’t care what others think. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Enjoy having little responsibility and enjoy your parents because they’re wonderful people. And know there is life beyond your high school. Don’t get caught up in your own world.”
Connect with Kat Tooley on LinkedIn