Former Live Nation Exec Writes New Chapter
He’s written a book, “…And I Breathed” telling the story about growing up the son of a single mother in Arizona, how his relationship with money – mostly, the lack of it – shaped the man he’d become and, finally, how he learned to make the relationship with himself matter.
Garner showed an entrepreneurial streak while in school – selling gum at a profit in the schoolyard to earn lunch money. He took a job with a San Jose, Calif., flea market attending its parking lot, learning Spanish, and eventually managing the market itself.
A chance meeting with boxer Julio César Chavéz and his team, and later Ruben Alvarez, set him on a path to promoting Latin music concerts and the formation of Alvarez and Garner, scoring a life-altering coup promoting early concerts with Enrique Iglesias.
It wasn’t long before Bill Graham Presents came calling. Soon, Garner was head of Clear Channel Entertainment’s Latin music division, where he met now-Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, who was heading up Europe at the time. Rapino would move up, and Garner with him.
And suddenly, it was over. If there was ever a time for someone to endure a dark night of the soul, that was it. Some cope by medicating – under care of a professional or not. Some dive back into the game as soon as possible. Some take their buyouts and spend a few years on the beach.
Garner took a different path, and writes about it in his book that is available now in pre-sale through his website, JasonGarner.com, and through Amazon September 22. With the help of a variety of teachers, therapists, health experts, gurus, spiritual masters, his new wife – and his supportive kids – Garner learned to breathe. And that, he says, has made all the difference.
He calls Rapino his first guru and devotes a full chapter to his onetime mentor. He’s provided Pollstar with that chapter, available here, and talked about his life in and out of the concert industry.
You rose from running a flea market to Live Nation Global Music in a relatively short time. Did you ever feel you were being fast-tracked before you were ready to manage not only a company of that size, but a group of VPs with decades more experience?
At the time I was just doing what I thought I was supposed to do in life – work hard, climb the mountain and push ahead. That’s what we are taught being successful is all about, so that’s what I did.
I think it’s the same for most of us – we all want to be good, loved and successful so we scrap and fight and push forward subconsciously, working more and more, waiting for the world to tell us we are loved, which doesn’t usually happen.
Looking back, I am very grateful to all the mentors who patiently helped me grow into a leader. That’s the beautiful part of our journey in that everything and everyone is a teacher.
Even the most embarrassing “mistakes” are learning opportunities if we allow them to be – and I certainly had my share of embarrassing moments as I matured. I feel enormous gratitude to the industry, to the team at Live Nation and to Michael Rapino in particular.
When you left Live Nation, was it a mutual decision? What was that conversation with Michael Rapino, who had been your mentor, like?
I like how Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow described their separation – “conscious uncoupling.” That’s really what the process between Michael and I was. It is never easy for two people who shared so much to make the decision to move on.
But, as I describe in the book, I was distracted from my mom’s death and unable to focus on the job, and it showed in the results. Michael made the final call, as the boss always has to, but it was mutual in that we both knew it was time.
Despite that fact, waking up and facing the reality of my new life was a very difficult and rich learning experience. I had spent my entire life defining myself by my jobs and successes, so the realization that I was now just Jason, with no fancy title, provoked so much growth and initiated this new chapter in my life. I was forced to learn about myself and who I was beyond my job.
In the book I describe Michael as my first guru, not just for all that he taught me at Live Nation but also for what I learned in the process of living my life after that.
Some time later, you found yourself back in the concert business, working with Jenni Rivera shortly before her death in a plane crash. Did the suddenness of her death cause you to question your newfound beliefs and practices?
In the beginning it was a really tough situation to connect the dots on. I wrote in the book that I had spent the day with her talking and sharing before she left on that final trip.
Looking back it’s a really special memory for me. But when I got the news that her plane had crashed, that my friend was dead, it was a really difficult thing to grasp.
I had experienced so much death already at that point: my mom, my grandma, and in some respects my career, and I had moments where I wondered what it all meant.
With time I have learned that all we have is this moment, now – not the future we dream of or the past we tell stories about, but now. And, for me, life is about experiencing this moment fully.
Sometimes the moment is listening to a song at a concert, other times it’s winning the rights to promote a big tour and sometimes it’s holding your mother’s head as she takes her last breath or learning that your friend has suddenly died.
All of those moments have an essence and a message that when we are fully present we can experience, learn from and find life’s beauty in.
Do you think about returning to the concert business?
I’m enjoying just being a fan. I went to a Jason Mraz concert the other night with my wife and children. It was really touching to see the way he inspired the audience by sharing the values that are close to his heart – compassion toward animals, caring for each other and taking care of the earth.
From the outside looking in I see live music as an incredibly moving force that has the potential to heal, to inspire and to create so much joy for the world. I so admire seeing Live Nation adding vegan food and fresh fruits and vegetables to the amphitheater menus, Shakira leading the way on childhood education, Coldplay’s efforts with Oxfam, Jack Johnson’s with the environment, the global leadership Bono has shown, and what so many others in the business are doing.
It’s beautiful to see an example that we really can touch the world while engaging in business.
What advice would you give to your friends in the business, living the rock ‘n’ roll dream that we all know has its pitfalls?
There’s nothing more obnoxious than some guy coming and telling everyone how to live their lives as if he’s got it all figured out – that’s not what “… And I Breathed” is about.
What I hope to accomplish with my book is to share my experiences and what I’ve learned from them. I think that will resonate with some and for others it won’t – and that’s perfect.
But to answer in a more personal way, if I could go back in time and give advice to the Jason of five years ago … I think I would give him a big hug, invite him to breathe deeply, drink a green juice and open his heart and allow it to dance to the music he’s promoting.
Jason Garner has given Pollstar permission to post a complete chapter from his book “… And I Breathed,” available here. The book is available for pre-ordering via JasonGarner.com.