Ticket broker Nick Giammusso attended his first rock concert at age 14. When he was 16, he began studying entertainment contracts. By age 18 he was picking the brains of touring performers.
The son of Italian immigrants, Giammusso, 43, today operates VIP Seats, a ticket company in Williamsville that he started in 1993 with his sister Della Giammusso. Nick Giammusso sells tickets for sporting events, concerts and theater to customers across the country. When he tells people what he does for a living, he expects a lot of questions.
He gets them.
>People Talk: What was your first concert?
Nick Giammusso: Journey at the Aud. I met Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson when I was 8 or 9 years old. My godparents were Irwin and Monique Pate, concert promoters from the '70s and '80s. They never had kids, so I was kind of their kid. They would take me to shows and give me odd jobs to do, like hand out those old concert posters.
>PT: And you were good at it.
NG: I'm a people person. I enjoy getting to know people. I was fortunate to be around the concert business as a kid. I would sit with Garth Brooks or Neil Diamond and ask them how they got to where they were. I think everybody has a story.
>PT: What ticket would you be willing to wait in line for?
NG: U2. I'm a big Sabres fan, too. I'm a Buffalo guy who grew up with the Sabres at the Aud. We used to run the box office at the Aud, and when it closed people still were calling me for tickets. That's how we got started.
>PT: What was it like when you opened your own company?
NG: The Wild Wild West. It was frowned upon to be a ticket broker. Only recently when they saw there was so much money in the business did big companies come around. The Sabres resell their own tickets now, Ticketmaster, too. We were here 10 years before StubHub.
>PT: Has eBay been a friend to you?
NG: It's so difficult selling on eBay. We've tried. We don't need eBay anymore. We have so many other channels. We consider eBay like a Craigslist.
>PT: You must attend many events.
NG: No. I just don't have time. I'm running a business. I have tickets for everything, and it's just hard for me to get away. If I do go -- and I don't go a lot -- I'll get good seats.
>PT: How do you get your tickets?
NG: We have season tickets all over the place. Just for hockey, we own season tickets for Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers. I could go on and on.
>PT: Did you ever sell tickets on the street?
NG: We never worked the street. My friends call me a scalper with an office. A third of our business is actually purchasing tickets, so we spend a lot of money on tickets that should be valuable. We belong to fan clubs for concerts. We buy seats from clients. It's like buying real estate. We're predicting what will be in demand in the future.
>PT: And if you're wrong?
NG: We have drawers full of tickets that we got stuck with. We're dealing with tickets that have an expiration date -- like food. After the show, they're worthless.
>PT: Why don't you throw them out?
NG: Tax purposes. And when kids come in the office, I'll give them sports tickets.
>PT: What has been your costliest mistake?
NG: Janet Jackson tickets. We purchased 100 right before her concert, around Easter. I think we got stuck with 96 seats. I ended up driving down to Perry Street and handing them out to all the kids.
>PT: How often do you donate tickets like that?
NG: A lot. We do Boys & Girls Club, inner-city football teams.
>PT: What's a hot ticket these days?
NG: Out of the millions of things we do, the Buffalo Sabres. Garth Brooks' country shows are phenomenal. We do bus packages to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Syracuse -- 10 to 15 buses for each show. Country shows have great energy.
>PT: How often do you see your customers?
NG: It depends. I've got clients who come in the door once a month. Others I see once a year. Some people like the U.S. Open. Most of our business is done online, but it's all about relationships.
>PT: You are easygoing.
NG: It drives my wife crazy that I'm so mellow. It drives my employees crazy. Nothing really rattles me.
>PT: Bad drivers?
NG: I'm not a honker.