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Indie promoters talk challenges, post-corona recovery

The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, The State of Independence: Promoters, checked in with independent concert promoters in the UK, Europe, India and South America to discover how these entrepreneurs are preparing for the live industry’s return to normality.

Hosted by agent Emma Banks (CAA), yesterday’s session welcomed British promoters Anton Lockwood (DHP Family) and David Messer (DMP), Munbir Chawla from India’s The Wild City, Melanie Eselevsky from Argentina’s Move Concerts and Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion’s Roman Pitone to discuss the current difficulties unique to their sector, as well as the opportunities and challenges of a post-Covid-19 world .

Speaking about emerging concert formats such as drive-in shows, Pitone said Karsten Jahnke has done a number of drive-in events in Germany over the past few months. “Overall, they went well,” he said, but enthusiasm has declined over time as fans increasingly miss ‘real’ shows: “You could see when we started it that people were really eager to see shows [in some form] again, but it slowed down as time went on as people realised it’s just not the same.”

He added that the company is only breaking even on its drive-in and other socially distanced events. “With the income, we’re just paying for what we’re doing,” he explained. “This is just to keep doing something that is our passion and our livelihood, until we can do something [else]…”

In India, where live music is still invariably sponsored, brands have realised the coronavirus crisis isn’t going away and are spending less on live events, creating a headache for promoters, said Chawla. “The brands have realised they’re in it for the long haul, and cultural marketing spend is now being put back into marketing the products” directly, he commented.

“I want to remain independent. It’s not all and gloom”

“Unlike a lot of other scenes, the Indian scene is pretty reliant on brands. So, with the brands spending less money, that will also affect shows and the scale at which they can happen.”

Giving an overview of the situation in countries where Move Concerts operates, Eselevsky brought panellists up to date on the latest developments in Latin America, from the furlough scheme in Argentina to ticket vouchers in Brazil and drive-in concerts in Puerto Rico.

She also touched on the challenge of organising concerts in Argentina when the value of the local currency fluctuates so often: “Three years ago, the exchange rate was 18 pesos [to the US dollar],” she said. “Now it’s 75 pesos.”

Banks described her own experience of playing Argentina, relaying how one of her acts once oversold a show in Buenos Aires and still didn’t break even. “Try explaining that to the manager!” she said.

Turning to 2021, Messer said he’s “finding that because so many things have been moved into next year, things are fully booked” for late 2021 already. “So it’s very hard to know what you can book – the dates are going very quickly, but you can’t book the artists” because the situation around international touring is still so unclear.

“People are talking a lot more to each other … We’re all in the same place”

Lockwood said he can understood why many artists, especially American ones, could be reluctant to travel internationally well into next year, even if it’s a “depressing” thought. “Imagine the nightmare of being a US band,” he explained, “you get to the border of Spain and Portugal, and your bus driver gets a cough and you have to quarantine for 14 days. So, your whole tour’s just gone.

“Whereas, at least if you’re a US band and you tour the US, you won’t get caught in that.”

While the crisis has thrown into sharp relief the vulnerability of the independent sector, none of the panellists responded in the affirmative when Banks asked, tongue in cheek, if they wish they’d sold to Live Nation before coronavirus hit.

“It’s not all and gloom,” said Chawla, highlighting the quality of the music being released and the increasingly global nature of the industry as among the bright spots, while Messer praised how “people have come together” to mitigate the impact of the concert shutdown.

“People are talking a lot more to each other – people from different sides of the industry,” he said, in a sentiment echoed by Banks. “We’re all in the same place, and luckily everyone’s helping each other, which we have to do. We all need each other – we’re not going survive unless we can all exist.”

For more discussion and debate, including on ticket pricing, refunds and vouchers, ‘Swiss-cheese touring’ and much more, watch the session back on YouTube or Facebook now.

 


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Indie promoters in spotlight for next IQ Focus

Continuing the weekly series of IQ Focus virtual sessions, State of Independence: Promoters will see independent event organisers from across the globe come together to discuss the specific obstacles facing their business.

The tenth panel of the popular IQ Focus series, the session will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 16 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET.

Across the touring world, independent promoters are facing a similar challenge when looking ahead to a post Covid-19 business.

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?

Joining Banks are DHP Family’s Anton Lockwood, Karsten Janhke Konzertdirektion’s Ben Mitha, DMP UK’s David Messer, Melanie Eselevsky from Argentina’s Move Concerts and Munbir Chawla from the Wild City in India.

