Triangle Entertainment is a full-service entertainment booking agency established in 1960 and headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. David Snowden is the CEO of Triangle Entertainment. He's produced entertainment events in 38 states. He also purchases major headline entertainment for 19 state fairs.
We spoke with David Snowden about his work at Triangle Entertainment.
Q - Mr. Snowden, what's going on in that office of yours today?
A - I am just so damn busy right now. We just landed the New York State Fair account.
Q - You'll be happy to know that you made page 1 headlines in the Syracuse newspaper.
A - Right. It's very interesting. I had a long conversation with the reporter there and it seems like there's a whole lot to do about nothing. We also have read some of the comments made by the people up there. Of course nobody really knows who we are other than our clients we work with. We've been doing pretty much every one that was at the fair last year, that Live Nation had at the fair, we did last year or have done other than the Jonas Brothers. I will admit that. We have not done the Jonas Brothers. But, hell, everybody else we book all the time. Our specialty is working with fairs. We're not promoters. We're producers. That's the main thing. Syracuse is a great city, that's for sure.
Q - Is the New York State Fair the biggest fair account you have?
A - No, not really. It's probably equal to, but we also do the Kentucky State Fair, the Wisconsin State Fair, the Ohio State Fair. We're the largest producers of major state fairs in the country. Certainly the New York State Fair ranks up there. I guess if you look at the budget, it would be similar to Kentucky. What people in New York don't understand is that the Kentucky State Fair is held in Louisville, which is a pretty good sized city in itself and also we do most of the shows in Freedom Hall, which is a concert facility that seats 17,000 people. It depends. It varies from time to time. Some of the fairs have different budgets from others. But all of 'em what we work with are about equal.
Q - You do know that the Grandstand Shows will be cut to 7 shows in 2009.
A - I think the timing of cutting back to 7 days is probably good because of the economy. People do not have the discretionary funds that they have had in the past. You've got a lot of layoffs all over the country. Coming off an exceptionally good last year in respect to what Live Nation did as far as the booking of entertainment in there, I have nothing bad to say about it. They did a fantastic job. But, like anytime when you're trying to fill ten, eleven, twelve days, you're gonna have some weak spots and there's just so many different genres of music that you can go to. Then you're competing with other concert promoters in Rochester and some of the closer areas where they're doing concerts, so you can't always have everybody. The plan is, and I have not been told exactly the budget yet, but I've been kind of told what the budget is, but it hasn't been set in stone yet. They're going to increase the Chevy Court stage, increase the budget there, so you'll get more free at the fair, which I think the timing is terrific. I also feel like, and I'm talking a little bit out of school here, but if the right opportunity arises, that we've got the possibility of a mega group that is available on one of those dark days...who knows? That maybe could be worked out. Here's the problem, here's the bottom line to all this; cutting through the bullshit, there are not as many acts today that can sell 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 seats as there have been in the past. The reason for that is the extreme meltdown of the record industry, the wide choices that are on cable, dish network, thus you're not selling as many CDs. You're not doing as much out there as you used to. Now, there's super groups out there, but not near as many.
Q - And commercial radio isn't what t used to be.
A - Yeah.
Q - Not to mention we don't have any variety shows on TV anymore where you could see musical talent.
A - That' right. We're getting ready to get one though with Jay Leno. I think it's gonna be the start of a comeback. You know, everything runs in cycles. They're gonna test it and see, in my opinion. This is gonna be kind of a shot over the bow to see what happens.
Q - If it wasn't for American Idol, the music business would be in even worse trouble.
A - And America Has Talent.
Q - You have to help me understand exactly what your company does. If I'm the director of a fair, why couldn't I just call up the agency that represents an artist and deal with them
A - Well, you most certainly can. The difference is I am working at a little bit higher level with each agency than you're going to be able to talk to. Let's use the William Morris Agency for instance. I'm working with the senior vice-president and the manager of the Nashville office. He s in essence over every agent in Nashville and over probably 50 to 60% of the agents in Beverly Hills. The other reason for this is the fact that I'm able to route, and actually the New York State Fair falls into the Ohio State Fair, the Kentucky State Fair. We're buying a multitude of dates where you're buying one. It's on our website, so I can say this, last year we bought 14 million dollars worth of entertainment. That's a lot of entertainment. You're not gonna be able to buy that much. Just to give you an idea, I have received five, even those offices are closed, the agents are closed until January 5th, 2009; I have received five e-mails submitting major acts right now, already. Why? Because they know who we are, they know what we do. Now, also in saying all of this, we are making the offer on behalf of the fair. We're going to be there to negotiate the rider. We're going to be able to assist the fair in the proper staging, the proper sound, the proper lighting that most any act is going to be able to work with. We're going to be there for the set-up, the tear-down, the advance, the catering, and all of that is what we do. And the stage hand calls and the labor calls. Now, you certainly can do that, but you will have to hire someone to do that. I mean, the fair's manager can't do that. He's got 45,000 things in his hands.
