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Irving Azoff ‘hopeful’ for return to live in July

Legendary artist manager Irving Azoff is hopeful that the US live sector will see a “decent reopening” this July, he said during his keynote interview at ILMC 33 today.

Azoff joined Ed Bicknell for The (Late) Breakfast Meeting at 16.30 today (4 March) for a wide-ranging interview that also touched on his early career in management with acts such as REO Speedwagon and Dan Fogelberg, hellraising with Keith Moon, his long association with Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF), and recent deals with the Beach Boys and David Crosby.

Azoff said the US is “much more optimistic” about returning to live music since the number of cases has dropped off far quicker than predicted, and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been approved for immediate use.

However, Azoff cautioned that the reopening in the States was not going to be uniform and would pose serious questions for those in the live music business.

“For those of us on the live music side of the business: you’ve got to commit to production and rehearsals and crews and bands and trucks and video walls without any kind of insurance. Unlike countries like the UK, which cares about their industry and has provided some relief, there’s been very little money flow through to anybody on the live side of the business here.”

Azoff says that without insurance, similar to the event cancellation funds set up in some European countries, the US live sector faces two big issues.

“The first issue is: When are states going to be open at full capacity or near it? The second is, without insurance, do you want to really take the risk after a year or two of no income, of putting your production together to try to work the rest of this year – or do you just want to wait till 2022?”

A lot of major artists are saying ‘I’m just going to wait till 2022’, but 2022 is going to be a train wreck here

Even once the US has found a way to reopen, Azoff predicts “a lot of drama” with test and tracing to get into live events.

“Can you ask people for proof of vaccination? Can you require people to be tested? Different health departments are going to have different views. A lot of major artists are saying, ‘I’m just going to wait till 2022’, but 2022 is going to be a train wreck here, just getting avails and everybody trying to run at once.”

Moving on, Azoff described the “surreal” experience of being honoured by the RRHOF – into which he was inducted in a virtual ceremony last year – and the cachet it affords artists and execs, even those as well established as Azoff.

“The whole Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing is surreal – it’s a much bigger deal than I thought,” he explained. “There’s a kind of a newfound respect that you get around the business [when you’re part of it].”

Azoff became the fourth manager to be honoured by RRHOF, after Brian Epstein, Andrew Loog Oldham and Jon Landau.

The full Breakfast Meeting interview – which also included Azoff giving the inside story of Ticketmaster’s 2010 merger with Live Nation, as well as recounting how he fired Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac – is available to watch back until 5 April 2020 for ILMC 33 ticket holders. To register for the conference now, click here.

 


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‘We tried to create the sound of war’: Daltrey does ILMC

Born during a V-1 raid in the Second World War, Roger Daltrey rose from the rubble-strewn seats of post-war London to become one of the world’s greatest rock frontmen – and host Ed Bicknell, and hundreds of delegates, were on hand to hear all about it, in this year’s later ILMC Breakfast Meeting.

Daltrey opened by talking about his new memoir, Thanks a Lot, Mr Kibblewhite, whose cover features the singer in his mid-70s pomp standing in front of what looks like a bombed-out house. “The world I grew up in was bombsites, of ruined houses being demolished to build jerry-built tower blocks in their place – and I wanted a cover that told that story,” he said. “It’s a composite of me in a glamorous period of my life against those houses being demolished.”

Daltrey said he, and others like him, became interested in American blues and R&B as a result of their working-class backgrounds. “Being working class in Britain was equivalent of being black in America, and that’s what drew us to that music,” he explained. “We identified with their struggle.”

His love of music, however, started earlier: “I was a choir boy when I was at school, so I had perfect pitch and I was a good singer. But it was [British skiffle singer] Lonnie Donegan who first made he want to throw my head back and wail. He influenced Robert Plant, all the singers of my generation… Lonnie Donegan, he was the one.”

Daltrey said the band that became the Who really developed their chops when they got into the blues, honing their craft by touring constantly across the UK’s then-booming grassroots venues circuit. “There were so many venues, then,” he commented. “Every other vehicle on the roads was a van taking a group up north somewhere to a gig. That’s what was so great – almost every street had a band in it, and almost every band was getting some kind of work, whether it was playing a pub, a bar mitzvah or wedding, a youth club…”

Fast-forward a few years, and the Who are riding high on their post-Tommy success, with Pete Townshend’s rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind boy (who sure plays a mean pinball) propelling the band to greater heights. Yet despite their growing profile and critical and commercial success, they’re broke: “In 1971, after touring for a whole year, we came back to the great news that our debt, instead of being £1.3 million, had gone down to £650,000,” Daltrey continued.

