BCBUSINESS 30 UNDER 30
Our 30 Under 30 celebrates B.C.'s young guns who excel in their respective industries, give back to their community and planet and who will lead business in this province for years to come. Each year, winners of our 30 Under 30 will be featured in the April issue of BCBusiness and on BCBusiness.ca, with one exceptionally amazing young world-changer gracing that issue's cover.
Billie Jo Aasen, 29Owner and President
COMPANY: 542 Entertainment Inc.
The Story: Born in the small Okanagan town of Keremeos, Billie Jo Aasen grew up listening to country. Her father, a trucker, had a taste for “all the cool stuff”—AC/DC, Pink Floyd and Creedence Clearwater Revival—while her mother was more of a purist, favouring Tim McGraw and Dolly Parton. Although Aasen herself had a voice, a musical career seemed unimaginable. “When you grow up in a small town, it’s not always easy to believe that someone will build a career out of something like that.” Eventually her ambitions migrated backstage. And it was at the now-defunct Merritt Mountain Music Festival that her business instincts kicked in. After five years of volunteering, in 2012 Aasen was offered the chance to take up a management role at the Merritt; when the festival shuttered, she took the lessons learned there and applied them to a small festival called 542, which she founded, just outside of Bellingham, Wa. That festival (named after the highway running east out of Bellingham) turned out to be a smashing success—so much so that 542 Entertainment is now the name of her business, which has expanded to included buying and managing talent for country music festivals across North America, including the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rascal Flatts and Lee Brice. While based in Vancouver, Aasen has done work for festivals such as Eastbound Hoedown in Newfoundland, the Extreme Mudfest in Bonnyville, Alta., and the Dawson Creek Stampede. “Instead of just buying an artist, marking a contract and sending an invoice, we’ll do all that and advance your entire show, fly in and run the back of house so that the producer can focus on the event itself, not what’s going on behind the stage.” It’s a model, she says, that is unique in Canada.
Markers of Success: Aasen spends three to four months a year in Nashville researching and buying acts for 542 Entertainment—which, with two full-time employees and a dozen contract employees, made $200,000 in 2015. Aasen’s bookings sold 75,000 event tickets last year. PHOTO: ADAM BLASBERG