The crowds that each week turn out for Thursdays Squared, the new entertainment event in Overton Square’s Tower Courtyard, are a testament to interest in the square and to its resurgence as an entertainment hotspot.
Rollin Riggs, from left, Howard Stovall and Mike Brocato are partners with Resource Entertainment Group, which is celebrating 10 years with its latest event at Thursdays Squared.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
The event, which got started only a few weeks ago, also is a reminder of the resilience of the Memphis-based entertainment company behind it: Resource Entertainment Group, a company that creates live music events and manages entertainers, venues and bands, among other things.
The company is 10 years old this year, no mean feat in a business that’s taken its share of whacks as a result of the digitization of music. Yet onward REG marches, having worked with clients that range from the RiverArts Festival and the Memphis Grizzlies to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, FedEx and both the Madison and Peabody hotels.
“The great thing about our business, there’s still a unique power to the live music experience,” said REG partner Howard Stovall. “Whether you are in a corporate environment, creating a party, whatever you’re doing, a live band or a live entertainer on stage is just something you can’t package up and put on an iPod. Nothing reaches people like the live music experience.”
Stovall and his partners know that well. Before forming the company in 2004, Stovall and former REG partner Paul Chandler, who’s now the executive director of the Germantown Performing Arts Center, helped create the Live at the Garden series at Memphis Botanic Garden.
Stovall had also been the executive director of the Blues Foundation, while Chandler was assistant director at the Germantown Performing Arts Center before starting REG.
The company – the partners of which now consist of Stovall, Rollin Riggs and Mike Brocato – went on to book big-name acts like Natalie Cole, B.B. King and Elton John. Fast forward to Thursdays Squared, which is the first proprietary event REG has built.
For past events, REG has teamed with clients to book and execute quality live music experiences. Stovall said that in 2011, REG consulted for Loeb Properties about how the square’s courtyard space might be developed for live entertainment, and in 2014 the company helped set a vision for what could happen there.
The inaugural event on April 17 drew a crowd of more than 1,100 people.
Today, Riggs says that events are the company’s bread and butter. And that informs the kinds of artists the company works with.
“We do weddings, corporate events, galas, all kinds of things, and the artists we look to bring under our management are artists that either have proven success in those markets or who we can help build that business side for their band,” Riggs said. “A lot of these cover bands subsidize their original endeavors and studio time and so forth with their work playing weddings and galas. It requires savvy marketing of the band and massaging of their image and brand to be appealing to that type of buyer, and we’ve been doing that successfully for a long time.”
One of the biggest changes REG has seen over the years is the amount of information now available to buyers, who can bypass middlemen to get it.
“It’s easy to go out there and find entertainers,” Stovall said. “They all have websites. They all have Facebook pages. But when you’re looking for the expertise to match entertainment to demographics and budget – we’re able to take that raw data and whittle it down to a manageable set of options. That may be a $150,000 headline act or a $3,500 regional act. It’s required us to be consultative and bring to bear our experience to help make the right match for them.
“What we have to do is make sure we’re delivering an event that works for goals, objectives and budgets. Sometimes that means asking the client to really trust you and take a step out of their comfort zone. But we’ve got the experience behind us to show that we can make it work.”