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This Prevost XLII, owned by All Access Coach Leasing, is among the more popular bus models among traveling entertainers.
While Rock n’ Roll acts have tended to lease buses for tours, the stars of the country music scene used to buy their own tour buses. In 1995, the Department of Transportation brought private coaches under its jurisdiction and complicated matters for touring artists. So, managers began hiring transportation experts to handle the tours, says Chip Huffman, CEO of Huffman & Rice Inc., a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that provides driver training and placement in the entertainer coach industry.
Huffman has spent most of his life in the music business. After attempting to break into the scene as a musician, he eventually found a career in transporting the stars. He has 20 years of driving experience and 26 years of owning and operating Nitetrain Coach Company, a major entertainer motorcoach operation based in Music City itself — Nashville.
“Entertainers, musicians and artists march to a different drum and are very demanding,” Huffman says. “This market niche requires an understanding of the entertainment business personality. That said, most of the companies in the entertainment transportation industry came up through the ranks of the music business, promoting or performing or driving, like I did. It is difficult for someone outside the music industry to break into the entertainment business and know how to do things right.”
Mike Slarve, president of Four Seasons Coach Leasing in Lebanon, Tenn., says there’s really no place for a company to advertise except in music industry magazines such as Billboard. Slarve founded his company in the early 1980s and is considered by Huffman to be a “powerhouse veteran” of the business. At one point, Slarve had more than 100 buses on the road transporting musical acts.
Mike Slarve has been in the entertainer coach business since the early 1980s. He founded and served as president of the Entertainer Motorcoach Council, a trade group for operators providing concert and tour related transportation.
Slarve also came from the music business, having managed a band in Los Angeles and, prior to that, promoted different acts. After entering the transportation side of the business, he founded and served as president of the Entertainer Motorcoach Council.
While the chances of new operators breaking into the entertainer coach niche are slim, it is still possible. Huffman has seen a trend of non-music business people with “deep pockets” taking over companies that have music industry connections.
The best way for an operator to get into this niche is by developing connections with people in the music industry, specifically promoters, agents and managers, Huffman says.