Q’s With Patrick Allocco, Concert Promoter Turned Congressional Candidate

Patrick Allocco
Photo Courtesy of Patrick Allocco
– Patrick Allocco

One of the more colorful characters in the concert business over the years, Patrick Allocco is known by longtime Pollstar readers as the former chairman and CEO of AllGood Entertainment, Inc., the man who sued AEG Live over a nixed Michael Jackson concert, and the center of a long-unfolding saga seeing Allocco and his son trapped in Angola over a canceled Nas concert.

Allocco has a long history in the business, but he also has an extended history in politics, and after a number of years working with the New Jersey lottery, he is seeking to represent the Garden State’s 11th congressional district in the seat soon to be vacated by the retiring Rodney Felinghuysen (R-NJ).

Allocco’s platform is centered around the use of fan-engagement technology he became familiar with in the concert industry. He plans to use the technology to allow his constituents to weigh in on every piece of legislation that he is asked to make decision on, promising to always vote the will of the people, even when popular opinion goes against his own beliefs.

The promoter turned politician was kind enough to take some time to chat with Pollstar about his history and some of his more interesting stories, the relationship between the concert business and politics, and some specifics of his platform.

How would you describe your history as a promoter?

It’s an example where a small guy started a small business and was up against, at the time Clear Channel and AEG and it was really difficult to grow a business during that period.

What you see is somebody that was very small that really fought their way through the industry and in some cases, accomplished things that were pretty amazing.

What are some of your biggest accomplishments?

Some of the festivals we did. The Tobego Jazz Festival, the San Juan Music Festival, partnering with Disney and Live Nation on projects like that and developing various festivals.

We had very big names at those festivals. At Topego, we had Sting, Stevie Wonder, Shakira, Whitney Houston … it was a really successful festival. It was one of my personal favorites because of the venue itself, right there on the water in Tobego. We had to bring everything in – staging, generators, there was no electricity. It was really a cool place.

In Puerto Rico we invested a lot of time and a lot of effort into doing shows down there. We actually did a search for the new Menudo. We did that in conjunction with a Disney artist, Raven Symoné. That was fun.

Also the larger concerts: Bon Jovi, The Michael Jackson event, even though most people would chalk it as a failure, in terms of Michael Jackson died and there was a never a concert. The fact that we had gotten to the point where we got where we had MJ’s manager under contract …  I actually chalk up the MJ event as one of our greatest successes in terms of what we were able to accomplish with a very low budget and just a lot of heart going into organizing the event.

Can you talk a little bit more about the Michael Jackson concert?

We had really good partners for the event, a guy by the name of Steve Storch. He was the CFO of Sony APV as our finance person. Ron Berger, from a very large advertising agency in New York. … We had put together a really strong financial deal for the Jacksons and for Michael. It was really a one-of-a-kind event where it was a $24 million payoff for one concert. To be able to bring that to bear at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, we also had to deal with Jerry Jones to put the concert on down there. It was a testament to how hard we worked to get that together.

It’s just a shame. We knew we had a drug problem with Michael, and we did a lot to try to get Michael to rehab, but we had other forces at work. [Still,] it was an amazing time for all of us.

What was the result of that MJ suit you had against AEG?

It was thrown out. Michael died and they felt that there wasn’t enough in terms of the contract. There wasn’t anything to proceed with, so it got dismissed.

Evan Malcolm
– Nas
Nas waves to the crowd at Bluesfest Byron Bay at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm in Australia April 13.

So what happened with the Nas lawsuit? You sued him after the whole incident of the concert not happening and you getting stuck over there, right?

My lawyer, when I was over in Angola, I had to sign power of attorney over to him. What I never knew until the judge ruled on it, was that my attorney had given Nas a 30-day extension to pay back the money to us, while I was being held in Angola. Now he did that [with] good intentions, he did that because he didn’t want to lose Nas and have him shut down completely and say “I’m not paying the money back.” He felt that if he gave him a 30-day extension at that point, at least there was time to negotiate and we could get as much money back from Nas as we could. So that was the technical point that the case was dismissed on.

The only conflict was that my attorney also had represented Nas. So at that time I was confronted with “Do you sue your own attorney for a conflict of interest?” At that point we were happy to be back in the U.S. We were happy to be out of that whole situation and I just let the lawsuit go at that point.

What have you been doing since the end of the Angola drama?

I took a few months off when I got back. A friend of mine approached me about working in the Christie administration in New Jersey, specifically in the lottery. They thought that it might be a good fit to try to take what I was doing in the concert business and try to bring it to bear in the N.J. lottery, and I did that for three years.

