Phil Bowdery wins top honour at LIVE Awards 2023
Legendary promoter Phil Bowdery was honoured with the LIVEtime Achievement Award at last night’s (12 December) LIVE Awards in London, attended by 600 live music professionals from the UK business.
Tom Jones, Stevie Wonder, Dame Shirley Bassey and Michael Ball were among the superstars who paid tribute to the Live Nation stalwart during the ceremony at Troxy.
“I keep thinking it’s a bit early for me to receive a lifetime achievement award but then I remember that it was over 50 years ago since I went on the road,” said Bowdery during his acceptance speech. “It’s then that I realise it’s the memory that is going, nothing else.
“I’ve been really blessed throughout these years to work with incredible artists, without whom none of us would be here. [Plus] great managers, agents, tour managers, production managers, crew and everyone who makes the show happen every night. There have been some bad times but of course, they are far outweighed by some incredible highs and experiences.”
Bowdery went on to thank his team at Live Nation, as well as his colleagues at the Concert Promoter’s Association (CPA), which he chairs.
“I’ve been really blessed throughout these years to work with incredible artists, without whom none of us would be here”
“Looking back on those dark days of 2021/2022,” he said. “The CPA had long days and nights on endless zooms trying to make a difference. It was a lack of support from those in power that really focused us on trying to make some changes.
“We had lots of conversations with Greg Parmley [ILMC] and Stuart Galbraith [Kilimanjaro Live] and from those LIVE was conceived. Bringing together all the associated industry bodies in one forum was a dream. We spent many hours on the phone with the begging bowl and trying to get enough money together to get the ball rolling and so to be here tonight at the secondary LIVE awards, with so many people in attendance, gives me an incredible feeling of pride and satisfaction knowing that it is now recognised as our industry’s voice.”
Other award winners included The O2 for the LIVE Green Award, Live Nation for the National Promoter of the Year Award and The Boileroom in Guildford for the Grassroots Champion Award.
Char Goodfellow from The Boileroom accepted the award flanked by other small venue operators and Music Venue Trust team members who wore or held t-shirts commemorating Bath Moles, a 45-year-old venue that closed last week due to rising costs.
The silent demonstration was a bid to raise awareness about the increasing number of grassroots venues that are closing down.
“If this award is to represent anything, it is the value and imprint that grassroots venues stamp on every form of life”
“If this award is to represent anything, it is the value and imprint that grassroots venues stamp on every form of life,” Goodfellow said. “Every venue is deserving of this award considering all of our circumstances so we’re honoured to receive this. It’s a tough time out here for grassroots spaces.”
“The LIVE Awards has become an important moment in the industry calendar as the only chance everyone gets to take a step back and celebrate what’s been achieved each year,” said Jon Collins, CEO of LIVE.
“We know that this has been a tough time for many given the cost and complexity of touring, pressure on festival margins and grassroots venues taken to the brink. LIVE will continue to fight for positive change while taking this moment to celebrate the incredible achievements of so many in our sector.”
The full list of award winners are:
The LIVE Green Award: The O2
The LIVE Workforce Award: PRS Foundation x Keychange
Grassroots Champion: The Boileroom, Guildford
Ticketing Service 2023: Ticketmaster
Festival of the Year: Deer Shed Festival
Production Supplier 2023: Neg Earth Lights
Regional Promoter of the Year: JOY. Concerts
Booking Agency of the Year (<21 Team Members): Pure Represents
Major Festival of the Year: TRNSMT
Festival Brand Partnership 2023: Sky VIP lounges
Road Warrior of the Year: Trevor Williams
Venue of the Year: KOKO, London
National Promoter of the Year: Live Nation
Booking Agency of the Year (>21 Team Members): Wasserman Music
The LIVEtime Achievement Award: Phil Bowdery
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Best of 2022: Phil Bowdery’s golden term
Ahead of the return of our daily IQ Index newsletter on Tuesday, 3 January, we are revisiting some of our most popular interviews from the last 12 months. Here, Gordon Masson learns about Live Nation legend Phil Bowdery’s remarkable 50-year career in the industry…
Education is a mantra in Phil Bowdery’s life. “I’ve said to my children many times, ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say,’ because I was out of school by the age of 15, playing in a band,” he confesses. Still, as one of the doyens of the live music sector, his early departure from school hasn’t served him too badly.
