TRASH MENAGERIE » Fantasma Founder Jon Stoll Passes Away

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fantasma Founder Jon Stoll Passes Away

Fantasma founder, Jon Stoll was indeed one of the “good” ones. I feel honored to have had been able to work with him. This comes as a bit of a shock, very sad news, he will be missed by many.

Excerpt from the Palm Beach Post
Full Story Fantasma Founder Turned Music Passion Into A Career

Jon Stoll, who turned a teenage love of rock ‘n’ roll into one of the largest independent promotion and performance companies in the nation, died Saturday at Good Samaritan Medical Center after an extended illness. He was 54.

While on vacation in August in Aspen, Colo., Mr. Stoll had a stroke that required surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain. About a month later, he returned to a rehabilitation center in Boynton Beach, but complications, including a brain cancer, resulted in a transfer a few weeks ago to Good Samaritan in West Palm Beach.

In the mid-’90s, Mr. Stoll was one of the few independent promoters who refused buyout attempts by large corporations, maintaining that it was bad for business and bad for artists.

“I just think it’s unfortunate that there are less options for artists,” he told The New York Times in 2006. “If you have no options, then you have to deal with one buyer – and whatever they decide to pay you.”

From today’s Lefsetz Letter, nice tribute to Jon and his vision. John, Bill Graham, Chicago’s Jam Productions, independent promoters in general, they are strong spirits, and certainly not a dying breed. Lefsetz defiantly stuck a chord with me, my eyes tend to glaze over when I reminisce about the early 90′s rave days . . . He touches on some very relevant realities in the concert promotion business today, this would not be the first time I said I feel this model is in danger of going the way of the majors, and the clock is ticking for them as well.

Jon Stoll
Words: Bob Lefsetz

Fierce and independent. That not only describes Jon Stoll, but Arny and Jerry over at JAM, all the cats who said no to Bob Sillerman.

Can you imagine turning down millions? Double digit millions? That’s what these guys did. They all loved cash, but it wasn’t the most important thing. They loved music. And they needed to work.

Jon Stoll will work no more.

Whenever we were in the same room, Jon would seek me out. Something was always bothering him. Didn’t everybody SEE? That they were taking the wrong path, that it was bad for business?

But Jon wasn’t only a complainer. With a gleam in his eye he’d tell you about his new project. Not boasting, but proudly putting forth what started in his heart, and had come to fruition.

Last year in Aspen, it was Jon who complained most loudly about the secondary market. He wasn’t like those idiots in the U.K., too stupid to know their own business, wanting a piece of what others had created with their ingenuity, he was worried about the FAN! We had to take care of the fan!

That’s what the late sixties and seventies were about for concert promoters, all of whom were independent. How could they create a show, a package, so enticing that people would line up to get in?

And line up, they did. Back in those days, the hardest part was GETTING A TICKET! Music drove the culture. You had to be at the show. Not only to be able to tell your buddies, but to feel the buzz.

Speak with the guys who promoted shows back then. Their eyes will glaze over. They’ve got enough stories to keep you up six nights in a row. They hung with the acts, they had wild experiences. They weren’t corporations, but PEOPLE!

It’s a different business today. Focus on “business”. Unlike the days when Frank Barsalona was in partnership with promoters, there’s a clear division between agents and promoters today. Agents, instructed by acts and managers, rape promoters. And most promoters have to do their damndest to steal back, or employ subterfuge to make a profit, like the insane add-ons to TicketMaster fees.

You can’t have a team of artists. You can no longer create acts on TV (Checked Jordin Sparks’ SoundScan? Did you see all those Idols being dropped from BMG?) Great artists, lasting artists, are sui generis. One of a kind. Unique. And the more out there they are, the more risks they take, the more the public likes them, the longer their careers.

It used to be the same with industry infrastructure. It was not about being a company man, but following your instincts, your dreams, not limiting yourself, not doing what was expedient, but NECESSARY! Bill Graham yelled ad infinitum. But it was part of his charm. You believed he was JUST THAT PASSIONATE! And he had to be, his income was not guaranteed, only by his own wits could he stay in business.

The music world just lost an original. One in a long line of originals. A colorful risk-taker, with personality.

You can’t steal the concert experience online. Touring is the one bastion that has survived the Internet quite well. But consolidation has done nothing for the fan. One only hopes that there’s room for entrepreneurs, to follow in Bill Graham’s footsteps. In Jon Stoll’s.

Jon Stoll wasn’t there in the beginning. He was too young. But he was bitten by the bug. And found a way in. He needed to find a way in.

54 is way too young to die. But in his time here on Earth, Jon packed in a lot of living, a lot of good shows. He didn’t hold back, he went full throttle. Let him be a beacon for the younger generation. You’re never truly closed out, there’s always a way in. If you follow your heart, if you’re not worried about doing it the same way as everybody else, if you’re not afraid of giving the middle finger to the corporate bullies, as long as you grip the fan in a bear hug, loving him every minute of the day.

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