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Music Business Radio: RJ Romeo

Updated: Aug 30, 2023


Music Business Radio: RJ Romeo

Our President, R.J. Romeo was recently featured on Lighting 100's (WRLT) "Music Business Radio" in Nashville TN.


LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE


The podcast includes R.J. Romeo, President of Romeo Entertainment Group, a well-respected full-service entertainment agency known for production consulting and talent buying for fairs, festivals, clubs, rodeos and more. R.J. discusses his family’s 65 year legacy from the early days of variety shows to being a part of the team helping the successful execution of Cheyenne Frontier Days.


PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:


From Music City USA, it's David Hooper and Music Business Radio.

From Nashville, Tennessee, it's Music Business Radio.


You're backstage past the music industry.


I'm David Hooper and with me, RJ Romeo from Romeo Entertainment Group.

It's a full service entertainment agency. They do talent buying for fairs, festivals, clubs, casinos, corporate, rodeo events. They've done it for more than 65 years.

68 years you guys are celebrating. That's a long time, man.


It is.

And thank you for the opportunity, David.

I appreciate you and your team and the opportunity to have this conversation.


So you're not even 65 years old.


Nope.


This company was around before you. And I want to talk about that because you've got an interesting history.

Don Romeo is the founder.


Correct.

And they say this.

They say Don Romeo was show business.

Some of the people he, Lassie, Three Stooges, Rolling Stone, anybody and everybody in the

country scene.

I mean, he's, he was in there with him.

Yes.

My grandfather started the business in Omaha, Nebraska in 1954 when he got back from the

Korean War.

He was in the army.

And yeah, that's a whole interesting story in and of itself, but move for another day unless

you want us to go into that.

No, let's, yeah, talk about it.

So he, so he comes back.

He's been in Korea.

Well, you have to, you have to start back at the beginning, which is grandpa himself was

a very talented singer and songwriter and also comedian.

So he won the star search of his day and was part of a group called the Metro Tone Trio.

And they won the Arthur Godfrey talent search.

And that helped launch him.

And then grandpa got drafted in the military and served in the army, realized he didn't

have a, a lot of military skills.

So he got assigned to the special services division and planned events for the troops

and things like that.

And that was really his first taste of show business other than his Metro Tone Trio.

So when you went from performing to the business end.

Yes.

And then he came back from the military.

And then his partner at the time was a gentleman named Paul Morehead and they had the Paul

Morehead agency that was in Omaha, Nebraska.

And back in those days, unions controlled a lot of the halls and Paul did a show, got

sideways with the union, the, the business administrator and they ended up revoking his

booking license, which was required to book in those days.

So my grandfather took it upon himself to go meet with the head of the Teamsters union

who at that time was Jimmy Hoffa.

Yeah.

And Jimmy happened to be in council plus Iowa right across the river, restructuring the

union over there.

And so through a mutual friend, grandpa got a meeting set up, met with him.

And I just, I'll never forget grandpa would always tell the story.

He'd say, you know, I walked in there and he had these deep blue eyes and he was a mean

looking SOB.

And he's like, but I sat down and talked to him.

He just kind of gruffed a little bit and didn't really say much.

And so grandpa thought, you know, he botched the meeting, lost the opportunity, was going

to be out of the job.

And here a few weeks later, his friend that set up the meeting called and said, Jimmy

won't give the license back to your friend, but he'll give it to you.

And so then my grandfather went to Paul, his partner and told him, what have you done the

story?

And, and Paul's like, well, I guess.

There's only one thing you can do.

You got to buy me out.

Grabble said, I don't have the money to buy you out.

And Paul Moore had wrote grandpa a check for what half the business was worth, had grandpa

endorse it, the check back to him.

And the Don Romeo agency was founded in 1954.

That's a, that's a show business story.

If there ever was one, I feel like I've actually been a teamster and for my music business

took off.

I was a UPS guy.

And Jimmy Hoffa Jr was the president at the time.

So I, yeah, maybe we shouldn't go quite into that.

But there's some similar things with the music and also the teamsters union.

Let's just say that how they used to do business and maybe still do business.

We'll dive into that.

Can't speak intelligently about that.

What I can't say is grandpa, you know, he was always, always did the honorable thing.

And yeah, the beginnings of our company to now, you know, we always try to do business

the right way.

And grandpa came about in a different time, right?

It was the vaud villex, the ones you talked about.

My father will still talk about how Lassie was the biggest draw they've ever had at some

of their events and how when you're, for one of my aunt's birthdays, grandpa had Lassie

stopped by the house and they had kids lined up around the block to just catch a glimpse

of Lassie.

You know, different time, different age.

They, that was the big thing back then.

Well, you know, what's interesting about that time is that the way we were doing music as

far as the way people made money, there weren't influencers or endorsement deals.

I mean, these guys were out on the road and there were a lot of clubs.

And if you weren't, as I say, turning that wrench, you weren't making money.

So a lot of these guys were out making money that way.

We don't see that so much now, the club scene has changed, but in a way, I mentioned this

at the very beginning, you're doing fairs, festivals, clubs, casinos, corporate rodeo

events.

