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One Fiinix Live’s Jon Ollier talks Ed Sheeran tour

Ed Sheeran’s agent Jon Ollier has spoken to IQ about the sequel to the biggest concert tour of all time.

Sheeran’s 255 show ÷ (Divide) run from 2017-19 surpassed U2’s 360° as the highest-grossing tour ever, with a gross of US$776.2 million. It also set a new record for total attendance, at 8,796,567, according to Pollstar data.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow (September 25) for the first leg of the follow-up + – = ÷ x stadium tour (pronounced |mathematics”), which kicks off in April next year.

The tour will see Sheeran play shows across the UK, Ireland, Central Europe and Scandinavia, but Ollier said breaking further records was low on the team’s list of priorities.

“Coming out of the pandemic, I think everyone would be very happy with just following it with excellence and keeping the fans happy,” the One Fiinix Live boss tells IQ.

“I think everyone would be very happy with just following [the ÷ tour] with excellence and keeping the fans happy”

“We’ve frozen the ticket prices from last time, because of everything the world’s been through, so we’re not really looking at our ambitions as much as just trying to do the best we can.

“Genuinely, the things that we are focusing on at this point in the process is getting the tickets into the hands of real fans, making sure people aren’t getting ripped off, making sure that we’re delivering excellence in everything that we do, and trying to deliver a great tour. And then everything else follows.”

The UK dates will be staged by Kilimanjaro Live, AEG Presents and FKP Scorpio, which hired longtime Sheeran co-promoter Daniel Ealam from DHP Family last year alongside Scott O’Neill.

“We had to go into arenas first on ÷ because we needed to understand the market and understand that everything was there for the taking in the way that it was, create the heat and create the demand,” explains Ollier. “But we’re at a place now where we need to satisfy the market rather than stoke the fire.”

The new tour is in support of Sheeran’s new album =, which will be released on October 29 through Asylum/Atlantic. The campaign is expected to run for three years and will include another LP before the end of 2024.

“They’ve changed up the [production] offering, so that it’s not just re-touring the old show with new songs”

“We’ll be announcing Asia, Australia, America, etc, as things roll out and I know that Ed would love to get to some new places, so I’m sure that’s on the horizon,” adds Ollier.

“We all hope that we are coming back to a market that is buoyant enough to support the level of business that will keep us running for a period of time that would allow us to get done what we usually get done. I think Ed said, ‘Right, here’s my tour, this is me now for the next three years,’ so that’s where his head’s at with it.

“And we’ll find out tomorrow when we go on sale, but we would love to be coming back to a market that feels buoyant enough for us to be able to do something like that.”

The concerts will also feature a new production set-up with Sheeran’s staging in the round, surrounded by the crowd in each stadium, potentially upping capacities. Previous tours have seen Sheeran perform solo with a loop pedal.

“They’ve changed up the offering, so there’s definitely a feeling that they’re doing something different, that it’s not just re-touring the old show with new songs,” says Ollier. “So there is definitely going to be a progression in production.”

“This time, we’ve made our ticketing 100% digital, which we think is going to be the future”

The ÷ tour was also notable for its aggressive campaign against the secondary market, and the upcoming tour will use specially developed mobile digital ticketing technology, which have safeguards in place “to ensure genuine fans are buying genuine tickets and to stop unofficial secondary ticketing sites, and unofficial ticket sellers, from being able to resell tickets at inflated prices and rip off fans”.

“This time, we’ve made our ticketing 100% digital, which we think is going to be the future,” says Ollier. “The ticketing companies have been fantastic in working with us – we’ve put quite a lot of pressure on them during a pandemic to develop their apps and the mechanisms that we need in place.

“We hope that this time [the battle against unauthorised resale sites] is going to feel a lot more like it’s all happening in the background. Last time around, it had to play out in the media because no one was listening. But people are listening now, people are aware and at the table, trying to change laws, trying to move things forward.

“There is no reason why in a world full of technology, that we can’t lean on technology a little bit more so we will have all of the failsafes and backdrops that you’d expect us to have. But it’s all going to be delivered through a digital platform, through an app, which will make sure that people enter the venue with legitimate tickets.”