I didn’t actually work for the state [much]. I worked for the state for six months until we figured out what I was going to be doing in this new company, North Star Lottery Group.

 I oversaw, basically, the lottery being privatized and oversaw how they would grow sales. I signed on for two years and I renewed my contract for two years and then last February I got out of that.

I had a number of opportunities to get back in the concert business but unless I was committed to a business plan … I didn’t want to do the series of one-offs that I was being approached with.

Why did you feel that way about not wanting to get back into the concert business?

Well, first of all, financial reality. We came back from Angola financially devastated. The actual dollar cost of us being there – Luanda is still the most expensive city in the world, forget Paris, forget Dubai, Montenegro. My phone bill was over $100,000. The cost of staying there was more than $500,000 when everything was added up. We really came back in bad financial shape.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and raise money and start over again, that was a possibility. But we had three events right in a row, one after the other, that were negative experiences. One was Michael Jackson.

Juan Gabriel
AP Photo / Rebecca Blackwell
– Juan Gabriel
Auditorio Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico

The second was a concert that our Latin division did, Juan Gabriel in Mexico. We did the concert in Puebla, Mexico and we had 45,000 attendees and the local mob/mafia down there [caused problems]. They stole the contract with Superboletos and substituted their name into the contract and put it in front of Superboletos. So Superboletos was really within hours of transferring all the box office money to this entity that was essentially the local mob.

We caught wind of it and then we notified our insurance carrier, which was Lloyd’s of London. We got attorneys involved right away, we locked up the box office down there and we ended up getting about 50 cents on the dollar back from Mexico on that entire experience.

So that was an experience, Michael Jackson, and then the whole Nas thing. My family and friends sat me down and said, “You need to take some time off before you get back into [the business].”

We actually had some really good opportunities in Africa to do some routings in South Africa and certain cities up north, but people were saying, “You just gotta take time off.”

For me it was the right thing to do to take time off from doing it. There were a number of factors involved, as to why I didn’t get right back into promotion.

Certainly one of the reasons I’m here, running for Congress, is because of what happened down in Africa and what happened in Angola. Some of the ideas I’m bringing to the campaign are because of what happened in that situation with Nas while I was down in Africa. 

That’s interesting that you were working in Africa, though. Outside of South Africa, the continent seems like one of the last places yet to open up to large amounts of Western acts.

It’s true. Some of the opportunities came from the Navy seals that actually rescued us and got us out of Angola and later retired. They have their entire networks through those countries, the local promoters in these areas, they knew the economy and they had the ability to provide solid security for these acts which is always a concern when you are going to [developing] countries.

I actually had a really good plan and opportunity to do it, but I walked away from it. And it’s something that I could still go back to. One of the Navy seals just came back and endorsed me for my candidacy. 

So you’d consider a return to work in those markets?

I would never rule out anything. Just from working in the business, it’s something that’s in your blood and never gets out of your blood. One thing that I tell everyone, and no one really sees it, one of the reasons I got into the concert business is because I’ve run a lot of political campaigns in the past.

Running a concert is exactly like running a political campaign. You have maybe a 12-week window. … It’s the same process. The act this time happens to be me. We start to create a buzz on social media, we start to promote the acts, we start to use very guerilla tactics that are inexpensive to try to raise a buzz. And then you go heavy on your traditional advertising, radio, TV, and in this case direct mail. It’s the same process to promote yourself as a candidate as you would to promote an act. That’s one of the reasons I got into concert promoting. Plus, I just love the business. Once it gets into your soul, your blood, it’s hard to get out. …

We’re hoping politically that I translate the same [skill] of filling seats. As a candidate, you are hoping you are as popular as the act you might be promoting.

And there are other parrallels. Obviously social media played a huge part in getting me out of Angola. If there was one mistake the Angolan government made when they took us, they handed me my phone back at one point and said, “Give Nas a call and tell him to come down tomorrow, or tell him to come down in two days and we will still go on with the concert even though it’s after New Years.”

I immediately texted the embassy and got the embassy to come get us. They figured out where we were and they came and got us, this was in the first 10 hours that we were there. What I started to do was – and I had never done it before – was post daily to social media, Facebook, Twitter, I had a diary of what was going on.

They estimated by the end of the months that we were there we were having 2 million views a day on social media. Obviously that was because the news outlets were covering it, so they were picking up the posts and publishing the posts all around the world.

What I saw there, the government really did not want to do anything with us. I believe the U.S. government, at one point would have left us there and let the Angolan judiciary process take place and unfold. But because of the power of social media and the amount of interaction with people, the number of petitions going to the White House, the representatives, something got done.

Senator Menendez in New Jersey and a number of other politicians, about 5 or 6 other congressman, really took up the issue, only because of the pressure of social media.