I mean, there's a lot of opportunity for people who were wanting to turn that wrench.

We're going to dive into that as we get further on into this interview.

I'm David Hooper.

It's music business radio.

RJ Romeo from Romeo Entertainment Group is with me.

I want to talk with a family business aspect for a minute.

I think people here in Nashville can connect with this, even though your company didn't

start in Nashville, you've been here for 10 years at this point.

The music business, it really was maybe like any business.

It's a family thing.

It's like, well, my father did it and his father did it.

And you know, people.

So talk about that growing up in a show business family.

Is that the way you would describe your family?

Yeah.

So, you know, my grandfather started the business.

My father took it over in 89 when he bought the business from his father.

And dad grew the business to another level.

And then he brought his sister in as a partner.

And then he went to go run the Academy of Country Music Awards for 16 years and did amazing

things there, which that should be a whole other interview you should have with Bob

Romeo, because there's the man who has stories.

But the family.

You know, I don't remember a time when I wasn't going to shows and I wasn't around, you know,

celebrity or stars.

And so those things never really phased me.

But the rest of my family didn't get into it.

So my two brothers aren't into it.

My half sister isn't really in the business.

So my sister and I are the two that work in the business now.

And I guess you could say we just got bit by the bug and it became part of our life.

And anyone who works in this business for more than five minutes knows that it's a lifestyle.

It's not a nine to five business.

You know, we live, eat and breathe that we go to showcases to become better buyers, but

also because we love supporting the music and the acts.

And not everybody in the family shared that same passion.

Well, you certainly saw the ups and downs of it, I would imagine.

You know, not like a lot of people who jump in with all the, you know, the hype they've

seen MTV and they've seen the award shows like, Oh, this must be all like this.

And it's not.

You actually started out as a lighting technician.

Is that right?

That's what I read somewhere.

And yes, that's kind of a cool way to get into the business because you actually see the

hard work that happens.

Well, I leave out the glamorous part of also working as the filing monkey in the business

early on learning the clients, answering the phones, you know, doing whatever I needed

to do when I was in high school.

So I would come into the office and work almost every day after school learn in the

business.

Then when I turned 16, I had an opportunity to go work for a production company named

TMS, the Atrical Media Services at Oman, Nebraska.

And that gave me, it's the hardest I've ever worked in my life.

Being a lighting roofing technician, setting up the stay or setting up the roof, setting

up the lighting, learning all that.

But it gave me such a great appreciation for what actually goes into producing a show.

And there's nothing I would ask anyone to do that I haven't done myself.

And that level of knowledge and expertise.

I feel like a lot of people skip those steps and they're so invaluable.

Yeah, understanding how it works is super important.

And I think also just the way you communicate with people that you're going to talk to

them in a different way than somebody who's just been in the office.

But at the same time you've been in the office, you can talk to the office people too.

I would imagine seeing it from all levels has been unbelievably helpful.

You've been an attorney as well.

So you can talk legal jargon at the country club and go to the event itself.

I don't hang out at too many of the country clubs by talent for them.

But yeah, I have a unique background and I'm grateful for the opportunities that I've

had, especially the ones to work outside of the family business.

Because I think a lot of people look and they say, oh, there's a Romeo, you know, they have

a leg up.

They were built for this.

And yes, I did have an opportunity to be around it when I was young.

But I also wanted to get away from the family business so that I could learn more.

So I could build relationships, build my knowledge base.

And so people wouldn't say, oh, you know, he's only there because of his name.

Seeing the different aspects of it from putting the events together, literally putting them

together with the lighting, technician work and other things, but also the preplanning

with the filing and office work.

When did you get clear on the aspect of the business that you actually wanted to be in?

Because I find what you've done is fairly common.

People jump around the business like they were a performer, then they get into the business.

Or if they're in the business, they wanted to be a performer, maybe.

Talk about the clarity and how long that took and how you came to that because I think that's

something that a lot of people struggle with.

Yeah, I think that's a great question.

I can tell you, so from working in the office, then going to production, then going to, well,

then I came back to the business as a rock consultant and junior agent.

And then at that point, I had to decide if I was going to go to law school or not, decided

I was going to do that while I was in law school, had a great opportunity to intern at

William Morris out in California, and I got the first opportunity being a young guy from

Nebraska who'd grown up around the business to actually be around people who were young

and knowledgeable about the business.

And that really impassioned me even more because I was like, okay, this is amazing.

I want to definitely work with these cohorts.

I learned I didn't want to be an agent on that side of things, but then I came back,

got my law degree and practice law for a couple of years.

I still am a licensed attorney and I use that knowledge every day.

I use those negotiation skills every day, the mediation skills every day.

So another opportunity I was grateful for.

And then it was in 2008 that I came back to the business because we had a contract with

Matchbox 20 to play Shy and Frontier Days.

And all of a sudden they pulled out and we found out it was because an animal rights

group had gotten to Rob Thomas's then wife and convinced her that basically they were

killing and maiming animals in Wyoming, which was totally false and misleading.