Ollier began his career at Helter Skelter, moving to Free Trade Agency in 2008, when he first began working with Sheeran. He moved to CAA as a senior agent in 2015 before launching One Fiinix in November 2020, taking with him a roster of acts including Sheeran, Anne-Marie, JC Stewart, Lauv and 2Cellos.


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Ticketmaster Spain boss leaves after 22 years

After 22 years at the head of the business, Eugeni Calsamiglia is stepping down as CEO of Ticketmaster Spain. He will be succeeded by the company’s CFO, Ana Valdovinos, who said she intends to continue the technological innovation at the company.

Valdovinos was part of the team responsible for integrating Serviticket and Tick Tack Ticket into the global brand. Ticketmaster Spain is the largest ticketing company in the country and sold 7.5 million tickets during the financial year 2019.

On the other side of the Atlantic, dynamic pricing strategies pioneer Scott Holtz has joined AEG Presents‘ Global Touring and Talent division as Vice President, Ticketing Strategy. The newly-created role will see him “expand ticketing strategy and revenue generation efforts across all ticketing platforms, using the latest technologies to make nimble and strategic real-time pricing decisions in an effort to maximise revenue for the division’s touring artists”, according to the company.

Holtz brings 18 years of ticketing experience to the AEG Presents, and was most recently Vice President of Pricing and Distribution at Live Nation.


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AEG Presents forms Climate Positive Touring group

AEG Presents is forming a team of industry professionals from production, marketing, and operations dedicated to ‘moving the live business towards a greener future’.

The team, dubbed Climate Positive Touring (CPT), comprises staffers who work across various business divisions of AEG Presents including Concerts West, Global Touring, International Touring, Marshall Arts, Messina Touring Group, and AEG Global Partnerships.

Reducing tour-related carbon emissions, supporting locally led environmental and climate justice programmes, and creating impact on both the operating and consumer-side of touring are at the top of the group’s agenda.

“AEG Presents has the ability and structure to really make a global impact in moving our entire business – which has had a traditionally significant carbon footprint – toward a zero-emissions future,” says Jay Marciano, chairman and CEO, AEG Presents.

“AEG Presents has the ability and structure to really make a global impact in moving our entire business”

“The company’s reach enables us to execute at every level of the live experience: from clubs and theatres to arenas, global tours, and festivals. I’m looking forward to seeing how the CPT group begins to implement their plans as the business starts to reopen this year.”

Jointly leading CPT is AEG Presents’ Amy Morrison, who adds: “With light at the end of the tunnel, we feel it’s the right time to announce CPT and our short- and long-term strategies. We’ve been working on this since the earliest days of the shutdown. Now that live music is coming back, we can put our goals into action. As promoters, we will literally put our message on the road, modelling achievable sustainability, with the power of music in our sails.”

CPT has already deployed two major initiatives: the Venue Environmental Survey and the CPT Green Touring Guide.

The survey will gather data that allow venues, artists and CPT to work together to identify sustainability priorities and solutions while the touring guide is to provide guidance and insights that promoters can utilise in the hopes of showing both venues and artists a path forward to net zero or better carbon emissions.

“The company’s reach enables us to execute at every level of the live experience”

The first installment of the guide, titled The Starting Seven, is a compendium of seven actions promoters can take to start to make a positive environmental impact.

CPT is co-headed by Amy Morrison and Nicole Neal, who are joined by Jon Baden, Amy Buck, Caroline Burruss, Kelly DiStefano, Kate Lewis, Mike Luba, Ben Martin, Alexandra McArthur, Kate McMahon, David Rappaport, and Connie Shao.

CPT works in collaboration with AEG 1Earth, AEG’s corporate sustainability program.

The news of CPT comes shortly after Earth Day (22 April), when a host of new initiatives were announced, including a special summer edition of the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) and Live Nation’s new Green Nation Touring Program.

GEI, the leading conference for sustainability in the international events sector, will hold its summer edition on 16 September 2021. Tickets are on sale now.


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AEG Presents to operate Wolverhampton Civic Hall

City of Wolverhampton Council has appointed AEG Presents to manage the city’s Civic Hall, which is due to reopen in early 2022.

The leading promoter and venue operator – which owns and/or operates over 40 UK venues, including London’s Eventim Apollo, Indigo at the O2 (itself run by sister company ASM Global) and a new venue at Olympia London – will work developers on the final stages of the transformation of the grade II-listed Civic Hall, which will have a capacity of 3,500.

AEG Presents CEO Steve Homer – who saw his first show, the Clash, at the Civic Hall in 1978 – says: “Wolverhampton Civic Hall has a great history of being a first-class venue for live music, [so] when looking to expand our portfolio of venues it was the obvious choice. The council’s ambition, commercial drive and significant investment, coupled with our desire to provide high quality entertainment and customer service, will forge a great partnership for years to come.

“Alongside the council, we are delighted to be part of the team to further the growth of the city and look forward to some amazing events in the Civic Hall. On a personal note, having attended my first ever live concert at the Civic Hall, I am delighted to help shape the future of this great venue.”

“Wolverhampton Civic Hall has a great history of being a first-class venue for live music”

The works being undertaken by developer Willmott Dixon Interiors inside the venue will see the height above the stage to the rear of the Civic Hall increased to attract bigger and better shows.

There will also be wider and more comfortable seats, more bars and more space to socialise, expanded and revamped toilet facilities, lift access to new balconies, better access arrangements for disabled visitors (including enhanced wheelchair access), a greater number of accessible viewing points, and improved room temperatures through the installation of a new air-conditioning system.

Council leader Ian Brookfield comments: “The Civic Hall is an integral part of Wolverhampton’s entertainment and music heritage and an important part of our visitor economy. We believe – and this belief is shared by AEG Presents – that it has the potential to become a recognised venue not just regionally and nationally, but also internationally.

“The re-opening and the successful operation of the halls will reap big rewards – not only because it won’t cost the taxpayer a penny, but just as importantly in terms of jobs and economic benefit for our city, as we look to relight from the impact of the pandemic.”


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AEG Presents partners with Japan’s Avex Entertainment

AEG has joined forces with Avex Entertainment, a Tokyo-based music and entertainment company, to launch AEGX, a joint venture that aims to create new opportunities in both the Japanese and global live music markets.

AEGX will give Avex artists access to AEG Presents’ venues, festivals and global touring partnerships, while also allowing AEG to utilise Avex’s platform to reach Japanese audiences with its promoted acts. Founded as a dance music label in 1988, Avex’s business now includes recording, artist management, merchandise, anime, concerts, events and more.

“This is really a perfect example of synergies being scaled for the benefit of global artist development, which is at the core of what we do,” says Jay Marciano, chairman and CEO of AEG Presents.

“Partnering with Avex to launch AEGX gives both Avex and AEG Presents a path to create real opportunities for musicians who increasingly see the world as a borderless global community. I can’t wait to see what we all do together.”

“We are thrilled to take this stride forward together and look forward to the future”

The initial focus for the new venture will be on the co-promotion of AEG artists, and the development of music festivals and venues, in Japan, as well as the promotion of global tours for Asian artists, including both Avex- and non-Avex-signed acts.

The companies have previously collaborated on tours such as Ed Sheeran and Celine Dion, while AEG-owned ticket seller AXS is, with Avex and Yahoo Japan, a partner in ticketing service Passrevo/Yahoo! Tickets.

“We are very excited to announce the launch of AEGX with AEG Presents,” says Katsumi Kuroiwa, president and CEO of Avex. “Our companies both share the same goal with this new partnership: AEGX will serve music fans around the world by contributing to the global development of western artists, while also expanding the reach of Japanese artists beyond its borders.

“The Covid-19 pandemic reminds us of the positive power and limitless potential of music and entertainment. We are thrilled to take this stride forward together and look forward to the future.”


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US concert biz offers skills and staff for vaccinations

The major American promoters, venue operators and industry associations have formally offered their venues, staff and expertise towards the United States’ national Covid-19 vaccination effort.

