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Global Promoters Report: The change-makers

In this in-depth feature, we speak to promoters from around the world who are driving the evolution of the international live music business

By IQ on 13 Apr 2023

Summer Breeze is spearheading the United Festival Force

As the breadth of countries on international tour routing has continued to grow, with so many markets available for concerts, the world can be an artist’s oyster. But what it’s taken to reach this point is in no small part down to the promoters in those territories making it happen. These imaginative, creative, practical people have refused to allow obstacles, governments, or a lack of infrastructure prevent them enabling artists from around the world to connect with fans – live.

As Luiz Oscar Niemeyer, one of Brazil’s pioneering promoters, says: “I’ve been in this business for a long time. We started bringing international acts to play here in the mid-80s. When I first started promoting here, we had no sound system in Brazil, no lighting, no generators. We had to bring everything in from abroad. But now Brazil is part of the international routing for acts. Brazil has developed a lot of professionals and equipment companies, meaning we have a proper live music industry here, which has grown in the last 30 years.”

And change is still being driven by promoters in many territories – a look at how promoters around the world lobbied governments over reopening measures during the pandemic is emblematic of this.

“It would be fair to say the obstacles [to organising shows in India] have been significantly broken down”

Entertainment and ticketing platform BookMyShow in India has been working tirelessly to improve the concerts industry in the subcontinent, as Kunal Khambhati, head – live events & IP, explains: “It would be fair to say the obstacles [to organising shows here] have been significantly broken down, with a state of flow achieved over the past five or six years when it comes to live entertainment acts across music, performance, comedy, and theatricals marking their presence in the country.

“India follows the umbrella taxation system of Goods & Services Tax (GST), and at the highest slab of 28% GST rate for live entertainment, taxation was a bottleneck for the live entertainment industry both in the pre- and post-Covid world.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, as the industry attempted to recover gradually, India’s live entertainment ecosystem required that the government wholeheartedly support the industry, and it has significantly played its role by bringing down taxation rates to 18% for live entertainment.

“This has been a significant boost to making more commercially viable acts and formats feasible in the country. Additionally, favourable regulatory policies such as easing infrastructure roadblocks to create and enable parallel venues for various formats and scales, streamlining timelines and permissions required to host events at various venues to make out-of-home entertainment accessible to millions of Indians, have aided and will continue to further help script a strong growth story for this industry and millions of jobs associated with it.

“BookMyShow has been working with both regulatory authorities and stakeholders across the value chain to resolve some of the challenges at state and central government levels, and while we have a long way to go to make the ecosystem ideal, it would be more than fair to say the work has already begun and is well underway, paving the way for some of these experiences to make their way to India over the past five or more years.”

“There was a long period where live performance was by far the biggest income stream for an artist. This created a shift”

Promoter power
Over the past two decades, promoters have become more important – one could argue more powerful – in an artist’s career, as live revenue now often makes up the bulk of a performer’s income.

As agent Obi Asika at United Talent Agency in the UK says: “There was a long period where live performance was by far the biggest income stream for an artist. This created a shift; promoters have used that influence to create huge businesses that meaningfully effect all aspects of the entertainment industry.

“Promoters are much more connected to all aspects of a project. For many artists, the most important barometer of success is how many hard tickets they can sell. In many cases, that is more important than how many albums they sell.”

Longstanding promoter Rob Hallett has decades of experience in the industry, working first as an agent and promoter with Barrie Marshall’s Marshall Arts before joining Mean Fiddler (later MAMA, now owned by Live Nation), and then establishing AEG Live in the UK in 2005. After ten years with the company, he launched Robomagic in 2015, later acquired by Live Nation but recently going independent again after three years with the multinational. His roster includes TLC, Sleaford Mods, Goldie, and Boy Better Know, as well as Duran Duran, who Hallett represented as an agent in the 80s.

“I think we’re finally being taken more seriously, as a major part of an artist’s life”

“I think we’re finally being taken more seriously, as a major part of an artist’s life,” he says. “It was always frustrating when we were making more money for the artists, but the labels had more power and influence. Labels seems to have disappeared from the mix pretty much these days. In the old days, a label would call you before you went to sell the tour, your marketing teams would talk about how you’d mesh your campaigns, but that doesn’t seem to happen anymore.”

But in the ever-changing space of the broader music business, recent years have seen a more joined-up approach across the whole artist team, says Rauha Kyyrö, head promoter at Finland’s powerhouse, the FKP Scorpio-owned Fullsteam. “Ten years ago, promoters had more of a free hand to do what they thought would work for artists, due to our market knowledge. Now, there’s much more involvement from the artist’s organisation, who are controlling the fine details, which means more reporting between the promoter, agent, and management. This is a good thing when it works smoothly – we should all be working together to do the best possible job for the artist – although it requires more staff in my office, making costs increase. And when it works well, it’s better for everyone, and it produces better results. However, with more people involved, it can sometimes slow down decision-making. For example, if there’s a delay in one part of the chain, you can miss marketing opportunities.”