And yeah, so we had to take a legal fight to this animal rights group because they were

interfering with our business contracts.

And that is what ultimately brought me back to the business in 2008.

So getting back to the main crux of your question, I got exposed to a lot of different things.

And those things set me on a path towards where I'm at now.

And I still have a lot more to learn, I'm still growing in my role as president of Romare

Entertainment Group.

But my plan is to grow beyond booking and grow our company into a national powerhouse,

but to be the best talent buyers in the world and then to also be a very diversified company.

When we come back, I want to talk about the event booking process, talk about the work

that you guys do.

I know you've got stories, stories about talent buying, problem solving that we're talking

about, rider negotiations, contract negotiations.

I think it's going to be a really valuable episode and we decided to have you here.

David Hooper at Music Business Radio, RJ Romeo from Romare Entertainment Group is with me.

Your full service entertainment agency doing talent buying for fairs, festivals, clubs,

casinos, corporate and rodeo events for more than 65 years.

More from RJ Romeo when we come back on Music Business Radio.

Hi, this is Brian from Kiwi Jr. and you're listening to Music Business Radio, your Backstage

Pass to the Biz.

It's Music Business Radio, your Backstage Pass to the Music Industry.

David Hooper with you, RJ Romeo is with me.

Romeo Entertainment Group is the company.

Their full service entertainment agency, they're doing talent buying for fairs, festivals,

clubs, casinos, corporate and rodeo events.

They've done it for more than 65 years.

RJ, I would imagine that's changed a lot.

You talked about your grandfather, Don Romeo, really seeing a vision to maybe change how

entertainment is sold and where these performers can perform.

Would that be a good way of saying what he did?

Well, the talent changed, but what Grandpa saw was a lack.

He saw these events happening, especially around Nebraska, these county fairs, the state fairs,

things like that.

He wondered why they weren't bringing in big name entertainment.

He saw a niche that could be filled.

He started off by booking, I'll never forget this story, my father still tells it too,

but basically one of his first fairs was in Nebraska in July or August.

He booked an ice skating show.

The night before, these ice skaters had come into town and I guess they'd tied one on.

All of them were hung over the next day.

It gets to show time and none of the people are in costumes and the fair manager is going,

what the hell's going on?

Grandpa realizes he's got a sober maul up because they're hung over.

He orders a bunch of coffee and then he gets the idea of inviting everyone who's in the

grandstand for this show to come down and touch the ice because there's no way they'd

believe it's realized in the middle of the hot July sun in Nebraska.

That buys him a good 45 minutes, an hour, everybody sobers up, gets in costume and the

show goes on.

There's a problem solved when we're talking about it.

You never know what it's going to look like.

You go from ice skating shows to Zippy the human chimp, which is another story that I

love and one of grandpas, so as he grew into the fair business, he picked up also an event

called Xarben.

Xarben back in those days had a membership thing and Xarben was funded by the horse racing

that was happening at the Xarben grounds in Omaha, Nebraska.

They took that money and then they brought in big name entertainment and grandpa would

book the George Burns is of the world, Sammy Davis Jr. to come in for six, seven nights.

It was one of the first types of residencies and they would sell the tickets to their membership

and that was grandpa's really first big, big client was the Xarben deal.

Something you mentioned in the first segment, you talked about being a good booker, buyer,

agent where you've got to keep on top of these trends.

You've got to obviously see things that like, hey, that would maybe make good entertainment.

This is something I can package up and sell.

It seems like he had that.

I'm curious to know how you're doing that because these days, arguably we've got even

more opportunity, but there's also more competition.

Can you talk more about seeing opportunity of things that you can book and maybe even

selling these places that you work with fairs, casinos, rodeos on a different type of entertainment

because there's the way they've done things.

There's the way that you see they could do things.

I love this question because it gets to the core of my philosophy on talent buying and

also what I tell our team and that you've got to be diversified.

You can't keep bringing back the same thing over and over again and not expect people

to not be excited about or expect people to be excited about it.

You've got to change it up.

A few of the ways I did that, fairs back in the, I would say probably until early 90s,

they were seen as the place where only country acts and classic rock acts went to play.

It was a negative for a modern rock act or a pop act or anyone else to really touch those

events.

I'll never forget one time that Nebraska State Fair did an ad campaign and we got a

call because they use the tagline, come see bands you thought were dead and they use

that on a billboard and we're like, you know, you just know.

It's hard to sell people for an event like that, I would imagine.

Exactly.

But that was, they were poking fun and it was on the show.

They were just, but at the end of the day, that's how fairs were perceived.

So, well, you know, if Nagas was that way, just worth mentioning that people thought

it was a graveyard for musicians until it wasn't.

Exactly.

What you guys are doing, you've changed that concept by doing what you do.

We did and it started with the rock acts.

We were able to break in in 2001 when I was the rock consultant for the agency.

That's when we started making inroads with the rock agency.

So I reached out to the agency group and Steve Call and we were able to get dates on

Nickelback and we were able to start bringing three doors down in and then that led to relationship

with the Kirby organization and we were the only fair and festival producers to have any

dates on Evanescence's inaugural tour, the Nintendo Fusion tour.

