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Meet Jonathan Avila of Groove International/ Sound The Groove

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Avila.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jonathan. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Groove International was birthed, like many ideas, in a coffee shop in Southern California. I didn’t have a home or a car at the time; and when I did have a car, I was often sleeping in it. But I had an idea, and I knew that I wanted to work in live concerts. The idea was more of a realization. That the live-concert industry, particularly for up-and-coming musicians, was a dreadful industry to be a part of.

Musicians would have to fight tooth and nail to get shows, and even when they obtained them, they would commonly have to deal with an unprofessional experience. I heard countless stories of promoters disappearing with money, bookers not showing up to events, shows falling hours behind schedule, small-headliners not showing up, promises not being kept. Even as a former artist myself, I personally experienced many of these situations. And I couldn’t help but think… If this is an industry where you are literally dealing with someone’s dreams, it should be much more professional than that.

And that was the idea that was Groove. To build a professional outlet for musicians to book shows, without having to deal with the stereotypical “shady” promoter. Artists need a professional experience when performing in events, and Groove set out to do that.

I’m proud to say that Groove International has grown substantially since then. We work all throughout Southern California, with Live Nation, House of Blues San Diego, House of Blues Anaheim, The Music Box, Hard Rock San Diego, The Federal of North Hollywood and Long Beach, Harvelle’s Nightclubs, the list goes on.. I’m also excited to say that we have officially begun booking shows in New York as well! San Diego will always be our home, but it’s exciting to see how much this company has grown since it was conceived in that coffee shop so long ago.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Starting the company was not a breeze. We had zero start-up capital and I was literally starting without a consistent home or car. I was riding the train and public transit to most of our events (if not carpooling with staff), and oddly enough, an Amtrak ticket across southern California will cost you more than gas will. I even got robbed at a train station at one point right here in San Diego! Though there are plenty of fun (and not so fun) stories to tell, it wasn’t hard to stay the course. We (my staff and I) all knew the idea was solid.

Please tell us about Groove International/ Sound The Groove.
Groove International is most well-known for our party-rock events, where we combine the best of the live-concert world and fuse it with the Hollywood-nightlife world. These events actually came into existence right here in San Diego, when we decided to throw a show the night before New Year’s Eve at House of Blues San Diego. We had multiple stages, live bands all night, DJs in between the bands, go-go dancers to dance in between the bands to keep the crowd entertained, photographers, hosts… We even dumped a bunch of beach balls into the audience half-way through the event. The idea was to take a normal rock concert with phenomenal artists and turn the place into Vegas for a night. The event was a complete success and we packed the house! We even had trouble getting into our own show at one point.

Since then, we’ve thrown countless shows like this. Superheroes vs Villains parties during Comic-Con, pirate-themed parties during Halloween, Pink Ribbon themed parties for breast cancer benefits, pretty much anything you can think of. In fact, the wildest one we did was right here in San Diego, where we did a toga-party and people still came out in full force even though it was pouring down rain. All of the events are based around live music, we just crank things up a notch. Or ten. We work with all genres of music, and not all of the events are of the part-rock vibe (though granted, it is what we are most well known for).

What I am proud of most is that we have created a professional outlet for musicians to book shows through. When you [an artist] works with Groove, a manager from our company meets you AT your show. They show you where to load in, they introduce you to your sound and lighting techs… Everyone, from the backline person to the very photographer that we hire to follow the bands around all night. We even round up all the artists well before doors and pass out beers and cheers as we open. Heck, the musicians even get a welcome letter to the company when they first work with us. Because that’s how it should be. A professional setting where you’re dealing with musicians’ dreams.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
The idea was always genuine, but like any business, you’re constantly fine-tuning the system. If I could go back and apply everything I know now to when we first started 8 years ago? Sure. But I’m sure I’d say the same thing 8 years from now. Everything is an experience. Even the failures. Without failure, you can’t learn what you need to change to succeed.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ana Becerra, Mark Matcho, David Brand

