For being Next Gen, Nate Ritches believes in being in the field, connecting directly – often physically – to his acts and buyers matters. “I know people like email,” he says. “But for me, it’s knowing who people are and what they need that makes for the most meaningful relationship. To me, my power is in my handshake.”
Working concert production across the Northwest Fair and Festival circuit, Deschutes County Fair Manager Ross Rogers saw something special in the Burns, Oregon native; he recommended Ritches to Morris Higham Management’s Clint Higham and Mike Betterton. Higham recognized the same fire in Ritches’ core that inspired Higham’s own career. So the decision was made to enlist the gregarious 20-something as an in-house booking agent.
Working hand-in-hand with Betterton, he was an integral part of taking Old Dominion from band-in-a-van without a record deal to reigning five-time Academy of Country Music/four-time Country Music Association Group of the Year.
On the precipice of a headlining arena tour, OD has balanced hard ticket dates with Kenny Chesney stadium tours, corporate events with support slots and amphitheater runs to forge a band that hyper-delivered on Chesney’s 23 “Here And Now” 2022 stadium shows. As he says of the best advice ever given, “‘That dollar sign can do a lot of damage!’ My greatest mentor Clint Higham always said, ‘Feed the machine, but know when the machine is full.’ COVID has taught all of us: plan ahead, but have three plans in place because we don’t know – and we never want to force because we don’t have a good strategy to pivot to.”
Strategy is everything to Ritches, who takes as much pride in developing acts Ryan Griffin and Drake Milligan as he does re-calibrating ’90s stars Billy Dean, Jo Dee Messina and Shenandoah, who’re all having landmark years. “My parents and people my age love those artists, but the 18-24 year olds hearing them for the first time can’t get enough,” he says. “Knowing that’s happening and where to find them is why strategy matters.”