And I was so proud of that because we were breaking down barriers because those acts

did not play fairs back in those days.

And then we just continued to do that.

We started doing shows with Pitbull and fairs.

We brought Nellie into fairs several years ago and we're doing a bunch more this year

and he's knocked it out of the park.

So in identifying the trends and the new ticket buyers because millennials are now more secure

and their jobs, they've got more disposable income.

So they want to now have their nostalgic moment relive their youth.

So the hip hop acts of the late 90s, early 2000s are having a huge resurgence.

And we see that also in country, right?

The 90s acts are having a huge resurgence.

And we identified that early and we identified that for our clients.

They booked it and the success has come.

But I want to talk about especially a couple of pairings I'm really proud of and that is

putting Pitbull and Blake Shelton together.

And that came about at a festival in Oregon called the Pendleton Whiskey Music Festival

that I've worked with since its inception.

And we started off with Zach Brown the first year of the festival and then year two, we

couldn't really find any country headliners.

So we booked Maroon 5 and in year two of the festival, they sold it out.

Year three comes and we're like, okay, we've developed both a country audience and a pop

audience.

Oh, maybe we blend this together.

And so the opportunity arose to put Blake and Pitbull together.

And I had seen Pitbull play on a special that my father executive produced for the ACMs

called like the Tim McGraw Summer Night special that the ACMs did.

And I was in the room when Pitbull came out and played.

And even though probably 90% of the people in the room didn't understand the Spanish

lyrics, they understood its energy and they understood that that guy could entertain.

And I saw that and I said, my God, this country audience is eating this up and they're loving

it.

If I ever get the opportunity to put Pitbull with a country artist, I'm going to do it.

And that was the first opportunity.

And then I was able to put Tim McGraw and Pitbull together.

And out of that, we've had so many other great collaborations.

And what I tell the pop artists or the rock artists that maybe look down on some of the

country collaborations or they used to anyway is if you embrace the country audience, they're

the type audience that will embrace you back.

And you've just opened yourself up to a whole new fan base.

Nelly did it.

Pitbull has done it.

He out of that show in Oregon came the collaboration with Blake Shelton for Get Ready, the song

that Pit released that Blake's featured on.

That all came out of that show.

It's music business radio.

You're backstage past the music industry.

David Hooper with you, RJ Romeo is the guest.

Romeo Entertainment Group is a full service entertainment agency, talent buying for Ferris

Festivals, clubs, casinos, corporate and rodeo events.

They've done it for more than 65 years.

It's funny you mentioned Pitbull because no doubt I can go on Spotify and I could look

up anybody and Pitbull would have a feature on it.

I feel like he's one of those guys that made it okay for other artists to feature on everything

and anything.

And it sounds like there's something very similar with what you're doing in the live

event space.

Once somebody does it, who's doing very well, it shows other people that they can do it

and there's not as much maybe of the feared backlash.

It's cool to be on 100 songs by 100 different artists.

He seems like he was the forefront of doing things like you're talking about these collaborations

and just seeing yes to opportunity.

Yeah.

I mean, we didn't invent the collaboration thing obviously.

CMT Crossroads has been going for a long time.

Just doing it though in the live space and this was the philosophy that all this was

built up to, you look at how people consume music today.

I call them the Spotify generation.

It's on demand and it's multi genre.

Back in the 80s, it was the Breakfast Club.

You could group people into the Jock, the cheerleader, the nerd.

And you could easily categorize people.

Those genre borders have gone away today.

And I believe a lot of that is because of the platforms like Spotify that give people

access to all the music and helps them discover new music that's similar to the stuff that

they would like.

And my theory is, if people want to consume music like that in their homes, why wouldn't

they want to consume the live experience the same way?

Well, it's a super big risk though for a promoter.

What's interesting though is we take it back to the earlier days of Romeo Entertainment

Group, you used to see multi genre bills.

There would be a comedian on the bill and there would be different types of acts like

Fleetwood Mac opening up for Judas Priest or somebody.

It seems like maybe that's coming around again and maybe it has to do with Spotify.

I think so.

People have the singles and they're jumping around or they've got a shuffle.

But a lot less effort to switch artists than there would have been when you had to switch

out a CD or an LP.

But for fairs, it was a big jump, right?

To get into rock and now pop and hip hop.

But the more success we have and the more they understand, you can't keep going back

to that same well.

You can't keep going back to that same country ticket buyer and expect them to be excited

about it and expect them to come multiple nights to a fair.

Because that's the other thing you have to keep in mind.

We're competing against ourselves at some point when you've got an event like Chime in

Frontier Days where you've got two weekends of shows that you've got to do.

If you book nothing but country, you're competing against yourself.

So you have to be diversified in order to be successful.

So question about booking fairs.

Somebody told me this here in Nashville, a country artist, he had had one or two pretty

good hits.

And his management was telling me, he's good now because he's always going to have a place

on the State Fair Circuit.

That was the philosophy then.

If you could have broken at some sort of big level, you're going to be okay on the live

state circuit.

Is that still happening now?

