Bert Gould and Joe Owens Swing For The Fences With New Concert Company

Cover Aug 20, 2010

by Sandy Graham

Cashbox Canada is read by many Canadian music industry icons who would remember the name Joe Owens for many things; Dunn & Owens, CPI, Quality Records, Triumph (the band actually thanked Owens for their success on a televised Juno Award Show) amongst many positions he held in the Canadian market as well as author of ‘Welcome to The Jungle’ – the music industry bible for many years.

Joe Owens is actually a U.S. citizen, who ended up in Canada in the 1960’s when his Mum moved the family to Ontario. Owens went to school here, attending York, and continued on in the business vein, joining the music industry in the 1970’s when Canada was at its peak for live entertainment and label activity.

‘I was lucky to enjoy the industry at a time when it was booming. I had an American attitude but understood the Canadian way of thinking’, Owens told Cashbox. Owens was well respected in the industry, and was considered a trailblazer in his trade. After more than a decade here, he returned to the U.S. (some still feel a great loss to the Canadian industry) where he was a major player in producing The Billboard Music Awards. He went on to excel in sponsorship and marketing liaisons with video games (Sega/PlayStation), which led him to a position of working with promotion agencies to gain his experience with corporate sponsorship – which resulted in record stats tallying up to $ 400 million in sponsorship and promotions.

During these times, Owens met his future partner and lifelong friend-to-be, Bert Gould, who was working with Fox Kids, the Fox Broadcasting Company 's American children's programming division, who also launched the hugely successful Power Rangers. Gould has held senior positions with Fox Kids Network, Comedy Central and Marvel Entertainment. He acted as Consultant to the Classics Sports Network which ultimately became ESPN Classics and was Executive Producer of New York’s Toyota Comedy Festival. Gould was there in the hugely successful time in the 1990’s, being part of the South Park reign, Comedy Central and other programs that made Fox a household name and network. It was through this channel of advertising and sponsorship that Owens and Gould met, and stayed friends for over 15 years.

These two powerhouse marketing gurus joined forces to create ESI, and since 2004 Family Fun Fest, the event that grew from this partnership, has visited up to 50 minor league ballparks each season. With the corporate sponsor, Principal Financial Group, Family Fun Fest made over 350 appearances, attracted more than 1.6 million fans, and generated over $25 million in media value. Family Fun Fest is the world's largest and longest-running traveling baseball celebration offering free family entertainment to minor league baseball fans in communities across the country. For the seventh consecutive year, the Principal Financial Group will serve as the exclusive title sponsor of this unique entertainment experience. During this year's tour, The Principal will highlight its national educational campaign – America Rebuilds The Principal - aimed at providing Americans with the inspiration, advice and tools they need to get their financial futures back on track.

This inspiring idea to bring top notch entertainment to families and fans for an affordable price has led Gould and Owens to their next idea – do live concerts with popular entertainers, but make the ticket price affordable for the consumer to see their musical icons in a ballpark setting. ESI has now grown to ESI Concerts, taking the concept of baseball fields, fans and music and combining the success model of the last seven years.

‘We don’t perceive ourselves as concert promoters’, Owens says, ‘we have a slightly different business model than that. We've been working with minor league baseball teams for 7 years with our traveling fan festival and we were constantly being asked by teams if we could bring other events to their ballparks on nights when there is no game. They have the venue, facilities, staff, etc and they want to generate incremental income but they don't have the resources themselves to book acts. With my history in the music business and Bert Gould’s marketing experience, we want to pick a date, create the event from the source, produce it from the ground up and be consistent with the image and need of the ballpark and the teams. The fact is we can take an artist, put them in the ballpark setting, and make it affordable for a family to enjoy a concert. Teams are the ones who need to get their names out there – we are just acting as Executive Producers. The teams can benefit from these events and create strong fundraisers for the minor league teams.’

Owens is optimistic this unique idea will grow consistently with bookings of shows in 2011, 60 in 2012 and 90 in 2013. ‘Our hope is to create unique entertainment events – that artists will say that will be cool – not a scaled down version but it should have production quality is of the highest caliber. With the cooperation of the talent, we can make the ticket affordable, with reserved seating at $50, general admission at $35 and a V.I.P. Booking of $100. That way the ticket price can be scaled to what the concert attendee can afford.’ Owens goes on to say, ‘We'd like to work with Big Apple Circus, WWE and others and are going to try to make that happen. We're talking with agents in LA, NY and Nashville and we have a very unique business model that benefits the artists financially as well as allowing them to reach their fans right in the community in venues that work as well for music as they do for sports. Teams are already producing their own family events. The teams are great to work with and residents of these communities are already familiar with their minor league baseball teams.

The lead-off concert is September 4th 2010 at McCoy Field, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, featuring Kenny Loggins and The Boston Pops Orchestra – Celebrating their 125 Anniversary year of performances.

‘We are excited to have these two American legends together for the first time. A significant chunk of the second set with feature the 1812 Overture – complete with cannons. This is a historical musical moment you don’t want to miss. This whole concept of ESI Concerts is the next logical step for Burt and I to move forward. We have gained the trust level with the teams and the ballparks. The combined experience in music, marketing and sponsorship allows us to create this unique experience at an affordable price.”

Burt Gould and Joe Owens looks set to shake up the entertainment biz yet again and give ‘take me out to the ballpark’ a whole new meaning.

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Editors Note: Check this issue for Kenny Loggins … Still Lovin’ His Music & The Boston Pops – The Legacy Continues.