Steve Thomson has done it all – musician, manager, promoter, producer, music publisher – in a career that stretches back to the 1970s. While still in high school, Thomson and his band, Fat Chance, landed a slot on the 1970 Strawberry Fields Festival at Mosport Park Raceway sandwiched between Sly and the Family Stone and Ten Years After. Not bad for a kid who was too young to drink legally.
Thomson played guitar in Fat Chance, but he also booked and managed the band. He was so good at it that pretty soon he was managing a stable of young acts, booking them across Ontario and beyond. When labels came calling, Thomson made the difficult decision to step off the stage and into a full-time role as a manager. He eventually got himself a distribution deal with Quality Records, which released some of his 25 acts.
Then, as now, Thomson was a promoter, a guy who knew how to create excitement and interest, and how to get songs played. Those innate talents certainly came in handy as Thomson segued into music publishing. “Today,” he says, “if you’re not a promoter, you may as well not be a publisher, because you’ve got to promote your catalogue.”
“Today, if you’re not a promoter, you may as well not be a publisher.”
Thomson is the sole owner of Backstage Music Publishing, which is a division of his main company, Trilogy Entertainment Group. Trilogy Records International and Star Satellite Music Publishing are also divisions within the group. Backstage sub-publishes a number of international catalogues, including Music & Media International, based in Los Angeles, as well as works controlled by independent French publisher Jean Davoust.
Thomson does a lot of business in France – he’s been attending the MIDEM music conference in Cannes since 1981 – and the relationships he’s forged there continue to nourish his business. Last year, he showcased one of his newer acts, Organic Funk, at Euro Disney. The show was videotaped and turned into a TV special that Thomson is now shopping to broadcasters around the world. If he can sell the show, he’ll reap significant performance royalties, and that’s a strategy he’s been using for years to keep his copyrights working.
Thomson managed Ronnie Hawkins for two decades, and in 1995 he staged a 60th birthday concert for “the Hawk” at Toronto’s Massey Hall, featuring guests Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, The Band and Jeff Healey. Backstage produced a DVD of the show, packaged alongside a documentary called At the Crossroads of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which used additional Backstage copyrights.
Music publishers have to be creative and aggressive when it comes to promoting their catalogues, and Steve Thomson is both those things. He’s also a heck of a nice guy, and that’s another reason he’s still doing deals after all these years.