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Tuesday, April 23

"The Wheels Behind The Scenes - People who keep the show on the Road" Dan Torti: Talent Buyer/Concert Promoter for Stonefly Media (Missoula, MT)


Every time there is a show or festival whether at your favorite watering hole or  the largest venue in the world there has to be that go between to make sure that the band gets paid what they expect from the gig and that the venue is satisfied, all the while advertising the show to masses with fair prices and massive promotional campaigns, their goal is simple to satisfy all parties, the band(s), the fans and the venue.  This is exactly what Dan Torti has done with his company Stonefly Media. Hand built from the ground up this company has become the lifeblood for good, hip, cutting edge music in the college community of Missoula, Montana.  With such acts on the horizon such as Blitzen Trapper, The Cave Singer, Orgone, Monophonics, and countless others it's a tireless job where you greet the band upon arrival, see that the venue and band workout together and most importantly sell as many tickets as possible.  We had the pleasure of sitting down with the owner of this company, Dan Torti to let us know a little more about what it takes to make a concert happen be it small or large.

1. Obviously to be in your position you have to have a deep love for music, the question would be then how do you get yourself to a place where you know how to book bands and form the relationships you must have to do year in and out? 
First and foremost it was certainly a love for live music. After attending concerts throughout my childhood, I realized I wanted to be a part of the entertainment business. Concerts and events can be life changing and I knew I had to somehow be involved in some capacity.
I attended the University of Montana in Missoula and majored in marketing. While working towards my marketing degree, I also earned a certificate in Entertainment Management and worked for UM Productions as the marketing coordinator. Entertainment Management gave me the opportunity to learn about all different areas of the industry-- management, PR, agents, promoters, etc. UM Productions gave me the opportunity to get my foot in the door and gain real world experience, working with acts such as Elton John, James Taylor, Widespread Panic, among many others.

2. So you would say college is first step in getting this type of gig.  What would major be?
I wouldn't necessarily say college is the first step into getting this type of gig. For me personally, it was a major help because it allowed me hands on experience and an opportunity to start building relationships with industry professionals. At the end of the day, I feel experience and your professional network weighs heavier than a college degree in this industry. However, through the business program, I learned the basics of marketing and promotion and earned my degree in marketing. Through UMEM and UM Productions, I received a more hands on approach of working in the industry. At the end of the day, it's all about building a network and, like many others careers, who you know. The entertainment industry is small and your network can be a major foot in the door. For me, that foot in the door began at the University of Montana.

3. What is your favorite part of the job and what would be the hardest or least fun about it?
For me, my favorite part of the job is booking great acts and bringing them to my community. There is nothing more rewarding than being a promoter on a sold out show that receives tons of buzz in the local market. I think the hardest or least fun thing about the job is being patient. When you begin promoting shows, especially as an independent promoter, getting the acts you want and trying to gain profit can take a while. In fact, you might work with lesser known acts or loss money for quite sometime until your prove yourself as a promoter to major agents and acts. 
Being an independent promoter is rarely glorious... to me, it's about "paying dues" and working my way up the ladder. It requires a lot of time and on top of that a lot of risk. The promoter is the last person to get paid when doing a show... and the person with the biggest out-of-pocket risk and investment. 

4. Do you book only bands you like or would like or do you take a kinda silent poll of the demographic (the fans) and then pick your bands that way?
I don't only book bands I like. This isn't a great practice to get into. Typically, I'm happy to present any genre of music as long as their is a fan base in the market. For me, it's about being involved in the community and bringing more music to Missoula rather than feeding my own likes or interests or one particular genre. I think this practice helps build longevity for a small business like Stonefly Productions.

5. What is the most successful or best act that you've booked?
At this point, some of the most successful acts I've worked with include: Blind Pilot, The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, EOTO, Youth Lagoon  Father John Misty, The Emmitt-Nershi Band, among a handful of others.

6. Have you ever book a band that was a dream band, a personal favorite, or afterward looked at yourself and said how in hell did I get such a great act to come to town.
I haven't necessarily booked a "dream" band in the market but after running my company for 3+ years, I now find myself pursuing more of my "wish list" than I did when I first started. At the beginning, it was more about getting my name out there and proving myself as a promoter. 
As far as saying "how the hell did I get such a great act to come to town", I can say YES to this. Blind Pilot selling out 550+ tickets, The Infamous Stringdusters SOLD OUT Halloween 2012 event and a co-bill featuring two indie-rock powerhouses' Youth Lagoon and Father John Misty.

7. How many hours goes into the whole process, from picking up the phone, to shaking the bands hand goodnight after the show?
This is a tough question. With each event, the time put in various and is dependent upon a number of factors. A typical day of show schedule might be 8 to 15 hours long depending on load-in time and difficulty of set up and sound check.

8. Have you ever had an act cancel on you last minute, do you have contingencies for this?
Yes, I've had acts cancel on last minute for a variety reasons.... weather, vehicle issues, illness within the band, different opportunities, etc. I take each situation as it comes as each one is unique. In the few instances this has happened for me personally, we usually move ahead and replace the headlining band. It may become a "local" bill but we push forward and make the most out of it.

9. Not to pry, but how does a talent buyer make money?  Is it by the door charges, or a flat fee?
I think it's important to note that the talent buyer is the last person to get paid in this process. The talent buyer is also the person responsibility for all of the financial risk on an event. The bands, venues, advertising, etc get paid before the promoter see's dollar one. 
For me, my potential payment comes strictly from ticket sales... and varies on what percentage or share I get per event. If the show sells enough tickets, I'll get to my profit.... but if sales are slow or we just don't sell enough tickets, I may be the one pulling money out of my pocket to pay everyone else what has been contracted and promised.

10. What are your plans for the future on a business level, and where do you see Stonefly Productions in 5 years?
I plan on continuing in the entertainment industry. Besides running Stonefly Productions, I run an advertising agency that operates nationwide in the performing arts world, marketing and promoting various tours.  In five years, I hope to see Stonefly Productions becoming a self sufficient operation presenting tours around the country and presenting in larger venues, working with larger acts. 

11. Do you enjoy running your own operation or would rather work for a larger outfit?
I truly enjoy running my own operation as it provides a lot of freedoms I wouldn't otherwise have... but am always open to furthering my skill set, experience and career. In the past, I've had a few opportunities to go work for larger outfits but at the time, it wasn't the right move.

12. Would you ever be interested in doing the talent buying on an entire festival?  What would that take?
Yes, this has actually been something me and my partners have been kicking around for the past 6 to 9 months.... and something I see Stonefly Productions taking on in the next few years.

13. Who do you think we should profile next in our featured series, The Wheels Behind The Scenes?
TOUR MANAGER or MANAGEMENT COMPANY.

Stonefly Productions currently works with the following venues:
The Wilma Theatre, Missoula – 1050 Capacity
The Top Hat Lounge, Missoula – 690 Capacity
Stage 112, Missoula – 500 Capacity
Missoula Winery & Events Center, Missoula (Outdoors) – 500 Capacity
Monk’s Bar, Missoula – 350 Capacity
The Badlander, Missoula – 300 Capacity
The Palace Lounge, Missoula – 300 Capacity
Missoula Winery & Events Center, Missoula (Indoors) – 230 Capacity
Zoo City Apparel, Missoula – 175 Capacity
Ole Beck VFW Post 209, Missoula – 160 Capacity
For more information on Stonefly Productions, please contact Dan Torti at dan@stoneflyonline.com
 © Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication