Brent Oliver

Top 40 Under 40 2010

Photography Constantine Tanasiuk

Age: 35

Job Title: Talent buyer and co-founder, Foundation Concerts

Why He’s A Top 40: He uses his industry knowledge and contacts to help dozens of local bands find success.

Key To His Success: “There’s a fine balance between working very hard and being very good, and those two things have to co-exist.”

Since booking his first show for his own band, The Killing Floor, at the age of 16, Brent Oliver has had the privilege of helping dozens of local bands make the leap to the next stage of their careers.

“I’ve given first, or almost-first, shows for Corb Lund, Cadence Weapon, Shout Out Out Out Out, Choke, The Wheat Pool and plenty more,” Oliver says. “I’ll go down as the guy who first gave Feist a gig [in Edmonton], Broken Social Scene, Stars, The Weakerthans and on and on and on.”

Twenty years and 3,500 shows later, Oliver is now the talent buyer and co-founder of Foundation Concerts, a promotion company that books shows across Western Canada. He started the company almost two years ago with four original partners, and it has steadily expanded since.

Evidence of his abilities can be seen in the rapid expansion of Foundation’s client list. In one year, it nearly doubled the number of shows it booked, from 108 concerts in 2009 to 210 in 2010.

Since 2000, Oliver has extended his reach from being the Black Dog Freehouse’s exclusive talent buyer, to booking the SOS Festival last July and three other venues, including the Empire Ball Room, The Pawn Shop and Burnsy O’Flanagans in Leduc.

That kind of growth demonstrates Oliver’s eye for talent, and his reputation keeps his inbox full of pleas for bookings from musicians across the country. He says separating the wheat from the chaff has become easier thanks to social media like MySpace, which places the demos of thousands of bands at his fingertips.

He says he can usually tell a musician’s potential after the first 10 seconds of a song. But that’s not to say he’s against a second listen.

The first time he saw local folk darling Colleen Brown perform solo, he thought she was all right. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that her music finally clicked for him, during a show at the Black Dog.

“She went up first and I was doing sound for the first two bands, because the regular sound guy wanted to get something to eat, and I was just, like, ‘This is unbelievable, she is so good, I totally get what she’s going for now,'” Oliver recalls. “I deal with agents and when they ask what I think of Colleen Brown, I say, ‘She’s an amazing talent and you should sign her, you stupid idiot.'”

Oliver finds it rewarding to use his contacts across Western Canada to help local musicians, but for him it’s really all about the audience.

“To throw a party and be involved in somebody’s good time, that’s priceless.”

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