Company: Fleming Artists
Year started: 1979
Offices: Nashville, Tenn., Melbourne, Australia
Headquarters: Ann Arbor, MI
Activity: Represents performing artists with an individualized approach to concert booking
Annual Revenue: $7.5 million to $10 million
Attended: Michigan State University
Degree: M.A., Education, 1975
Company website: flemingartists.com
Nothing about Jim Fleming’s entrepreneurial path was predictable, and only in retrospect seems to have had a linear path. Raised in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio, Jim wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he grew up, but knew he had a knack for making things happen, particularly in organizing people and activities.
He pursued higher education, eventually earning a master’s of education degree in university personnel from Michigan State University in 1974. He worked as a successful senior administrator in student activities at MSU and Chicago State University during a particularly contentious time on college campuses. This time of social upheaval left an indelible mark on Jim that influences the way he and his colleagues conduct business today.
In an unusual move, Jim left his position as acting vice president of student affairs at Chicago State University when a classmate from MSU offered him an opportunity to establish a performance theater in Michigan. Jim had worked with performance artists as part of his programming duties in student affairs, and he had liked the impact it had on students and artists. The decision led to a career working with musical talent as a producer, booking agent, and advocate.
In 1979, Jim founded Fleming Artists, which has grown into an international booking agency headquartered in Ann Arbor, through Jim’s gift for recognizing talent, organizational skills, and passion for artists. Fleming Artists now books 3,500 shows a year for 80 musicians, including world-renowned artists such as Ani DiFranco, Jeff Daniels, and Judy Collins, and up-and-coming artists such as Delta Rae, Kris Allen (American Idol winner), and Crystal Bowersox (American Idol runner-up).
Founding a music business in Michigan was a no-brainer for Jim—to do his best work, this midwesterner needs to be located where he is most happy. His global company contributes to the regional economies in which it operates as well as the cultural communities through promotion of local talent. Jim’s involvement locally helps to support the preservation and promotion of regional arts and cultural assets that have been vital to the Ann Arbor community.
Photo credit: Doug Coombe