Starting life on the road as the drummer for a band called Choc Ice, Bowdery’s early experiences saw him rubbing shoulders with some of the great and the good of the music business. “Our guitarist was Gordon Gaynor, who I still catch up with now and again,” he says. “But our claim to fame was we had a little bit of a break and made a record with Pye, which was the label in those days.”
Gaynor tells IQ, “I met Phil through Ray Stiles, who was bassist for the band Mud. So Phil joined us on drums, gigging most weeks, and when we stayed out the night I’d share a room with Phil, which was a laugh. When we went to Germany for the first time, we lived on pizza for a month, playing three [one-] hour sets a night – great fun!”
“We used to meet Stevie [Wonder] and his band at a hotel in Mayfair, and we all went on the tour bus together”
Bowdery continues, “We became the backing band for Mac and Katie Kissoon. Katie is now one of Eric Clapton’s backing vocalists, but she and her brother had quite a big hit at the time, and we ended up on the road with The Supremes and also Stevie Wonder, which were both Arthur Howes tours.”
Gaynor comments, “We used to meet Stevie and his band at a hotel in Mayfair, and we all went on the tour bus together. I remember to this day, Phil and I sitting in Stevie’s dressing room as he played us tracks from his first synth album, Music of My Mind; it blew us both away. I have some really fond memories with Phil.”
Indeed, another claim to fame was Bowdery’s part in one of Wonder’s biggest hits. He recalls, “One day at soundcheck, he had this huge boombox that he was using to record stuff, and he asked me to play a rhythm while he recorded. So, in theory, I played on the original demo of You Are the Sunshine of My Life, which is pretty nice because I now promote Stevie Wonder in Europe.”
“In theory, I played on the original demo of You Are the Sunshine of My Life”
When the wheels came off…
The heady heights of life as a support act were short-lived, however, and Bowdery put aside the drumsticks barely a year after hitting the road. “Things in the band were beginning to fall apart, and suddenly the van wasn’t working, and that was sort of the final straw,” he recalls.
“I was 16 at the time, but I still wanted to be involved in music, so I became the non-driving roadie for Mud, who were from my hometown. I got paid £12 a week. When I was old enough to drive, Mud started to have hits, and as the band got bigger and the crew got bigger, that enabled me to become their production manager, then the tour manager, and then I became part of the management team.
“With Mud we were doing clubs and things – there was a chain in Manchester that owned three venues where we’d open up the first club, we’d be middle of the bill on the second, and top of the bill on the third one. So you ended up doing three shows per night in three different venues, which made it worthwhile. When I think about it, we’d break our heads to play a show – I remember going from London to Sunderland [a distance of 275 miles (443km)] for a £40 gig.”
“I remember going from London to Sunderland [a distance of 275 miles (443km)] for a £40 gig”
When Mud’s fame began to wane, Bowdery saw the potential to earn some extra cash for the act. “We purchased the sound system,” he explains. “I did the deal with Dave Martin, from Martin Audio, himself. And on the back of that, we started a rental company, which I was running as well.”
The shrewd piece of business opened unexpected doors. “The sound company did work with Renaissance, and when their manager, John Scher, decided not to fly in their regular guy from the States, I became their sound engineer,” explains Bowdery.
And his enthusiasm obviously impressed. “I quickly became the band’s tour manager and toured America with them.”
That introduction to America lit a fire. Following Renaissance, Bowdery found himself on back-to-back tours with Charles Aznavour across the States, and, thanks again to the sound rental operation, he also began his long association with Leo Sayer.
“I quickly became the [Renaissance]’s tour manager and toured America with them”
“I came to Barry Clayman via the sound company, as we were working with some of the acts that MAM were promoting,” says Bowdery. “Barry and I just hit it off from day one – I still speak to him on a daily basis, often multiple times.
“When I decided that humping gear was no longer for me, I became Barry’s promoter’s rep for a Leo Sayer tour. I think the first tour was 1979. Leo and I got on like a house on fire, so it got to the point where he asked me to work for him full-time, so I left the sound company and Mud and worked for Leo straight through to ‘85, when he came off the road.”