Q - I always thought the New York State Fair had their own lighting and sound people.
A - Well no, they have to contract that. They bid that out just like they bid any state contract. So, you've got specifications. And I dare say as much as you are in the entertainment business, and I'm speaking a little bit out of turn here, you really have no idea what Rascal Flatts or Kenny Chesney or Def Leppard is going to need as far as how many par cans, how much power they need. So, we know that. So, that's the reason why a fair, almost all of the larger fairs, hire a producer. And there's a big difference between a producer and a promoter. Live Nation in the premier promoter in the United States. There's two major promoters, AEG and Live Nation, formerly Clear Channel. They take the chance. They buy the talent. They promote the shows. We produce the shows on behalf of our client, which is mainly fairs. Although we do corporate dates. It's different stuff. We have a single night division. We have a DJ division. We manage an amphitheatre. We are a pretty multi-purpose operation here.
Q - I gather that. I guess that explains why the William Morris Agency wouldn't pick up the phone and call the fair directly and say "We'll book all the entertainment for you." The fair would still need to hire lighting, catering and sound people.
A - Sure. That's exactly right. They'd have to come in and co-ordinate it. I think, number one, that's the bottom line. Number two, the William Morris Agency is not going to pick up the phone and call the New York State Fair because, who do they call? They would rather pick up the phone and call me and talk about the New York State Fair, the Kentucky State Fair, the Wisconsin Stat Fair, the Utah State Fair, the Florida State Fair, the Oklahoma State Fair. See, they would rather call here. In the entertainment business, as you certainly know by writing about it, it's all about contacts. It's all about knowing the managers, knowing the artists, knowing the agents, knowing the record labels. That's what it's all about.
Q - Are you the founder of Triangle Entertainment?
A - No. It was established in 1960. It's a Kentucky corporation founded by my two former partners. I was still in high school in 1960. I'm very proud to say I have been here with the company for 37 years. I bought the company, I think, 24 years ago.
Q - I guess the founders just got tired of the business.
A - No. They hired me. I became a partner. I wanted to do it on my own. They had a recording studio and a very, very progressive company that does audio installation. When I was at the Albany Airport, I heard the sound system there and know the announcer there at the airport. They are still doing that. It's Alan Martin Productions out of Louisville, which is a very large sound reinforcement company. They have since, sold their recording studio. I bought them out is basically what I did.
Q - What were you doing before you got involved with Triangle Entertainment?
A - I was in radio. I was a DJ. I did sports play by play. I did a multitude of things. I coached. I did sports play by play and I was a morning disc jockey.
Q - Does Louisville have a music scene?
A - It's pretty good. There is no such thing in my mind, and I've been in this business a long time, there's no such thing as a center of the music business. However, being in an area such as Louisville, yeah, there's a lot of entertainment here. My employees are here. We have an office in Missouri. We've had offices in Vegas, but it's stupid with the way you can communicate so immediately these days. You don't need satellite offices.
Q - The laptop and the cell phone.
A - That's exactly right.
Q - I was surprised to see that with all the star entertainment you deal with, you even bother with DJs and wedding bands. But that is a big money maker, isn't it?
A - It's about cash flow. It's for instance, why does a supermarket sell a ten cent item that maybe they're gonna make maybe a third of a cent off of? It's because it's a service type thing. We book six hundred to seven hundred DJs a year. We book a lot of corporate dates. We just got through doing at a man's home, about a $25,000 DJ sound system and a couple of '60s acts. But I have other people that do that. I don't deal with it. And that's where the company started by the way. It didn't start doing fairs. It started doing the single night bookings. Then, about 34 years ago, we went into the fair business.
Q - Does William Morris still have a State Fair department?
A - Oh, they have a fair department in Nashville and Beverly Hills.
Q - I read something about that years ago and realized business must be pretty good at fairs.
A - What you have to understand is, fairs are just all over the country. In New York you've got some extremely good sized fairs...county fairs. We don't produce any county fairs because they're really talking about one or two acts, one or two dates and we're really not into that.
Q - I remember interviewing Ray Stevens at the New York State Fair back in 1980. The stage was a flat bed truck. He brought out some folding lawn chairs and put his feet on the stage. How times have changed.
A - Ray is a good interview. Ray is a good guy, a super guy. He's back out touring a little bit now. He's got more money than God. But he still loves entertaining.
Q - And when Kenny Rogers and Dottie West performed at the Fair back in 1978 and 1979, the stage was a flat bed truck.
A - That's right. Now, nobody would consider doing that. It would be the last possible thing they would do.