Sounds like you're bringing in a lot newer artists and rotating artists out.

What happens to these legacy acts?

Are they still in the State Fair scene at all?

Yes.

So fairs used to be the primary proving ground for new country artists.

You would go play the fair circuit, develop your own fan base, get paid good money.

And then you would go into the support role on a tour or move to headline in your own

tour and arena.

Now there's so much content needed for these arena tours and things like that that you'll

see artists bypass or try to bypass the fair circuit.

And I think it's a mistake every time they do it because, and I've seen this now time

and time again, where an artist will go out with a big artist for maybe two tour cycles.

And they think, wow, I'm playing in all these major markets.

I'm meeting all these major radio stations.

We're playing in front of all these fans every night.

And what they don't realize or what they realize once they're off that tour is, they

didn't really develop their own fan base.

They didn't really develop their own show because they only played maybe 30 minutes

and a paired back setting and maybe it wasn't full band.

And it really didn't boost their career all that much.

Maybe in the moment, but I can point to numerous examples.

I don't want to necessarily name names because I think at the time they thought they were

making the best decision for their artists, but now haven't seen it multiple times.

I'm not so sure that that model works for everyone.

I know it doesn't.

David Hooper of Music Business Radio with me, RJ Romeo.

He's got a full service entertainment agency, Romeo Entertainment Group.

They do talent buying for fairs, festivals, clubs, casinos, corporate and rodeo events.

It's done it for more than 65 years.

More from me and RJ Romeo here on Music Business Radio, we come back.

This is John from the Brummies.

You're listening to Music Business Radio, your backstage pass to the biz.

From National Tennessee, it's Music Business Radio, your backstage pass to the music industry.

I'm David Hooper and with me on this episode, RJ Romeo.

I've got a full service entertainment agency.

They do talent buying for fairs, festivals, clubs, casinos, corporate and rodeo events.

It done it for more than 65 years.

Romeo Entertainment Group, you mentioned something on the last segment we did, hard versus soft

tickets.

And it brought me back to an interview I saw with Mike Reno from Lover Boy.

He said that I love playing these fairs because we don't have to sell tickets.

What she would call a soft ticket.

They're packaged with another event.

He doesn't have to worry about it.

But you're saying that that's changing.

Hard ticket sales.

That's a thing now for fairs.

Yeah.

And for the benefit of your listeners, we should probably define hard ticket versus soft ticket.

We might want to define Mike Reno as well.

Band in the 80s.

Lover Boy.

Yeah.

Yep. So hard ticket is just when you've got a standalone hard ticket, headline artists,

maybe some support acts, the pressures on them to sell all the tickets.

Usually you can get a lower guarantee.

And then there's a split point after expenses are recouped.

Soft ticket also has some different definitions.

But basically soft ticket means that there is a flat guarantee because there's no back

end percentage, you can get into soft ticket scenarios when you're dealing with a festival

or with a fair where you can't attribute all the ticket sales necessarily to one headliner.

And so in the situation of a festival, right, where we've got multiple nights, there's no

way that we can say, hey, all these tickets were sold because of this one act when I have

five acts on the bill or 15 over the course of three days.

In the situation of fares, like we have an event called the Mississippi Valley Fair

in Davenport, Iowa.

And it's six nights of concerts for one price.

It's called the pay one price concept.

And it's something my grandfather implemented many, many years ago that has been highly successful

and is still utilized today.

So those are those are truly soft tickets.

The industry puts a little bit different connotation on it.

They see soft ticket as built in audience.

They're going to have people there no matter who you book.

And those are those are few and far between anymore.

So we do have situations where it's free shows, so free with gated mission.

So people pay the gated mission, they get in, they can access the carnival and they can

access the free show that's at the grandstand.

And that can be national talent.

Those are more the soft ticket situations.

I'm curious regarding the guarantees and the money and how that works because you're doing

the negotiations on this.

Where does merch come in when you've got these maybe not big guarantees, but a lot of people

can sell merch.

Does the fair want a piece of the merch or did like, how does that work?

Do you bring your own merch people?

How was because as you know, a lot of people are making more money in merch than they actually

are music these days.

Oh, yeah.

The margins are better.

Yeah.

So the merch situation is interesting because we negotiate it and every deal you generally

have a merch agreement.

And I think I can say safely, it's usually like a 75, 25, 90, 10.

So 75 goes to the artist 75% of soft goods, meaning t-shirts, hats, things like that.

And then on recorded merch, CDs, DVDs, books, the industry standard has really become 90,

90% to the artist, 10% to the venue.

You can get better percentages when you're dealing with different types of events.

And if you allow, if the artist allows the festival or the event itself to sell merch,

they'll give a more favorable rate.

So it's really event specific and it can be different from show to show to show.

But who gets the money, the event and the artist generally split the money along those

percentage split lines.

And we, it gets frustrating for us because we don't touch that money.

But yeah, but yeah, we got to negotiate those rates and we have to go back and forth and

the artists are like, well, we're only going to let you list the lineup on one shirt.

And we're like, okay, cool.

It's not ours.

But we always operate in the best interest of our clients.

So we're like, no, they need at least three shirts.

And it's just, it's very frustrating because it has become such big business that it becomes

a nuanced deal point.

And yeah.

Well, you mentioned it.

I mean, it's, I mean, how many lover boy shirts you have, like five or six, right?

And only one record.

So I mean, there really is a lot of money in merch for people.

And it's not just t shirts anymore.

I've seen some crazy merch.

Oh, yeah.

Well, NFTs, it's going to be.

Yeah.

That's become the big new merch.

There's no way we can, we can really, I guess if we create an NFT the night of the show,

maybe you could commission that.

I'm curious if you've got any more stories about booking and what you guys have done

for clients to negotiate.

All right.

And then one of the things that you guys do is you do rider negotiations in the music

industry.

We've got some notorious maybe is the word rider stories with green M&Ms, for example.

Oh, yeah, that's a, that's a good word to use.

Isn't it notorious?

So the green M&Ms one, for anyone that's ever asked where it's actually been in there because

I have asked is they say they just put it in there to make sure you're reading the rider.

And they assume it's going to come up in the advance, which is what we do three to four

weeks prior to the show.

We go through what the day of show is going to look like and we try to deal with 90% of

the issues that are going to come up day of show.

And then the remaining 10% that you have to deal with day of show or like last minute

media requests, things like that, hospitality requests, transpo.

So the riders have become very onerous over the years because it feels like it gets Frankenstein

where people just add stuff on.

They encounter a bad situation.

They add a new clause to the rider.

They encounter a force-majourish situation.

They add a new clause to the rider.

And so those things have become quite long over the years.

And so one of the things that we did several years ago was finally hired outside council

to go in and negotiate pre-negotiated terms with the big agencies so that we could spend

less time correcting contracts, crossing things out on behalf of our clients and use our leverage

and our reputation for good business practices to try to get those favorable terms and to

try to save every one time and resources on both the agency side and on the talent buying

side.

Yeah, to mention when you've got this event coming up very quickly, you want to be able

to do those deals quickly.

And probably that is one of the reasons that people do decide to work with certain acts

are easy to deal with.

Yeah.

I mean, I've never had anyone pull out of a show because of a rider, right?

It's a negotiation point.

And we tend to cross a lot of the stuff out, especially when you know the artist isn't

going to want to be on site all day because all that just goes to waste.

And I think some artists view it as maybe they're trying to be cheap, but when you see

the amount of waste that happens in the industry, it kind of makes you sick because you're just

like, really?

Why did you even ask for all that if you were just going to let it go to waste?

Talking like chips and depth and things.

Yeah.

And deli trays.

I can't tell you how many times I've had tour managers be like, you know what?

I wish they would forget the deli tray and instead bring the chips or the snacks.

But God, they always bring the deli tray and they never eat it.

We've got to get the animal rights activist on the deli trays.

That's where the real problem is.

But if the artist is flying in and they're only going to be on site for an hour or two

before the show, yeah, they'll touch some of the snacks, but there's also catering for

dinner and things like that.

So it's, yeah, we do the best we can to try to reduce the waste and to also reduce our

clients liability because you don't want to get in a situation where you're looking for

whatever the special energy drink is in Hastings, Nebraska.

And you know, you're not going to find it.

Right.

It's music business radio.

David Hooper with you.

RJ Romeo is my guest.

He's a full service entertainment agent.

He's got a talent buying company, they do fairs, festivals, clubs, casinos, corporate

rodeo events.

He'd done it for more than 65 years.

Romeo Entertainment Group is the name.

Yeah, I would think that that would be really, especially if you're in these small markets,

like distribution and things and they want their bougie New York City coffee or something

like that, not that artists are that way.

But you know, what happens in situations like that?

I thought we were going to be honest, a lot of artists are.

And but when you realize, when you put it in context and you realize that this is their

home away from home and the TM is trying to make it as comfortable and as familiar as

they can because when you're jumping from city to city and you're getting off the bus

and God knows where and it's dirty and you know, dirt, you're in the middle of a field,

you want to try to make them feel as comfortable as possible because it's going to make for

a better day for everyone.

And you also want to respect the fact that it gives them some form of normality.

Something that you guys are doing, if we come back, we're going to dive deeper into this

is that I know that you have a consulting version of this, but this is the day to day

stuff that you deal with talent buying, event problem solving.

We talked about rider negotiations, production issues, security.

There's so many little things when it comes to putting on live events, especially if it's

not a venue that's there 24, 7, 365.

It's like a temporary outdoor setup.

When we come back, we're going to dive into these things from the things you've never

thought about when it comes on to putting on a good show.

I'm David Hooper.

This is Music Business Radio.

RJ Romeo from Romeo Entertainment Group is my guest that's coming up on the next section

of Music Business Radio.

Hey guys, it's Bree Kennedy and you're listening to Music Business Radio.

It's Music Business Radio, your backstage pass in the music industry, David Hooper, and with

me today from Romeo Entertainment Group, RJ Romeo.

It's a full service entertainment agency.

