Ovation Productions: Renen De Guia runs entertainment empire

Food, shelter, and clothing are life’s necessities. Undeniably, entertainment runs at a close fourth.

Chief of Staff Asia recently spoke with the company’s President and CEO Renen De Guia, who traced back the company’s success to the loyal staff working with him for the past 43 years.

“There is no secret, only pure hard work and the willingness to take risks,” he says.

“You get a real kick out of this business if your heart is into events and music, and not particularly fond of staying glued to your office desk from nine to five, working the phones, and attending endless meetings.

“Sometimes it also includes those things, but the nature of the business gives you an excuse to do a lot of local and international traveling, watch concerts and musicals for free, and meet famous people!”

De Guia noted that a strong market reputation also helped to propel the business to new heights.

“Being around for 43 years gives us an edge, as there seems to be an instant recall of our brand name,” he says. “It seems we are doing justice to our brand. Many seem to think Ovation Productions brings every other concert to Manila, and it is quite flattering.”

As if not satisfied with the successes of his entertainment ventures, his group recently birthed TapGo, a live TV streaming service in the Philippines. “We are always open to trying out something new,” he says. “It was my wife, Cel, and former Solar Entertainment Corporation COO Peter Chanliong, who were initially exploring the idea. The next thing I knew, people were moving into our office setting up laptops, mounting monitors, connecting wirings, and putting up a huge satellite dish atop our building,” the entertainment mogul narrates.

Despite the heavily populated market for streaming services, De Guia says the timing couldn’t have been better. TapGo has been able to fill the void that the Fox Networks Group left when it ceased operations in the Philippines in late 2021.

“We are quite happy with how things are turning out for TapGo TV app, which has the exclusive rights to show the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Formula One, the (US) National Football League, The Today Show, and the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar,” he gladly shares.

“Soon we will have more than 40 channels, including Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and the Knowledge Channel,” he notes.

Why Ovation Productions’ mega-events are a family affair

Whether it was the top-grossing concert of One Direction (50,000 tickets sold out) or the lower-key (but still enormous) Ed Sheeran performance (30,000 tickets sold out), Ovation Productions never fails to draw the biggest names to the music-loving audiences of the Philippines.

While basking in its commercial successes for the past 43 years, the company also sets out to achieve positive impacts in the HR arena, attracting some of the best talents the industry has to offer, and retaining them for the long term.
He discussed the importance of a good brand reputation to succeed long-term in the entertainment industry.
Now, De Guia gives us a glimpse into concert production and how it is a family business, with a focus on loyalty and flexibility in the job. He also explains why online concerts don’t necessarily deserve a standing ovation.
Despite the slim company size, Ovation Productions manages the work demand of staging concerts and events through ongoing training.
“We have developed and trained key personnel to do specific tasks whenever we have events,” De Guia says. “Seasoned personnel is assigned to help road managers, production assistants, and event coordinators learn the ropes (and), eventually, everything becomes routine for everybody.
“They know exactly what their job is and we are proud of their quality of work. After all, we trained them to do it!”
De Guia’s wife, Cel, is the vice president and chief financial officer, and directly supervises the ticketing and accounting staff.
Some people work full-time for Ovation Productions. Others have day jobs working in hotels, call centers, venue facilities, and other companies, with Ovation Productions engaging them on a gig-by-gig basis.
But De Guia says one of the company’s most important staff members is his son, Bogie, the company’s Production Manager who also handles security and road management.
“We are all multi-tasking,” the all-around company chief discloses.
Even he wears several hats in the organisation, including providing the voice for the company’s digital and broadcast advertising. De Guia worked as a radio disc jockey in the early part of his career.
He describes the company’s work environment as “informal”, “casual”, and “homey”, adding that the office set-up is not “stiffly corporate”.
“The facility used to be our garments factory for a once-famous t-shirt brand in the 1980s,” he says.
Aside from the comfortable office set-up, he notes that employees get to travel with the artists on Philippine tours to provincial cities, staying in five-star hotels, and enjoying daily buffet meals with the tour entourage.
Not everyone can afford concert tickets, especially if it is a foreign act. But Ovation Productions makes free tickets a part of employee perks — for both staff and their families.
Not only that. De Guia says, “Everybody gets to have a souvenir photo as a group with the artist at the end of a tour.”
On top of their regular salaries, staff members working during concerts also receive additional pay.
This kind of work culture paves the way for less attrition as De Guia proudly reveals, “Some of our original factory workers still work for us after almost 40 years.”
“No” to online concerts
Concerts and live events have been badly affected during the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. He told Ovation Productions their special work arrangements at that time when onsite events were impossible to stage.
“We closed down Ovation Productions temporarily,” he admits. “As our office building was close to our home, we had the whole office to ourselves during the lockdowns.”
De Guia recounted that the office became his studio after he started painting as a diversion from the gloom of the movement restrictions.
“The people of our newly-started TapGo worked from home. We operated remotely and communicated over video links,” he adds. The team used Slack to communicate, and Asana, a web, and mobile work management platform, to further ease the workload.
Ovation Productions did not join the bandwagon of doing online events and concerts during the early days of the pandemic.
“We were not keen on the idea that doing things online would capture the ‘live feel’ of the actual performance,” De Guia explained. “Concertgoers don’t like it since ticket prices are (still) expensive. Many tried and failed. One of the few exceptions was (the Korean pop group) BTS, whose online concert grossed over USD 40 million.”
Now that society is moving towards endemicity, Ovation Productions has not let go of work flexibility. “We have been quite lenient with work schedules, post-pandemic,” De Guia says. “Some of our people come to the office on certain days and work from home on other days. Others haven’t even come in yet.”
He admits that this flexibility might change soon, given business volumes and competition returning to pre-pandemic levels.
For events and entertainment companies, such as Ovation Productions, De Guia thinks that an in-person office set-up remains the preferred mode of work. “Work from home has limitations; efficiency suffers as some degree of communication is ‘lost in translation’, among other issues.”

