Thornton’s NW Revolution

When Creston Thornton sold his old company, Bravo Entertainment, along with his Big Easy nightclubs to Knitting Factory in 2005, it wasn’t hard to imagine he’d find success with his real estate business and leave the concert business in his rear view mirror.
Revolution Concert House & Event Center, Garden City, Idaho.

He was at the end of a four-year noncompete and was developing land in the Northwest, particularly in Idaho, when the economy slowed down and Thornton decided it was time to get back into the game. He started CT Touring, and resumed booking shows at Eagle River Pavilion – built on a 25-acre piece of land he’d developed.

In addition to having just completed a third season at Eagle River, Thornton is now booking shows at the Idaho Center in Nampa as well as the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D. And he’s well into his first year with a new venue – the 2,200-capacity Revolution Concert House & Event Center in Garden City, Idaho. 

But he is adamant he’s not reinventing the model he built with Bravo Entertainment.

“By the time we sold Bravo, we’d done 450 shows a year in 19 states, developing it from basically selling 100 tickets to punk shows to bringing in Rage Against The Machine, Eric Clapton, and Eagles for the first time in the market,” Thornton told Pollstar. We developed the Northwest into a viable touring market.”

He’s keeping a slower pace with a smaller staff now, and that suits him. 

“We decided we’re not going to do like we used to, with 450 shows a year; we decided to try 80-100 shows in the Northwest as they make sense,” Thornton said. “And we did a whole run of dates with Dane Cook in the Northwest arenas, and a run of Lynyrd Skynyrd. So it seemed like the right time to open the Revolution in Garden City, Idaho, which is in the center of the Treasure Valley and close to Boise and Meridian.

“We found a great spot that was a big old building. We went in and completely refurbished it, put in tons of steel, did everything that we couldn’t do before when we had some constraints,” Thornton explained. “We have 700 parking spaces on site, two loading docks, three full band green rooms, two VIP shower and bathrooms. It’s the right size, and we can configure it to 1,000 or 1,500.

“We’ve had a lot of success already with Joe Walsh, who opened it. Michael Franti and Ziggy Marley played. We’ve had Bassnectar, Steve Aoki, and Snoop Dogg for an end-of-the-world party on the Dec. 20. We have Flogging Molly for St. Paddy’s, and we’re really getting the big names that either came in and sold out the Knitting Factory, which is just 999 capacity, or moving up to shows that we couldn’t get before, especially during the winter, that can sell a couple thousand tickets.”

Revolution Concert House & Event Center, Garden City, Idaho.

The latest “get” for the Revolution is EDM superstar Tiësto, who regularly moves three times the tickets Thornton can even sell at the Revolution.  And he credits the success of the Revolution to it not simply being a great room, but also using a creative approach to ticketing and an affiliation with Ticketfly and its social marketing platform.

“We’re trying to do things differently up here,” Thornton said. “We have a great room – more than twice the size and like nothing else in this market. And we’re doing things differently with ticketing. We’re working with the agents on this, in our belief Groupon and all these discounts have really hurt the concert business.

“What we’re building into our offers up front, and we’ve done this for three years now, is a tiered ticketing system. We are actually trying to reward the consumer for buying tickets early instead of alienating the fan who bought the ticket early by offering them for half off later. What we’re trying to do is get the fans out early and reward them.”

In his tiered ticketing offers, fans buying in the first hours or days of an onsale get the best prices – what might start as a $10 ticket at onsale might increase to $25 the next week and $35 the week after that, as just one example.

“We’re really trying to generate excitement and rewards. We’re also doing all our EDM shows, like Steve Aoki and AC Slater, this way,” Thornton explained.  “They all sell out. I think the Groupon offers at 56 percent off tells the consumer ‘thanks for being a fan, but the people who waited get the discounts.’ That’s not the way to reward the fans.

“You’re absolutely teaching the consumer to wait, and that’s hurting the business in general. Your advertising dollars are wasted in the beginning, you have to spend more at the end, when the best way to market a show is to have a ticket in the fan’s back pocket.”

Revolution Concert House & Event Center, Garden City, Idaho.

With business positively humming at the Revolution Center, Thornton’s got an eye toward the 2013 summer season at Eagle River Pavilion. He says the plan is to promote eight to 10 shows at the Idaho Center amphitheatre and continue promoting shows in Missoula, Mont., and in North Dakota. But the grind of hundreds of shows in almost 20 states is over.

Thornton learned that when he sold Bravo. But he also saw the concert business from the outside – through a fan’s eyes.

“I had three kids in 14 months – and that’s after trying for three years. It was definitely the right time to take a break,” Thornton said. “Being able to watch it from the outside is where a lot of the ticketing ideas came from. Really, the consumer has not been rewarded for being the first in line.

“The thing we get now is, ‘When do the tickets go on sale?’ and I’ll say, ‘The tickets already are on sale.’ And it’s, ‘No, when do the tickets go on sale.’ It happens all the time. It’s like we’re Nordstrom’s, and it’s the end of the season rack sale.”

Photo: 8/22/2012
Joe Walsh and Creston Thornton at Revolution Concert House & Event Center, Garden City, Idaho.

There’s a cliché that there’s no second acts in America, but Thornton is disproving that.

“We’re supposed to be a competitive country, so I think starting a new business with some changes and a new model and learning from your past, is a way to do things.”