Mike McLean – Barbara Hubbard
Cover of Pollstar’s Oct. 1, 2018 issue.
The Legendary College Talent Buyer On The Hubb Summit; A New Amphitheatre; And Watching Meglen, Messina & O’Connell Grow
Barbara Hubbard has two sons, five grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and far more “kids” who affectionately call her Mother Hubbard – from the students she works with at New Mexico State University and through her American Collegiate Talent Showcase (ACTS) scholarship program to the numerous figures she’s mentored in the music industry.
Though Hubbard, 91, technically retired in 1996 after spending nearly three decades as the special events director at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, she has continued as the executive director of ACTS, which had provided opportunities for hundreds of students throughout the U.S. to experience hands-on internships in the performing arts. Her many accolades over the years include the inaugural Pollstar Honors Award for lifetime achievement in 2015. The nonagenarian, who repeatedly says how blessed she is, in her “Arkansas voice, with a twang I can’t get out,” has more to achieve, including getting a proposed amphitheater built at NMSU and launching the “Entertainment Business as it relates to specific Venue Management” degree program in 2019.
She’s also excited about booking artists to celebrate Pan American Center’s 50th anniversary and continuing to find internships for her beloved students.
Pollstar: You just consulted on a Foreigner show to raise money for your scholarships. How does that work?
Barbara Hubbard: It’s really simple. I consult and help organizations, such as Wild Boar Promotions find artists for their Hot Spring Rally. I charge them a fee of 5 percent of the value of the contract. If they don’t make any money I won’t charge them anything. That’s not counted in their loss.
I wouldn’t mention the price, but let’s just say it’s $100,000, they make a $5,000 donation to the ACTS Program. Garth Brooks, boy he did more than 5 percent.
Joe Skaggs – Matriculating Grande Dame:
Barbara Hubbard poses with Foreigner and Hot Springs Rally organizer Fred Anderson (in red) backstage at the band’s show at Bank Of The Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs, Ark., as part of the Hot Springs Rally Sept. 8.
Can you talk a bit about how you got involved in the concert business?
I started teaching at New Mexico State University in 1964 while I was working on my masters, which I got in ’70 in education. Peirce, my husband, was the president of the Booster Club at New Mexico State from 1966 to 1969 and during that time Lou Henson – who is a Hall Of Fame basketball coach – decided that I would make a good business [manager] for opening up the Pan American Center.
I asked Peirce, “Well, do you want me to do this?” He said, “Well, it’s up to you!” I loved sports and with my phys ed background I said, “OK, that’s great, I’ll give it a try.”
Lou hired me and we opened up officially in ’68. My students had to hold two jobs because the building was dark so many nights since we just had sporting events in there. So I started reading the music business publications and trying to figure out what can I do to help the kids increase their paychecks. I started trying to rent the building and the late Brian Murphy [the co-founder of Avalon Attractions and later West Coast president of AEG Presents] brought me Neil Diamond and Olivia Newton John. The very first show that I did was the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.
How did that first show go?
Listen, I filled the building! (laughs) People were starving for something to do, Sarah!
I opened the doors and I just had a great run until they built Don Haskins [Center] down in El Paso and and Jorge [Vazquez] is now getting most of the shows because most talent and tour managers don’t want to come down our tunnel that we’ve got in Pan American Center.
Thank God Garth did because he really helped my scholarship program advance [with] those $26,000 endowments. … Basically, I’m not on anybody’s payroll. The only thing I take out of the ACTS account is my expenses. I’ve got two sons I’ve got to leave something to and I told them I was going to spend all of my cash; they could have the land and the house. (laughs)
Tell me about The Hubb summit, which CAA and other presenting sponsors are hosting in Nashville in October.
I’ve already sent applications for two of my students that have a passion for the business. I’ll go to student government and see if I can get any help; if not, the ACTS program will send them to Nashville to learn.
[CAA’s John Huie] told me about it two years ago. So now they’re laying out the first run of it. If it’s in my honor, I’m going!
It ties right in with my degree program [at NMSU] that starts in the fall of ’19 – entertainment business, how it relates to specific venue management. There are so many codes and safety needs and things like that. A club by itself can be one course to cover everything that you need to know in the way of state and federal regulations, and space per person in your club, the new liquor laws, and food. And then you get over in arenas and stadiums, it’s entirely different.
And that’s why I want to build my amphitheatre, so we can cover about every type [of venue]. I’ve got internships set up for those youngsters.
I’ve had people all across the business world that have said, “Send me [an intern].” Marc Geiger sent me an email the other day and said, “Send me four more like the other one you sent.”
When you first began booking talent was it common for students to be involved?
I was unique. I didn’t hire another staff person because I had all students in my building. I had a custodial head and I had a box office manager. We ran that building basically with students. Out of that came such people as [Phish tour manager] Rich Glasgow and [live event finance consultant] Michael Lorick.
In fact, Michael Lorick – who is now a top-notch tour accountant – sat in on settlements. Of course, a lot of the promoters said, “Why are you letting a student sit in here?” I said, “He’s got to learn or he won’t know exactly what he’s supposed to do when he gets out there on the road.”
You were on a panel at Pollstar Live! in 2008 where you said a “lot of colleges would love to get back to the art of buying talent.” Were not as many students involved in recent years?
I think a lot of it had to do with the funding process and the [student] fees. Now we still have our ASNMSU [Associated Students of New Mexico State University] fee but it doesn’t have the financial structure that they used to have.
They’ve killed the [position] of adviser like I used to be for many years. I’m trying to get them to come back to it. They’re letting the lawyers – because of the contracts – be sort of an adviser.
Mike McLean – Barbara Hubbard presents Tina Turner with an ACTS jacket at her Oct. 19, 1985, performance at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, N.M.
Do you work with third party agents to help book some of the bigger acts?
You take five major acts, I’m looking at [millions]. … I’ve gotta go with backers because I cannot come up with that kind of a money in my estate.
It sounds like those partnerships with the bigger agencies are really important.
Well, it is because I want my campus to be a cool campus. And I want the recruitment of students to come back to where it was.
The challenge is basically to keep the kids busy and the only way you’re going to do that is convince Live Nation and AEG you can sell their shows. Or if you’re lucky enough to buy one of our own. … [Another] challenge is to know your marketing, what is delivering for you.
What inspires you about working with students?
Students! (laughs) I was [a student] once a long time ago and I wondered how I was going to get through school. And I waited tables to help carry me through. My grandfather paid the tuition, but it was up to me to make my spending money and book money.
Do you have any tips for students wanting to enter the concert business?
Well, first of all, they’ve got to have the passion. I pick these kids out that really want to know the business. And you can feel it coming out of their pores almost. (laughs) Those are the ones that care. It’s just like when [Roadwerx president and Fireplay COO] Steve Dixon came to me and he wanted to be the next Neil Diamond. I said, “Stevie, I don’t think you’re going to make Neil status but you’re going to make one of the best dang marketing persons in the business.”
It takes a lot of one-on-one to feel where they’re coming from. And that takes time. But it’s worth it when they make it. I tell you over and over again, my students make me look good.
What keeps you going and what do you love about the business?
I love the personalities that are in the business. Some are more challenging than others, (laughs) but just getting to know people and where they’re coming from is amazing.
I love talking to someone like Charlie Daniels or Willie Nelson. … I just love to be out there and be involved. I love sitting down and talking to Brian O’Connell of Live Nation or John Meglen and Louis Messina. I’ve watched them grow.
And the fans count so much. I love it when the kids yell down the hall, “Hey, Mom. That’s the best show I’ve ever seen!” I want to put smiles on people’s faces.