Tom Wilson Talks 313 Presents

The venture was first announced last November by Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, and Tom Gores, owner of PS&E and the Detroit Pistons. The promotion company was likely motivated by Gores announcing his Pistons would leave PS&E property Palace of Auburn Hills (now shuttered) to play at Olympia / Ilitch’s new property,

The facilities under 313 Presents’ purview are Little Caesars Arena,

“By working with 313 Presents, booking agents tours and promoters will have a single source for booking venues from 4,000 to 40,000 in capacity depending on the artistic preference, career arc and popularity of the performer,” PS&E Vice Chairman Arn Tellem said in a statement.

Tom Wilson
– Tom Wilson

We talked to Tom Wilson, CEO of Olympia Entertainment and interim president of 313 Presents.

Obviously, putting together venues between 4,000 and 40,000 capacities, takes mid-sized acts to arenas without going outside the network.

Very well said. I think that’s part of the advantage of this. Also by having a focus on the entertainment business and being one-stop shopping to an agent or an artist. I’ve used Sting as an example. Within the last seven years he’s played the Fox Theatre, when he wanted to play an acoustic, intimate surrounding. He’s played DTE for 13,000. He’s played the Palace with Paul Simon. So, many times, as you know, based on either artist tastes or for the evolution of their career, when they’re starting out they may play here. It may be the same place they play when they’re sort of trending downward. Then they have a hit and suddenly back in the arena. Something like that. And we can grow them all the way up. So, when they call, it’s just a matter of, “Well, what do you want? How big of an audience to you want to play in front of? Do you want to play summer or winter?  Are you going through a stage now where you want intimacy or do you want the biggest bang?”

Being that place where you don’t have to call around our city, you can make one call and we can route you into the right place. And sitting down with a manager or an agent now, and looking at their entire roster one time and say, OK, who wants to work this fall, this winter, this spring, we have all the dates, we have all the facilities you might want, and we can begin routing them now.  I think that helps and, hopefully, it helps build relationships with the agent and, if we do it right, and we sell tickets, then when somebody decides to do a 12-city tour, we’re one of those 12 cities.

There are 40 people in the organization but there appears to be plenty of work for “just” 40 people.

If we’ve learned anything, it might be that if we have ambitions, 40 won’t cut it and we’re going to need more. But I think the idea of one-stop shopping for the fan is also great. And our ability to promote shows – we have a database of 6 million people, basically anyone who’s gone to any of these venues for the past 4-6 years, we have information on them. We’re able to segment them, able to get to every country fan for this show, every rock fan for that show, and every classic music fan. We’re able to draw on a dedicated fan base, a bigger fan base than anybody has been able to present here in this city, so every show should have incremental ticket sales just by virtue of that. And then, with each show, that database is going to get a little bit bigger and we’ll get a little more effective.

What unique elements did each of the two entities bring to the table?

There are areas that we each delve into. For example, Olympia is much stronger in theatre. The other group did it occasionally – I used to run the Palace and the Pistons for 30 years – then I left about seven years ago to come down here and help build a new arena. So I’m really intimately familiar with their operation and our operation, and the one thing that the Olympia group does is book theatre extremely well. We probably do 150 events a year that are purely theatre, but a lot of it is comedy or pure entertainment. So we might have the lower end on an attendance standpoint (versus PS&E) because of the demographic, whereas the Palace has always dominated, since they opened, certainly the outdoor scene but also the arena market. Their relationships might be a little different, or more robust than what we had, even though we were trying to book Joe Louis Arena, 80 percent to 90 percent of the big shows would go play at Palace venues.

So, relationships are important. Even our theatre person, Dana Warg, might be doing theatre and he’s been in a business a long time so he has great relationships in the rock ‘n’ roll business, but it’s just that Joe Louis Arena didn’t compare with the Palace and that made it harder to deliver the shows.

Anything else?

Only that it’s a win-win for everybody. It’s a win for the agents, the facilities and fans. The difference here is that there are an awful lot of arenas that have one or two teams, and are with the only arena in town, so they do the clear majority of the shows, but I don’t know of another group, and maybe there is one, that also has three amphitheaters. The year-round aspect of this company and the ability to deliver the finest of venues year-round, is almost unprecedented, and we expect to do, give or take, 500 shows a year.

Yeah, that’s nuts.

Yeah, I know. (laughs)

Note: 313 is the area code for Detroit.