“Even Peter Sellers used to laugh at Keith Moon, and it wasn’t easy to make Peter Sellers laugh”

As it turned out, the Who’s managers, Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, had their hands in the till, with Daltrey, Townshend, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon funding the pair’s lavish lifestyles and growing heroin habits.

“You can’t be managed by crooks – as the Small Faces found out [with Don Arden] – but Pete wouldn’t join up with us [to oust Stamp and Lambert],” Daltrey explained, “until he went to America, went to his publishing account and found a load of money missing. In the end they ended up with nothing, and we lost two creative people that could have been part of our team. They were the best creative managers any band could ask for, but they were crooked.”

Their replacement was Bill Curbishley, whom Daltrey first noticed working in the offices of Stamp and Lambert’s company, Track Records. “He used to disappear at the same time every night,” Daltrey recalls. “I only realised later he was on parole. Turns out he was inside for eight years for a bank robbery! One he didn’t do – but, equally, he could have got done for one that he did do…

“He did eight years for someone else, so I knew that if he did a deal with me, he’d be straight with me. And from that day on, we started making money. With Bill, you didn’t have to count your fingers after you shook hands, and that says a lot about a man.”

Reflecting on the Track team’s heroin use, Daltrey said he was also “in a band with three addicts. Pete and John were alcoholics, and Keith would have taken anything. He [Moon] had huge talent – he’d have you laughing until you had to walk out the room, because that’s all you could do; even Peter Sellers used to laugh at Keith Moon, and it wasn’t easy to make Peter Sellers laugh – but underneath that was this incredible frailty and vulnerability. He couldn’t channel his talent in a way he could use it creatively.”

Daltrey also recalled his own brief dalliance with narcotics – “I did speed back in ’64, in the mod days, when we’d play 8–11, and then again from 2­–6am, and then I’d drive the van home as well” – but said all the ‘purple hearts’ did was “made me chew my lips up and make my mouth dry so I couldn’t sing.”

“For me it was really painful to hear this group of fantastic musicians play so badly”

The frontman’s distaste for drugs also led to his brief dismissal from the group: “For me it was really painful to hear this group of fantastic musicians, hear this band with so much talent, play so badly [because they were on speed] – I couldn’t take it. So I came off stage and flushed their stuff down the loo… they weren’t best pleased!”

Bicknell then shared an anecdote about his booking the Who in 1968 for a student night in Hull – and the young band’s approach to hecklers. “In May 1968, I booked the Who for 350 very large pounds, and halfway through the set, when you’re in a quiet passage, these very two large Hull dockers who’d made their way into the gig started heckling.

“Pete stopped the song and said, ‘If you can do any fucking better than this, come up here.’ To my horror the guy gets on stage, and Pete spins round and hits this him over the head with the machine heads of his guitar. To this day, it’s the hardest I’ve ever seen anyone hit with anything – blood spurts out this guy’s head and he collapses in a heap on the floor. Then the other guy gets on stage and you kick him in the head!”

“It never ceases to amaze me, the stupidity of these people,” said Daltrey. “It’s the first rule of warfare: you always need to have the high ground!”

Bicknell also recalled the overpowering volume of the band’s speaker stacks, even at that early stage in their career. “We wanted to create the noise of a battlefield,” replied Daltrey. “We were trying to create the sound of war.”

Although Daltrey and Townshend (75 and 73, respectively) are gearing up for a new album, their first since 2006’s Endless Wire­, and a Live Nation-promoted stadium tour, Daltrey suggested the pair’s often-fractious relationship remains strained, revealing they are recording the new record separately.

“In the old days you’d just shout out the next number, responding to the vibe of the crowd… now you have to do that before the show”

Artistically, however, his sole remaining bandmate is a bona fide genius, he added: “People overuse the word ‘genius’ […] but when it comes to songwriting, Pete Townshend is – he’s one of the most important composers of the 20th century.”

“I can write songs, but they’re not great songs of significance like Townshend’s are,” he continued, adding he loves “being the guy who takes what Pete’s written” and interpreting it his own way.