In the meantime, Barry Clayman made the decision to depart MAM having sold the business to Chrysalis. “I’d always recognised Phil’s potential, so a few years after the Chrysalis deal, I decided to start my own company – Barry Clayman Concerts [BCC] – and I asked Phil to come with me,” Clayman tells IQ.
“When I decided that humping gear was no longer for me, I became Barry’s promoter’s rep for a Leo Sayer tour”
Bowdery recalls, “A year or so into BCC, we got Michael Jackson and did our first tour with him in ‘88. That really helped establish the company as a serious player.”
Indeed, Clayman reveals, “We did seven Wembley Stadiums with Michael Jackson – 560,000 tickets, and every single one was a paper ticket bought in person at a box office or a ticket outlet. Phil ran all of those shows. In fact, at one date when Jackson failed to appear, it was Phil who went on stage to calm the crowd and explain the date would be rescheduled.”
Bowdery says, “I introduced computers to BCC. Michael Jackson’s tour manager, John Draper, had the first Mac I’d ever seen – this bright-green machine, and it just changed everything. Instead of sitting with a piece of paper, a calculator, a pencil and a rubber, doing costings, we started putting them into sheets with formulas.
“We did seven Wembley Stadiums with Michael Jackson – 560,000 tickets, and every single one was a paper ticket”
“I’ll never forget Barry asking what would happen if we put the ticket price up by 50 pence: he couldn’t believe that we could make all the calculations so quickly… I’ve still got all the old figures. I sometimes like to go back and have a look and just see how I did things.”
Leaving on a jet plane
Having Clayman as a mentor, Bowdery took on more and more responsibility, but his first fully promoted tour turned out to be a bittersweet memory.
“The first tour that I promoted, completely sold it myself, was John Denver in 1997. Even though it was a Barry Clayman tour, the credit line was ‘Phil Bowdery for Barry Clayman Concerts,’ which I really appreciated,” he states. Sadly, it would be the final time Denver would visit Europe.
“We played golf a couple of times, and he was talking about this new plane that he’d just bought as a kit and how he was looking forward to seeing it when he got back home. And that was the plane he died in, literally four or five weeks after we finished the tour.”
“The first tour that I promoted, completely sold it myself, was John Denver in 1997”
Immersing himself in the international side of BCC’s operations, Bowdery started to rub shoulders with many peers who have since become colleagues at Live Nation.
“It allowed me to learn the European side by starting to use different promoters around Europe. So, through the likes of John Denver or Tom Jones – for whom I sort of acted as his agent from about 1987 – I got to know Leon Ramakers and Herman Scheuremans and Thomas Johansson.
“That’s how I crafted my European knowledge, by getting to know all those guys – and most of them are now part of the Live Nation family, so it definitely helped that we had pre-existing relationships from when we were all independent.”
Johansson, who these days is Live Nation’s chairman of international music, recalls, “We met for the first time in Holland: Phil was there with The Rubettes for a TV show, and I was there with ABBA for the same programme. Ever since we have worked together with almost every artist in the world!”
“Through the likes of John Denver or Tom Jones, I got to know Leon Ramakers and Herman Scheuremans and Thomas Johansson”
Further south in Europe, Rob Trommelen at Mojo Concerts acknowledges Bowdery’s no-bounds enthusiasm in helping the artists he works with. Explaining that he knows Bowdery from his days as tour manager with Mud, Trommelen tells IQ, “I always enjoy Phil’s stories about his adventures [in the Netherlands] during the trips they made to a variety of clubs and local discotheques – he knows the names of many villages in the middle of nowhere. One day, he even showed me a video in which he joined Mud’s backing dancers!”
Of course, Bob Sillerman’s corporate kleptomania changed the live music business forever, and in 1999 when SFX turned its attention to BCC, Bowdery found himself as one of the principals in the new expansive operation – a position he built upon as Sillerman cashed out to Clear Channel Communications just four months after the BCC acquisition.
“When the company evolved, a position for a European touring chief became apparent,” says Clayman. “Phil was out of contract, but I suggested they speak to him and he became the new number one. I had great confidence in him because I always knew he had what it takes. He was a great learner and was always asking the right questions to expand his knowledge base – it’s me who asks him the questions these days.”
“[Phil] was a great learner and was always asking the right questions to expand his knowledge base”
With Bowdery given the title of executive VP, touring, Europe, when Live Nation spun off from Clear Channel in 2005, his role further expanded when he was promoted to executive president of touring, international, working closely with local partners to set up offices in Australasia, Asia and China, as well as Live Nation’s international touring activities.
Clayman adds, “I take huge satisfaction [in seeing] how successful he has been. On top of being a great music man, he’s a good guy, and he’s great with his staff.”
Because there are a full 24 hours in a day, workaholic Bowdery’s role in recent years has extended outside of his Live Nation remit. For more than six years, he has been chairman of the UK’s Concert Promoters Association, while more recently he has been heavily involved in the creation of LIVE, the UK trade body that represented the live entertainment sector so well during the pandemic restrictions.
Explaining how he first became involved in trade associations, Bowdery says, “Barry Clayman was one of the founding members of the CPA, along with Harvey Goldsmith, Paul Crockford, Danny Betesh, Stuart Littlewood and Carole Smith, who just celebrated her 30th year as CPA secretary. If Barry could not make a meeting, I’d go in his place.
“On top of being a great music man, [Phil] is a good guy, and he’s great with his staff”
“Back then, it was all about a PRS fight: they wanted to increase promoter rates from 2% to 6%, but thanks to the CPA, we managed to contain it at 3%.”
Indeed, the CPA recently emerged from another negotiation with PRS that saw rates rise to 4.2% of gross sales. “It’s tough, especially in the current environment,” admits Bowdery, who nevertheless piloted the CPA’s campaign to stymie PRS attempts to increase the tariff to 8%.
“With VAT going back to 20% from April, along with the PRS’s 4.2%, we’ll have 25% coming off the gross before we even start,” he warns. “That’s why we’re challenged, in the UK, to try to match offers that promoters make, particularly in America where there’s no tax in some instances. But it could be worse if it wasn’t for the fact that the CPA has given us a voice.”
Tres Thomas, senior vice president of operations and the global director of touring for Live Nation, commends Bowdery for his leadership skills, both within the company and at the CPA.
“Like myself, Phil is pretty much the road guy who has done everything”
“Like myself, Phil is pretty much the road guy who has done everything,” says Thomas. “When I first met him, I was working with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, and Deep Purple, and Phil was the guy who started with production and settled the show afterwards – we’d argue over nickels and dimes and catering bills and all those things, but he was always a gentleman and always respectful.
“Phil taught me that the promoter/artists/agents table could be round – it didn’t need to be squared off, with battle lines drawn.”
Thomas adds, “Phil has done a wonderful job of mentoring the next generation – Sophia Burn, Ellen Proudlove, Gary McIsaac… He realises that the business will not be ours in ten years, so he’s making sure the next generation is prepared to take over.”
The importance of trade associations and support organisations has, of course, been underlined during the past couple of years, as the global pandemic shuttered touring activity around the world, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without gainful employment.
“Phil taught me that the promoter/artists/agents table could be round – it didn’t need to be squared off, with battle lines drawn”
Revealing how his normal day-to-day routine simply stopped, Bowdery tells IQ, “I had Clannad playing the London Palladium on the 17 March , on their final tour. At the meet-and-greet in Birmingham, three days before, they all had gloves on. That was the first sign I’d seen of any response to the virus. But then I got a call from UTA telling me that someone who was at the gig got Covid. It was all so new to us that we started scrambling to put in safeguards.
“Then, when I was at a meeting at Heathrow on March 16, I got a phone call, and I was told ‘The office is closing. And by the way, the Palladium is closed. That’s it. No show tomorrow.’ And from that moment, my study at home became my office.”
While the industry initially started rescheduling gigs by a matter of weeks, it became apparent to Bowdery that Covid could be around for much longer, and he realised, along with a number of peers, that live music was dangerously under-represented in terms of government lobbying.