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

9 Comments

  1. Franny

    February 22, 2018 at 11:47 pm

    Awwww Yaaaa!!!
    Jon Avila has such incredible energy and his events are always such a blast! I’ve had the honor of Gogo dancing at his shows and at the end of the night, it’s not my feet that hurt- it’s my face from smiling ear to ear all night long. It’s truly rare to find this type of person who is so open hearted, caring and supportive of every single person they meet regardless of how crazy everything gets on the busiest of nights! Rock on, buddy. This is just the beginning. 🤘🏼🔉💓

  2. Greg Adams

    February 23, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    I tell y’all what, I was with Jon in the very very beginning stages in this amazing company. I gave him rides to shows, a place to crash, and eventually was managing shows by myself with his full confidence. Groove International is hands down the party to be at on the weekends! We through some hellacious parties while I worked for him that’s for sure. I hope that one day he can open a Groove Chapter here in good ole Kentucky so I can be back on the team again. Groove rocks, Jon rocks even harder. If you haven’t gone to a Groove show, you need to, you’re missing out on a great time in this short life we live! Love you Jon and all my Groovinites!!!
    Stage Manager,
    Greg Adams

  3. Eric Schink

    April 27, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Bands should refuse to play through Groove International. Bands deserve to get paid. Or even if they play for free, they should never have to pay people like Groove International to play (in the case they were unable to hand-sell 30 tickets to their friends/fans as GI requires bands to do). Meeting up with friends/fans to sell 30 tickets takes lots of time and is hard work. And at the 30 ticket point, the band makes nothing. If bands refuse, then people like GI won’t get away with it. They make money, right? So bands should also make money.

    • Mark

      May 18, 2018 at 8:30 pm

      I am going to play devil’s advocate here, Eric.
      I am a local performing musician involved in multiple projects. I ***HATE*** the idea of “pay to play”. However, if you can’t guarantee that 30 fans/friends are going to show up to a 600+ seat venue, you are probably not the caliber of act that should be performing there.
      2) My main money-making band recently turned down G.I.’s “generous offer” to grace their stage by pre-selling 30 tickets, as have at least two others that I know of.

      Don’t hate the player, hate the game….or the losers who keep playing….

    • James Lewis

      May 19, 2018 at 2:27 am

      I get what your saying but don’t they give you double the amount of tickets to make your own profit from ? If you have a fan base selling 60 tickets would put you over $300 ? I believe most big venues have contracts to make sure they can pay the venue , if they can’t pay someplace like the house of blues how are you gonna get seen ! I think a lot of bands that haven’t played many venues would have this mentality! If you want free shows play at the local bars !! There free and some pay ! But for serious bands that have a fan base someplace like the house of Blues there are contracts and business deals ! It’s just next level shit !

  4. James Lewis

    May 19, 2018 at 2:32 am

    As for Jon Avila and sound the groove they have taken my tiny band to places I’ll never believe if I wasn’t there ! The fun we’ve had over the years is never ending!! The wild party’s with d j’s bands and just a overall freak show is we’re my heart lies beating !!! I can’t wait for more adventures with sound the groove !! They have become family over the years !!! Thank you for all your support and love you’ve shown !!! Hurt and the Heartbeat loves ya !!

  5. Heartbeat Dupree

    May 19, 2018 at 4:10 am

    I’ve worked with Jon a lot the past couple years and love every time I get on stage at his events! Always able to work with the musicians and it’s always a fun time. Love the company and the opportunity to play bigger venues thanks to GI!

  6. Joe Finley

    May 19, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    The Swansons love working with Jon and his staff!! We have had nothing but the best experiences working with Grove! Looking forward to our next event!!
    Thanks guys!!

  7. Craig the Haunting

    May 19, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    John is the man. I work with a ton of promoters in the industry and honestly John and the people at sound the groove get it. Stage managers, actual sound guys, go go dancers, you name it.

    It’s one of the rare shows that everyone actually sticks around for other bands besides the one they came for, and other bands actually support other bands on the bill, and that’s 100% John and his energy.

    We’ve played one show with John and the dude just gets it. Looking forward to more.

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