I had the chance to catch up with celebrity booking agent, Tom Hoppa via instant messenger for a rousing chat about our three favorite things: Music, the band Helmet, and livin’ the dream. The interview took place over several nights, as there were technical difficulties, coordination of schedules, and having to constantly fend off groupies. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s hard to be a celebrity.
JM: One of your first gigs was co-hosting a radio show, tell us a little about that.
Well, I was the Program Director and Music Director for a station called WSUW in Whitewater, WI at the University…..
So I got to call the shots and give myself, and my friend Mario, a show.
JM: What kind of show was it?
We played the music we wanted to, talked shit about people on campus, and scammed tickets and backstage passes to shows in Milwaukee and Madison.
JM: That’s what the rumors say! What was the music scene like in Milwaukee?
It was ok….saw some cool shows. A lot of bands skipped Milwaukee. Its not a prime stop for a lot of bands…..so we saw what we could at the Rave. Most other places were 21+ so sometimes it was hard to get in…..I was under 21 most of my college career.
JM: After the radio show, how did you get your start in the music biz/booking bands business?
I met a band, Zebrahead, at one of those shows mentioned above. Actually Mario and I went there to interview them for a radio show of mine called “HYPE” about new bands.
I became friends with the guys in the band….and eventually they helped me get a job with their manager in Los Angeles.
So, I packed up the car 2 weeks after graduation and hit the road!
JM: What kind of work did you do for Zebrahead’s manager?
Well, he also manages Motorhead and then at the time a few other bands. So, it was a lot of odd job stuff. One of the 1st things I had to do was take Lemmy from Motorhead from his home in Hollywood to the studio to do vocals for the album he was doing at the time
JM: Seriously!? What was that like?
Well, VERY interesting. Lemmy is one of the most interesting and intelligent people that I have ever encountered……besides you
JM: Stop you’re making me gassy!
We would sit and drink jack and cokes at his place for a couple hours, then drive about 40 minutes to the studio.
On the way he would tell me everything I needed to know about history and life.
He would do his vocals, and then I would drop him off at the Rainbow every night
JM: That’s a hell of a first gig! How did you get your start with TKO?
I was offered the job. You missed about 8 years worth of material homey. Ha!
JM: back track! What did you do after the Zebrahead/Motorhead gig?
My run with Zebrahead’s management was short lived….I went to William Morris agency first, in 1999 to learn the tricks there. Then from there worked into positions at Rick Sales Mgmt (Slayer), M80 (interactive marketing), House of Blues LA (promoting shows), CAA (assisting the Pres of Music), Clear Channel Touring (booking tours for Cher, Aerosmith, Kiss, McCartney and many more) to Live Nation Phoenix (promoter), and then….to L.A. with TKO.
JM: I hear William Morris is tough! What was it like working there?
It was tough!! They train you very well though.
JM: What was it like to work with all those rock legends like Kiss and McCartney?
Well, it was mainly working with their managers, but it was great.
Amazing learning experience; seeing Kiss in full gear backstage at catering was always very surreal.
JM: What kinds of acts do you work with at TKO?
Rock, punk, metal….and prog. but really anything that I believe in and can sign.
They were both with other agencies at the time (WMA and CAA respectively). I put together creative tour ideas / strategies that involved them as co-headliners…..and it worked out that I got the bands to come my way.
Working with both bands is amazing. I have been a fan of both for a long time.
JM: They say the concert industry is the way to go in the wake of faltering record sales? Any thoughts on that?
Well, when I started on this path 9 years ago I never planned for the business to get like this. It takes a lot of time and training to become an agent or manager…..so by saying that it’s the way to go…..it’s tough, because its just way too hard to predict
I would say that right now, it’s a good place to be…..
But, on the other hand, there are some labels doing VERY well.
Just not as many as there used to be.
JM: What kind of work goes into booking a national tour?
First you have to get a time frame from your client….which is determined usually by a record release, you then do a mock route, place holds at various clubs throughout the country.
get your support package in place….
Pitch the package to promoters and then ask them to send offers. You pick the best of the bunch all while honoring history, and keeping what’s best for your client in mind while doing this.
You then discuss all deals with your manager and get the final approval to confirm.
Once confirmed you need to get everything announced, on sale, and promoted properly. So then you work with the promoters and markets to do that….
On and on and on and on….
JM: You HAVE to tell me a music industry horror story. What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done in your career (bonus points if you can top my random acts of asinine behavior)
Hmmm.. hard to say. I would say that its best not to drink at shows that you are involved with….as the line goes, “you are always working.” As far as embarassment goes…..
Hmmmm…..well, I must say that you have stumped me.
I am rarely embarassed.