Industry Profile: Jerry Thompson By Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner
(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) Jerry Thompson is president of Promoter Line Inc., founded in 1993 as an event production arm of the world renowned Caravan of Dreams entertainment venue in Fort Worth, Texas.
Jerry started his industry career in the nightclub business in 1982 working as a manager of Monk Enterprises in Lincoln, Neb., and The Lucky Lady chain in Moline, Ill. Shortly after he began doing an eclectic mix of live shows.
From 1991-2001, he served as president of the Caravan of Dreams performing arts center in Fort Worth and previously was vice president of Dallas Alley from 1986-1991, an entertainment complex consisting of nine nightclubs under one roof. Located in Dallas' historic West End, the venue set various sales records for attendance and beverage revenue in the state. It produced a widely recognized and successful free Monday night outdoor concert series featuring Van Halen, .38 Special, Kansas, and Midnight Oil among others. Jerry was also assistant artist and media coordinator for Farm Aid in 1988 at Texas Stadium.
Jerry's other event accomplishments include the development and execution of a nationwide NASCAR Concert Series for sponsors Kenwood and Circuit City and serving as corporate event coordinator for clients nationwide; producer of the Sundance Square Concert Series in downtown Fort Worth since 1994 and the annual Charles Goodnight Awards banquet since 1993, benefiting the Ranching Division of Texas Christian University. Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Lyle Lovett, Tim McGraw, Trisha Yearwood, Alison Krauss, Johnny Cash, Randy Travis, Wynonna and others have performed for the benefit.
Jerry co-produced the 1999 grand opening and ribbon cutting festivities of the Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth's crown jewel, and has been involved with various grand opening festivities, groundbreakings, and topping offs for Sanger Lofts, Bass Performance Hall, AMC Palace 9 Theaters and the Bank One building. In 2000. He is also a former partner and producer of the National Smooth Jazz Awards that started in Fort Worth and then moved to Chicago.
Looking toward the future and expansion, earlier this month, Jerry was reunited with industry veteran Ray Compton, who has joined Promoter Line to help expand the company's business. Jerry and Compton worked together in the 1980's developing a successful concert series at Dallas Alley, an entertainment concept in Dallas. Compton, formerly with Beaver Productions, has 30+ years experience in touring, festivals and talent buying.
How did the closing of the popular downtown Ft. Worth music club Caravan of Dreams impact your business?
It really didn't impact what Promoter Line was doing, although it did take away the avenue of having a venue to develop smaller talent in the market place. This venue will never be replaced in this market, and the void continues. It was a good economic and conceptual decision to make the change, unfortunately at the expense of the music business. Looking back, this was the best thing that could've happened for Promoter Line though, as it really created a lot of new opportunities that weren't available due to running a facility full time. I certainly respected the decision and agreed with it.
How difficult is it to be an independent today?
It's difficult to compete with the 800 pound gorillas that are out there as it doesn't seem important to them to develop an act, let alone make money on shows that they promote. You will continue to see these companies try to make their stock look good at the expense of our industry. It amazes me how they will book a show and hardly give it any attention at all, just so they can get the bigger shows. At least I know I can sleep well at night trying to keep a little credibility in the industry.
How did the hiring of Ray Compton come about?
Ray and I go back to the 1980s when he was with Beaver Productions out of New Orleans. We always said that if we ever had the chance to own and operate our own company that is what we would like to do together. Ray decided to get off of the road to be able to watch his kids grow up, and in doing so, it created a great opportunity for us to start working together again. After the closing of the Caravan of Dreams, Ray started to work some festivals for me, and then we got into discussing the possibility of having him come on full time.His objective is to improve and enhance our business from the hard ticket show perspective while I continue to expand on the number of festivals we produce each year. Our business continues to grow at a rapid pace, and I needed someone with a lot of expertise and knowledge of the business to come on board and help with that aspect. We really don't have much time for the "on the job training" scenario in our business. The business will pass you while you're trying to train someone new. You can't beat experience in this industry.
What are your plans for expansion?
We've been in discussions with several entities and corporate sponsors about opening offices in other markets to handle some of their needs with shows and festivals. We continue to monitor some of the mistakes some of our competitors are making, and we're continuing to talk to some of the organizations that want to make a change as to who they're doing business with.
First concert attended
Led Zeppelin in 1969 at the KRNT Theatre in Des Moines, Iowa.
First concert worked
ZZ Top in 1976 as a backstage attendant in Sioux City, Iowa while I was playing there for the Sioux City Musketeers hockey team. Ironically enough, Ray Compton and Beaver were the promoter of this show.
First industry job
In the nightclub business in 1982 for Monk Enterprises in Lincoln, Neb., and The Lucky Lady chain in Moline, Ill., as a manager. Started to do live shows not long after that.
Vice president of Dallas Alley in Dallas, a first-of-its-kind multi-club complex that set the standard in entertainment value. We produced a free Monday night concert series that drew an average attendance of 15,000 people each Monday; production assistant on the Farm Aid show at Texas Stadium in 1987; president of Caravan of Dreams in Texas for 10 years; on original committee to open the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Texas, where I still book numerous shows; started the National Smooth Jazz Awards show and company and produced awards show the first two years before selling my interest in the company to the rest of my partners; produced the largest (65,000) free outdoor show to date in Dallas with Van Halen in December 1991 to makeup for Sammy Hagar losing his voice at the Cotton bowl during a Texas Jam; produced over 12 major festivals annually in Texas.
Losing money on my first festival in Dallas - Texas-OU music festival featuring Delbert McClinton, Gregg Allman, Stealing Horses and Timbuk 3--money I did not have to lose. The back stabbing one takes in this business.
Continuing to secure additional festivals and shows while the company continues to grow. Convincing agents that the 800 lb. gorilla companies are not always the best play for their artist.
Best business decisions
Going to work for Ed Bass and learning what I have from him. Going into business for myself. Remembering something my dad told me that applies to our business, "Water seeks its own level."
Best advice you received
It's OK to go minnow fishing with dynamite. Remember that not everyone has ethics and morals.
Best advice to offer
Stay true to yourself. Don't give up and treat each problem as an opportunity.
Most memorable industry experience
Selling out three straight nights of Lyle Lovett in Bass Performance Hall with a $450,000 gross and developing a great friendship with him.
What friends would be surprised to learn about you
I have been the leading scorer in my hockey league for four straight seasons, and the love of bicycling.
Industry pet peeves
Promoters that cherry pick. Agents that only sell to certain promoters.
Laptop, Dish TV and radio playing at the same time. It is like controlled chaos. John Wayne and kiddo pics.
If I weren't doing this, I would be...
…riding my bike across America, then Canada with my wife Gena.
Ray Compton and Louie Messina taught me a lot about the business. Dave Parks has been a great friend and confidant.