Oak View Group co-founder Tim Leiweke, Garth Brooks, Ticketmaster CEO Jared Smith and Bridgestone Arena’s David Kells at the 2018 Pollstar Live! conference. (Waterproof Pictures)
When Pollstar Live! 2019 convenes Feb. 11-13 at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., plenty of topics in the live performance industry will be up for discussion, among them touring, ticketing and adjusting to a marketplace that never stops evolving. We spoke to three expert panel members for a taste of the insights they’ll be adding to the conversation.
Senior Adviser, TPG Growth
Panel: Challenges Faced In Global Ticketing
What is global ticketing’s biggest challenge currently?
Lack of uniformity. In the U.S., you can tour independently and be confident that at least a certain number of venues are going to be Ticketmaster venues, some are going to be AXS venues. By and large there’s a commonality, even if you go to Ticketfly or Etix or wherever — how you do at box offices, how settlements occur, how audits are reported. In some markets, in say Western Europe or Australia, you might have things very similar to how they operate in the U.S. But in most other parts of the world, you’ve got a lot of homegrown ticketing companies and ticketing systems.
What do you see as global ticketing’s biggest opportunity currently?
Everybody is starting to take cues from what artists appear to like to be doing in the States or maybe Western Europe. It used to be fan club presales, now oftentimes it’s VIP programs, it’s dynamic pricing, it’s a number of things that clearly the U.S. always tends to lead on.
Blockchain is a technology with such serious potential. Why do you think it hasn’t become the underlying standard in the industry?
Blockchain is a specific standard that isn’t necessarily necessary. Blockchain is attempting to ensure the provenance of an item that an end user — or anyone somewhere along the chain — ends up in control of, so that the provenance from the original issuer to whoever the holder is at any given time can be insured. That can be done in lots of ways beyond blockchain as the technology protocol. Is it a very good system for ensuring that provenance? Absolutely. Is it the only system that’s capable of insuring that provenance? Not at all.
As smartphones have become increasingly integrated with our daily lives, what’s your analysis of how mobile technology has impacted ticketing?
I think it’s actually impacted it faster outside the U.S. For instance, in India, people don’t use desktop internet. People interact with what we think is the web almost solely on mobile devices. That’s how people are consuming. It brings about certain challenges. What has happened is SMS ticketing, mobile barcodes, mobile access, as well as just the initial transactions and marketing that people learn about events from is almost solely done on mobile devices. The idea of sitting at a computer and transacting to buy tickets, in India and a lot of other countries, is just an anomaly.
Agent, Paradigm Talent Agency
Panel: Living In A Post-Warped World: What’s Next?
How did Warped Tour impact the careers of the artists you represent?
It impacted them immensely. I know a lot of bands that got started on Warped Tour. And then a lot of bands that felt they should do it every two to three years just to continue connecting with the young audience and make sure that they were relevant still. The Maine and Mayday Parade, who are two of my clients, are bands that always valued it to make them feel like they had the ears of the fresh 16-year-olds who were just starting to get into punk or emo. There was such a brand with the tour and so many kids that are die-hard Warped Tour attendees that don’t even necessarily care who’s playing, they’re just going to go because it’s a staple.
John O’Callaghan of The Maine performs during a stop by the Vans Warped Tour at Shoreline Amphitheater last year. (Getty Images)
How do you think Warped Tour’s absence will impact the careers of the bands who played it and the commercial viability of the genre of music it promoted?
If every band that would’ve done the Warped Tour tries to do their own tour that is going to be really hard, trying to divide the audience up into 20 different shows. If artists can figure out creative ways to package and do something that’s worth talking about and has an X-factor that makes those fans attracted to the show, I think it’ll be fine.
Do you think that traveling festivals have a future?
I think something comparable can and will arise. I don’t know if it gets to the same scale. I don’t know if it becomes 40 dates and seven or eight stages. But traveling festivals with that kind of music, yeah, I do. I also think there’s more and more artist-curated events.
Your client Jack Antonoff curates New Jersey’s Shadow of the City festival. Is the festival market gravitating toward those niche experiences?
I think they’re doing well and people like those kinds of festivals because the vision is honest and unique and speaks to something that people want to take part in. Whereas all the “big festivals” are homogenized just booking all the same talent. Ninety percent of the bill is artists that are also playing two or three other festivals, at a minimum. That’s a lower-tier fan on that. Whereas the artist-curated ones speak to something more specific. And the artists that do it right, I think there’s something special about them because the effort and the work comes through and I think fans realize that too.
CEO, Nederlander Concerts
Panel: ‘The Great Slump of ‘09’ – What We Learned 10 Years On (And How Do We Stop It From Happening Again?)
Can you speak to how the recession in 2008 and 2009 impacted the live music sphere?
It was a worldwide recession. It was really dramatic. You have to look to your local economy and how it affected your business. And it affected us dramatically in Los Angeles and Orange County and so forth. It was a big hit. In particular, the Greek Theatre probably had a few more cancellations in ’09 and ’10 as tours weren’t necessarily holding up on a cross-the-country basis. And even if we had a good day, if the tour’s not holding up, they may cancel the whole tour, which means even if we had a successful day, we would lose a show. We did some things to try to adjust. Ticket pricing and being careful and a whole host of things. But it was pretty dramatic. You felt lucky that you had enough staying power to move forward into the new year.
How did the 2009 downturn compare to other downturns you’ve seen in the concert industry over your career?
You could always see it and feel it in your ticket counts if there was an energy crisis, whether it be gasoline price or home air conditioning in the summer or heating in the winter, you could always see that there was some trending that seemed to correlate to some energy crisis or period of spikes and high gas prices or spikes or not enough supply or whatever for propane. Whatever elements of energy goes for heating and for the pocketbook, for the bill. Nobody escapes heating and power issues. Generally, I have seen economic questions come into play and dampen ticket sales. Without question. I’ve never personally experienced anything like 2009 and 2010. That was just unbelievable.
What developments did the industry institute to right the ship?
As companies and concert promoters face any troubling moment, it’s not that they overreact — I wouldn’t say people overreact — but they’re struggling to find some kind of magic solution, whether it’s discounting tickets or discounting several shows or discounting on a venue every show. A big company could discount across the board, across the country and do massive amounts of media impact to discounting tickets. That can have a good effect of a spike igniting the interest and it could have a negative effect otherwise.
For more on the Pollstar Live! 2019 conference, go to https://www.pollstar.live.