Louis Messina On Old Dominion: ‘This Is Their Time; This Is Their Moment’

STEERING CAREERS: Messina Touring Group Founder and CEO Louis Messina has worked his magic for stadium superstars like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Kenny Chesney. His MTG aims to do the same for Old Dominion.

Old Dominion’s latest appearance on the cover of Pollstar marks the band’s third in fewer than seven years – more than any other artist. Says Messina Touring Group founder and CEO Louis Messina, laughing, “Maybe people will pay attention this time.”

His company is promoting Old Dominion’s “No Bad Vibes Tour” that began in January and embarks on a 34-city second leg Sept. 7 at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
MTG is best known for promoting tours – mostly in stadiums – for the likes of Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Eric Church and The Lumineers, among others. But really, what MTG does is promote careers.

Messina has had ample opportunity to witness the ascent of Nashville-based, Virginia-bred Old Dominion, as the five-piece of Matthew Ramsey (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Trevor Rosen (rhythm guitar, keyboards), Whit Sellers (drums), Geoff Sprung (bass guitar), and Brad Tursi (lead guitar) have been part of many tours with MTG, including five treks in support of Chesney.

Even the nom de tour, “No Bad Vibes,” was suggested to the band by Chesney during the “Here and Now Tour.” Old Dominion is also booked and managed by stalwart members of Team Chesney in Wasserman Music’s Nate Ritches and Mike Betterton, and Morris Higham Management’s Clint Higham and Will Hitchcock.

But despite the embrace by Kenny Chesney’s No Shoes Nation, Old Dominion has grown its own star power as a unique and powerful musical entity, one whose time Messina says has come.

“We don’t make stars. We shine them. We only put the polish on them because they have to be a star to get there,” Messina says. “Old Dominion has the ingredients. This is their time. This is their moment. And they put a lot of work in.”

That, they have. Old Dominion’s been on the road all of 2023, with the exception of taking August off to prepare for the second leg of “No Bad Vibes.” In 2021-22, the band took no real breaks, jumping from Chesney’s “Here And Now Tour” to play one-offs in between stadium dates in addition to their own tour. In fact, OD’s last extended break was the one forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first leg of “No Bad Vibes” saw Old Dominion reporting average ticket sales of 7,064 per show and a gross of $520,600, while performing in mainly secondary markets and in venues with capacities ranging from about 5,000 to 8,000 seats. But it was a sold-old May 27-28 stand at Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver (18,671 tickets sold; $2,052,149 gross) toward the end of the first leg that may have demonstrated what makes the next level inevitable for Old Dominion (see Boxoffice Insider).

It shows in the remainder of the “No Bad Vibes” itinerary, which takes the band to venues like TD Garden in Boston; UBS Arena in Belmont Park, New York; State Farm Arena in Atlanta; Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles; and Bridgestone Arena in Nashville – venues often double and, in some cases, triple the capacity of the majority of those on the initial routing.

“They’ve proven themselves,” Messina says. “Look what they’ve done. They’re built like a glove for Kenny, and when we had them number three on a bill, everybody would say ‘They should have been number two on this tour.’ They’ve stepped up and stepped out.”
That’s the thing with Messina – none of his superstar clients can remotely be considered to come from a cookie cutter.

Artists that reach the rare air of a MTG tour are singular – they occupy their spaces by themselves. Messina doesn’t work with just anybody. He says he’s sticking to his own playbook when it comes to promoting Old Dominion as it continues its journey to superstardom.

“You build a solid foundation and then once you have that foundation built, you can build as big a house as you want,” Messina says. “A lot of acts get hot and have no foundation. They’ve had four or five hit songs in a row, and they’re hot for the moment, but do they have a George Strait-, Kenny Chesney-, Taylor-, Eric Church-type career? No, they have a ‘moment’ career. But Old Dominion has been playing and put layers and layers and layers of foundation down.

“Old Dominion is one of those artists that we totally believe in and always have,” Messina continues. “Clint (Higham) is a great manager. His team is great and, of course, my team is the best. The whole team together is just magic. Old Dominion is up for the challenge and they’re ready to cross the threshold of being a regular touring band to a superstar band.”

That will come as a surprise only to those who haven’t been paying attention. Messina says his mind is always on the “next 10 years” when it comes to promoting and developing careers.

“It’s not about what we’ve done, but where we’re going – and they know where they want to be. They’re holding the golden ticket.”