Backstage catering was a different experience in the '80s but the late Terry Bassett of Concerts West, standing left, made it palatable and presentable at this Moody Blues date with a smile and a presence that changed an industry. (Courtesy Carl Dunn)
If Terry Bassett had not encouraged Fred Rosen to relocate to Los Angeles, Ticketmaster would not have become the company it did.
While Bassett, who died July 26 at the age of 80, is best known as a partner with Tom Hulett and later Jerry Weintraub in Concerts West, his influence was multifaceted, from venues to merchandise to ticketing, basically anything tour related.
VenuesNow will pay tribute to Bassett’s stellar career and enduring legacy in the venues industry in its September publication, following a memoriam to Bassett, the promoter of great note held dear by artists of all genres, in Pollstar’s Aug. 13 weekly magazine.
Bassett was ahead of his time, turning the concert touring business into a full-service industry. “He knew where the money was,” and he knew everyone in the business. “Whenever he called, you started to smile,” said Rosen, who made his own mark in this industry as CEO of Ticketmaster, of his long-term dealings with Bassett. Not only did Bassett encourage Rosen to set up Ticketmaster’s West Coast headquarters, he introduced him to the major players, resulting in contracts with Avalon Attractions, the main promoter, and the Forum in Inglewood, the premier venue, in the first six months.
Bassett had a nickname for all his close associates. For Rosen, it was “Fearless.” For Sims Hinds, now with VenuesNow owner Oak View Group, it was “Bonus Baby.” Hinds said the nicknames reflected sports, and sports was the common thread that helped Bassett connect people. He was also famous for his racquetball and beach parties in L.A. that drew a who’s who of the industry and his impromptu touch football games on the road at venues across the globe.
“It’s a great tool when you use sports; it puts everyone on the same wavelength,” Hinds said. Hinds would not be in the industry today if not for Bassett, who hired him at the age of 21 when he had no clue there was a “business” in show business and was trying to decide on his career.
Bassett built strong relationships throughout the industry, and used those contacts to make things happen to everyone’s benefit. He thought about the long term, not the one-off deal, which is why he was so successful in building Concerts West into a national promotion company, Hinds said.
His career began with Pat O’Day Enterprises in Seattle, where he worked the Jimi Hendrix tour and later partnered with O’Day. Partners and investors over the years included Danny Kaye and Les Smith of Kaye-Smith Enterprises. Bassett also founded Facility Merchandising Inc., which handled T-shirts for all the big tours.
“As a 22-year-old with eyes wide open, Terry Bassett was a real mentor to me,” said Milt Arenson, who worked for Bassett’s FMI from 1981 to 1986, when it was sold to MCA, then later bought it back. “He taught me that it was more than go and cut a deal. It’s about building relationships, and that’s what I’ve practiced since.”
From the venue perspective, Mike “Magical Mike” McGee, agreed. “My relationship with Terry dates back 48 years. He was one of the first people (in concert promotion) I had any involvement with when I ran the Monroe (La.) Civic Center. I was brand new to the industry and the first time I encountered Terry he was promoting Three Dog Night.”
“Terry was doing things early on that others followed,” yet he was unassuming, generous and sincere, McGee said. “He came to the party with all of it. I remember asking him why he was doing this and that for the artist, and he said, ‘As long as they put butts in the seats and sell tickets, I’m there.’”
Bassett wasn’t looking for a Sunday night show, he was looking for a long-term relationship, McGee recalled, and he differentiated himself from other promoters by taking care of all aspects of the show, from marketing to ticketing to merchandise and catering.
More to come on the illustrious career of Terry Bassett and the effect he had on the industry. To tell your story, contact Linda@venuesnow.com.