By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
The anticipated Denver concert-promotions war has not yet begun in earnest, but the field of battle is already crowded with potential combatants.
The January 22 Feedback column contained information about the new partnership between veteran Colorado promoter and manager Chuck Morris and Bill Graham Presents, a major San Francisco enterprise affiliated with SFX Entertainment, among the country's largest and most aggressive promotions houses. In the same space, Barry Fey, who sold his shares in his ultra-powerful Fey Concerts operation to Los Angeles's Universal Concerts last year, predicted that Morris and Universal would soon be going head-to-head in a financial fight of epic proportions. Now the Denver office of Jacor Broadcasting, a Cincinnati-based conglomerate that owns nearly 200 radio stations (including some of the most popular outlets in this market), seems ready to make an impact in promotions, too--and Jacor is using as its soldiers three former Fey Concerts employees: Rob Buswell, Jeff Krump and Michele "Mel" Gibson.
Buswell, the director of concerts and events for Jacor, got his start putting on shows in 1982 while attending college at California State University at Fullerton. He subsequently worked for Avalon Attractions, a major California promotions company, before coming to Fey Concerts in 1989. As director of marketing for Fey, he witnessed firsthand the early-Nineties conflict between Fey Concerts and Universal (then known as MCA) that eventually led to a pairing of the corporations. By June 1996, however, he began to get itchy for new challenges and left Fey Concerts to start his own marketing business. He put together Web pages for record companies and handled a few projects for Fey/MCA, but within a matter of months he realized that he was out of his element: "I was spending 95 percent of my time on the computer instead of on the phone," he says. So when Jacor asked him to come aboard in December of that year, he jumped at the opportunity.
In the beginning, Buswell was charged with putting together festivals for stations under the Jacor umbrella: KTCL's Big Adventure and the KBPI Birthday Bash were the largest of these. But Buswell didn't stop there, and by the end of 1997, he was as busy as any other promoter in town. December alone welcomed at least five sizable concerts put together by Buswell for Jacor: A Cause for Celebration, a KHIH-FM happening that starred Dave Koz, David Benoit and Brenda Russell; KBPI's Mistletoe Jam; a Royal Crown Revue date for KTCL; and KBCO-sponsored turns by Jackson Browne and Barenaked Ladies. In all, Buswell assembled around forty gigs last year, and he hopes to double that number in 1998.
Helping Buswell do so will be Krump, who started at Jacor this week after being dismissed in late January as director of theaters and arenas for the City of Denver. His firing made headlines because of what spurred it: Krump and his superior, Gary Lane, were accused of starting a fire in an office trash can, as well as other office pranks. Although he declines to go into detail about these charges, Krump says that many of his problems in the city post came as a result of cultural differences. "I didn't fit very well into a governmental situation," he explains. "I've always been a rock-and-roll person."
True enough. Krump, who grew up in Aurora, spent a lot of his time during high school and college sneaking into concerts promoted by Fey; years later, Krump notes, Fey jokingly presented him with a bill for all the tickets he didn't buy. In 1975 he landed a job at Feyline, Fey Concerts' predecessor, and although Fey initially mistook him for a telephone repairman, Krump eventually became a key part of the organization. He left the Fey family in 1984 to tour in a management capacity with Triumph, a Canadian power trio, and after that band broke up, he did similar work for a variety of big names: Aerosmith, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Neil Young, Guns N' Roses, Metallica. But the road began to lose its allure when he passed forty and his son was old enough to notice that dad wasn't at any of his Little League games. Hence, Krump gladly took the theaters and arenas job, spending five years with the division before his recent termination.
Obviously, the timing of the Jacor job overture was ideal for Krump. "Our intent is to go after some creative packaging and bring events into town that might not necessarily be touring," he says. As for challenging Universal on its own turf, Krump soft-pedals this prospect. But he does profess that "no one at Jacor has put any limits on what we can or can't do."
This last comment raises some intriguing possibilities. Jacor's concert division in Denver is the first of its kind for the company--and if it clicks, it's conceivable that the Buswell-Krump team could lead to the formation of a branch large enough to put together events for Jacor stations from coast to coast. Given that Jacor owns properties in most major U.S. cities, the resulting department could become a legitimate threat to Universal and SFX not only in Colorado, but across the country. Buswell and Krump deny that anything so sweeping is on the drawing board at present, but neither will rule it out--and both acknowledge that Jacor has something special to offer artists coming to Denver: namely, five FM stations (KBCO, KBPI, KTCL, KHIH and KRFX) with which to advertise shows.