Damon Forbes of Breakout in South Africa has worked with artists such as Modest Mouse, Frank Turner, Bonobo, and Texas. “We’re fulfilling a career development with an artist as a partner, and I think that role is something that became second nature to me because I’ve been in roles including label, manager, and promoter in my career,” he says. “It’s great to be part of that journey; one can hope that you deliver for an artist, and then you build with them on the follow-up tours.”

“It would be nice to have a more symbiotic relationship with labels on data. Targeted marketing is important nowadays and is something that’s relatively new”

A people business
Relationships, of course, have always played an important role in live music, as Niemeyer reflects: “In our business, what you build through the years is very important because at the end of the day, people look at your track record, your history, and with whom you have been working. Even though we are more professional business-wise and money-wise, your history remains important. When you’re bidding for a tour, if you’re the guy who’s done it in the past, you’re in a good position to get it again.”

This is even more important now, with the consolidation in the industry and the ever-increasing artist fees, he says. “For the first half of my career, we were a batch of independent promoters and independent companies. That’s not the case anymore, which makes competition much more difficult because now we have Live Nation and AEG here, so we have two major global players. As an independent, you have to find a way to fit in. Fortunately, I have been doing a lot with AEG, and I’ve done Live Nation things as well as the McCartney shows, the Rolling Stones on Copacabana Beach in 2006.

“Now it’s really become a cooperation business because no one can sign a cheque of $20m, $30m to make a show work.”
Fundamental to success is a close relationship with audiences. And data plays a fundamental part in understanding this.

As Hallett says: “What really sells the tickets is talking to people who want to know. It would be nice to have a more symbiotic relationship with labels on data. There are so many wasted eyeballs on you just throwing marketing out there. Targeted marketing is important nowadays and is something that’s relatively new.”

“People might have become used to getting what they want by bullying in the past, but there’s another way to do things”

A welcome change for promoters is the shift in how people treat each other. Most people who have been in the business for a long time will have tales of being shouted at by someone. But that’s changing now. Kyyrö says after more than 22 years in the industry, she’s “very happy with how the atmosphere and communication has developed. People are more friendly, but you still come across some very disrespectful behaviour and that needs to change. There’s no room for the abuse of power in this business. I think it can sometimes be difficult to stand up and call that out, especially when it comes to people who have been in the industry for a long time.

“Things have certainly improved, but there’s still work to be done. People might have become used to getting what they want by bullying in the past, but there’s another way to do things. And it’s up to everyone in the industry to call out that behaviour when they see it.”

Probably the biggest difference in how promoters work in recent years was driven by the pandemic. As we see throughout the Global Promoters Report, 2022 may have been the busiest year on record in terms of sheer number of shows. The idea of ‘three years packed into one’ certainly seems to have been borne out worldwide. Yet it’s been achieved by fewer people than ever before, resulting in exhausting levels of work all round.

“Before the pandemic, everyone had a routine, it was a well-oiled machine, but now, everyone is adjusting to being back again”

Stefan Wyss, director of concerts and touring at major Swiss promoter Gadget abc, says: “Everything needs more work than it did before the pandemic. You have to go into more detail on everything and examine every specific aspect of a show. You have to go into more detail on staff because sometimes there aren’t enough, sometimes you need to find riggers, you need to do rollcalls with stagehands.

“Before the pandemic, everyone had a routine, it was a well-oiled machine, but now, everyone is adjusting to being back again.

“Everything has gone from zero to 150%, but luckily, it’s worked without massive problems. I think everyone is really tired, but they should be proud of what’s been achieved.”

At its heart though, the job remains the same. Hallett says: “There’s no such thing as a bad tour, only a bad deal. So, as long as you get your deals right and you’re working with good people, it’s pretty much the same. It’s just how you go about it that’s different.”

What drives most promoters is connecting fans and helping to grow the artists they love. Forbes says: “There’s nothing more exhilarating than seeing a crowd being totally into the music, whether it’s a smaller-capacity club-type venue or a big space. It’s a rewarding feeling, which you can’t actually bottle – it’s like lightning, I wish I could capture it, because at the end of the show, it’s gone. That’s the big driver: believing that you are making that difference because you’re seeing that connection, live as it happens.”


The Global Promoters Report is published in print, digitally, and all content is also available as a year-round resource on the IQ site. The Global Promoters Report includes key summaries of the major promoters working across 40+ markets, unique interviews and editorial on key trends and developments across the global live music business.

To access all content from the current Global Promoters Report, please click here.