Louis Messina On Being Awarded The CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement Award

– Louis Messina

While there’s no denying that 2018 was a banner year for Louis Messina, 2019 is already off to a heck of a start thanks to the Country Music Association honoring the promoter with this year’s CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony Monday. 
“I’ve received a bunch of awards throughout my career and this one kind of hit home the most because it’s selected by your peers and the CMAs,” the Messina Touring Group CEO told Pollstar. “In my world it’s kind of like winning entertainer of the world. It’s very special to be recognized for all the things you’ve done and have been a part of throughout your career. I was pretty moved by it, to be honest with you.”
The CMA Touring Awards takes place Jan. 28 at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works, with host Jerrod Niemann. 
The promoter learned he was being honored after receiving a surprise phone call from George Strait in late November. 
“I talk to George on a pretty regular basis,” Messina said. “We talk a lot. And I thought we were talking because we just put Houston on sale at NRG stadium and sold 80,000 tickets. I said, ‘Man, this is so exciting.’ He goes, ‘That’s not what I’m calling you. I just gotta tell you the CMA is going to award you with a lifetime achievement award.’ 
“And I went, ‘What?’ I thought he was pulling my leg. And he goes, ‘No, man. I’m really happy for you.’ When I took the call from George, it brought me to another place. Now I’m talking to George Strait and not just George – there’s a difference. When you’re talking to George, we’re just hanging out, like, “Hey, man, the Saints got robbed” and all that stuff. But when George Strait calls you and he’s telling you about this phenomenal award – it just stopped me in my tracks. … George is just a regular guy. But when he’s George Strait, he’s king. That cowboy hat is his crown.” 

Louis Messina and George Strait
– Louis Messina and George Strait
On The Bus: Louis Messina with longtime client George Strait, whose “six-degrees of” various artists helped MTG grow the careers of Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Shawn Mendes.
The Messina Touring Group works with some of the biggest artists in the world. Along with Strait, Messina and his team promote tours for the likes of Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (Soul2Soul), Shawn Mendes, Ed Sheeran, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, and The Lumineers.
As detailed in a recent Pollstar cover story, the Messina Touring Group was responsible for three of 2018’s biggest stadium tours, with Sheeran, Swift and Chesney accounting for more than 80 North American stadium dates. Altogether, MTG-promoted tours grossed nearly $600 million in North America last year, according to Pollstar Boxoffice data – ranking behind only Live Nation and AEG (who Messina is partnered with).
During the cover interview Messina chatted with Pollstar about his incredible career, including lessons learned from the first big show he promoted (a 1972 Curtis Mayfield and B.B. King concert which he calls “the worst nightmare of my life”); his transition to Pace Concerts, his key role in outdoor amphitheaters that led to the consolidation of promoters and real estate; as well as selling out to SFX and the two-year non-compete he negotiated to promote Strait, Chesney, McGraw, Hill and the Dixie Chicks. During his 50+ year career Messina’s many achievements include creating the George Strait Country Music Festival and Ozzfest with Sharon Osborne, as well as promoting shows for acts including Led Zeppelin, Metallica and Nickelback. 
Messina has lots to look forward to in 2019 including the first stadium shows for Eric Church and Shawn Mendes, as well as The Lumineers tour coming up and Kenny Chesney’s Songs for the Saints outing. 

“I’m going to steal a [title of a] George Strait song: My life’s been grand,” Messina said. “It kind of sums it up because I work with so many great artists … I always say I love helping make dreams come true. And that’s what I do. I try to help make dreams come true.”
Messina spoke about being inspired by seeing two back-to-back Eric Church shows in Omaha where he delivered two different concerts and only repeated a handful of songs. 
“Hanging out with [Eric] after the show, he’s as excited about his show as I am. And I love when artists have a great time. When Kenny comes off stage and he’s having a great time … [and] George Strait – doing it as long as he’s been doing it and being bigger than he’s ever been – he’s still loving his shows. That to me is what keeps me motivated and keeps me going, keeps me dreaming a dream with them.”
He also gave a shout out to his team at Messina Touring Group, saying, “They’re the ones that make me look good and make all the things happen. Everyone who works here is an all-star … the people that have been here for a long time and all the young bloods. They’re super, they’re awesome. I love working with them. Most of the time I love working for them because they’re usually telling me what I need to be doing.” (laughs)
Louis Messina and Ed Sheeran
– Louis Messina and Ed Sheeran
Undivided: “Seeing Ed just crush it every night is amazing,” Louis Messina said about Ed Sheeran’s record-setting 2018 global tour.

Messina added, “I’m so honored to be honored [by the CMAs] and I’m so honored to do what I do for a living. … I love what I do and I never get tired of it. There’s nothing like [walking] out to an arena or full stadium and knowing that we had a small part of it of what is happening that night. That, to me, is priceless.”
Messina is appearing at the Pollstar Live! conference next month on a panel with Arthur Fogel, chairman of global music and president of global touring for Live Nation Entertainment. “So These Two Guys Walk Into a Stadium: A Conversation with Arthur Fogel and Louis Messina” is scheduled Feb. 13 from 1:15 to 2 p.m. as part of Pollstar’s annual flagship event Feb. 11-13 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Both men are nominated for the Bill Graham Award – Promoter of the Year at the Pollstar Awards, along with AEG Presents’ Ali Harnell, Live Nation Touring’s Ryan McElrath, Live Nation Country’s Brian O’Connell, and Another Planet Entertainment’s Gregg Perloff.