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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Q&A: Gary Bongiovanni, CEO of Pollstar

Chico State alumnus and CEO of the concert industry trade publication Pollstar, Gary Bongiovanni made a visit to campus as part of a free Q&A; session put on by Chico State School of the Arts Productions.

The Orion sat down with Bongiovanni to discuss the history of Pollstar, insight on the music industry, his time at Chico State and his advice to students about being successful after graduation.

The Orion: When did you graduate from Chico and what did you get a degree in?

Bongiovanni: I graduated in 1973 and my degree was a B.A. in mass communications with an emphasis in broadcasting.

The Orion: Describe you career as the CEO of Pollstar.

Bongiovanni: When I left Chico, I went to work for a booking agency in Los Angeles. I worked as a talent seller for a while and I didn’t really like that part of the business–got a job offer to go to Fresno State and in the course of all the different things I’ve done, I came up with the concept of Pollstar, which was really the application of computer technology for the information flow of the concert business. This is pre PC. That was the start of Pollstar which basically just creates databases for people to access for who’s the appropriate agent to call and how many tickets did they sell the last time they were in town, that kind of stuff. That’s what lead to Pollstar.

The Orion: What first sparked your interest to work in the music industry?

Bongiovanni: Actually starting at KCSC doing air shifts. I kind of got hooked on music and I was appointed to the position of concert chairmen here in ’71. I seemed to have a knack for it and was reasonably successful and that was the start of my career.

The Orion: What kind of music were you into?

Bongiovanni: As far as music, you could play anything you wanted on KCSC. I used to bring my own records in because the selection in the studio wasn’t that great. It was a chance for a couple hours to spin music that you liked. The audience wasn’t that huge so you didn’t have to worry about generally embarrassing yourself on air, but that was fun and I enjoyed it. I played rock n roll basically. If you wanted to listen to rock music, you were listening to KCSC.

The Orion: How did Pollstar expand to the UK?

Bongiovanni: We realized that in order to be looked at as a legitimate business in Europe, you had to have a physical presence there so we opened a small office almost 20 years ago. It’s still a small office, but it gives us a footprint on the continent.

The Orion: How did your time at Chico State prepare you for such a successful career?

Bongiovanni: Well it was the start of it. It gave me the chance to actually promote concerts with the school’s money. I didn’t have the money to do it myself so it was an opportunity that, for me, was priceless.

The Orion: What’s one piece of advice you would offer to current students or recent graduates?

Bongiovanni: The job’s you were thinking about when you first enrolled are probably not going to be there when you graduate because the world is changing. There is a lot of technological change that’s causing businesses to totally evolve. Fortunately, I’m covering the live music business which has been the least impacted by the digital revolution.

The Orion: What’s the best advice you ever received?

Bongiovanni: Actually when I was a junior agent in L.A., one of the other agents told me that if you act like you know what you’re doing, most people will assume that you do. I never thought of it that way and it’s actually a valuable lesson. That doesn’t mean you go through life bullshitting your way through and pretending to be something you’re not. It’s a matter of relaxing and feeling comfortable in a situation and realizing that not everyone knows your limitations and your strengths when you’re in a room together. Don’t get intimidated.

The Orion: What’s one of your favorite memories from Chico State?

Bongiovanni: I still have a scar on my leg from running into a stake when I was a manic trying to get ready for a show. That was fun. I look at that scar on my leg and I’m like ‘yeah, I remember that.’

The Orion: What’s next for your career?

Bongiovanni: I don’t know. I’ve been doing this for over thirty years so I’m easing my way into semi-retirement. Whatever chapter three is, I don’t know yet.

The Orion: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Bongiovanni: I loved going to shcool here and students should appreciate it while they’re here because it only gets crazier once you graduate. Enjoy your time here.

To see a recap of his full public Q&A; session, watch the video at

Sharon Martin

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