“The theatre business got pretty loud pretty quickly. But nobody was talking for us: there were a lot of people jumping up and down, but nothing was happening for us, so there was an urgent desire to at least try to be heard and put our situation front and centre as much as we could.”
“The CPA still means an awful lot to me, but LIVE is something that is even better”
Bowdery, alongside Kilimanjaro Live’s Stuart Galbraith and ILMC’s Greg Parmley, set about creating the LIVE trade association and putting together a strategy to lobby government ministers about the plight of the hundreds of thousands of professionals that depend on live entertainment for their income.
“I think we achieved an awful lot,” says Bowdery, underplaying the complexity of the task. “I really believe the reduction in VAT was down to us. I believe that the government’s creation of the relief fund was down to us. And there was an awful lot achieved by doing the test events – Melvin Benn’s test events at first, then everybody else elsewhere doing test events to prove that our industry is adaptable, and if people wanted to go to events, then we were more than capable of finding a way of getting them there safely.”
Understandably proud of those achievements, Bowdery says, “The CPA still means an awful lot to me, but LIVE is something that is even better – it gives us that umbrella organisation we’ve always been missing. In saying that, it’s important that we have all the different organisations feeding into LIVE because that will help to keep the balance: particularly with the Production Services Association, which is the production side; with Mark Davyd and the Music Venue Trust; and also the concert halls and the National Arenas Association because that gives you representation from the grassroots to the biggest venues, again keeping the balance with everyone.”
“We all owe [Phil] a debt of gratitude for the time and effort that he spends for the good of the business”
Bowdery’s efforts have not gone unrecognised. “The work he has done with the LIVE group over the last two years has been stellar – a steadying hand during a very rough voyage,” notes Emma Banks, co-head of CAA’s London-based operations. “We all owe him a debt of gratitude for the time and effort that he spends for the good of the business, never looking for any glory for himself.”
DF Concerts chief Geoff Ellis says, “Phil is one of the best promoters in the world, and there are very few who command the same respect that he has internationally, so it’s been a pleasure to serve on the CPA board with him.
“His work through the pandemic with the CPA and LIVE has helped immeasurably. When I was meeting with all the political parties in Scotland to talk about the insurance problem, Phil took the time to meet with the cabinet secretary responsible for culture to make sure the Scottish government understood the problems of our industry.”
Bowdery himself tips his hat toward the unprecedented collaboration between industry rivals throughout the pandemic, noting that their willingness to work together for the greater good bodes well as the business recovers. “When something like a pandemic happens it just makes you realise how much the strength of coming together makes a difference,” he says. “Information is power, and sharing information with each other has worked really well.”
“Phil is one of the best promoters in the world, and there are very few who command the same respect that he has”
Many of the people that IQ spoke to for this article note Bowdery’s extraordinary communication skills, pointing out his ability to solve problems with ease, as well as the unique relationship he maintains with artists.
Bowdery believes those attributes were picked up through his desire to be in the live music business. “I left school at 15 with no qualifications – I was not academic,” he says. “But I was streetwise, and my education was being on the road: that taught me life. I had to think on my feet, and when you do that you are communicating.”
Hinting at where he honed his legendary negotiation proficiency, Bowdery recalls a game he’d play with musicians in hotels where the goal was to taste all the whisky behind the bar without paying for a drop. “That was all down to communication and building a relationship with the barman. There was no harm done, but it was all about the ‘gift of the gab’.”
He adds, “I’ve always made sure when I go to a club or theatre or wherever that the person who works on the door genuinely knows that they are as important to me as the guy in the office who is paying the band. Let’s face it, if the door isn’t open, nobody gets in. So I try to ingratiate myself with people and I’m not above communicating with everyone. Everyone is equal.”
Being the long-term manager for Michael Ball, and the agent and tour director for Tom Jones, his approach to dealing with artists is equally simple. “You need to have empathy,” he says. “Without artists, we don’t have jobs. We facilitate them to play to an audience: there is no industry without them.”