In a letter to new US president Joe Biden (pictured), Live Nation, AEG Presents, Oak View Group, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and others pledge their resources towards the vaccination programme – saying the live industry, whose venues are empty and staff furloughed, is in a “unique position to help”.

Staff are “eager to help out and get back to work”, adds the letter, which is also addressed to Norris Cochran, the acting secretary of health and human services; Dr Rochelle Walensky, the acting director of the Centers for Disease Contro; Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease’s services division; and Bechara Choucair, the White House’s vaccinations coordinator.

“It’s human nature to come together in good times and bad, and our industry is committed to doing everything in our power to bring people together again, not just for events, but for every aspect of community that we have been missing,” says Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation. “Live Nation has venues across the country that are capable of managing critical onsite elements of the vaccine rollout and we are eager to pitch in and be part of the solution.”

Dayna Frank, CEO of First Avenue Productions and president of NIVA, adds: “Since the pandemic shuttered our industry almost a year ago, our buildings and our co-workers have been paused, unutilised and struggling. These vaccines are our best chance at putting Covid-19 behind us, and our experiences organising events and managing crowds now put us in the unique position of being the best-prepared and most qualified industry to support the vaccination effort and get this country on the road to recovery.”

“We are the best-prepared and most qualified industry to support the vaccination effort and get this country on the road to recovery”

Other organisations offering their help are the International Association of Venue Managers; lighting company Bandit Lites; #WeMakeEvents North America; the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees; theatre industry association Broadway League; the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO); and musical instrument trade body NAMM.

Live venues are already playing a key role in the immunisation process internationally, with concert halls, arena and stadia, and convention and conference centres offering their services as mass-vaccination sites.

Venues are, according to a statement from the group, perfectly suited to doubling as vaccination centres, given that they are designed for queueing and crowd control, located near parking or public transport and have wide, clear interiors, as well as regulated/ticketed entrances and exits.

“The entire live event industry has stood still since March, 2020. We all stand united now, ready to assist in the safe, rapid delivery of the vaccine from a people-moving perspective,” says Bandit Lites chair Michael T. Strickland.

Agent Wayne Forte, president of Entourage Talent Associates and member of NITO’s executive committee, comments: “We are here to help. In fact, many venues are already working on the state and local level to implement vaccine programmes. Our industry owns, leases and/or has access to thousands of venues throughout America, most that are under mandated closures and sitting empty. Event venues make ideal community vaccination sites.”


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European leaders join forces for Solutions for Festivals

Yourope, the European festival association, is working with the continent’s leading festival operators on a new initiative that aims to ensure outdoor events are able to return as soon as it is safe to do so.

At Yourope’s invitation, AEG Presents, Eventim Live/FKP Scorpio, Goodlive, Live Nation and Superstruct Entertainment have partnered for Solutions for Festivals, working to bring back “full-capacity outdoor live events at the earliest opportunity”.

To that end, the Solutions for Festivals work group is consulting with senior figures in production, the supply chain, and festival health and safety, as well as medical experts.

According to the association, the group’s focus is on “reviewing and coordinating efforts to implement best practices for the health and safety of fans as festivals return”.

More information about the work of Solutions for Festivals will be revealed soon.


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AEG Presents-operated venue to open in Olympia London

West London exhibition centre Olympia has announced the £1.3 billion redevelopment of its 14-acre site will include a 4,400 capacity live music venue.

The venue, which will be located above the existing west exhibition hall, will be operated by live entertainment giant AEG Presents after signing a ‘long-term agreement’ with owners Yoo Capital and Deutsche Finance International who acquired Olympia in 2017 for €330 m.

AEG Presents promotes events such as British Summer Time at Hyde Park in London and the Coachella festival in California. Its parent company AEG Worldwide operates the O2 in Greenwich (cap. 21,000) and Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith (5,039), which will be Olympia’s closest competitor in size and location.