They do talent buying for fairs, festivals, clubs, casinos, corporate and rodeo events.

They've done it for more than 65 years.

We're talking on this segment about the little things when you go to an event at one of these

venues, out of casino, corporate event, rodeo.

There's a million things that you're not thinking of because somebody like RJ has taken care

of it.

Let's talk about that.

We talked about problem solving.

You've got to be good at problem solving to succeed in the music industry.

Putting out fires, you might think of that.

There are a lot of fires happening at any of these events, I would say.

You've got stories on them.

Oh, yeah.

I mean, I used to tell people that that's what I did.

I'm a professional problem solver.

That's what it is.

You're dealing with problems that are coming at you fast and furious.

What I tell my people is, once you've been doing this long enough, you should be able

to head them off when they're issues so they don't become problems.

So anticipate and head them off.

Give me an example of that.

Something that you're like, we don't need to worry about that, but it could become like

a big thing.

Well, I mean, one of the most obvious ones is force majeure.

Prior to COVID, I could count on one hand the number of times that we'd had to invoke

force majeure to get out of a contract, whether that was because of a flood or that was because

of a tornado that ripped up the venue, then COVID hit and it's like, people are claiming

force majeure left, right?

Most people didn't even know what that provision meant.

Yeah, they know now.

And then you had to go redraft language, but then there's other things, right?

You encounter things like the horrible Indiana state fair stage collapse back in 2011.

That had a significant impact on our business in terms of outdoor safety.

So a lot of our events are outdoors.

That incident was because of, I mean, if you go through and you actually read the report,

what they say broke down was there was ambiguity of authority in who should have made the call

to evacuate the sugar pit and that there was issues with the protocols.

So there were two findings.

Well, that right there could be a huge thing for any live event.

That's a thing that I imagine you guys bring to the table, like knowing how to organize

it and who's in charge and behind the scenes.

Absolutely.

But there's a hundred of those things.

It doesn't just happen on its own.

And people don't realize all the different elements that go into it.

And I would tell you that we are experts in putting together events, but there are experts

in each individual area.

And we don't claim to be an expert in security or in concessions or those types of things.

But we know enough and we have relationships with companies and people all over the country

that we provide the guidance so that our clients know what to look out for.

You know, so much of the entertainment business and of producing a successful concert revolves

around avoiding the common pitfalls.

And so the approach that we take is more of a holistic approach to talent buying and concert

producing.

We don't just book the talent and say, hey, you know, great, we got you, your artist,

you're on your own.

Good luck.

We'll take our check.

Thanks.

No, it starts with the talent buying.

Then it moves into helping them figure out, you know, do they have a good marketing plan?

Then we help them get the assets, making sure they get approvals from the artists to announce

and go on sale, helping to coordinate that.

That moves into, you know, then that moves into the production aspect.

Do you have a good production company?

Do you need us to help you get bids?

How can we help?

Do you have an event safety and security plan?

Have you thought about event cancellation insurance?

There's so, so many things to think about and do.

And we are the guides for our clients and for the events we work with, because each of

them need help in different areas.

Do you work with new events?

Are they all pretty established?

No, we work with new events.

It's a lot more work because depending on their level of sophistication, you have to

do a lot more work.

I want to ask you about that.

If somebody comes in and goes, oh, no, man, we don't need to worry about insurance.

I mean, do you have things like that that you push up against from people who just don't

know any better and they don't think something's important?

Yes.

And on those, you have to walk away because it's a train wreck in the making.

And we've realized over the many years we've been doing business that it's not worth associating

with those types of events that'll cut corners because that's going to put people in harm's

way.

That's going to open us and them up to liability.

And it's just not, it's not worth it.

This business is too small and we've been in it too long to compromise our integrity or

the quality that we believe the fans deserve and the artists deserve.

When you think about reputation, I think about the station with great white and that catastrophe,

that has hurt the band.

I mean, even the band's reputed.

I don't even know if those guys were even involved with it or if it was the promoter

or the club or whatever.

But once that gets out, you're going to have to work pretty hard to get it back.

Oh, absolutely.

And you look at, I think it was in 2016, 2017, you had several festivals that went belly

up, right?

And you could have a whole separate conversation about whether that was because of overpriced

guarantees, bad marketing, whatever.

At the end of the day, they went belly up and the artists were left chasing the money.

So then out of that comes 100% deposits need to be put up front in order for you to launch

a new festival, right?

It's a lot more money than it would have been at one time.

Yeah.

And the industry is very reactive in that way.

And just like I talked about the Frankenstein-ing, where you just add provisions to the writer

after you have all these horrible experiences, there's a provision that CAA now adds to their

contracts if there's a rodeo event.

And it came out of that Matchbox 20 thing because I guess Matchbox 20 said, well, we

didn't realize it was a rodeo event in Cheyenne, even though Google did exist back then.

And so they started adding a provision to the contract that says this concert is in association

with a rodeo event or takes place in conjunction with a rodeo event.

So you see those things and we learn from them too.

And we take that knowledge and we try to pass it along to our clients to again help them

avoid the pitfalls and the issues that they're going to inevitably encounter when they produce

a concert.

