Local event promoter Ray Compton has come up with a unique plan to grow his own business and deliver some money to cash-strapped high schools for their athletic programs, marching bands and fine arts departments.
Compton, CEO of locally based Compton Strategies, last month launched an initiative to bring tribute bands—bands that mimic and pay homage to the likes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Eagles—to area high school auditoriums.
After Compton covers about $5,000 in event expenses per concert, he has agreed to evenly split the profits with the host school.
“We’re hoping we can raise $3,000 to $5,000 per event for the school,” Compton said. “We just think in this time when so many school budgets have been cut, this is something that’s badly needed.”
To no surprise, Compton has gotten lots of interest from central Indiana schools.
Southport and Decatur Central high schools hosted shows in early April and Anderson High School was to host a show in the famed Wigwam April 30.
“There’s virtually no downside, no risks for the schools,” said Bob Stafford, Anderson High School Band Booster Club president. “We have been asked to help promote the show, get the parents involved, and provide about six to 10 people to work the night of the show. For what we think we’ll raise, our part has been fairly easy.”
Mount Vernon, Guerin Catholic, Western Boone, Hamilton Southeastern and Columbus North high schools recently agreed to book shows in the weeks ahead.
American English, a Beatles tribute band, has been the featured act signed for the first three shows, but Compton is promising to diversify the offerings, including adding a musical and storytelling show featuring former Indianapolis Colts punter Hunter Smith, and bands paying tribute to Michael Jackson and Elton John.
The Decatur Central and Southport shows drew about 500 attendees each, Compton said, with tickets ranging from $10 to $25. Most of the venues seat 800 to 1,000, and Compton hopes crowd sizes will increase as the series becomes more well-known.
Compton also has signed deals with Indiana Farm Bureau, Key Bank and Tire Barn as event sponsors and is working on a promotional deal with local radio station WNTR-FM 107.9.
Compton came up with the concept after being introduced to a Talking Heads tribute band by his daughter.
“These bands have a broad appeal, and as I began meeting the band members, I realized that these were really good people who didn’t make unreasonable demands,” Compton said.
His company began organizing and promoting high school events—primarily sporting events—five years ago. He has done various football and basketball games and is also planning a major high school wrestling event. He said over the last couple of years he’s been looking for a way to give back to the schools.
“I don’t think some people realize how much funding has been cut for extracurricular school activities,” Stafford said. “The only thing the school corporation pays for with regards to the band program is the band director’s salary and a small amount for instruments. We have to raise about $50,000 a year for travel, contest entry and other things. It’s not easy.”
Officials at Mount Vernon High School, which is set to host an Eagles tribute band May 20 and a show featuring Hunter Smith May 21 at its newly renovated 606-seat auditorium, think the shows will help boost the school’s public relations efforts.
“We hope this type of event will bring more people into our schools to see our facilities and to see what we’re doing for the community,” said Mount Vernon High School Principal Bernie Campbell. “We think this program has a lot of potential.”
Campbell hopes to use the proceeds to help students in need pay the fees now mandated to participate in many of the school’s fine arts programs.
“In the last three years, we’ve seen a six-figure budget cut to our fine arts programs, so we have to start thinking of creative ways to make that up,” Campbell said.
Southport officials hope to use money earned from the Compton-produced shows to buy sports team uniforms and equipment. Southport Athletic Director Pete Hubert sees so much potential in the program, he is talking with Compton about hosting shows in the south-side school’s 7,000-seat fieldhouse.
“The show we had this month was a first step,” Hubert said. “We hope to grow this, so that maybe someday we can host some concerts that could help [sports] funding for the entire township.”•