“This is a very exciting opportunity,” says Steve Homer, CEO AEG Presents. “Olympia is steeped in British music history as far back as Jimi Hendrix in the 60s. AEG Presents are delighted to be part of the new development and we plan to create more iconic shows for London audiences.”

“Olympia is steeped in British music history as far back as Jimi Hendrix in the 60s”

Will Dowdy, VP of global partnerships at AEG Presents, says: “The regeneration of Olympia is a huge milestone for entertainment in west London and the opportunities for brands to reach their target audience is vast. Our team have secured some of the very best partnerships across the globe and I have no doubt we will deliver the right deals at both our new music venue and across the whole Olympia campus.”

The 134-year-old landmark has played host to world-renowned artists including Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, Status Quo, Procol Harum, The Cure and Primal Scream.

Only a few major music shows have taken place at the complex in the past decade including Skepta’s sold-out show at the venue last year, but live music programming again became a focus for the venue before the pandemic. Next year’s programme includes indie superstars Foals, who are due to play three rescheduled, sold-out shows next May.

Nigel Nathan, managing director of Olympia London, says: “We’re incredibly excited to have these fantastic brands [including global hotel group Hyatt and affordable luxury lifestyle and hotel brand citizenM] joining us as our new onsite neighbours. Collectively we’re creating richer experiences and more opportunities for all our customers and visitors that we host at our iconic London venue.”


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IQ Focus: The Top 10 sessions so far

Since launching IQ Focus, a weekly series of livestreamed panels that debuted in May, we’ve been inviting heavyweights from the international live music business to discuss issues ranging from the trials and tribulations of a pandemic to the systemic racism brought to light by Blackout Tuesday, and everything in between.

But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. The Innovation Session, for example, heard panellists discuss the flurry of innovation, fledgeling business models, and new ideas that have come out of the coronavirus crisis. Staying Safe & Sane During Covid presented expert opinions on how to protect the mental health and wellbeing of music professionals and artists. What all these sessions have had in common is a sense of optimism, opportunity and determination, as our industry forges ahead into the unknown.

This week we’re taking some time off from IQ Focus, but in the meantime, please enjoy our top ten sessions from the past couple of months and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive notifications about future IQ Focus sessions.


1. Festival Forum: Here Comes ’21

Hosted by ILMC head Greg Parmley, a panel comprising Europe’s festival elite discuss the collapse of this year’s festival season, as well as predictions for the next. Jim King (AEG Presents), Stephan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio), Rachael Greenfield (Bloodstock Open Air), Anders Wahren (Roskilde Festival) and Mathieu Jaton (Montreux Jazz Festival) update us on how they’re coping in unprecedented circumstances; what lessons have been learned, which challenges have been faced and crucially, what the road to recovery looks like.


2. The Agency Business: 3.0

The Covid-19 crisis has presented significant challenges for both multinational agencies and boutique outfits. From juggling investors to dealing with a hiatus from touring, agencies are being forced to reflect on how their companies are structured and seek new opportunities and creative solutions. ILMC head and session chair Greg Parmley asks an all-star panel, what comes next? Guest speakers include Angus Baskerville, (13 Artists) Jules de Lattre (United Talent Agency), Maria May (Creative Artists Agency) and Tom Schroeder (Paradigm Talent Agency).


3. The Venue’s Venue: Building Back

For IQ‘s third focus session, John Langford, COO of AEG Europe, invites leading venue professionals to discuss strategies for weathering the storm, what the key learnings have been so far, and what emerging from life under lockdown might look like. Guest speakers include Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall / National Arena Association – UK), Olivier Toth (Rockhal / European Arena Association – Luxembourg), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions – Germany), Tom Lynch (ASM Global – UK), Lotta Nibell (GOT Event – Sweden).


4. The Innovation Session

While the catastrophic impact of Covid-19 continues to resonate throughout live music, the halt in normal business is seeing a flurry of innovation, fledgeling business models, and new ideas. From an explosion in livestreaming to virtual performances and meet & greets, 3D venues, gaming and tipping, what green shoots are rising from this current situation? Mike Malak, senior agent at Paradigm Talent Agency chairs our fourth IQ Focus session and invites a line-up of free-thinkers and ground-breakers.


