Elevating the Entertainment Industry

Paul Thornton (San Diego ’88) on Sigma Pi Experiences and Concert Promotion
Alex Beaven (Pennington & Company), contributing writer

From undergraduate officer positions to organizing music festivals, Paul Thornton (San Diego ’88) continues to build upon his leadership experiences. Today, Paul proudly retains his Sigma Pi bonds while running a production company that hosts Wonderfront Festival in San Diego.

A Fraternal Footing

“I was lucky to be a part of the top Fraternity at USD,” Paul said. He decided to join Sigma Pi after great first impressions with chapter members who went out of their way to foster connections with new members and prioritize genuine friendships.

Greek Week competitions and other Fraternity events compelled Paul to get more involved with his chapter, leading to service as pledge class president, social chairman, and sergeant-at-arms. Planning Sigma Pi events as social chairman helped him develop crucial time and resource management skills that laid the foundation for Paul’s career in entertainment event promotion.

Paul has fond memories from his Sigma Pi days at USD and, later, at Cal State Fullerton. He recalls various road trips with his brothers to places like Lake Havasu, San Felipe, Las Vegas, and Palm Springs.

“One trip to San Felipe, we drove an RV with about 12 members on board; the driver made a wrong turn and took us five hours the wrong way. We were having so much fun we didn’t notice until we were across the Baja and had to turn around.”

Paul still smiles about the days of renting “the south house” with six Sigma Pi roommates and getting to know various brothers through nightly barbecues and mini-basketball games. Though the guests differed, Paul’s fraternal bonds continued to strengthen.

Marketing Ventures

As social chairman, Paul was approached by group travel companies promoting trips to Sigma Pi members. Paul initially declined a job offer from the owner of one company, though his persistence led to Paul joining and shaping the company’s marketing strategy.

“He asked what I would do differently to help them grow. I told him I would charge more than the other companies, budgeting to build our own concert venue on the beach in Mexico and run our own bars. I’d bring in great entertainment to perform, but only people on our trips could get into our concerts. He went for it, and we crushed it.”

Paul’s marketing brilliance helped his company move from fifth to second in the college trip market share, later merging with the top company. As the head of entertainment, Paul began personally working with music artists’ agents to schedule shows in various locations.

“It expanded from there and grew into my own business,” Paul said. He founded Bravo Entertainment in 1995, later moving the company to Boise, where Bravo became the exclusive promoter for concerts at various venues in the city. “We kept expanding into other cities and states. Within a decade, we were promoting more than 800 shows across 19 states annually, had our own chain of venues, and had more than 200 employees.”

San Diego in the Spotlight

Paul founded TAG Presents in 2007, a production company that organizes nationally recognized entertainment events across the country. Experience with various high-profile events led to Paul’s company negotiating with the Port of San Diego to create a unique venue for Wonderfront Festival in 2019.

“There wasn’t a great music festival in San Diego, so I decided I wanted to start one there,” Paul added. Prioritizing the spirit of the city, Paul and his company had a great first year of the festival before facing cancellations in 2020 and 2021. “It was like starting over again two years later.”

Though rebuilding for 2022 was a challenge, Wonderfront Festival excelled with performances from Zac Brown Band, Cage the Elephant, Gwen Stefani, and more. The city of San Diego approved a move to mid-May to promote festival growth, with the next Wonderfront scheduled for May 10-12, 2024.

Wonderfront Festival will host more than 80 artists in 2024, a testament to the event’s growth and prominence in the city. The lineup includes performances by Beck, Weezer, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Roots, and various emerging and established talents. “Tickets are selling well, and we are excited for this to really be our breakout year.”

TAG Presents has faced challenges from COVID cancellations to marketing and venue issues, but Paul’s leadership development through Sigma Pi prepared him for any obstacles in his path. Entertainment production is stressful, and Paul encourages interested undergraduates to prepare for a constantly demanding industry. “You must stay calm and go into your creative problem-solving zone. I learned I enjoy it; I seem to almost get calmer and enjoy the challenge.”

Throughout his career, Paul has promoted remarkable performances like Kanye West at the X Games, Sting and Aerosmith at Formula 1, concerts for Eric Clapton, The Eagles, and many more. Paul looks forward to seeing how this year’s Wonderfront talent can top previous concerts by Young the Giant, Lainey Wilson, and others who have shared the festival stage.

Personal Connections

Paul has enjoyed reconnecting with Sigma Pi alumni like big brother Bobby Thurston (Fullerton ’87) in recent years through gatherings and dinner parties, and he encourages today’s undergraduates to prioritize the bonds they build in college. “College is an experience you will never get again—you can’t replicate or replace it. Relish every moment of it.”

Paul met his wife, Sondra, as a Fraternity little sister in college. They reconnected and began dating years later, and they now have three adult children and one granddaughter. The Thornton family enjoys international travel and soccer along with skiing in the winter.

Paul and Sondra are planning family trips to Ireland to visit their daughter in graduate school in Dublin, and Paul has been exploring the sport of Padel with his middle son. You can connect with Paul at paul@tagpresents.com.


Join Paul in San Diego
Paul welcomes Sigma Pi alumni to join him at Wonderfront Festival this year with special discount codes for brothers to use at wonderfrontfestival.com:
SIGMAPI-1DAY – $99 on any single day ticket
SIGMAPI-3DAY – $275 on a three-day weekend pass