“I left school at 15 with no qualifications – I was not academic. But I was streetwise, and my education was being on the road”
Examining some of the technological breakthroughs he has witnessed during his distinguished career, Bowdery underlines the power of the Internet as a game changer. “It’s changed completely the whole marketing aspect of what we do,” he observes. “There was a time when it was only the younger artists that benefitted, but now it’s everyone.
“It really hit home with One Direction. Then agent Paul Fitzgerald and managers Richard [Griffiths] and Harry [Magee] tasked us to do the tour without using any print. And we sold out the entire European stadium tour on social media.” Reluctant to identify particular gigs as career highlights, Bowdery nevertheless namechecks certain acts. “Tom Jones, who I love, of course,” he states, while he admits he would have loved to have worked with The Beatles and Elvis Presley, especially as he has heard so many legendary anecdotes from Tom Jones about his Vegas days with Elvis.
He also lauds Live Nation chief Michael Rapino for his role in changing the live music business. “I was very fortunate to spend a lot of time with him when he worked in the London office,” Bowdery says. “That’s stood me in good character since because if I need to speak to him – and it’s not something I do that much – he’s always ready to talk. But I think so much of the global growth for the live music business is down to Michael Rapino. His vision is incredible, and he knows what works.”
“If everything pans out as planned in 2022, he’s looking at one of his busiest years ever”
With 85-year-old mentor, Barry Clayman, still going strong as a promoter, Bowdery, likewise, isn’t entertaining any ideas of stepping away. Indeed, if everything pans out as planned in 2022, he’s looking at one of his busiest years ever.
“Obviously, the huge success of Coldplay throughout Europe is just enormous, and Harry Styles has two sold-out Wembley stadiums plus Manchester plus Glasgow,” he notes. We’re actually getting into holding stadium dates for 2024,” he reveals. “It’s obvious that the need and desire of everyone to get back to business – and for fans to catch up on two years without live shows – is alive and well.
“I have Genesis, Crowded House, Sting and Westlife going out as the last artists I’ve had to reschedule. Wembley Stadium with Westlife, for example, should have been in 2020 and is now going to happen in ‘22 – we’ve nearly caught up.”
However, as with many in the industry, Bowdery remains concerned over the pandemic’s impact on the live music supply chain. “Talking to major staging contractors, trucking companies, production services, is worrying,” he reports. “It’s all very well me booking a tour, but if the sound isn’t available or if the stage can’t get there, then the artist won’t be able to perform.”
“The biggest thrill for me is actually seeing that show that I had the idea for; and then standing there watching it”
But he’s hopeful that the satisfaction he derives from organising gigs is also felt by others along the length of the supply chain. “There are so many people in our industry that have changed vocation, not out of desire but out of necessity, so we are going to suffer shortages, and that’s why everyone’s working so hard at the moment to try to make sure that they are aligned with their suppliers. But it’s not easy.
“The biggest thrill for me is actually seeing that show that I had the idea for; and then put the deal together, got it on sale, built it; and then standing there watching it. It’s still a rush, and I think lots of people who are involved in working on live music experience the same feelings, so I’m confident that we’ll get some of the people back from the likes of Amazon or whoever they switched their skills toward during the pandemic.”
He adds, “I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the best acts in the world, from Streisand to Coldplay to Bruce Springsteen to BTS to Tom Jones. But it’s not one particular artist that I associate that feeling of joy – it’s every single show, be it at a club or a stadium, Dave Gahan at Shepherd’s Bush Empire or BTS or Springsteen at Wembley Stadium – the same effort has gone in, in theory, to actually put that together. Getting that satisfaction is what I love.”
This article originally appeared in Issue 110 of IQ Magazine.
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Nile Rodgers steals the show at ILMC 34
Nile Rodgers brought the house down at ILMC 34, regaling the (Late) Breakfast Meeting with tales of his work with legends such as David Bowie, Prince and Diana Ross.
The Chic co-founder even squeezed in a shout out to his promoter, Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery, during yesterday’s 90-minute chat with former Dire Straits manager and raconteur Ed Bicknell.
The multi-award winning, genre-defying musician, whose career stretches over five decades, has written, produced and performed on albums that have sold over 500 million units worldwide, and 75 million singles. In 2018, he co-founded Hipgnosis Songs with manager Merck Mercuriadis.
