Dan Torti suspects the reason he was nominated for 20 Under 40 was a side business he’s had to put on hold.
Since 2010, he’s brought 40 to 50 bands to venues around Missoula per year under his Stonefly Productions mantle, everything from indie rock acts like Ariel Pink to bluegrass road warriors the Infamous Stringdusters.
But he had to put that project on hiatus since he accepted a dream job as an adviser to UM Productions, where he worked as an undergrad. Overseeing the paid student staff who bring shows to venues large and small while operating his own business would be a conflict of interest.
He’ll continue working his main business, Stonefly Media and Entertainment. He hopes to hire one or two employees to help him with that ad agency, which is responsible for buying ads for performing arts acts that hit 80 to 100 cities a year.
He started that job immediately after graduating in 2008 from the University of Montana with a degree in marketing and an Entertainment Management certificate.
It’s a telecommuting job that kept him busy in his home office. It was successful, and allowed the avid fly fisherman to stay in Missoula.
But it was a solitary gig.
“I was losing my connection with the community,” he said.
In 2010, there wasn’t the stream of touring acts coming through town as we see today.
“I had the skill set,” Torti said. “I can do it. I have the time. What do I lose by trying?”
Tom Webster, director of the Dennison Theatre at UM, taught Torti in the Entertainment Management program and has worked with him locally since graduation.
“He’s the next generation of promoters-producers in Missoula,” Webster said. “I’ve taught hundreds of students and dealt with a lot of people in the last 20 years I’ve been at UM, and he’s the cream of the crop,” Webster said.
In promoting, Webster says the devil is in the details.
“You can have good intentions but without follow-through, you don’t get anywhere in life. But he’s got great follow-through,” Webster said.
He added that Torti is dedicated and knows the market – what the venues are and what audiences will pay to see.
“He’s brought a lot of shows ... he’s got the pulse of the promotion in Missoula. He’s got a good feel for what sells and what doesn’t sell,” Webster said.
Just getting a band here poses challenges.
Missoula is remotely located, and booking an act requires careful monitoring of their routes, Torti said.
Weather can also work against a promoter. In the winter, fewer people are willing to leave the house; and in the summer, concerts compete with outdoor activities. There’s also competing events to consider – you can’t book a bluegrass band at a small venue if a similar, well-known group is playing the Wilma.
Torti’s had his share of sold-out shows from bands that later hit it big, such as Blitzen Trapper. But he said it’s heartbreaking to promote an act on the brink of success and see a bad turnout.
“There’s something special about (them), and you do everything you can to promote it, and you still fall short,” he said.
He’s excited about his new job, where he’ll help bring acts to venues around Missoula. And he got to end Stonefly’s run of Missoula shows on a high note with Neko Case’s May performance at the Wilma Theatre.
It sold out in 13 days, three months before the concert.
“What better way to end my run as Stonefly Productions?” he said.