Q’s With Jonathan Shank: On Terrapin Station’s Legacy Of Intelligence

Jonathan Shank, founder & CEO of Terrapin Station Entertainment

The live business includes all facets of entertainment, from the most violent combat sports to the most benign children’s content. While some are successful in the live business sticking to one thing and doing it well, others thrive by offering diverse content – which isn’t always as dissimilar as it seems.

“These projects all come down to strong core audiences, strong intellectual property and artist legacy,” says Jonathan Shank, whose Terrapin Station Entertainment produces tours and exhibits, manages artists and recently launched a sports division bringing live entertainment to major league facilities. “That’s the core, the common denominator of all of Terrapin’s projects. They all emanate from first-class brands and artist legacies.”

Shank’s company recently announced the 90-date Disney Junior Live tour, featuring the pint-sized web slinger Spidey and his Amazing Friends along with popular Disney favorites like Mickey, Minnie and Goofy. He also manages artists including the virtuosic Scarypoolparty, Magic!, and Laura Marano, and recently wrapped a 10-week showing of the Bob Marley One Love Experience at the Saatchi Gallery in London, which is moving to Toronto’s Lighthouse Immersive Space, which opens July 1.

With more tours and productions coming up and a sports division picking up steam, Shank gave
Pollstar some input on the current state of the live entertainment business.

Pollstar: Kids shows have been some of the last to come back post-COVID.
Jonathan Shank: We’re so excited to bring family entertainment back to the stage. It’s been two and a half years, and families and children have been waiting to connect or reconnect with their favorite characters, and we’re doing it in the grandest possible fashion.

It’s a two-bus and two-truck tour. The total footprint is around two dozen people and in addition to the standard elements you’d be dealing with putting a tour up, the production involves a tremendous amount of preps, wardrobe and costumes, coordination between production and audio and a high-energy pace of bringing a lot of characters together on the stage.

Despite inflation, we’re trying to keep ticket prices the same to where they were pre-pandemic and be respectful of families coming back to live entertainment and the theaters.

People have a lot of choices as far as the type of entertainment and content they want to consume, and we want to try to welcome people back without there being any price resistance.

Let’s hear more about the Terrapin Station Sports Division. You’re working with major league teams including the Dallas Cowboys, Milwaukee Brewers and more.
This all started a handful of years ago consulting for a couple of Major League Baseball teams. What we found was that in addition to the big stadium shows that they were producing each year, there was a need for more content in the stadium, in the adjacent facilities, the parking lots and practice facilities. So, we’ve been having a lot of conversations, connecting these teams to various opportunities – traditional, and non-traditional.

If a team wants to take a risk on a show, we may help them put in an offer with an agent on an act. We’ve done that for several stadium-level acts when the teams are looking to produce their own shows. The key ingredient here is that for every show and every piece of content that goes into these facilities, it’s a win. When Live Nation or Messina brings a show into these facilities, it’s a high five for us, because all that means is that these teams are winning in terms of bringing more content into their facilities. The message is that we want everybody to know that our goal is literally just to help create more opportunities for promoters and for producers to be able to bring their tours and touring properties and entertainment properties to these facilities, which, outside of their sporting seasons, are largely left unattended.

How was the Bob Marley One Love Experience? Any particular highlights?
To be able to bring people together and spread the message of One Love and honor Bob Marley’s legacy was incredible and we’re excited to bring it to Toronto. We feel we have to be extra careful curating and finding the right venues that not only make sense for the audience but are higher-value places, honoring his legacy to the point that all the venues are first-class. The One Love Forest is a total vibe and everybody loves hanging out there, and the Soul Shakedown Studio silent disco always had a huge crowd of people dancing, whether it was 11 in the morning or 6 at night. The Toronto exhibit is largely the same, and we’re continuing to travel with the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame exhibit that is showcased as part of the experience.

How are you dealing with current pressures like inflation, supply chain issues and staff scarcity, which anecdotally, at least, are somewhat hampering the live comeback?
We’re navigating similarly to a lot of our colleagues in the industry. We’re working together and communicating a lot more closely to find solutions and to make sure if there are holes in personnel or staffing, we try to help fill those for our respective partners. We’re in the same boat as everyone else. You have to plan further in advance, you have to make sure your program and package elements are laid out further in advance to make sure that by the time the tour starts, the curtain is ready to go up and the show is ready to go on.