5. The State of Independence: Promoters

Across the touring world, independent promoters face similar challenges when looking ahead to business post-Covid-19. While this current period presents many unique challenges for this creative and entrepreneurial sector, it’s one of many pressures they face. So what’s the state of play in Europe, South America and India? And what alternative show formats, and business models are independent promoters adopting to stay ahead? CAA’s Emma Banks hosts the session to ask, as the industry emerges from its current crisis, where the opportunities might lie?


6. Festival Forum: The Next Stage

We’re midway through what would have been this year’s festival season, and it’s a summer like no other. But are we midway through the crisis, or is there still further to go before the festival sector can confidently progress into 2021? With a number of Government support packages in place, and much of this year’s line ups transplanted to next year, how confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return? IQ editor Gordon Masson hosts this discussion with guest speakers including Cindy Castillo (Mad Cool Festival – ES), John Giddings (Isle of Wight Festival / Solo Agency – UK), Stefan Lehmkuhl (Goodlive – DE), Codruta Vulcu (ARTmania Festival – RO).


7. Grassroots Music Venues in Crisis

One of the hardest-hit areas of the business, grassroots music venues may well also be the first to emerge from the current crisis over the coming weeks and months. Across Europe, the fate of these vital stages on which talent is born and grown, is mixed, with some facing closure. How are our small venues being protected by the organisations and industry around them, and what still needs to be done? And once their doors are open again, how different will gig going be?


8. Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music

Blackout Tuesday brought the industry to a standstill and thrust the topic of diversity in the music business back into view. So just what challenges do black promoters, agents and managers face, and what’s needed to counter systemic racism both within the business, in performance spaces and touring markets? Our next IQ Focus session will ask how changes can be made, and the current momentum can be maintained over the months and years ahead.


9. IQ Focus & The MMF Present: Managing The Crisis

With the bulk of artists dependent on live music revenue and audience connection, the Covid-19 crisis has decimated livelihoods. But what does it mean for their managers – the individuals thrown into salvaging campaigns, rescheduling tours, interpreting contractual changes and navigating the most uncertain of futures? How are their own businesses faring? And what do they see as the challenges – and hopefully opportunities – ahead for the live sector, in what we are all optimistically calling the “new normal”.


10. Staying Safe & Sane During Covid

Staying Safe & Sane During Covid considered how to best protect the mental health and wellbeing of music professionals and artists alike who are juggling disruption to working conditions, employment & financial concerns, a difficult global outlook and more. Chaired by Stacey Pragnell at ATC Live, the conversation featured Lollapalooza Berlin promoter Stefan Lehmkuhl (Goodlive), MITC founder Tamsin Embleton, tour manager Andy Franks (Music Support) and the CEO of mental health and wellbeing festival Getahead, Jenni Cochrane.


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AEG announces layoffs, furloughs

Live entertainment powerhouse AEG is implementing staff layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions as part of a Covid-19 cost-cutting plan.

The company, whose CEO Dan Beckerman notified employees of the measures on Monday (8 June), is enacting the measures across all parts of the business from 1 July, including concert and festival promoter AEG Presents.

In a separate message, AEG Presents chairman and CEO Jay Marciano stated that those affected would be provided with “the best safety net” possible.

“I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that, just a few short months ago, nobody in our business – or any business – could have predicted where we would be today. The world has changed with an impact and scope that’s impossible to fathom,” wrote Marciano in a memo obtained by Variety.

“Simply put, we will reopen when we are confident that it is safe to do so”

“I wish I could tell you when it will be safe to reopen. At present, it appears large-scale events – the core of our business – will be the last to reopen. We will continue to monitor this daily, but the health and safety of our employees, artists and fans remains our highest priority.

“Simply put, we will reopen when we are confident that it is safe to do so.”

AEG joins live companies including Paradigm Talent Agency, WME, Eventbrite, Cirque du Soleil and TicketSwap to lay off staff due to the coronavirus shutdown, while many more industry professionals are temporarily furloughed.


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