As entertainment’s touring schedule continues its pre-COVID-era resurgence, the need for touring buses has reached a shortage.
This has precipitated a significant shakeup in the lucrative world of leasing fleets of touring entertainment coach buses.
On Sept. 5, 2023, two of many companies servicing the entertainment sector will merge operations as Nashville’s Encore Luxury Coach Leasing will acquire Tim Conner’s four-decade-old Whites Creek, Tennessee-based Nitetrain Coach Company.
No financial details of the deal have been disclosed.
The acquisition agreement now places 145 total buses under Encore’s primary supervision.
Artists and entertainers Encore support include World Wrestling Entertainment, plus country stars Alabama, Russell Dickerson, Ashley McBryde, Kip Moore, Joe Nichols, Thomas Rhett, Hank Williams, Jr., Bailey Zimmerman and popular acts from a myriad of other genres, including Nickelback, Bare Naked Ladies, Lauren Daigle, Ben Harper, Natalie Grant, Cheap Trick, Barry Manilow, Beck, Phish, Billy Strings, Big Time Rush, Blink 182 and Joan Jett.
Via the new partnership, they will benefit from the following:
Encore will now have leasing offices with attached maintenance facilities in Nashville and Phoenix equal to 85,000 square feet with 25 on-site technicians. Moreover, a North Carolina-based conversion group operation will continue to build custom coach bus interiors for the company’s clientele.
“The touring industry went through a crazy time during COVID,” leaving many artists not knowing what would happen when everything returned. As touring is back to full scale, we see a significant shortage of tour buses to transport these artists to and from their concerts. We have a supply and demand issue,” says Encore CEO Justin Ward.
“This expansion can bridge only so much of the gap in the touring industry. However, the supply and demand issue still exists. We can only solve so much of the problem.”
Encore’s president, Amanda Stophel, brings over two decades of executive professional experience in the tour bus maintenance and home improvement industries to the new partnership.
Both with Lowe’s Home Improvement in her work as the director and president of Charlotte-based Service Pros Installation Group, plus for the past two years developing Encore’s custom “luxury” entertainer coaches, she cites her desire to evolve her “innovative business infrastructures” to the Encore-Nitetrain partnership.
“[Nitetrain’s] Tim Conner is a statesman in our industry,” says Ward to The Tennessean.
“Carrying [Conner’s] legacy into the next generation and having him on-board to shepherd this transition is important. However, consolidation and scaling operations for ease and speed of significant, more frequent leasing needs will be a part of the touring coach industry moving forward, though,” Ward adds.
Concert tours are lucrative — and potentially more lucrative — than ever
According to Pollstar, COVID-19 halted an expected unprecedented surge in the live event industry.
Revenues were expected to surge to over $12 billion in scheduled event income alone, with $30 billion more arriving from “unreported events and ancillary revenues, including sponsorships, ticketing, concessions, merch, transportation, restaurants, hotels, and other economic activity tied to the live events.”
2022 saw a revival trending back to expectations.
Pollstar-reported 2022 touring revenue for scheduled events reached nearly $6.3 billion — almost 20 percent greater than industry expectations.
Touring expectations for 2023 are set at roughly $8 billion — Taylor Swift alone could be responsible for $2 billion.
“We’re in a relentless industry where anxious artists and fans want live concert experiences more than ever,” says Ward.
Ward cites that Prevost, the leading North American manufacturer of entertainment coaches, does not oversaturate the marketplace with new buses yearly. Thus, older-than-usual vehicles are currently servicing the touring industry’s resurgence. However, expected capital growth allows for acquisitions like Encore’s of Nitetrain to solve those issues.
“We’re in the business of providing our units with quality drivers and preventing failures in our fleets,” Ward continues. “Enhancing our service capabilities by increasing the level of sophistication in our staff is one of the greatest benefits of this [acquisition].”
Increased logistics require enhanced services
Ward notes that the logistics of servicing an industry creating stars via the digital era and streaming causes is “difficult” and causes unique issues. Hastening the pipeline for an artist evolving from an act that’s not touring to one that requires a fleet of tour buses for dates at amphitheaters, arenas and stadiums stresses the availability of touring coaches.
The eras of acts grow from conversion vans to sprinter vehicles to the point of being “bus ready” is antiquated.
For Ward, he’s watched acts like Bailey Zimmerman and forthcoming arena and stadium headliners like Zach Bryan live their entire lives as mainstream artists on entertainment coaches.
Given that this trend will continue, Encore is already busily negotiating touring contracts through 2024.
Ward’s ready for the challenge.
“Executing the volume of the forthcoming year’s touring schedule will be a massive undertaking that will require an unprecedented understanding of logistics — and we can now more than adequately service that need.”