It's music business radio.

You're backstage past the music industry.

David Hooper with you and with me, RJ Romeo.

Romeo Entertainment Group is the company.

It's a full service entertainment agency.

They do talent buying for Ferris Festivals Clubs, casinos, corporate rodeo events.

They've done it for more than 65 years.

And let's talk about the difference between some of these events.

Especially with some of the outdoor festivals, the fairs, there's temporary stage, which

we've talked about.

There's a risk there.

Casino is a different thing.

Corporate is a different thing.

Can you talk about maybe some of the big differences that you've seen from these people

who need talent for their events, depending on the venue that they're in or the needs

that they've got?

What are the differences that somebody wouldn't think of when looking at those different things

that I've been listing throughout the episode?

Sure.

And outdoor events have to worry about a lot more because you've got inclement, whether

you've got to be concerned about.

So I can give you some specific examples.

When you're doing an outdoor show, you can tell right away when you get on site if people

know what they're doing.

Or when you just ask them, like, what have they done in the past?

Did they have Viscuene, the plastic wrap available?

Do they have squeegee mops on site?

Because if you get weather, what's your contingency plan?

We've got an app that we pay for that all of our service reps have access to so that

we can get site-specific weather forecasts because that's really important because if

you call it the National Weather Service, they're great for telling you what just ran

over you, but they're not going to give you a site-specific forecast before you get there.

Tim, sure the airport is this.

So there's just so many, many things.

I can give you some more examples.

Well, I'm curious about like casinos.

Let's talk about that because obviously there's gaming going on, gaming, gambling.

You've got to be a certain age to get in.

Sure.

And different types of rules.

I mean, is booking an event like that?

Is that similar to maybe like a rodeo?

Some people don't want to be associated with casinos?

No, and you usually don't encounter that.

It's more the casinos.

Are they looking at this as a standalone profit center or is it just to increase the drop

count to increase how much people spend on the casino floor?

And that's why agents view the casinos as soft tickets.

They've got a built-in ticket buyer base of people who come and gamble every weekend anyway.

They usually eat up a chunk of their tickets and give it to their big gamblers.

So there's different considerations.

Am I appealing to their core audience or the audience they want to bring in?

Those are questions we ask across all venues and all events.

But which one is going to be better for the drop count?

That's a question specific to casinos.

Rodeos is this person, a PETA person, because we've encountered some artists that will not

play rodeos because they are involved with animal rights groups.

And yeah, you don't want to find that out the hard way.

And so there's those considerations.

Well, I would imagine it would be that way with really any event that you've got.

I know, for example, from a licensing deal, a lot of artists didn't want to work with

Hummer.

Like, whoa, no, I don't care how much it is.

I'm not going to be on your Hummer commercial.

I mean, I think it feels to me that I'm curious if you've seen this too, that artists are

being more educated or they're certainly more thoughtful about reputation and association

than they would have been at one time.

I see that in some regards.

But for the most part, usually those questions that would elicit those types of things don't

come up during the booking conversation.

And so I don't see them as being more concerned about that as it pertains to fairs, rodeos,

casinos, corporate events, things like that.

I want to leave you with this question because we've got so many artists that listen to the

show, upcoming musicians and people, you know, maybe not at the level of playing these shows

yet, not where you're going to them or that people are aware of them, but hope to be there

soon.

What is something that an artist who hopes to be doing these fairs, casinos, festival

gigs, what is something they need to have in order to get the attention of you and also

these guys who are actually going to be booking the talent?

Yeah, that's a great question.

So a lot of the new artists that we get on our radar, they come from the agents that

we work with on a daily basis, right?

The William Morris, that kind of thing, but I can already hear your listeners going,

yeah, I've tried that, but I'm not big enough for them to sign.

Okay, well, that's an indicator to us that maybe you're not ready for the opportunity

that we could give you.

Now that being said, there's artists on a regional level that we try to support and give

help to because they put on a great show, they're easy to work with, they add additional value,

and those people usually come to us either through our clients or they reach out direct.

Now, I don't want a thousand submissions, so we usually don't look at most of the stuff

that is submitted directly.

It needs to come from some sort of trusted referral source because there's just too much

volume out there.

And so it's these come from a trusted referral source, whether that be a manager, an agent,

a client, those would probably be the three primary sources where we then do a serious

evaluation of those artists and start looking at putting them on some of the lineups that

we program.

RomeoENT.com, Romeo Entertainment Group.

RJ, thanks so much for being here.

This is great.

I love having guests where we can talk about the inside of the music business.

That's what the show is about, but you know, there's little bitty millions of little things

that we don't think about.

And I think that you've done a good job of bringing those to the forefront.

We've got to have you again though because there's so much more that we didn't talk

about.

So let's bring you back here soon.

Yeah, I appreciate your insightful questions and thank you for the opportunity.

It's music business radio, David Hooper.

That's me.

I'm the host, this episode, produced by super producer Gary Crane all the way from Wyoming

today.

Visit us online at musicbusinessradio.com.

I'll see you next week on our interview with another industry guest.


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