07/15/2017 by Gil Kaufman
Brock Jones has made a three-decade career of looking for the right fit between venues, artists and his own goals. That’s why when he sensed earlier this year that his position at Comcast Spectacor’s Spectra live event touring and promotion division didn’t feel right anymore, he decided to make a clean break and go his own way.
“Comcast Spectacor has really made a conscious decision that they need to focus in on the core product of the business, which is venue management and food and beverage, which is fine [with me]” he said. “It’s not a coincidence that the concert touring division was offloaded almost at the exact same time they sold ticketing. Honestly, the concert touring business is not for everyone.”
Jones, who left the company May 12, said he’d sat in multiple meetings with the Comcast finance team and “felt bad for them” when they’d ask him about cash flow and “how many tickets we’ll sell next week.” Knowing that those types of figures are impossible to predict in a business that’s not typically ruled by quarterly returns and month-over-month cashflow, Jones said it was hard for Comcast to make the touring business fit with their more traditional business model. “It’s not apples and oranges, it was apples and hand grenades,” he said, noting the split was amicable. A spokesperson for Comcast Spectacor declined to comment for this story.
So, the longtime talent buyer and former VP of Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena left the company after nearly five years of trying to break into smaller markets when it was clear that the division he led was not producing as expected. The good news is, he retained his entire staff of three full-time employees and hung his own shingle at his office 10 miles outside of Nashville.
The company, named 191 Touring after Brock’s childhood address in a small Idaho town bisected by State Route 191, has already ramped up with its first few projects. The initial outing is a string of dates in conjunction with Brad Garrett’s Police Productions, extending country singer Justin Moore’s tour, which he’s in the midst of routing right now.
He’s also partnering with Invictus’ Jim Cressman for some Canadian dates of the “I Love the 90s” tour and is in conversation with some of his longtime William Morris cohorts on a short Canadian run with another act he is not yet at liberty to discuss.
“Brock is a hard worker and he's another indie underdog working hard to develop hard ticket artists,” Cressman said. “My impetus to partner with venues is driven by intentionally doing whatever is advantageous for the artist. If bringing the venue in as a partner on my side reduces rent and soft costs, the artist walks out with more money because of that arrangement, we all win.”
Both men said the killer nostalgia lineup of the 90s tour — featuring Vanilla Ice, Salt N Pepa, Young MC, Coolio and others — made sense for them and the markets they’re going into.
“Whatever artist makes sense we’re gonna go after it,” Jones said of the net he’s planning to cast with a team that includes two marketing and production staffers and a right-hand woman who “basically keeps the world running for us.”
“I’ve been in the concert business since I was 17 — this is my 31st year — and I want to have an independent touring company that’s focused on putting artists in places they can succeed,” he said. “The concert touring model is going through a big flux right now. There’s so much focus placed on the majors and there are so many acts touring now because of the implosion of labels that there is a lot of potential for shows and touring and markets out there.”
The key, he noted, is that it is giving artists, managers and agents the ability to look at a national tour without having to go to Live Nation or AEG by picking a shop that can focus on an artist with laser precision. “They won’t be a number, that’s why Brad and I work so hard on Justin, we believe in him,” he said of his partnership with Garrett. “We focus on those dates. Live Nation and AEG do great business, but they are spread thin. If somebody wants to put an artist out for 18 dates in the middle of winter for acts that don’t burn sheds, that’s not what they do. They won’t get the attention they need to succeed. That’s what I do.”
Asked how many dates or tours he plans to put out in the next year, Jones said he hasn’t set a goal for a reason. “I don’t lock myself in because that’s when you start making bad offers,” he said. “If it makes sense, we’re going after it. We’re not budgeting ‘we have to do 15 shows a month.’ We’re budgeting ‘let’s go do what’s right and makes sense.' I just came out of a world that lived on benchmarks and that doesn’t work in this world.”
Plans call for his office to expand soon, thanks to an initial response he described as “beyond positive. To say I’ve been welcomed with open arms would be an understatement. In this industry, you can never have enough good partners, and I’ve been in this business a long time and worked hard to have a good reputation. I pay my bills and treat artists well. There’s nothing more you can ask for in this business.”