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Marc Geiger announces $75m ‘war chest’ to buy US venues

Marc Geiger has amassed a $75 million ‘war chest’ to bail out US venues that are struggling during the pandemic and help them to reopen.

WME’s former global head of music told The New York Times that he plans to invest in small venues and build an indie touring network to revive the live scene, using funds secured during an initial investment round.

“One of my favourite things in the world is to go to a club, be treated well and see an incredible band,” said Geiger, who left his role at WME in June after 17 years with the company.

“So I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to raise a bunch of money and I’m going to backstop all these clubs. I’m going to be a bailout solution for them, and I’m going to call the company SaveLive’.”

His proposal for SaveLive, which was founded with fellow former WME associate John Fogelman, is to buy at least 51% of the equity in those clubs and help them expand into regional forces once the live sector returns to full strength – which he expects to happen in 2022 when the pandemic will subside and “give way to a second Roaring Twenties, 100 years later.”

“The hope here is to create a network effect. To be a long-term backer, helper, grower of these businesses, and enjoy the wins”

“The hope here is to create a network effect. To be a long-term backer, helper, grower of these businesses, and enjoy the wins,” says Geiger, who insisted that his venue deals would be partnerships and that he would not seek to flip assets.

His primary backer, Jordan Moelis of Deep Field Asset Management, said: “We don’t see this as a distressed-asset play. We see this as a business-building play, a play to be a long-term partner and to be around for a long time.”

Geiger says he’s already negotiating with a number of venues around the country.

The news comes shortly after US president Donald Trump announced he was postponing negotiations on a new stimulus package which would’ve thrown the live sector a much-needed lifeline.

The ‘Heroes Act’ stimulus package includes the Save Our Stages Act, a US$10 billion grant programme designed to provide financial support for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives in the US.

The Democratic-controlled House passed the act on Thursday (1 October) but Trump says he won’t return to the negotiating table until after 3 November’s presidential election.


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Marc Geiger: Covid-19 will give way to the Roaring (20)20s

Marc Geiger has predicted a boom time for live entertainment after the threat of Covid-19 recedes, saying the current “claustrophobia economy” will give way to a second ‘Roaring Twenties’ marked by high consumer confidence and economic growth.

WME’s former global head of music, who was speaking during today’s iFF Keynote, compared the current coronavirus pandemic to the Spanish flu, which gripped the world from 1918–20, killing an estimated 50m people. Years of “everyone being cooped up at home”, he said, “created a joyous time called the Roaring Twenties, and I think 2022” – his estimate for when the current pandemic will subside – “will give way to a second Roaring Twenties, 100 years later.”

The prediction by Geiger – an executive renowned for spotting music business trends – will be welcomed by live music industry professionals, nearly 600 of which are attending the virtual Interactive Festival Forum on 2 and 3 September. The keynote interview, conducted by Goldman Sachs’ Lisa Yang, ended the first day of iFF conference programming on an optimistic note, and also touched on the incredible growth of music streaming and Yang’s predictions for the concert sector’s post-coronavirus recovery.

Yang said that she believes that global industry has lost around 75% of its value this year, but will recover to around 65% of its pre-Covid level in 2021. The recovery will likely be complete in 2022, she added.

In the mid-term, Yang continued, the outlook is uncertain. “It’s going to be tough,” she said. “There are so many external factors that no one can control. But from a structural perspective, I think the industry is going to come back – it’s not a question of if, but when.”

“Everyone who’s suffering right now: if you can hold on, the bumper crop will be significant”

Speaking to iFF delegates, Geiger compared the festival business to a field of crops (“I always analogise,” he said) and factors such as rising ticket prices and supposedly samey line-ups as taking nutrients out of that field. By 2022 – after two disrupted festival seasons – “everyone will be screaming to get out” of their houses, he explained, so those who are able to survive until then will reap a “bumper crop” in the renewed soil.

He urged those who can to put in place funding to ensure they are able to capitalise when social distancing is a thing of a past. “Everyone who’s suffering right now, if you can hold on – whether it’s through financing, debt, equity – the bumper crop will be significant,” he urged. “Figure out how to bridge your way until the industry comes back.”

“The market is going to come back at a very, very vast clip,” Geiger added, “and […] when it comes back rate of return will be huge.

“We’re going to see more blow-outs and sell-outs, and huge consumer interest. It’ll be one of few times in history the customer will buy a beer or a hot dog, and they’ll feel good about standing in line! And that beer will never have tasted so good.”

“Tell your audience you are NOT coming back until it’s safe and they can have the ultimate festival experience”

Geiger ran out of time for audience questions, but kindly answered some after the session…

IQ: You talked about “When it comes back, it will come back huge” and there being a “bumper crop”. What would be your advice for both festival organisers and agents on riding out the next 12 months and preparing for the Roaring 20s?
Produce a virtual festival in 2021. Tell your audience you are NOT coming back until it’s safe and they can have the ultimate (festival name) experience. Get a sideshow strategy together if you don’t already have one. Go talk to sponsors and get serious about your at-home audience. Raise your ticket prices!!!!

