Man Who Helped Change Concert Promotion in Canada Has Died

Chances are if you’re of a certain age, you remembered a concert billed as “a CPI Production.”  Concert Productions International was created by Bill Ballard (son of Harold, owner of the Maple Leafs and Maple Leaf Gardens) and Michael Cohl.

With Bill’s access to his dad’s venue and money and with Cohl working as the face of the company, CPI was established in 1973 and grew into a concert promotion powerhouse.  It got to the point where the majority of shows in Toronto were CPI productions.

And through networking with other companies across the country–Donald K. Donald in Montreal, Perryscope on the west coast and a few smaller players in between–CPI helped usher in an era of big-time touring across Canada. In Toronto, it had exclusive access to Maple Leaf Gardens, arguably the most important concert venue in the country. In the 90s, the company got their tentacles deep into the Skydome at the CNE Grandstand.

CPI successfully promoted tours by Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones (the famous Steel Wheels tour) and David Bowie and expanded its network of holdings into the US, producing up to a thousand shows a year.

In 1995, there was a shakeup and consolidation in the Canadian concert promotion business.  CPI was renamed The Next Adventure  and continue to focus on global project, including U2’s PopMart tour.  A few years later, the company was bought by SFX Entertainment which was then swallowed up by Clear Channel, which then ended up becoming Live Nation.

Bill Ballard cashed out long before this happened and went on to co-found Canada’s Walk of Fame.  Working as a lawyer, he served on the boards of several companies both in Canada and in Europe.

Bill died this week at the age of 67.  He’d been battling cancer for the past few months.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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