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ILMC 33: The Open Forum reflects on the year that wasn’t

Fresh off the back of the worst year in the history of the live music business, a quartet of industry titans put their heads together to figure out where we go from here for ILMC’s traditional opening session, the Open Forum, which moved to a mid-afternoon time slot for this year’s one-off digital edition.

Live Nation’s executive president of international touring, Phil Bowdery, kicked off the panel in a different way to usual. “We normally start off this session by talking about the year’s biggest grosses,” he said, before asking panellists how they’d spent the past year in the absence of selling hundreds of thousands of tickets.

Emma Banks, agent and co-head of CAA in the UK, summed up the mood when she said “we’ve all been busy fools”, rearranging tours and shows with no knowledge of when live music might be able to return. “Anybody that claims they know when we’ll be able to do international tours, they know something the rest of the world does not,” echoed Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group. “This thing has its own path of destruction it has to reap, and we’re going to have to be patient.”

When the time is right, “we have to open up globally,” said Jay Marciano, CEO of AEG Presents. “There was a time last year when everyone was experimenting but socially distanced shows, but at 50% [capacity] we realised we’d basically paid for the lights and the stagehands and then not made any money. And it takes away from the live experience.”

Referring to the number of fans who have kept their tickets for postponed events, Marciano added that he’s been struck by “how patient our fans have been”.

“I want to open up – I have $5 billion invested in nine new arenas. But in order to open up we have to have an agreement [as to when], because if one of us opens up too early it’ll affect the rest of us, too.”

“We’re still losing 2,000 people a day in the United States to this virus. So we need to hunker down” until it’s safe to reopen, he added.

“I’ve never seen this kind of demand … We’re going to get through this”

While “Covid has been horrendous”, there have been upsides to 2020’s time out, said Banks. “One thing that has been good is no planes – hopefully that’s been helping the planet we’ve been wrecking,” she explained. “Travel represents a tiny amount of carbon emissions, but – without taking away the gig – what we’ve learnt with Zoom, Webex, Teams, etc., is that we don’t need all the meetings we have, which we fly all over the world for often, often only for a day. We need to rethink what we’re doing.”

She also highlighted that artists have had time for other projects, whether its working on a book or starting a podcast, because they haven’t been on the road.

Both Leiweke and Marciano also pointed to advances in new technology such as 5G while touring has been on pause. “Technology didn’t take a year and a half off,” said Leiweke. When shows return, “we’re going to be see brand-new technology that will enhance the experience but won’t replace it”, he added.

Whenever it is live returns, none of the panellists were in any doubt about fans’ continued passion for live music, referencing the incredible pent-up demand for shows that has been building throughout 2020/21.

“There’s a whole load of catching up to do,” said Banks. “But it will be OK.”

“I’ve never seen this kind of demand. [For 2021] we have 180 holds in our new arena in New York already,” added Leiweke. “We’re going to get through this.”

Tickets for ILMC 33, which include all panels available to watch back until 5 April 2021, are still available. Click here for more information.


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ILMC reveals provisional agenda for 2021 edition

The International Live Music Conference (ILMC) has unveiled the provisional agenda for the 33rd edition, which will go Virtually Live between 3–5 March.

This year’s agenda boasts three days’ worth of sessions with the industry’s top players, focusing on touring, agency, livestreaming, diversity, greener touring, mental health, ticketing, gender equality, Brexit, Covid and more.

ILMC’s Winter Rate ends before 6 pm GMT on 29 January, after which the price of registration increases. See the provisional agenda below.

Wednesday 3 March
Day one at ILMC 33 sees The Open Forum: The big build back and an all-star panel of guests answering the big questions, and Klaus-Peter Schulenberg: The five-year plan, in which the CTS Eventim founder and CEO lays out his five-year vision for live entertainment in Europe.

Insurance: The big update looks at what impact the last few years have had on insurance and changes in the market; guest speakers from across the industry take a look at the revolving world of A&R in The Talent Pipeline: bringing new artists online; and in Agency Business: Enter the new players a collection of new kids on the agency block present their different approaches to the business.

We assess the long-term effects of Covid-19 on the venue sector in The Venue’s Venue: Rooms to manoeuvre and grassroots music venue operators discuss the challenges facing their rooms in Grassroots Venues: Route to recovery; in Sustainability: The best of GEI, the team behind the Green Events & Innovations Conference presents the key takeaways from their event; and in Collaboration: The multiplayer experience, a panel considers whether the industry needs a representative body.

Wednesday also features the previously announced Pulse@ILMC, a new industry platform to sit at the intersection of technology and live events.

Wednesday also features Pulse@ILMC, a new industry platform to sit at the intersection of technology and live events

Thursday 4 March
Day two of ILMC starts with Brexit: The endgame, in which a panel of experts assesses the new normal in European touring; while Covid-19: The strategy game discusses the measures and strategies the industry can utilise to get back up and running. Ticketing: Moving beyond 2020 looks at how the relationship between ticketers, venues, promoters and fans has changed; whilst Artists: The view from the stage provides creators with an opportunity to discuss what’s new and what’s changed from their point of view.

The Engine Room: The IPM review will see a panel of production experts present the key takeaways from the ILMC Production Meeting, which took place the day ILMC kicked off; The Agency Business 2021 asks company heads and leading lights from the agency world to discuss the future of the agency; Race Matters in Live: Levelling up looks at strategies to repair the race deficit; whilst the challenges and opportunities of domestic touring are discussed in Touring in 2021 & Beyond: The long game.