With the deals getting bigger, is there a role for independent promoters and agents, and those smaller independent festivals in the roaring 20s?
HELL YES!!! Bigger than ever! The big promoters have to focus on BIG shows with real profits….They won’t touch the small stuff or be able to after the cutbacks/ layoffs etc… Biggest opportunity EVER.

You talked about “trillion-dollar time” deals, while the concert business is 95-98% down depending on results. With the deals getting astronomically bigger, and growth of streaming accelerating, is the live sector going to become a smaller pawn on a bigger board?
Could happen but Live Nation, AEG and CTS Eventim will insure some pure play aspect of the business. Lot’s of indies will never sell out to bad corporate interests but let’s see.

You mentioned a relatively low number of big players in the live space, but there being room for more. Who could you see entering it over the next 2 years?
One never knows….Could come from anywhere.

Where are the best opportunities in music right now?
Wow, they are everywhere as the music business is getting bigger….that’s too big of a question and answer for me but the deeper you look and think, the more opportunity there is…

“Tell your audience you are not coming back until it’s safe and they can have the ultimate festival experience”

Tickets for iFF 2020 are still available, and all sessions will be accessible to watch back online for seven days after the event ends. To buy yours, visit the iFF website.


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Marc Geiger confirmed for IFF 2020 keynote

Marc Geiger, WME’s former worldwide head of music, has been announced as this year’s IFF Keynote, in conversation with Goldman Sachs’ Lisa Yang.

News of the conversation comes as a host of leading figures line up to speak, and leading booking agencies Paradigm, Primary Talent International and Solo Agency announce dedicated livestream showcases of rising stars.

In light of the current Covid-19 crisis, IFF 2020, the sixth International Festival Forum, will run online as the Interactive Festival Forum (iFF), a two-day online event, from 2 to 3 September. The conference will see hundreds of festival and agency professionals congregate for panel discussions, workshops, networking and deal-making.

The keynote conversation between Geiger – who left WME earlier this year after building the agency’s music division into a global powerhouse – and Lang is expected to cover major disruptors, innovation and change over the next few years. Other topics in the iFF programme include ticket prices and artist fees, force majeure and refunds, virtual festivals, the lost year of artist development, corporate upheaval, sustainability, risk, insurance and more.

Speakers to have already announced their involvement include Alex Hardee (Paradigm), Martin Elbourne (Glastonbury), Maria May (CAA), Jim King and Arnaud Meersseman (AEG Presents), Roberta Medina (Rock in Rio), Peter Elliott and Matt Bates (Primary Talent), Fruzsina Szep, Fra Soler (Primavera Sound) and Tamas Kadar (Sziget).

“IFF remains an important moment to bring the music festival and agency sectors together”

“Even as a virtual edition, IFF remains an important moment to bring the music festival and agency sectors together,” says Paradigm director and agent James Whitting. “There’s no shortage of great new artists to showcase, and after the lost summer, a huge amount to talk about.

“If anything, this year is more vital than ever.”

Paradigm is one of the agencies to host a livestreamed showcase as part of the iFF schedule, produced in partnership with Livefrom.events. Primary Talent International and Solo Agency are also among those presenting upcoming artists.

The sixth edition of the event is backed by festival associations including Yourope, the Association of Independent Festivals, and De Concert!.

Companies to have already confirmed attendance include 13 Artists, ATC Live, Black Deer Live, BPM Concerti, Charmenko, Cobra Agency, Electric Castle, FKP Scorpio, Fullsteam Agency, Gadget ABC Entertainment, ICM Partners, Lost Horizon Festival, Matchbox Live, MetalDays Festival, Mojo Concerts, Paléo Festival Nyon, Roskilde Festival, TAKK, The Talent Boutique, Vertigo, Wacken Open Air & X-ray Touring.

More details about the IFF Keynote can be found here, while the full conference schedule is here.


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Lucy Dickins named WME co-head of music as Geiger exits

Following months of speculation, WME’s worldwide head of music, Marc Geiger, has confirmed he is leaving the agency after 17 years.

Under the leadership of Geiger, who joined the then-William Morris Agency in 2003, WME’s music division has “become a global powerhouse,” comments Lloyd Braun, president of representation at parent company Endeavor. “During his tenure, Marc led countless agency initiatives and firsts for the music industry, including the creation of festivals and EDM divisions and building out WME’s leading London and Sydney music teams.

“We thank Marc for his countless contributions to WME and wish him all the best going forward.”

Also out is co-head of music Sara Newkirk Simon, who moves into a consultancy role in the wider Endeavor business. She is replaced as WME’s third music co-head by Lucy Dickins, head of the agency’s UK music division, who joined WME last year.

