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The decade in live: 2012

The start of a new year and, perhaps more significantly, a new decade is fast approaching – and while many may be thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve plans and well-meaning 2020 resolutions, IQ is casting its mind back to the most pivotal industry moments of the last ten years.

As in the previous 12 months, 2012 saw the live music industry still grappling with the effects of the global economic crisis, with many countries just beginning to clamber out of recession and others heading for dreaded ‘double dips’.

This continuing economic uncertainty naturally bit into the leisure spend of discriminating ticket buyers with a variety of entertainment options – though the world did not, as predicted by some long-dead Mexicans, come to an end.

Elsewhere, the weather gods interfered with yet more festivals, while Hurricane Sandy had a devastating effect on the industry in the New York area. In the UK, meanwhile, the Olympics scored on many levels, but provided far too much competition for many.

 


2012 in numbers

The top 50 worldwide tours grossed a combined US$3 billion in 2012, according to Pollstar, down around 2% from $3.07bn in 2011.

Madonna’s MDNA tour was the clear No1, grossing $296.1 million, ahead of second-placed Bruce Springsteen, whose E Street Band earned $210.2m. Both acts played to more than 2m fans worldwide 2012.

Roger Waters’ The Wall generated $186.4m to come in at No3, and was also the highest-ranking hold-over from the 2011 chart, where he placed No5 with a gross of $103.6 million.

Reflecting the lingering impact of the financial crisis, the total tickets sold by the top 50 tours was 34.9m, which continued the decline from 35.5m the previous year (and well off the pace from 2009, when the top 50 sold 45.3 million, says Pollstar).

 


2012 in brief

January
FKP Scorpio buys a stake in Utrecht-based booking agency and artist management company Friendly Fire.

Touring festival Big Day Out calls time on its New Zealand leg after promoter Ken West admits that falling audience numbers have made the Auckland show unviable.

February

Madonna sparks controversy when she tells Newsweek  magazine fans should “work all year, scrape the money together” for a $300 ticket to her MDNA tour.

March
Private-equity firm CVC Asia Pacific puts its Australian ticketing company, Ticketek, and Sydney’s Allphones Arena up for a sale in a bid to reduce a A$2.7bn (€2.1bn) debt run-up by Nine Entertainment, which owns the assets.

Stuart Galbraith buys out AEG’s 50% stake in Kilimanjaro Live for an undisclosed sum. Both parties say they will continue to work together on events in future. (Kili later cancels the 2012 edition of Sonisphere at Knebworth, which was to have featured Kiss, Faith No More and Marilyn Manson.)

Ebay-owned secondary ticketing service, StubHub, launches operations in the UK and admits it is looking at further expansion across Europe.

Roger Waters's The Wall tour was the third most lucrative of 2012

Roger Waters’s The Wall tour was the third most lucrative of 2012 (© Brennan Schnell/Eastscene.com/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0))

April
Serbian authorities arrest the venue owner and other individuals following a fire at the Contrast nightclub in Novi Sad that leaves six people dead.

Tupac Shakur, who died 15 years previous, is the main talking point at Coachella, as a multimillion-dollar hologram of the rapper appears on stage alongside Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg.

May
Viagogo raises eyebrows by shifting its operational base from the UK to Switzerland, amid speculation it wants to resell tickets for the Olympic Games without falling foul of British law.

Investment firm Silver Lake Partners completes a transaction to acquire a 31% stake in William Morris Endeavor.

June
Former AEG Germany CEO Detlef Kornett forms a venue consultancy, Verescon, with DEAG with Peter Schwenkow.

Swedish telecom operator Tele2 pays an undisclosed sum to secure naming rights for Stockholm’s new 40,000-capacity stadium, operated by AEG.

Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield and Dizzee Rascal performed at the London 2012 opening ceremony
Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield and Dizzee Rascal performed at the London 2012 opening ceremony (© Matt Deegan/Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

July
Live Nation appoints former CAA exec David Zedeck to the role of executive VP and president of global talent and artist development.

Artists including Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield, Dizzee Rascal and Emeli Sandé are each paid £1 for their performances at the Olympics opening ceremony. The show attracts 26.9m viewers in the UK alone, and billions more worldwide.

August
Three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot are jailed for two years each, after staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.

September
AEG drops its claim against Lloyd’s of London on a multimillion-dollar insurance policy, following the death of Michael Jackson.

C3 Presents’ Lollapalooza debuted in Brazil in AprilC3 Presents’ Lollapalooza debuted in Brazil in April (© Henrique Oli/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0))

October
Glastonbury Festival takes just 100 minutes to sell out all 135,000 tickets for next summer’s event, despite not naming a single act on the 2013 bill.

C3 Presents extends an arrangement with Globo Organization’s GEO for more events in Brazil, following a successful Lollapalooza.

November
AEG is awarded the contract to take over shows at London’s prestigious Hyde Park, ending Live Nation’s decade-long relationship with the 80,000-capacity space.

Frank Barsalona, founder of Premier Talent, dies aged 74. Premier was the first agency to work exclusively with rock artists, with clients including the Yardbirds, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, U2 and Van Halen.

December
The Wall Street Journal reports that a number of bidders are in contention to acquire AEG, despite a reported $10bn asking price.

Irving Azoff unexpectedly resigns as chairman of Live Nation and CEO of its Front Line Management Group, to concentrate on his own artist management company.