De Guia talks about silver platter start and leadership style

Many executives will tell you that they built their business or career from the ground up with blood, sweat, and tears. But not for De Guia. He admitted to receiving his first big crack into the entertainment scene on a silver platter.

However, as a top concert producer, facing hurdles in bringing foreign acts to hold shows in the Philippines is a common experience. De Guia says big artists are currently aligned with major global promotion companies, such as Live Nation and AEG Presents, which then partner with local promoters in different countries and regional markets.
“It would be difficult to get these big-name artists independently. Although we have worked well with Live Nation in the past, we are collaborating more often these days with AEG Presents,” De Guia continues.
As for his management style, De Guia pointed to his wife, Cel, doing the main work for TapDMV and Ovation Productions. He added that his son, Bogie, has stepped up as TapDMV’s Chief Technology Officer while also being involved with Ovation Productions.
But he says, “I continue to handle marketing and promotions of our concerts and train my other son, Enzo.”
As the business head, De Guia describes himself with a quote from US military commander George Patton: “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way!”
“In my younger years, I was brash and impatient. I wanted my team to toe the line. I must say, my instinct and old-school style were effective most of the time.
“Now, I listen more, acknowledging that newer methods can be better. I am quite content to lead from behind.”
One may think that De Guia’s sold-out concerts and live events for over 40 years must have begun with humble beginnings. Surprisingly, his career was dished out “on a silver platter.”
“The business of promoting concerts came to me on a silver platter. I did not seek it. The manager of ‘70s teen star, Leif Garrett, liked my work when I helped out during Leif’s promo tour in the Philippines in 1978. He wanted me to be the promoter of Leif’s concerts the following year,” he recalls.
An accidental promoter, one may say, De Guia, did not truly know what his job would entail and where to get the money. But he boldly said “yes” and took on the challenge, borrowed money, and learned the ropes. They were a two-man team back then.
“I was the promoter, messenger, and office clerk working from the house of Cel, who was then my girlfriend.
“She was handling tickets. We would do the rounds delivering tickets and collecting sales. We would walk great distances from the SM Carriedo mall to Merriam Bookstore in Morayta, Manila, and threading Avenida outlets in Good Earth Emporium, Alemar’s, and National Bookstore in C.M. Recto,” De Guia fondly recounts.
Was there a time when he wanted to stop or wind down?
“Honestly, I gave it up. I retired from concert promotions in the mid-1990s and focused more on our garment manufacturing and music retailing business, the famed TOP40 T-shirts, and the ladies’ teens wear, Bangles.”
But almost 30 years later, De Guia is still standing. He notes that the future for his latest media project, Tap Digital Media Ventures, looks promising with the evolution and adaptation of digital media.
He closes by saying, “One must be quick to recognise a good opportunity and take a chance. Some people take too long to pray about it. By the time they decide, the opportunity is gone. Others prayed about it, but still, things didn’t work. God has given us common sense and we should use it. We are all just passing through.”

Getting to know: Renen De Guia, President and CEO of Ovation Productions

Get a glimpse of the man behind the many major concerts of local and foreign performers in the Philippines and discover how he managed the business for over 40 years, with this loyal staff standing by him.

Share This Article


Advertise Now

Click to zoom
What's in it for you?
Click to zoom

Chief of Staff Asia