Responding to a question from the floor about his opinion of modern big-production shows, Daltrey said: “In some ways I hate it, because we have to play to a setlist. In the old days you’d just shout out the next number, responding to the vibe of the crowd – now you have to do that before the show, because the whole thing has to work with the lighting man, the video man and everything else…

“So, in that sense it’s a little less exciting, but we manage it.”

Daltrey closed by talking about his work with Teenage Cancer Trust, as well as his vision for a worldwide network of hospitals designed specifically for teenagers – the people who, he acknowledged, were key to the success of the Who.

“In the ’70s, when it all went tits up and high earners were taxed at 98%, squeezed till the pips squeaked, we were one of the few bands who didn’t go abroad,” he recalled. “We thought, ‘We voted them [the Labour government] in’; we can’t just leave. So we carried on earning but turned ourselves into a charity, putting all the money we earnt into this charity and giving it out to other charities we thought were worthy.

“That’s how the Who were, and how I still feel. You get out of life what you put in.”

Previous ILMC Breakfast Meeting interviewees include Nick Mason, Bill Curbishley, Marc Geiger, Arthur Fogel, Claude Nobs, Doc McGhee and longtime U2 manager Paul McGuinness.

 


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Roger Daltrey announced for ILMC 31 Breakfast Meeting

Roger Daltrey, lead singer and founder member of the Who and one of the greatest frontmen in rock history, has been announced for this year’s International Live Music Conference (ILMC) keynote interview.

Daltrey will join former Dire Straits manager and raconteur Ed Bicknell for the latest edition of the ILMC Breakfast meeting at 16.45 on Thursday 7 March, joining a roster of previous Breakfast Meeting interviewees that includes Nick Mason, Bill Curbishley, Marc Geiger, Arthur Fogel, Claude Nobs, Doc McGhee and longtime U2 manager Paul McGuinness.

Famed for his powerful voice and energetic stage presence, Daltrey is among the most charismatic of rock’s vocalists, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide across a 50-year career with the Who and as a solo artist.

Daltrey has sold 100m+ records worldwide across a 50-year career with the Who and as a solo artist

As an honorary patron of the Teenage Cancer Trust, Daltrey has additionally been the driving force behind the annual Royal Albert Hall concert series since 2000, and with the recent publication of his memoir, Thanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite: My Story, he adds author to a long list of job titles that also includes film actor and producer.

Daltrey’s appearance at ILMC marks the 15th edition of the Breakfast Meeting, which this year moves to a later afternoon slot to accommodate changes to the Friday schedule and the new Futures Forum event.

The announcement follows that of the first round of ILMC panels and sessions in December, with the full conference schedule set to be announced in two weeks’ time.

ILMC, the leading gathering of the international live music business, takes place at the Royal Garden Hotel in west London from 5 to 8 March. The discounted earlybird rate for delegate passes expires on 23 January.

 


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“I’m a Belieber!”: Peter Mensch buries the hatchet with Justin

Legendary artist manager Peter Mensch used his appearance at last week’s ILMC 30 Breakfast Meeting to put to rest his much-publicised feud with Justin Bieber, telling delegates: “I’m a Belieber now!”

The self-professed ‘greatest manager in the fucking world’ said he had two things to say before the interview started in earnest. First off, he paid tribute to Brian Murphy, West Coast president of AEG Presents and Goldenvoice and co-founder of Avalon Attractions, who died on 6 March.

Then he stood up and removed his jumper to reveal a Justin Bieber T-shirt. Five years ago, he revealed, he’d done a talk at the Royal Albert Hall in which he insulted Justin Bieber and his manager, Scooter Braun, by suggesting the Canadian singer’s career would be over in three years. (He also told the Sun he’d “take Bieber to the woodshed and spank him” to instil some some discipline in the wayward popstar.)

“I was wrong,” Mensch said at ILMC. “I will acknowledge Justin didn’t go away… I’m now a Belieber.”

He also paid tribute to Braun for his role in organising the One Love Manchester tribute event, saying he thinks “Scooter is OK”.

Breakfast Meeting host Dan Steinberg (Promoter 101) – standing in for Ed Bicknell, who’d broken his leg – got the questions off to a confrontational start: “Why so angry?”

“I don’t give a flying fuck if you can play live… You always get better”

“Because if you manage bands you’re mummy bird and they’re baby bird and anyone doesn’t help you feed them…” responded Mensch. “You’ve got to lead or follow or get the fuck out of the way.”

The ‘mummy bird’ to Metallica, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers and others said he got into management after a stint as “the world’s worst tour accountant,” and in the office still sits next to his “best friend and only friend in the business,” QPrime partner Cliff Bernstein.