Thursday’s line-up also includes Mobile Ticket and Covid Testing & Mitigation workshops, and an entire day dedicated to the exhibition and experience economy – TEEM.

Thursday winds up with The (late) Breakfast Meeting in which veteran artist manager and ILMC host-with-the-most Ed Bicknell chats with industry legend Irving Azoff.

Thursday winds up with The (late) Breakfast Meeting in which Ed Bicknell chats with industry legend Irving Azoff

Friday 5 March
The final day’s topics include Mental Health: Talking heads, which takes an annual look at the mental health of the live music industry; Sponsorship: Reinventing the deal contemplates what branding will look like in 2021; and Festival Forum: Reboot & reset looks at the lessons festivals have learned since the industry closed down in March 2020.

We ask who is taking care of out-of-work professionals during the pandemic in The Workforce: Protecting our ecosystemFestival Futures: Core priorities sees festival operators consider what their events mean to them and their audiences; and Gender Equality: The next level takes a keen look at diversity in the workplace.

Working Culture: Getting a live examines home-working and the evolving concept of the office; and in Live-streaming Rights: Wrongs & rates we analyse the confusing topic of rights around live-streaming.

Rounding up ILMC 33, Futures Forum: Meet the new bosses sees a group of junior execs discuss how the pandemic has changed the business for them; Rock: The mother of invention examines this unique and dynamic genre; and finally, the ever-changing topic of health, safety and security are discussed in E3S: Safety & security 2.0.

Click here to see the full ILMC agenda.


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ILMC 32: The Open Forum: Universally Challenged

In keeping with the ‘Game of Live’ theme, ILMC’s traditional opening session this year took the form of a game show, hosted by former Live Nation UK president (and current ‘global Guinness guru’) Paul Latham.

Following a quick-fire round of quiz questions, which touched on some of the biggest stories of 2019 with a game of fingers on buzzers, talk turned to more serious concerns – namely the coronavirus threat and its wider implications for the global concert business.

Emma Banks said CAA is “not taking any shows off sale unless we have to”, but that in some countries already “people aren’t parting with their money”, while UTA’s David Zedeck noted that Covid-19 – which began in Wuhan, China – is having more of an impact than it would 20 years previous, as China is now on most major touring routes.

Taking aim at the relatively small number of delegates who’d decided not to attend ILMC, Move Concerts’ Phil Rodriguez commented: “I’m blown away that some people in this business didn’t come here because of coronavirus, and at the same time we’re doing shows – what kind of message does that send?” He also shared statistics about the number of deaths from ‘normal’ flu, as well as car accidents and other injuries, to put the Covid-19 threat in context.

Speaking from the floor, Okan Tombulca from eps blamed the media for sensationalising the outbreak. “When you get on a tube in London, that’s far worse [for transmitting disease] than being at a show or at a bar or restaurant,” he explained. “We have to send the message that the show must go on.”

Ashish Hemrajani of India’s BookMyShow said his company has an office in Singapore with 27 staff. “Twenty days ago I went there, when many other people wouldn’t, and we closed four big contracts,” he said. “One of the outcomes is that we’re now the partner for the Singapore grand prix – because we showed up.”

“We have to send the message that the show must go on”

Latham then steered the conversation towards email scams, which have been on the increase in recent years. “What stunned me about [some recent examples] was some of the people who were suckered by them,” said Banks. “These emails are supposedly coming from me or John Giddings or Summer Marshall or Steve Strange, but if you know us you’d know we would never write like that…

“Pick up the fucking phone! If an agent won’t take your call, I would say don’t do business with them. If you get an email about Lady Gaga, or Coldplay, one of these big acts, and you’ve never worked with the agent before, it’s probably not real.”

Zedeck said it can even get to the point where venues sells tickets and fans buy them before it becomes clear the act knows nothing about the show. “If a deal seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” he added.

On, then, to Brexit, and a roomful of delegates who have yet to start feeling the effects (according to a show of hands). Panellists’ concerns largely centred on the logistics of touring once the transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020, with Banks stating: “We have no idea how easy it will be to get trucks into Europe. […] I don’t know if I need to leave a week between London and Paris, or a day, or if we can still do it overnight…”

Manager and audience member Adam Parsons said, contrary to misleading media reports, visas shouldn’t be an issue post-Brexit: “COSes [certifications of sponsorship] aren’t a problem. But regarding equipment, merchandise, etc., we just don’t know.”

“This is a growth business. There is a lot of runway ahead of us”

“We had our Brexit 70 years ago and we survived that!” joked Hemrajani.

The panel closed with a brief detour into secondary ticketing and the new money in the industry (previewing the Industry Investment panel later that day), before Latham brought the session to an end by asking panellists – in light of the corona scare – for one positive message for the assembled delegates.

“I’m extremely positive as a human being,” said Live Nation Spain’s Pino Sagliocco, “so I believe this is going to go away shortly. Artists are very conscious they cannot let the fans down.”

“This is a growth business,” added Rodriguez. “There is a lot of runway ahead of us in terms of international development. I’m bullish.”

Added Zedeck: “There’s never been a better time to be in our space. It [coronavirus] is a blip on the radar; let’s hope it passes quickly.”

“It will pass, and we’ll all be fine,” concluded Banks. “But in the meantime, we all need to look after each other. But I’m still not shaking anyone’s hand…”


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