“The past 17 years have been an incredible ride”

Other co-heads Scott Clayton and Kirk Sommer remain in their current roles.

“The past 17 years have been an incredible ride, and I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the world’s best artists and colleagues,” comments Geiger, whose Breakfast Meeting interview was a highlight of ILMC 28.

“I’m proud of all that we accomplished, most especially the team we built during my time with the agency. I know they will achieve great things in the future.”

Geiger’s next destination is unclear, though speculation has linked him to an executive role at streaming giant Spotify.

This story will be updated.


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Lucy Dickins joins WME

WME has confirmed to IQ that award winning music agent Lucy Dickins is joining the company in June. Currently a senior agent at ITB, she will become head of WME’s UK music division – a newly created role.

“Lucy is a star player, and the perfect addition to our team,” says WME’s head of music, Marc Geiger. “There’s no one else who possesses Lucy’s combination of pedigree, taste and respect in our industry. After being in business with her family for so many years, we feel fortunate that she decided to join WME, and we look forward to bringing her perspective to our clients and colleagues.”

Adding Dickins to the payroll is a significant coup for WME’s music team in the UK, where the company has been operating since 2007. One of the music industry’s most respected and successful agents, her existing client roster includes Adele, Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, James Blake and Mabel, whom WME will now represent globally. Dickins also works with Hot Chip, Bryan Ferry, Rex Orange County, Jamie T, Jack Peñate, among others, all of whom are expected to join her at WME.  Also following her to WME’s central London offices will be ITB agents James Simmons and Chris Payne.

Underlining her popularity in the global industry, in March this year, Dickins’ peers voted her the Second Least Offensive Agent at ILMC’s Arthur Awards.

“There’s no one else who possesses Lucy’s combination of pedigree, taste and respect in our industry”

She states, “Growing up in this business, I’ve been lucky to learn from the best, but now is the time for me to take the next step in my career. The opportunity to join WME was hugely exciting, and I’m confident that this relationship can grow into something special.”

The job switch will bring her career of more than 20 years at ITB to an end. After a work experience stint at the agency as a teenager, Dickins began her career working for a small independent record label before re-joining ITB as an assistant in 1998. During the past two decades, she has built a reputation for developing artists and emerging talent from grass roots, and she is renowned for the close rapport she forms with her artists.

Lucy is part of a music business dynasty that stretches back to her musician grandfather, Percy, who, in the 1950s, co-founded the NME and introduced the Top 20 recorded music charts into popular UK culture. Her father, Barry, formed ITB in 1978 with a client list made up of some of the biggest artists of all time, including Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Her brother, Jonathan, currently manages a hugely successful roster including Adele, while her uncle, Rob, is a former head of Warner Brothers.

She was recently revealed as one of the first speakers at Eurosonic Noorderslag 2020, where she will be interviewed, alongside her father and brother, by ILMC’s Greg Parmley.

Her hire culminates a period of growth for WME’s UK office. This year the agency booked more shows at the O2 Arena than any of its rivals, in addition to leading European festival bookings.

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Hans on tour

In 2016, film-score composer Hans Zimmer emerged from his studio to become a new global touring sensation – a reputation he bolstered in April this year as perhaps the most exciting new live performer in the business, thanks to a groundbreaking, peak-time performance on the Outdoor stage at Coachella.

Traditionally the territory of chart-toppers and Pitchfork darlings, Coachella is not the usual haunt of 59-year-old film score composers, and eyebrows were raised when his name appeared on its bill alongside the likes of Radiohead, Lady Gaga, Lorde and Kendrick Lamar.

“Paul wanted to put Hans on in a tent, so we had a battle to persuade him and explain how big the show was”

Tour co-producer and promoter Harvey Goldsmith says it wasn’t easy persuading Coachella’s founder, Paul Tollett, to present Zimmer in such a prominent slot. “Paul was unsure, he wanted to put Hans on in a tent, so we had a battle to persuade him and explain how big the show was and that we really needed the right platform and time to do it justice,” says Goldsmith.

Zimmer’s agent, William Morris Endeavor’s head of music, Marc Geiger, says: “It was a risk for Paul and we talked him in to it, but a main-stage performance at Coachella was always the plan because we all knew it would be a different thing for the festival and one way or another, positive or negative, it would stick out and make some kind of impression.”


Read the rest of this feature in IQ 72:



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Agents, artists out of pocket after PMF bankruptcy

Booking agencies, artists and management companies are among those owed a combined C$13.2 million (US$9.8m) by Pemberton Music Festival Limited Partnership and 1115666 BC Ltd – the two holding companies behind Canada’s Pemberton Music Festival (PMF), which filed for bankruptcy last week.

PMF, promoted by New Orleans-based Huka Entertainment, entered receivership last Friday after finding itself unable to plug a $10m hole in its finances for 2017. Administrators at Ernst & Young (EY) advised the festival will not be reimbursing those with tickets (as, “with PMF in bankruptcy, it has no ability to provide refunds”), and EY has since directed ticketholders to “contact their bank or credit card issuer directly […] in determining whether a refund can be obtained.”

More than 18,000 people have bought tickets to Pemberton Music Festival 2017, which was to have been headlined by Chance the Rapper, Muse and A Tribe Called Quest. Bankruptcy documents list ticketholders as unsecured creditors, showing they are collectively owed nearly $8.23m.

In addition to the usual smattering of contractors, production companies and the taxman (Canada Revenue Agency [CRA] is owed $1.7m), other unsecured PMF creditors include an agency, two artists, two management companies and performance rights organisation Socan (the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada).

Toronto-based The Feldman Agency, Canada’s largest independent booking agency, is owed $10,593.75, while WME act Lovecoast – who played PMF in 2015 – are out of pocket a more modest $107.52.

PS Business Management, meanwhile – whose roster has included Arcade Fire, Hot Chip, Tame Impala, Cut Copy and Natasha Bedingfield – is owed $70,007.31, while Burnt Tree Entertainment, which manages several artists but also lists Pemberton Music Festival as a client for its marketing/consulting division, is due $12,168.24.

PMF additionally owes secured creditors $3.6m, who will be be paid in full before unsecured creditors

After CRA and the festival’s ticketholders, Socan, which issues public performances licences, is one of the biggest unsecured creditors, with an outstanding debt of $373,016.

Promoter Huka Productions is also owed $99,762.96, although it is also listed as a debtor to the tune of $349,905.

PMF additionally owes its secured creditors – two companies called 1644609 Alberta Ltd and Janspec Holdings Limited – $3.6m, which would usually be paid in full before any money was reimbursed to unsecured creditors.

Aside from its obligations to creditors, PMF is also facing the threat of legal action from WME, whose head of music, Marc Geiger, has spoken of his intention to pursue the festival’s organisers “to the full extent of the law”.

Speaking to Billboard, Geiger – whose WME agency represents Haim, Ben Harper and several other PMF 2017 performers – says it is investors who must bear the responsibility for the festival’s insolvency – not fans. “This is just gross to me,” he says. “These guys are declaring bankruptcy, but none of them are actually bankrupt. Their shell company is bankrupt. And now they want fans to pay the price.

“That’s not bankruptcy. That’s fraud.”


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Irving Azoff, AEG in LA ‘booking war’

Irving Azoff has responded to reports of a bad-tempered Los Angeles ‘booking war’ between AEG and MSG Azoff Entertainment, saying the alleged offering of incentives to artists to play the rival companies’ respective venues is “good, tough business”.

Former Ticketmaster/Live Nation chairman Azoff (picture) issued the statement after Billboard reported that LA booking agents are being told by MSG Azoff – a joint venture between Azoff and the Madison Square Garden Company – their acts cannot play Madison Square Garden (in New York) unless they also play MSG’s the Forum in Inglewood, Los Angeles.

AEG is also alleged to be pushing artists to play its Staples Center venue or risk losing the chance to play at other AEG arenas, including The O2 in London and Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg.

After chiding AEG COO Jay Marciano, Staples Center president Lee Zeidman and WME’s Marc Geiger – whose client Neil Diamond had pulled out of playing the Staples Center after reportedly being told he could not also play Madison Square Garden, earning the ire of Marciano, who accused Geiger of “caving” to Azoff – for “hid[ing] behind anonymity”, Azoff suggests offering such deals to those who want to perform at the over-subscribed Garden simply makes business sense.

“While I realise that Phil may not be happy with Los Angeles being a competitive market, that’s the American way”

“They [AEG] offer huge rebates at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, London’s The O2 Arena, Germany’s Barclaycard Arena and a residency on the moon to secure an act to play Staples Center,” he tells Billboard. “They know, of course, that it is unlikely they will deliver the Staples date, but they work for a hard-nosed businessman [Phil Anschutz].

With regards to Madison Square Garden, he continues, “we have far fewer nights available than requests by artists to play there. And of course, the premium MSG nights are going to loyal friends of the company.

“Playing the Forum – the obviously better music venue in Los Angeles – makes you a friend of the company. I only wish we could accommodate everyone with dates in Manhattan, but it’s simple supply and demand. Besides, unlike London and Germany, there are now four arenas in the New York area, so if an act can’t play the Garden, they can go elsewhere.

Azoff is also co-founder, with ex-AEG CEO Tim Leiweke, of Oak View Group – which is bidding against AEG on Seattle’s KeyArena. He concludes: “While I realise that Phil may not be happy with Los Angeles being a competitive market, that’s the American way.”


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