Jeff Michael brought a few of his million-dollar entertainer coaches to a recent event in Nashville. One of Michael’s friendly competitors Kylee Ervin, owner of Diamond Coach, put this deal together and came to the event with him. It was the right venue to grab the ear of artists and politicians in attendance. One was Ervin’s neighbor and longtime friend Kid Rock.
“He came and hung out with us and sat on our bus, and after hearing us talk to politicians and everyone that walked in, he started asking questions,” said Michael, owner of Celebrity Coaches in the Nashville area. “He said, ‘Hey, how can I help?’”
Kid Rock’s help came in the form of using his star power to highlight the plight of the motorcoach industry and its need for a federal bailout.
Asking fans for help
In a Facebook post that went up Friday evening, the Michigan rocker asked his fans to take a few minutes to click on the United Motorcoach Association’s link to send letters to their U.S. senators and representatives, asking them to support the CERTS Act.
Over the weekend, support from prominent entertainers like Lee Brice, Kid Rock, Tyler Farr and Colt Ford drove interest in the industry’s campaign for the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act. Hundreds of people sent in letters through the UMA link.
In his message, Kid Rock describes the motorcoach industry as “very close to my heart” and noted that, without coaches, he and other entertainers wouldn’t be able to show up in “your towns to rock your socks off!” More than 24,000 of his nearly 6 million followers liked the post, 2,000 made comments and 2,700 shared his message.
A crucial time
The support of Kid Rock and other entertainers for the CERTS Act comes at a crucial time as the industry rallies elected leaders in Washington to approve $10 billion in economic relief for over-the-road buses, including the private motorcoach, tour and charter industry.
“I think it kind of opened his eyes to the fact that the bus industry is really taking a big hit,” Michael said. “Our buses are set up for entertainer coaches and built for touring. We can’t retrofit these buses to accommodate another industry, so we depend on touring. That’s about the only thing we can generate income from and, since there is no touring, we’re all shut down.”
As a member of the Tennessee Motorcoach Association, Michael is working with other operators who specialize in entertainer coaches to rally support from their clients.
Ryan Kelly, of Terrapin Blue, has come on board to collect videos of musicians who are asking their fans to support the industry.
“I’ve reached out to several of my artists,” said Michael, adding he is working with his friendly competitors, who are doing the same to help the industry. “We’ve all kind of bonded together. We feel like we have a lot of star power in our industry, and we want to see if these guys would be willing to help get our message out. They were all more than willing to do that.”
Along with Ervin, other operators working on this project include Joey and Trent Hemphill of Hemphill Brothers Coach Co., and Doug Oliver of Pioneer Coach.
“We’re just trying to get the message out about how bad our industry is right now,” said Michael, who feels like the group has made headway in the past few weeks. “Several of our artists who ride on our buses have said they would support us by posting a message on social media or doing a video for us.”
So far, the group has collected or has commitments for about a dozen videos. Artists include Brice, Farr, Ford, Brantley Gilbert, Bret Michaels, and Justin Moore.
Michael started Celebrity Coaches in 2005, and now has 50 coaches he leases to clients, who are some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. But business has come to a screeching halt since mid-March and put the livelihoods of his 110 employees in jeopardy.
He started a promotion of leasing out some of his sitting vehicles for family vacations and golf trips, but it hasn’t come close to making up for the loss of the touring business.
“Our income is down 98% from last year. We’ve lost over $8 million a year to date,” Michael said.