Shows like this are supposed to be simple – simple for star performers like Meghan Trainor, at least. But the singer was sleepless this weekend thinking about her Sunday gig at WKSE-FM’s Kiss the Summer Hello concert.
“It’s tricky,” Trainor told the station’s lead morning host, Janet Snyder, in a backstage interview. “I was up all night.”
Trainor wasn’t necessarily worried about her performance. That, she can control. Singing hits like “All About That Bass” would be easy compared to what was actually chewing at her nerves.
Trainor was worried about safety – and she wasn’t alone.
In the wake of the June 10 shooting of 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie by a fan during a meet-and-greet at an Orlando concert venue, performers have worried about security. So have the teams of managers and label executives surrounding them and the promoters running shows.
[Photos: Azalea, Martinez, Sivan at Kiss the Summer Hello]
In this case, the responsibility for keeping artists and fans safe fell to the Kiss 98.5 staff, which annually runs two major concerts: Kissmas Bash, inside First Niagara Center, and the outdoor Kiss the Summer Hello, which on Sunday, drew just under 10,000 people to Canalside.
Jud Heussler, the music director at Kiss and the person responsible for booking the show, said the station added several security measures in the last week: All fans were checked with metal-detecting wands when entering the gates; no chairs or backpacks were allowed.
“It’s just like if you’re going to a Bills game,” he said.
The meet-and-greet tent, where hundreds of fans lined up for photos with one of the six artists on the bill, was moved deep into the backstage area, mostly out of the sight of the general public.
Trainor’s staff took further precautions, adding a second security check for fans meeting her.
Trainor told Snyder she had been asking her team, “‘What’s security like? Is there a place I can meet the fans that has security?’ I was that girl that, after every show, I went out, and I signed. I don’t know if I can do that anymore. It shakes you up.”
For Trainor and other Kiss the Summer Hello artists, Grimmie’s death was more than a jolting reminder that a celebrity’s safety is always at risk. Most performers at summer radio-station concerts like this one are on their way up in the music business, which means they come to know each other by playing on the same concert bills and sometimes writing together or sharing producers.
Grimmie, who was discovered as a teenager on YouTube by Selena Gomez’s stepfather, was a rising artist herself. Trainor, who was a few steps beyond where Grimmie was in the music hierarchy, knew her well. Another Kiss the Summer Hello artist, singer-songwriter Troye Sivan, whom Heussler calls “the next big thing,” also knew Grimmie.
“These up-and-coming artists are at the same sort of level as Christina Grimmie,” Heussler said. “They’ve seen each other. They’ve done shows like this. They’ve worked with the same level of people. I think it hits home, specifically for a lot of our artists just because they’re in that same realm. They’re not a Katy Perry or somebody who’s massive and has their own thing and doesn’t see any of these people there.”
Shows like Kiss the Summer Hello are a showcase for record labels looking for acts on the cusp of stardom. The Sunday bill included the group Magic, singer Melanie Martinez, producer Jonas Blue and rapper Iggy Azalea (a bigger star making a comeback), along with Trainor and Sivan.
Some of the smaller acts are provided by their record labels for little or no charge. Others, like Trainor and Azalea, are pricey and sometimes take special connections or persuasion. For example, Heussler booked Azalea in March backstage at “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” in New York. And Trainor, who is only doing three radio-station shows this year, agreed to come to Buffalo in part, Heussler said, because WKSE played “All About That Bass” before anyone else.
“We had this relationship in which we were playing her when she had 5,000 Twitter followers and no one knew who she was,” he said. “She’s able to come back and do something for the station.”
That all seems so simple. But the new norm in the music business, especially for performers like Trainor who have tried to remain accessible to fans, may be to step back a behind a wall of heavier security.
“Obviously, security is a whole other story now,” Snyder said to Trainor, who agreed and revealed she’s been talking with other artists, including the rising singer-songwriter Charlie Puth, about it.
What have they been saying to each other?
“I’m just shook,” Trainor told Snyder. “I don’t understand.”