The Business of Show Business
The white letters of the Hollywood Sign are framed in Rick Johnson’s office window, along with a city street lined with palm trees. Down one block is the Jimmy Kimmel Live! headquarters, where Johnson once hoisted his nine-year-old daughter atop his shoulders to watch a free Taylor Swift concert hosted by the studio. As a vice president and general manager at Ticketmaster, Johnson thrives as he lives and works among the vibrant live-entertainment industry at the heart of Los Angeles.
“I love the industry. I love working with sports teams and concert promoters and Broadway theaters—the whole gamut of live entertainment,” Johnson says. “I like being in the middle of the action, and there’s a lot going on here in LA.”
A proud Marriott School alum, Johnson is grateful for the doors opened to him. He earned a BS in accounting and a MAcc in 2000, landing two internships at PwC in New York City as a student. “We had a ton of attention from the big accounting firms,” he says. “Just the fact that I was able to get access to PwC in New York from a school in Utah was great.”
Johnson worked in the transaction services group at PwC for eight years, living in both New York City and Sydney, Australia, before working as a strategy consultant in McKinsey’s Cleveland office for two years. Work had him traveling about 80 percent of the time, which Johnson enjoyed, but with a young family he decided to look for something that kept him at home more.
Looking west to his wife’s sunny hometown in Southern California, he soon landed a position with Live Nation, the only Fortune 500 company based in Beverly Hills, which had just merged with Ticketmaster. His first project was to lead out in negotiating a joint venture to develop a dynamic ticket-pricing tool.
“We had to build the product from nothing, working with people who weren’t super familiar with the live-entertainment industry,” Johnson explains. “We brought in several Ticketmaster clients to give us feedback about what they would want in this product. It ended up taking most of my time.” A year later the product, Price Master, was ready. Johnson found he had carved a new position for himself: he was asked to be the general manager of the joint venture. He’s been with the company now for five years, managing Price Master and pitching it to clients. He still gets to travel, though significantly less—and his trips involve more time in stadiums than conference rooms.
Johnson and his wife, Misty, have three children, who are excited that their dad got the family great seats for a Disney on Ice performance of Frozen. Johnson enjoys attending concerts and sporting events, especially basketball—his favorite team is the Kansas Jayhawks. Johnson also loves eating out in LA and finding great international cuisine: “I don’t mind driving an hour downtown to get great Chinese food.”