 


Whitney Houston

Who we lost

Notable industry deaths in 2012 included South by Southwest creative director Brent Grulke, Lasse Ollsen of Swedish promoter Viva Art Music, Jon Lord of Deep Purple, Armin Rahn, founder of Munich-based Armin Rahn Agency and Management, Radiohead drum tech Scott Johnson, Perth Arena general manager David Humphreys, R&B legend Etta James, pop powerhouse Whitney Houston, the Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb, disco diva Donna Summer, the Monkees’ Davy Jones and legendary agents Armin Rahm and Frank Barsalona.

 


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McGuinness: Zoo TV tour changed the biz forever

Former U2 manager Paul McGuinness has spoken of the significant role he and the band played in the emergence of major multinational promoters such as Live Nation and AEG Live/Presents.

Interviewed by Ed Bicknell for the ILMC 29 Breakfast Meeting, McGuinness related how U2’s 1992–93 Zoo TV world tour indirectly laid the foundations for the rise of Live Nation et al. Describing the tour production as “extraordinary – but bank-breaking”,  he said U2 were then “still operating like a punk band, with low ticket prices. If one of the promoters on that tour hadn’t paid, we’d have been ruined.”

“At the end of that tour – which made no money – I said we’d never do it again,” he continued. “I had to tell [then-agents] Ian Flooks and Frank Barsalona that I wasn’t going to use them anymore. That was quite an event…

“I decided the next tour was going to be underwritten by a single promoter. We worked with Arthur Fogel and Michael Cohl – that deal became SFX, then Clear Channel and now Live Nation.”

The interview, as is tradition, took place on the final morning of ILMC, following the previous evening’s Gala Dinner and Arthur Awards (see the winners here).

Bicknell began by asking how much of a role luck has played in McGuinness’s long career. McGuinness highlighted luck as one of the four key qualities needed in a manager – along with talent, stamina and ambition – and related an anecdote about Napoleon’s choice of marshals: “He said, most of all, they have to be lucky. Luck has an enormous amount to do with success in popular music.”

“U2 always understood they had two parallel careers: one in live and one in recording”

Reflecting on his pre-U2 management career, McGuinness said his first gig was for a Celtic rock band (a “poor man’s Horslips”) called Spud. “I managed to get them a record deal, and we did a little bit of touring, mostly in Germany and Sweden,” he explained. Spud, however, had “wives and responsibilities” and were loath to buy anything for the band – even guitar strings – feeling they were committed elsewhere. McGuinness said he thought they were “too old to make it” and resolved that “the next band I manage is going to be younger than that.”

Introduced to U2 by late rock critic Bill Graham, McGuinness said band and manager’s famous five-way royalty split was established from the outset. “I used to read about Brian Epstein, Andrew [Loog] Oldham… in the groups I was interested in there was an officer class and then the soldiers,” he explained. “In the Rolling Stones you had Mick and Keith and then everyone else; in The Beatles it was John and Paul, and then George and Ringo. That’s what broke up those groups.

“So, I said to U2: ‘There isn’t going to be any money for a while, so what there is you should split equally. And since there’s four of you and one of me, why don’t we split everything five ways?’”

On U2’s early touring career, McGuinness outlined how important the band’s live act was to establishing their reputation at a time when their records weren’t selling. “U2 always understood they had two parallel careers: one in live and one in recording,” he said. “We weren’t successful [with the latter] in the beginning – the first two records didn’t perform well, and there was the constant threat of being dropped.

“Only with the third album [War] did we have success on record. By then we were known across America, Europe… we had a very military style: we targeted each country one by one and tried to build ourselves in each at the same speed.”

“In the early ’80s,” he continued, “we’d do three months in the US in one go every year. That meant playing in as many cities as possible ­– and major cities twice each, so you’d hopefully see progress from a club to an auditorium [when you returned].

“Everyone liked the idea of touring an in-the-round stadium production, but it took a lot of money and imagination to turn it into a reality. I don’t think anyone will ever do it again”

“The first show we played in LA was the [600-cap.] Country Club, and because we had support from K-Rock and the LA Times, it was sold out. When we returned three months later, we were able to sell out the 3,000-seat Santa Monica Civic [Center].”

McGuinness said a consequence of that early focus on live is that a lot of the promoters of their first shows “grew up with us.” Adding “Very often they’re now Live Nation territory bosses, so the sensation is often of still doing business with the same people.”

McGuinness stepped down as U2’s manager in 2013, two years after the conclusion of the innovative 360° tour, which saw the band play ‘in the round’ with the audience in a circular configuration around the stage ­– still the highest-grossing concert tour of all time.

Despite the tour netting him and his band more than US$736 million, McGuinness said his favourite U2 show is still their first performance at Madison Square Garden, in 1985. (The same is true for Dire Straits, agreed ex-manager Bicknell.) “Even though you get paid less, as the union has cottoned on to how sentimental bands are over the venue – I think there are union stagehands from New Jersey who haven’t left their houses in 20 years that are still getting paid – the vibe is just extraordinary,” he commented.

With discussion – inevitably – turning briefly to secondary ticketing, McGuinness said the price scaling for the 360° tour was “pretty good. We had $25 tickets further from the stage, with prices going all the way up to $120, $150, all sold out.”

“Everyone liked the idea of touring an in-the-round stadium production,” he concluded, “but it took a lot of money and imagination to turn it into a reality. I don’t think anyone will ever do it again.”

 


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