Part 1: The Career Experience That Led Me to Produce a Papal Visit

Posted on November 11, 2021

Event 360 co-founder Mike Murphy’s event experience runs deep. He’s got quite a few tales to tell about his years working in event production, and this one’s all about producing a papal visit.

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Event 360 co-founder Mike Murphy’s event experience runs deep. He’s got quite a few tales to tell about his years working in event production, and this one’s a doozy. Tuck in for a fun read, and check back for parts 2-4 of this story in the weeks to come. 

In the 80’s I owned a small regional sound company in Omaha where I had met a lot of touring acts coming through the Midwest. We worked with hundreds of bands in clubs, state and county fairs, and theaters. We did short runs with Sam Kinison, John Denver, Gallagher and a few others. I LOVED making a band sound good! I had also become known as the guy to call when there was something needed that couldn’t be gotten elsewhere, whether it was a particular set of drums, a specific set of amps, an unusual keyboard, a telephone that would work through the PA onstage, or an air conditioner for the drummer’s butt — yes, that was actually a request I fulfilled. Because we did that type of work, my company would often get the sound contract as well, which allowed me to build up a solid network. 

By 1993, I had been working in the touring concert business for seven or eight years. I worked mostly as a Production Manager, sometimes as a Tour Manager, and occasionally as an audio engineer and set designer. That period of my career was a pretty busy time, as I was working with Harry Connick, Jr. internationally and 10,000 Maniacs in the U.S. I was also working on the MTV Inaugural Ball in D.C. the first time Bill Clinton was elected, a couple of Grammy shows, and a good number of other special events. 

In 1991, I moved from Omaha to Los Angeles to enhance my career opportunities, so I was meeting good people who knew their stuff and learned a lot from them. This was happening at a time when the internet didn’t exist, but I was touring around with an Apple computer and a printer in a road case, as well as this new gizmo, the fax machine. I was trying to make a name for myself. Providing easy-to-read drawings, stage plots, rigging plots, schedules, and letters to upcoming show promoter reps that didn’t look like chicken scratch certainly helped a lot. I ended up with a reputation for being well-organized with the ability to work from anywhere. That, along with getting the job done regardless of the obstacles and keeping a cool head when things inevitably don’t go as they should, will score a lot of points and get you good recommendations, sometimes from people you don’t even know.  

Around that time, I had become friends with Bert Pare’, the owner of one of the largest touring sound companies, Audio Analysts. They were pretty well-known for having provided the sound for the Monsters of Rock tour (with reportedly the largest touring sound system ever assembled at that time), Billy Joel, and a bunch of other great tours. Bert’s company had recently made a move from New York to Colorado Springs. I called home one day to check my answering machine for messages, and Bert had left one asking me to call him back. When I did, he told me he’d been asked to recommend someone to grab the production reigns on a Papal visit to Denver later that year, and he had recommended me. I was pretty humbled to be put forward by a guy who was sort of a hero of mine. I had no idea of the scope of the job, but I knew I wanted this event on my resume. 

The following week, I drove from LA to Denver, something I’d do an additional twelve times over the next nine months and met Kate Hastings. Kate was in charge of the entire downtown Denver redevelopment and had just agreed to take on this project on behalf of the City of Denver and Catholic Archdiocese. She was the glue for this project and is an amazing person. It took us several days of back-and-forth Q&A around a folding table in an empty office to try and come to a definition of what this job was, and when I left Denver, she said the job was mine under two conditions. First, she didn’t care how much I made, as long as it fit in my budget. And two, I’d better not screw it up.   

I didn’t screw it up, but I’m sorry to say I definitely underpriced myself. And getting the job really came down to me knowing one guy. 

We hate to leave you on a cliff-hanger, but we know the rest of this story will be worth it. Stay tuned for part 2. 

Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy draws upon more than 25 years of concert and corporate special events production experience to create spectacularly creative experiences for our Event 360 clients. A co-founder of Event 360, Mike is an Emmy Award-winning professional who has developed brand-building events, product launches and tours worldwide. As the Line Producer and Director of Special Events for a major movie studio, Mike took film premieres to a new level through extravaganzas in the New Orleans Superdome, the Rose Bowl, aboard the U.S.S. John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and numerous other improbable but spectacular film venues. Mike’s other key achievements include the production of a Papal Mass in Denver for 500,000 attendees and tour management and production for Harry Connick, Jr., 10,000 Maniacs and numerous other internationally known touring artists with music.

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