Amazing Artistic Achievements: Triple A Entertainment at 20
If Pete Wilson and Dennis Arnold of Triple A Entertainment were writing their own 20th anniversary testimonial, it might go something like: “Twenty years of promoting and producing events. Not rocket science. Let’s not (ironically) make a big song and dance about it.”
In an industry with plenty of big talkers and impresarios, Triple A are the least self-promoting promoters you will find. They don’t put their name on the poster, they don’t tend to do interviews (they would have been just as happy, you suspect, not to do this one) and you’ll search in vain for a website. And in a world of corporate power and shareholder value, they do what they fancy doing, keep things sensible and run their business the way they want to.
Together, promoter Wilson and production man Arnold have run tour after tour for acts like Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Paul Weller, Ray Davies, the Beach Boys, and The Cure; organised the 2002 Royal Albert Hall tribute to George Harrison; sold a million tickets for Steps; and guided Boyzone, Kylie, Jason Donovan, Five, Westlife, Blazin’ Squad, Lord of the Dance, WWE, Shaolin Monks, Harlem Globetrotters and many others through the arenas of this land.
But for some reason, the story Wilson tells that seems to make the most meaningful point about the particular way they do things involves boisterous, Test Match Special anecdote machine, Henry Blofeld. “We did his 70th birthday at the Albert Hall,” says Wilson. “There were 2,000 tickets, it needed 1,800 to break even and I think it did 1,750, so it lost a little bit of money. But it’s something we wanted to do,” he explains. “We’re cricket fans.”
Wilson and Arnold do a lot of work in that kind of spirit, from bailing out and professionalising Oxfordshire’s Cornbury Music Festival, just because they liked it, to faithfully promoting much-loved established acts of a more modest size who might not strike a different kind of company as being worth the sweat.
“There are a lot of things we do because they need to be done,” says Wilson. “And it’s our money. We don’t have masters; we don’t have shareholders or some American saying, ‘listen, this has got to make a certain amount.’ We have shows that the odd one doesn’t do very well but we don’t pull the ads – we keep advertising. Which probably isn’t a great business decision, but that’s how we do things.”
The world has plenty of principled little indies of a certain age – for the time being, at least – but Triple A isn’t just that. Powered by a team of six – Wilson, Arnold, Jeanne White, Fiona Atwood and longstanding freelance producers Dan Scott and Jolyon Burnham – they were the 25th-biggest promoter in the world last year, with 650,000 tickets sold, according to Pollstar.
“They are extraordinary promoters, and incredibly modest – they just keep themselves in the background”
At the time of writing, current projects are as diverse as shows for David Crosby, Paul Weller and Roger Waters, the touring production of Dirty Dancing and new WWE dates. Ask around and you hear it again and again: they’re not flash about it but they’re very good at what they do.
“Pete is definitely one of the best promoters in the country, by far,” says United Talent’s Gary Howard, a friend since his days as a young club agent in the 1990s. “His knowledge is second to none and he is one of the best marketing guys in the business. Everything I have ever done with them has always been a huge success.”
ILMC founder and former Primary Talent MD Martin Hopewell concurs: “They are extraordinary promoters, and incredibly modest – they just keep themselves in the background,” he says. “I like a lot of the people in the business who are larger than life. But Pete and Dennis are the opposite of that, and really they don’t get the recognition they deserve. Because when you look at the artists they have worked with and the things they have pulled off, it’s quite incredible.”
Wilson has a matter-of-fact explanation. “We have been doing it for a long time,” he says. “We know what works and what doesn’t work.” Certain things typify the Triple A approach. They retain a fondness for traditional advertising, and they don’t much love social media. They hang onto their friends for a long time, and don’t poach anyone else’s artists. They don’t do much dressing-room schmoozing. And, setting aside the recent retirement of finance man Martyn Stanger, one of the three founding ‘A’s, they are lifers, doing it because they love it.
“Everyone they take on, they are passionate about,” says Dan Scott. “They will do all manner of things but usually there’s an interest behind it: music they like, something they find exciting or they can see an opportunity in it.”
Some of their eye for an opportunity they picked up under Harvey Goldsmith, for whom Wilson worked for 18 years, Arnold for nine. “I used to run a stagehand company before that,” says Wilson. “I actually built the Wall at Earl’s Court – I physically put the bricks in. And then a year later I was the promoter that was selling it.”
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