Eye on KELOLAND: Pepper expanding, adding flavor to local music scene


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A company based in downtown Sioux Falls is cracking the top 100 list for the best concert promoters in the world.

Pepper Entertainment has helped bands and musical artists sell thousands of tickets in the thirteen years it’s been in business.

One of the top country music stars in the world is coming to Sioux Falls one week from today.

“When Keith came up, it was perfectly routed. He’s playing two events around Sioux Falls the day before and the day after,” Pepper Entertainment President Jered Johnson said.

The stars aligned just right for Keith Urban to book a concert at the Sioux Empire Fair. One of the people connecting those dots for a living is Johnson with Pepper Entertainment.

“Having him back in the market, he technically hasn’t played a show here in a really long time. So the fact that we were able to do that and do it at the fair on the timeline that we were doing it, it was a no brainer for us,” Johnson said.

Johnson, a Lincoln High grad, started the company in his basement 13 years ago this week. Now he works out of this office in Shriver’s Square in downtown Sioux Falls.

“It’s been a good ride. This has always been a hobby of mine. I’ve always loved music and the fact that now I can work day to day in the music field, is crazy. It never feels like its work because it’s something I love to do,” Johnson said.

While the independent outfit promotes concerts, Johnson says the business has really morphed into a marketing agency that specializes in music.

It’s been working so well that Pepper is now ranked 89 in the world according to Pollstar.

“It’s great. There’s some big names on there. I like to see our name just keep dropping down on that list,” Matt Bump said.

Bump, a Pierre-native, is a talent buyer at Pepper. He met Johnson when the founder booked his band for a gig more than five years ago.

“The music industry here and the entertainment industry is expanding massively in Sioux Falls. There’s a weekend for everything here. Whether it be at the Pavilion, the Denny PREMIER, The District, all those places. There’s something going on all the time,” Bump said.

Johnson helped get The District, a concert venue by the Empire Mall, off the ground.

“In my opinion, it’s the best in the region. We’re able to bring shows in there that would not ordinarily play the market,” Johnson said.

When we were there, The District was getting ready for a Sister Hazel concert brought in by Pepper.

“Working with them is great, plus they’re bringing some awesome entertainment. Some unique entertainment. Some different things. Really providing an awesome music scene for Sioux Falls,” The District’s General Manager Shawn Larson said.

Larson says this space and Pepper Entertainment bring diversity to the music you can see in town.

“We saw Portugal. The Man just recently which is an indie rock group. Maybe a lot of people are fans of it but you might not be able to see them in the area. You might have to go to a festival or Minneapolis to see something like that,” Larson said.

While The District holds around 1,500 people, the Sanford Pentagon can hold a bit more. Pepper is now starting to bring concerts there like the one featuring Cody Johnson this October.

“One of the hottest country stars up and coming. He’s projected to be the next Luke Combs so to speak. Anyone that follows music should know what that means. We’re super excited to be able to do that at the Pentagon,” Johnson said.

All of this helps what ultimately ends up on stage at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center as well.

“They see how well that does and it opens the doors for more PREMIER Center shows or more shows at the fair or whatnot,” Johnson said.

Business relationships have taken Pepper outside of Sioux Falls as well. Only two-thirds of their concerts this year are in town. The rest are anywhere from California to New York.

“Our goal is always to focus on Sioux Falls but naturally through growth and partnerships, it has taken us coast to coast which is great,” Johnson said.

Pepper is also expanding its footprint into Minneapolis. It recently acquired Concert Marketing Solutions which will handle the day-to-day marketing strategies.

“We do production management. We do marketing. We do talent buying. We do client services where we go service an account. So it’s much more than just going to the concert and hanging out with the band, which we don’t do,” Johnson said.

It’s all about creating more opportunities for bands hoping to make some noise in Sioux Falls and what Johnson calls “super-serving” the fans.

“The emergence of the PREMIER Center and the Levitt and some of the other venues in town, the District. That just helps facilitate more entertainment. The market has been really strong here,” Johnson said.

Pepper is on pace for more than 150 concerts this year.

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