“The most important thing a manager can do is get the best music out of the act they can,” he told the room.

“I don’t give a flying fuck if they can play live. We managed Foals for two years and no one had seen them live. It’s all about the music. You always get better at live. Maybe you’re never gonna be God’s gift, but you’ll get better.”

Mensch said there’s one key to choosing the artists they work with: “It’s the music. Someone sends us music, we listen to it, someone says ‘it sucks’, end of conversation. Two of us listen and say ‘that’s a good record’ and on the way to Popeyes Fried Chicken we decide to manage them.

“Like Muse’s third album. The first album sold 10,000 albums, second didn’t come out in the US. We listened to the third record [loved it], went to Bologna, went to see them and said ‘we want to manage you in America’ and they started laughing because they’d had zero success in America.”

“The most important thing a manager can do is get the best music out of the act they can”

He also admitted to looking forward to Mondays, not Fridays, “because I don’t work on Saturday and Sunday.”

“So what motivates one of the greatest managers in the world?” asked Steinberg: “I’m fuelled by hate! I’ve had the chip [on my shoulder] since I was ten.

“We’re the best in the fucking world. We want to shove it down people’s throats.”

So what’s the ideal fan experience for Mensch? “Three hours of my favourite band. I want to have a great time and great sound. I wanna bang my head and walk out feeling amazing.”

However, you’re not likely to see him in any small clubs looking for a new act any time soon. “Most music is crap for me. I don’t hear as much amazing music as I used to. I don’t listen to as much new stuff because I only care about my acts. Cliff listens to a lot more – my feeling is, ‘If I don’t manage you, fuck you’.”

 


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Peter Mensch confirmed for ILMC 30

Legendary artist manager Peter Mensch will be the subject of the ILMC 30 Breakfast Meeting, the leading touring/festival business conference’s keynote interview, organisers announced today.

The news comes as the International Live Music Conference announces the first round of agenda topics for the 30th anniversary edition of the event in March 2018.

From 1979 to 1982, Mensch worked as a manager at Leber Krebs, where he was responsible for AC/DC, Scorpions, Def Leppard and Michael Schenker. Starting on April Fools’ Day 1982, Mensch and Cliff Burnstein formed Q Prime with just Def Leppard. The company’s roster currently includes Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, Snow Patrol, Foals, Silversun Pickups, Cage the Elephant and the Black Keys.

The Breakfast Meeting, which takes place at 10.30 on Friday 9 March, will be hosted by former artist manager and raconteur Ed Bicknell. Previous interviewees in the hot-seat have included artist managers Paul McGuinness and Doc McGhee, WME’s Marc Geiger and Live Nation’s Arthur Fogel.

Also announced is the first round of conference sessions, including ‘BREXIT 2025: Looking back’, chaired by UK Music’s CEO Michael Dugher, which considers the impact of Brexit on the European touring business.

“We’ve never had an edition of ILMC when there were so many topics to cover”

‘Gender: Calm down, what’s the fuss?’, meanwhile, sees Coda Agency’s Natasha Bent chair a panel of industry leaders to discuss gender and inclusivity in the live music business, with guests including renowned investment banking head and mother of nine Dame Helena Morrissey.

Meanwhile, ILMC’s Venue Summit strand will include ‘Venues Summit: Corridors of power’, chaired by Kilimanjaro Live’s Stuart Galbraith, which considers whether venues hold the real power in the global touring business. ‘Venues Venue: Spaces for stars’, chaired by Ahoy Arena’s Peter van der Veer, presents a first look at new data from the NAA, EAA and IQ’s European Arena Yearbook while discussing the race to meet changing consumer tastes.

“We’ve never had an edition of ILMC when there were so many topics to cover,” says conference head Greg Parmley. “The full agenda will be announced in January, and with some of the industry’s biggest names and most active campaigners already confirmed, it’s shaping up fast.”

An invitation-only event, ILMC will welcome over 1,000 delegates to the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington from 6–9 March 2018. Companies supporting ILMC 30 include Live Nation, Ticketmaster, CTS Eventim, DEAG, Showsec, Malaysia Major Events, AirX, Eventbrite, United Talent Agency, WME Entertainment, eps, Emporium Presents, Feld Entertainment, Green Copper and Buma Cultuur.

Full information on ILMC’s schedule of networking and events is online at 30.ilmc.com.

 


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