Radio head: Tucker is Charlottesville's ticket master
"I make it my business to like everything," he says. Even so, every once in a while he can't quite hide the twinkle in his eye, and you know he's hit a special one.
When Radiohead asked him to run their direct ticket and merchandise sales during a recent tour, Rob Tucker jumped at the chance even though it meant trading a prominent position at Crozet-based Musictoday for an entry level road crew job. Then again, Radiohead is clearly one of his eye-twinklers.
Nearly five years ago, Tucker began as the sole employee in direct ticketing for the Dave Matthews Band, fulfilling orders for tickets from dedicated fans.
Soon enough, Tucker came up with a way to reward their enthusiasm. "We expanded the concept of the guest list to include all the hardcore fans."
This essentially involved upgrading the most rabid fans from a mere ticket to a non-comped spot on the guest list. The process avoids putting excessive middleman surcharges on the fans while routing more revenue to the artist.
"The whole concept of the business was giving back to the fans," says Tucker. "By servicing the fans better, the artist benefited more."
Initially, the only clients for Musictoday's ticketing department were Guster, Santana, and Medeski, Martin and Wood. Once word began to spread, however, Tucker found himself with more than 150 high-profile acts. "I signed Radiohead personally," he says, eyes all a-twinkle yet again.
One of the system's victories came in 2003 in the second year of Tennessee's answer to Woodstock. "We found a way to sell out Bonnaroo, a 90,000-person festival, in two weeks," says Tucker, who also notes that he helped bump attendance at the All Good Music Festival in West Virginia from 6,000 to 9,000. And his inaugural "Amsterjam" festival sold out months in advance– without paid advertising.
Even his WTJU Radio Show, "Nocturnal Transmissions," has an element of promotion, as Tucker has 200 subscribers for his weekly playlist. "His music collection is ridiculous," says co-host Matt Simon, "and with our time slot, there's no pressure. You really get to play some crazy stuff."
These days, Tucker has found that he is once again the sole employee for one of Coran Capshaw's musical ventures. This time it's Starr Hill Presents, which stages shows at the Music Hall, the Charlottesville Performing Arts Center, and at the Pavilion under construction downtown.
"I've almost had three separate careers in the music industry each time starting at the bottom and working my way up," says Tucker.
Yet he says he still feels as much a part of the audience as of a promotional team. "I am still a huge fan," he says, "I am an experience junkie."
PHOTOS BY JEN FARIELLO