Artist-driven promoter sees his stadium-fillers Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift help usher in a new chapter with Eric Church and Ed Sheeran
One of the most intriguing second acts in the live business is that of Louis Messina, a pioneering rock promoter at PACE Concerts who was on the leading edge of the ’90s shed boom before briefly being part of the consolidated promoter conglomerate that is now Live Nation. Messina formed the Messina Group after setting out on his own in 2002, and thereafter aligned with AEG to create TMG/AEG Live.
Having created the groundbreaking George Strait Country Music Fest tours in the late ’90s, Messina further entrenched himself in country by forging partnerships with Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift. In 2013, tours through amphitheaters, arenas and stadiums by those three clients grossed a combined $265 million, playing to a remarkable 97% capacity, according to Billboard Boxscore.
The secret to Messina’s business—and his power—is in the relationships he forges with artists. Having worked under volume-based models for most of his career, by necessity in programming amphitheaters, “I’ve learned volume is not the answer,” he says. “It’s a personalized business. When I’m able to concentrate on one artist at a time, it makes all the difference in the world. When an artist puts their career in your hands, instead of them being one of 100 or 300, they’re one of one. You’re able to help fulfill an artist’s dream, and they’re very loyal to you in return.”
That loyalty plays out both in repeat business with his clients and them bringing new artists into the fold. Messina credits Chesney and Swift for helping him partner with Eric Church and Ed Sheeran, respectively, as both supported those artists on Messina-produced tours in 2013.
Chesney will take 2014 off and Strait’s last-ever tour wraps in June at AT&T Stadium in Dallas (the final show sold out “basically in presale,” Messina says, moving 100,000 tickets for a nearly $14 million gross). Calling it “a new chapter in TMG world,” Messina replenishes with Church, Sheeran and Jake Owen.
TMG/AEG Live now has a lean-and-mean staff of 11, including Messina. “I’d rather have one person do the job of three than three doing the job of one,” he says. “But I need to grow a bit, because my whole strategy is one team dedicated to one artist—that’s what works.”