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Obi Asika, John Meglen, Tara Richardson and Herman Schueremans discuss everything from dynamic pricing to redistributing wealth
By Gordon Masson on 01 Mar 2023
ILMC 35 kicked off with the traditional Open Forum session with this year’s host, Maria May from CAA, addressing a swathe of issues, while looking back on a monumental year for live music around the world.
May noted various statistics about the growth of the business in 2022, including the fact that ticket prices for Pollstar’s top 100 tours had increased by more than 10%, before posing a question to her guests about whether those biggest-selling productions should be doing anything to support the grassroots side of the business.
Obi Asika from United Talent Agency noted that the year ahead was looking like it would be the strongest he has ever had, reporting that his dance music and afrobeat acts were doing great business. And answering a question about the stadium business harming grassroots, he stated, “I’m more worried about the stadium effect on festivals. But I don’t see it as an issue; it’s just different.”
“We have to be brave and inclusive if we want to have new headliners”
When it comes to helping grassroots acts, he added, “We have to be brave and inclusive if we want to have new headliners.”
Q Prime Management’s Tara Richardson contested: “There’s a whole generation of ticket buyers who have skipped [going to] sweaty clubs because they have been stuck indoors during the pandemic.”
But she agreed that perhaps stadiums could support grassroots venues through sponsorship or some other system. “The record labels and publishers develop talent, but the live side seems to be the only part that does not throw money back toward grassroots,” she observed.
Addressing the issue of spiralling costs, Herman Schueremans of Live Nation Belgium admitted that most people in the business had not expected such big rises. “The bottom line is that it’s a thing of give and take – listen to each other and be nicer to each other,” Schueremans pleaded. Looking back at 2022, he reported, “By respecting people and paying part [of the money] in advance and the balance the day after show, it worked really well.
“You cannot avoid rising costs – you have to live with it and deal with it. It might mean we have to work harder but earn less. Making a profit is important, but it’s not the most important.”
“The live side seems to be the only part that does not throw money back toward grassroots”
On a related note, talking about all the various challenges that the live sector is facing, Asika pointed to the example of some of his African artists who have had all kinds of obstacles to overcome to establish careers outside of their own countries. “However complex it is, we can figure it out,” he said. “There are enough ideas and enough good people to figure it out – it’s part of the fun.”
Tackling the controversial topic of dynamic pricing, John Meglen from Concerts West noted, “Most shows do not sell out, but at the very high end it’s a very simple supply and demand issue [and] dynamic pricing is a business decision. If you sell a ticket for $100 but then watch it be resold for $500, the artist should be receiving that money, not the tout.”
Meglen suggested that blaming the ticketing system for any issues was a cop-out. “It’s up to us to set those business rules – we cannot be blaming the ticketing systems, he said. “We have an issue of pricing, and we have a resale issue. We need to make sure that the money [remains] in our business. If we’re getting market value for our tickets, the artists are going to earn more and it’s not someone outside business making the money.”
Q Prime’s Richardson drew comparisons with the price of theatre tickets when it comes to tour pricing, but also had a pragmatic idea on how the teams involved in tour planning could better handle the subject. “Maybe there needs to be a middle ground where we involve tour accountants before we route – and we have a plan A, plan B, and plan C for the tour and the production, depending on the ticket price.”
“We have an issue of pricing, and we have a resale issue”
The session also looked at how the live music industry can attract a more diverse workforce, with the speakers agreeing that more needs to be done – from the top of the business downwards – to make true and meaningful progress.
Engaging in a debate regarding the environmental impact of the live music sector, Schueremans revealed, “At Rock Werchter 2022 we recycled or recouped 95% of our plastic. It was a hell of a challenge, but we did it and we should not just be doing it as festivals, we need to do it at all shows.”
However, Richardson concluded that rather than beat up the festivals and tours, “We’d be better off having a huge industry lobby to do something about the six big companies who are contributing most to carbon emissions.”
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