Where did you get the idea for your constituent-engagement platform?

[It was what] we did with the Latin concerts. We did a lot of audience interaction/fan engagement technology that we were using as far back as seven to eight years ago. We were using fan engagement technology to identify voter party and voter registration. We trying to do our own version of Latin Rock The Vote. We were polling [people] while they were at concerts and they could text their answers to us and things like that.

It’s kind of where I got the idea to do what I’m doing now. I built up an app and website … where people can go online, they can see the upcoming bills I’m gonna be voting on, have them in real plain language, simple form, and then have Republican pros and cons, Democrat pros and cons, Congressman’s take on the issue.

And then the person can vote. To me, that changes our democracy. What I’m saying is, you can vote on that bill and whatever this district decides, I’ll vote in Congress. What I’m gonna do is take that process and roll it out in over 435 districts across the country. That way it’s the first time ever that you’d be able to hold your representative accountable for what vote they did, and you’ll be able to engage your representative directly. So whatever they vote to me on the issue, is what I’m gonna vote on.

Why do you think this represents a big change from what exists?

What happens in a typical election is somebody wins by 51 percent and then 49 percent of the people feel disenfranchised or completely left out of the political process. Here’s an opportunity to use concert technology, actual fan-engagement technology, to change the way the democratic process works in the U.S., just by allowing people to directly engage their representative.

Look, if reps don’t care about or don’t want to vote the way the people want, then you’ll be able to score them and to hold them accountable for how they vote versus how the people vote. A representative could say: “Look, you’ve voted this way on these seven bills. This is how I’ve voted. I’ve voted either 100 percent of the time or 20 percent of the time.” And the people can make a decision for how they want to make their congressperson accountable for that. And it all came out of the concert business.

You are running as a Republican, but you have said you want to be welcoming to Democrats?

I’ve been a lifelong Republican. From 18 years old, I worked for Reagan, I worked for Todd Cain in New Jersey and I worked for Jack Kemp’s presidential campaign. I’m a lifelong Republican.

But I’ve also watched, since I’ve got back from Angola, I’ve watched a country I love deeply really struggle to embrace a two-party system that is really controlled by special interests groups.

You’ve got, on both sides, special interests that are driving the policy, that are driving the political process, that are driving the legislation that is coming up in Congress.

I’m trying to find a solution to how you deal with that. To me, the only solution is for people to take back their government.

The critics say “We’re a republic, we’re not a democracy.” That would be OK if it wasn’t highjacked by special interests groups. It was, and now we have to deal with it.

What I’m proposing gives people a chance to engage on every single issue, which requires the representatives to educate, to inform, and to engage their constituents. You need to bring everybody to a level that they are going to go online and look at something and say, “I’m passionate about this bill. I’m gonna vote on this bill.” That’s what the representative’s job is.

Let’s take an issue like pro-choice, pro-life. I was adopted when I was 11 months old; I am very pro-life. If legislation came up in my district, [and] the district voted otherwise. I’m certainly gonna try to explain to you “I was adopted, I wouldn’t be here today if there was legal abortion.” I would try to persuade you to my point of view. But if at the end of the day I was unsuccessful in doing so, I would check my ideology and my convictions at the door and cede to the will of the 11th district and vote the will of the people.

Our other congressman just left, he had been there for 26 years. Do you know how those people that were not of his beliefs felt for 26 years? They were completely disenfranchised from the process. This allows people, every single day, to be engaged in the political process and to actually be party to the system. For me to get out of Angola, that was a bipartisan effort. Senator Menendez, the leading Democrat in Jersey, he was one of those influential figures in getting me out of Angola. Other figures, obviously Rep. Frelinghuysen, but there were a number of Republicans that were also influential. In order for all the forces to work, with the Obama administration and all, it was a bi-partisan effort to get us out of there. And it worked.

Anything else you’d like to tell readers?

I can take the rough-and-tumble world of politics. If you can survive the concert business, you can survive politics. I think they are really similar to each other in many ways. I’m someone who has got a lot of volunteerism in me. I was a first-responder for 40 years. I still am. I was an EMT, first responder flight medic. Recently I went to the Red Cross down in Florida, I was volunteering for Hurricane Harvey [relief]. I was also working over in Puerto Rico with Hurricane Maria [victims].

It’s not like I’m running for office [so] I’m gonna start volunteering. I’ve been doing it for 40 years. I love to give back and I love to serve and this is just an extension of wanting to help people.

New Jersey’s primary election day is June 5. Pollstar reached out to SuperBoletos to comment on the narrative presented by Allocco, but hadn’t heard back at press time.