All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including the challenges facing festivals, diversity in live, management under lockdown, the agency business, large-scale venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.

To set a reminder about State of Independence: Promoters session on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

 


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The New Bosses 2017: the final three

After shining the spotlight on (in no particular order) our first four New Bosses – Anna-Sophie Mertens, Zoe Swindells, Ryan Penty and Andrés Guanipa – in September, then Summer Marshall, Connie Shao and Matt Harrap earlier this month, the final instalment of IQ’s New Bosses 2017 wraps up our annual spotlight on the live music industry leaders of the future.

 


Sam Wald

Agent, WME (AU)
Age: 30

Sam worked in various capacities, including artist management, tour management, talent buying and promotion, before he started working at WME’s head office in Beverly Hills in 2010. He was recruited to the Sydney office as an agent in 2013, where his expertise in electronic music led to his appointment as the territorial agent for WME’s electronic roster in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. In addition to his territorial roster, Sam’s clients also include Broods, Elliphant, Gallant, Gang of Youths, Hermitude, Jarryd James, Julia Jacklin, Matoma, Marlon Williams, Middle Kids, Porter Robinson, Starley and Zhu, among others.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become an agent?
Get involved early and really take the time to learn as many different sides of the industry as possible. Don’t have any ego, and be willing to take on any tasks (big or small). There is a lot of competition, and not a lot of jobs. You need to make yourself a valuable asset.

Was it a difficult decision to move to Australia?
Not at all. I saw a great opportunity to move to Australia to work with many of the bands I loved, at an agency called Artist Voice. They had an amazing roster and were starting to push hard into Asia at a time when no one else in the region had the same foresight.

What’s the single best thing about being in Australia?
I get to hang out with my grandfather. I’m half Aussie, so grew up coming here as a kid.

What’s the best lesson that you’ve learned while at WME?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of really smart people at WME who have a wealth of knowledge and experience.

 

 


Christine Cao

Agent, Paradigm (US)
Age: 30

Christine Cao, Paradigm Talent Agency

Christine graduated from the University of Colorado and worked as an assistant at AEG Live and CAA before joining the Windish Agency in 2013. Her roster includes Grammy winner Daya, Grammy-nominated R&B singer Gallant, electronic pop phenomenon Alina Baraz and Nothing But Thieves, among others. With the majority of her artists hitting the road in support of upcoming releases, 2018 will be Christine’s busiest year yet.

What made you decide to become an agent?
I was promoting shows for my college and realised I had a massive passion for live music. I’m thankful to have learned that side of things, but I wanted to be part of an artist’s journey developing into various markets.

What’s the worst thing about your job?
If I get a chance to do this forever, I honestly can’t bring myself to think about the worst side of this gig. Maybe aeroplane food when you forget to grab something before leaving for an out-of-town show.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in equality during your time in the industry?
I grew up being told that being a minority both in my race and my gender was going to make things harder. A positive shift has occurred over the years, and I’m thankful for the mentors, both male and female, who have been so supportive and inspirational.

Where is your favourite festival, and which three dream acts would you like to see headlining it?
I had the chance to visit Ho Chi Minh City a few times, where my parents are from. That market is aching for live music, though electronic and pop thrive there. I’d headline my festival with the Backstreet Boys, The National and Ryan Adams.

 


Ben Mitha

MD, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (DE)
Age: 29

Ben Mitha, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion

The grandson of legendary promoter Karsten Jahnke, Ben started promoting hip-hop parties during his school days in Hamburg, and founded full-service events company Digga Events while studying for his degree. In 2014, Karsten appointed Ben managing director and he now oversees a roster of 60 international acts, as well as domestic acts like Johannes Oerding, Max Giesinger and Michael Patrick Kelly.

How has your family’s legacy affected your industry relationships?
It was a gift at the beginning, but it also took quite a while to define my own profile and not be automatically related to Karsten’s musical profile in the industry.

Is there any practice that you would like to change, or introduce, to improve the way the business is done?
More loyalty and fewer global deals. I understand the financial dimensions behind it, but it’s always painful to lose an artist you have discovered early, invested in and helped build to a level where they arouse interest for a global deal and, all of a sudden, you’re out of the picture and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

Have there been any mistakes that have taught you valuable lessons?
I learn from mistakes daily – passing on an act in the early stages that takes off later on; miscalculating the market potential of an act and losing money; or not seeing enough potential in an idea or project that somebody else is later really successful with. I guess that’s just part of the business. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose…

 


Read the New Bosses 2017 as it originally appeared in the digital edition of IQ 73: