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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

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.


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.

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/ Commons (CC BY 2.0))

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.

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.

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))

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.

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.

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))

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.

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.

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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Marcel Avram: 8 things I’ve learnt at 80

…now, as he celebrates his 80th birthday – and a remarkable 50 years in the business – the man affectively dubbed ‘the Emperor’ by his peers imparts some of the lessons learnt from half a century at the top to a new generation of concert professionals. As told to Jon Chapple

Be bold (it pays off)
Avram’s relationship with Michael Jackson began in 1972, when he promoted the Jackson 5 in Germany with MAMA Concerts – and by the late 80s he was promoting the European leg of Jackson’s first solo trek, the Bad tour, which became the second-highest grossing of 1988 (behind Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason – also an Avram tour in Germany).

“In 1988, I was just a fat little Jew speaking broken English, but I’d decided I wanted to work with Michael Jackson,” he explains. “I had to be creative and I had to be fearless getting my strategy together, as I was competing against the big promoters in England and America – everybody wanted to do MJ.

“In the end, I became the producer, the agent, and the promoter, all in one person. I’m very proud of that achievement.”

Loyalty is key
“The way I learnt the business,” explains Avram, “is that if you do a good job, you expect the artist will stay with you. It used to be that you’d discover an act in a 200-cap club and stay with them right up to arenas and stadia.

“Unfortunately, at the moment, much of the business has moved from the individual promoter to the stock market – as soon as some artists get big, the [corporates] go to them and say, ‘We can take you to the next level.’ It’s going in the direction of promoters working their arses off at a club-level, and then losing acts when they become big. How can you fight the stock market?”

Avram says this new business reality was laid bare by a meeting he had with an artist he’d “taken from the bottom” and their manager informing him their next tour would be with a major corporate. “When I asked about loyalty – where are the ethics? – I was told, ‘If you want loyalty, buy a dog.’”

Be patient
On a related note, Avram laments what he sees as a modern obsession among some artists and their teams with getting rich quick – often at the expense of a proper long-term plan.

“Money shouldn’t come first,” he says. “If you have a good act, the quality is right, and you have good people working on it, the money will come.

“Look at the two biggest festivals in the world, Coachella and Tomorrowland,” he continues. “In the first few years, they had no money and made a big loss – it was all down to the creativity of the promoters, bookers and agents. Then it blew up, and that’s how it should be: the money should come at the end.”

The problem is exacerbated, he suggests, by managers and agents who – understandably – are under huge pressure to secure more income for their artists. On the buy-a-dog manager, Avram explains: “He said to me, ‘Marcel, you’re offering $100,000 a show, and I have another guy offering $120,000.’ How can I go back to my artist and say, ‘Sorry, you’re not going to make an extra $20,000 a show’? And agents are under similar pressure.”

“If you have a good act, the quality is right, and you have good people working on it, the money will come”

Keep your finger on the pulse
After a 50-year career in which he has regularly worked with greats including Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Metallica, AC/DC, Prince, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, Jennifer Lopez and, most famously, his “dear friend” Michael Jackson, Avram could be forgiven for not keeping up to date with current musical trends.

However, nothing, he says, could be further from the truth, explaining he “still gets a kick out of growing an act” and “taking them all the way.” He has more recently promoted Justin Bieber and Arcade Fire, currently working with big-on-the-Internet American boy-band Why Don’t We (managed by former AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips and his long-time partner Dave Loeffler), who he says has the “potential to be a stadium act” in the near future.

Social is the future…
One of the biggest changes Avram says he’s seen in six decades in the business is how shows are promoted. “In the old days, you’d put up a poster or take out an ad, in print, or the radio or TV,” he explains.

“Now, we still have those methods, but we’ve added bloggers, social media, YouTube… Social media has opened up the world.”

… but meeting in person is still important
However, he continues, “I can’t explain myself in writing as well as face to face. [By meeting face to face] I can explain my strategy, my belief, and my enthusiasm in a way that’s impossible via email. This is my way of doing business – it’s been the same for the last 50 years.”

He adds that his well-known fondness for air travel – “I don’t know any single person who flies as many miles as he does,” Wizard Promotions’ Ossy Hoppe told IQ in 2013, when Avram was a spritely 75 – is a result of this dedication to in-person meetings. “I go to Moscow, to Tel Aviv, to India,” he explains. “It’s always been important to me to discover new markets all over the world.”

“Music is my passion, and I’ll keep doing this as long as I have enough energy”

Beware the taxman
Perhaps the nadir of Avram’s professional career was spending time in a Munich prison after being convicted of tax evasion in 1997. While he maintains the scheme, which involved paying artists through a company based in a Dutch overseas territory, was and is legal, he nevertheless has a few words of advice for younger promoters: “Don’t mess with the taxman! They will always find a reason to get you.

“But they’re stronger than you are, so let them fight the big companies with their offshore offices instead.”

Stay active
At an age when most people have long been happily retired, Avram says – health allowing – he still has no plans to step back from his work.

“I feel amazing!” he says. “As long as God gives me health, and I can carry on doing whatever I like doing, I’ll still work and enjoy my life.”

Avram says artists such as French singer Charles Aznavour, who at 93 is still touring, inspire him to keep going. “When I’m 80 and I speak to a 93-year-old artist who says, ‘Music is my life, the stage is my life, and if I don’t do that I’ll die,’ I tell myself I can do it as well.

“I’ve had success with other businesses, but music is my passion, and I’ll keep doing this as long as I have enough energy. I’ve climbed to the top of the mountain – and when you’re at the top, it’s very difficult to come down. And I want to give myself plenty of time to do it.”


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