Hotstar: Luke Combs – From Appalachian University To Opening For Jason Aldean

Luke Combs
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– Luke Combs
Four years ago, Luke Combs found himself torn between continuing his college education and dropping out to pursue country music. 
The 24-year-old recently learned to play guitar and had only played at small bars while he was studying criminal justice at Appalachian State University.
“I was in college, working two jobs, and there was a bar. I played rugby in college and that was the bar we always went to, so I asked the owner if he would let me play there and he said, ‘Sure,’” Combs told Pollstar. “I charged $1 a ticket to get in and I sold 200 tickets. That was more money than I made at both of my jobs that week. I just enjoyed playing. I never really thought of it as something I’d do for a living. And I was like, ‘Wow, I could actually do this as a job!’”
Combs left school, packed up his belongings and moved to Nashville. He’s never looked back.
Combs is now one of country’s fastest rising stars. The North Carolina native already has a few chart-topping hits and a debut album, including “Hurricane,” “When It Rains It Pours” and “One Number Away,” in addition to his debut album, This One’s For You (Nashville Columbia). He’s earned nominations for best new country artist at the 2017 CMA Awards and at the 2017 CMT awards. Most recently he won the award at the 2018 iHeartRadio Awards, where his song “Hurricane” was nominated for best country song.
He penned the track just after he moved to Nashville. At first, Combs took his time with writing music and performing live.
“I think I was a small-goals guy,” he said. “When I first picked up the guitar, I didn’t go, ‘I want to be Garth Brooks.’ To me that’s an insanely unrealistic goal that would let you down mentally pretty fast. My goal was to learn one chord. Then it was to be able to learn two. Then it was to be able to play a song. Then play enough to play three hours. Then put together a band. Then it was book some shows. Write some more songs. Move to Nashville.  
“So, my goals were things I could reasonably accomplish in a month or two, or three months, or half a year. I was consistently hitting those small goals, which kept me going.”
After opening a few dates for a friend, Combs was invited to playBrewhouse Music and Grill outside of Atlanta by Peachtree Entertainment’s Bradley Jordan. After seeing Combs play, Chris Kappy, Jordan’s childhood friend, decided to be his manager.
“He’s like, ‘I’ll quit my job of 16 years and move from Atlanta to Nashville and live off my savings to be your manager. And I won’t take any commissions until you’re actually making money.’ To me, that was a big vote of confidence, not only in me but in himself,” Combs said of Kappy.
Combs spent the next two years building his career in markets around the Southeast. 
“Let’s play here, then move 100 miles out and play there and then go another 100 miles and play there,” Combs said. “So, we played those same markets for the better part of two years, just building that hard ticket, hardcore fan base out. We took that model, with the help of the label and radio, out to the rest of the United States.”
Now Combs and his team are seeing the hard work pay off, as many of the singer’s headlining shows sold out within the last year, including gigs at North Carolina’s Arena, which moved 4,308 tickets and grossed $115,440, and at the DeltaPlex Arena & Conference Center in Grand Rapids, Mich., which sold 5,036 tickets and grossed $131,640.
He opened for Brantley Gilbert on his arena run last spring, which reported high-grossing shows at PNC Music Pavilion (17,012 tickets sold, 404,796) in Charlotte, N.C., DTE Energy Music Center (15,536 tickets sold, $498,223) in Clarkston, Mich., and Lakeview Amphitheater (14,989 tickets sold, $423,858) in Syracuse, N.Y. 
CAA’s Aaron Tannenbaum, Combs’ agent, told Pollstar that even with a sound strategy, none of the success would be possible without Combs’ amazing vocal talent. 
“As snow rolls downhill and builds momentum, it’s word of mouth, but wouldn’t even be word of mouth if the product wasn’t so compelling,” Tannenbaum said.  “You could have the best manager, the best agent, the best label, the best everything but if you didn’t have the type of art and abilities that Luke has, it wouldn’t matter.” 
The plan is to continue to build Combs as a headliner and to expand into markets in the Midwest and the West Coast while moving into arenas is the Southeast.
“The next step for him is to continue on this very thoughtful, surgical, patient approach that we’ve had and make the next step up to bigger arenas,” Tannenbaum said. “Keep ticket prices affordable, not overpaying for a support act. This is all about Luke and continuing to develop his ticket.”
Combs has headlining dates booked through May, including stops at San Diego’s Observatory North Park, Seattle’s Showbox SoDo and Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. After that he opens on Jason Aldean’s upcoming tour, beginning May 10 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. He also has a string of European dates beginning in October.