It has been four years since Jim Cressman launched Invictus Entertainment in Penticton, B.C. and the independent promotion company is already a huge success. Invictus Entertainment, run by Cressman and his wife Kristie, has turned secondary and tertiary markets in Canada into viable and exciting locations for some of music’s biggest names. Following the success of the Trackside Music Festival in London, Ontario (July 1-2), which Invictus Entertainment helped book, Amplify caught up with Cressman to discuss the most memorable moments from his past four years as one of Canada’s top indie promoters.
Most Memorable Tour
Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away.” It really helped entrench our credibility and proved that you could take an act of that level into secondary and tertiary markets. She had a mobile stage that raised all the way up to the roof of the building so that the people in the nosebleed seats got to see Carrie up-close, front and center for a couple of songs. From a production standpoint, it was an intensive but exciting tour, and we really broke the mold in terms of what had been an acceptable ticket price in a lot of those markets up to that point.
Most Memorable Concert
Sam Hunt in Calgary. I spent some time with Sam the previous fall when he was up at the Canadian Country Music Awards, in Edmonton. He has incredible charisma and star power and people were falling all over him like he was the second coming of Elvis. He’s an artist that his musical and artistic integrity so dialed into his vision for what he wants to be as an artist.
It was one of those great scenarios where when you follow your gut instinct, and you believe in an artist, and you understand, and you get the art, and then you’re right, it’s very validating. It reminds you how intuitive this business really is.
I would a close second was Ringo Starr, in Penticton. Amazing, right? Working with a Beatle. The fact that he was such a down to earth, reasonable, charismatic, affable guy, and hung around and chatted with everyone was incredible. He even said hi to my daughter Hunter, who was 3 years old at the time. There’s not many people who would do that.
Most Memorable New Market
Alaska. All our shows up there have been great, but selling out two nights back to back on Tim McGraw, and then Motley Crue Farewell Tour at Alaska Airlines Arena were epic moments. There’s a hunger there, there’s an appetite for the music. It’s just having the internal fortitude to step up and be the catalyst between the ticket-buying consumer and the artist. You’d be surprised how many artists have never played Alaska, and they would love to get up there and play, but they’ve never had someone step up with an offer that was aggressive enough to make the event palpable.
Most Memorable Learning Moment
Losing my biggest agency client – Johnny Reid – when I had a brand new company to launch. That was heavy, but we recovered.
First off, I learned that you can’t let these situations embitter you. I’m emotionally invested in every artist I work with – that infectious enthusiasm and passion that makes you an unstoppable proponent for your client will rip you to shreds after enduring a self-perceived injustice. You have to let go. You have to move on. More importantly, you need to channel that anxious energy into something that will make you smarter and stronger the next time you get knocked down. From a business perspective, I learned that I needed to diversify, and with prudence and focus, we started growing our promoting/producing business. I wanted to keep the agency and management divisions boutique, so we developed a complimentary business – and subsequent revenue stream – within our existing structure, by taking risk promoting shows and doing more talent buying. I broadened my base of expertise and knowledge, and fell in love with promoting in the process. The year I lost my biggest agency client was also my biggest year for gross and net revenue – up until that point – and we have grown ever since.
Most Memorable Career Accolade
Becoming the first company in CCMA history to win (in one year) the unprecedented triple crown at the Canadian Country Music Awards. We won for Agency, Management Company and Talent Buyer/Promoter of the year. Validation from people you compete with, but love and respect, is the best.
We were nominated, but I honestly didn’t think we’d win all three awards. I mean in terms of statistics, we were on top of our game when it comes to talent buying. Talent buying and promoting, if you look at the numbers, we’re just doing a lot more than competitors right across the board. You can’t argue with the numbers. You can’t argue with the facts. I felt like we had a really good shot at that one, but ofcourse it’s not based on hard criteria, it’s based on membership voting.
Most Memorable Artist Milestone
Strategically working with Brett Kissel and enjoying his journey in blossoming from a developing artist to a domestic hard ticket juggernaut. I met Brett Kissel, in September of 2004 during Country Music Weekend. Brett was 12 years old, and he had a belt buckle that was almost as big as he was, and he had a cowboy hat on, and he walked up to me and he introduced himself. I found him to be so charismatic, so effervescent in terms of personality, that I remember exactly what I said to him. We talked for a few minutes, and I said, “I don’t know if you can sing, but if you can sing, you are going to be a massive star.” At that point I had only met him on the street. I had no idea if he could sing or play guitar, which I found out later, of course, he could do both of those things at an elite level even at that age.
Then, we stayed in touch. I told him, I said, “Listen, I’m not looking to take on new clients right now, but let’s stay in touch, let’s keep talking.” Six years later, we did an agency deal and then I brought his manager, Louis O’Reilly, in-house to our management division. It’s been great. He’s developing rapidly in terms of his art, his on-stage prowess, and his fan engagement is just second to none.