“No one in the club was talking to him, because he didn’t look like David Bowie”
Here is a selection of some of his best anecdotes from yesterday’s interview…
David Bowie & Billy Idol
“David had just been dropped from his record label. I was about to get dropped from mine. The day that we met, we met early in the morning. I thought that I had driven up to this brand new after hours club in New York, called The Continental, with Billy Idol. But, in fact, what happened is I had driven there with someone else, but Billy was right there at the front door. Billy and I loved each other, we partied all the time. We walk in the club and Billy goes, ‘Bloody hell, that’s David fucking Bowie!’ And as he says ‘Bowie’, he barfs, because he had been putting down the sauce all night.”
“At that point, I had seen David. It was so strange because no one in the club was talking to him, because he didn’t look like David Bowie. It was the beginning of the metrosexual look, and he was dressed in a suit while everybody else was all club kitted out. He was the only one that looked like he ran Exxon or something. It was so weird, he was completely by himself. We start talking, and right away, it flipped from us talking about pop music to jazz. I now find out that David Bowie is a complete jazz freak, as a matter of fact, an aficionado. So now we’re trying to out-jazz each other. We’re going for the most underground avant-garde shit ever, it’s like we were playing poker. We’re just going on and on and on and on and on. And it was like no one else in the world existed. We found our thing, and we talked for hours and hours. At some point, he must have asked me for my phone number. A couple of weeks had gone by and my house was being rebuilt, and one of the workers said to me, ‘Hey, Mr Rodgers, some fucking guy keeps calling up every day saying he’s David Bowie.’ I said, ‘Well what did you do?’ He said, ‘I hung up on the cocksucker!’ I said, ‘The next time that cocksucker calls, could you give me the phone? That is David Bowie!’ Anyway, I finally take the call. He and I laugh and we joke. And it was magic, it was so magical because he got dropped. I was getting dropped. By the time we decide that decide we’re going to make this record [Let’s Dance] together, it was just the two of us against the world.”
“There’s no Prince. We finish the song and I see him running away”
“The first time I played with him was here in London, at some little joint in Camden. I walk in and all I hear is Prince go something like, ‘Oh my God, Nile Rodgers.’ He was playing guitar, he and [Ronnie] Wood. I walk up on stage, he gives me the guitar and he sits down on the keyboards and starts calling out R&B tunes. Poor Woody, who is a sweetheart, didn’t know any of these songs. So Prince and I are all into it, but Woody’s looking for the key and looking for the groove. We finished the first song and I said, ‘I think you should sit down now,’ and it was all cool. It was all love, because we were having the time of our lives. So Ron sits down and then Prince and I… I don’t even know how long we played. The next day I bought every rose in London, and [Prince] told me that when he got back to his room, it was filled with thousands of purple roses. I guess I went overboard, I was so happy with that jam.”
Prince (Part II)
“Years later, we’re playing down in Turks and Caicos where I have a home. Prince has one there too because when he found out that I was building a recording studio, he said, ‘Really? Okay, I’m going to move to Turks and Caicos!’ I never built the recording studio, I’ve got a little writers’ room, but Prince moves down there. We’re doing a concert and Prince happens to be on the island. He comes over and he says, ‘Yo, can I play Let’s Dance with you guys?’ ‘Hell, yes, of course, bro!’ We get to the middle of the show where we do Let’s Dance and I say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, a really great friend of mine and a really great artist – Prince!’ And we go into the song, but there’s no Prince. We finish the song and I see him running away. I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ A year later, we were playing in New Orleans at the Essence Festival to 70,000 people. He says to me, ‘Hey Nile, can I come out and play Let’s Dance with you?’ ‘Of course Prince, but I’m not falling for it this time.’ So we set up his gear, we play Let’s Dance and we get to the part where we have the whole audience jumping up and down. In the middle of the jump sequence, we heard this roar. And I look to my left, and there’s Prince with one hand in the air jumping up and down with his guitar strapped on. He’s soloing his ass off and he’s killing it. We’re jamming together and it was amazing, it was like my heart was flying. I happened to post a picture of Prince jumping up and down with me and I’m waiting for how long it’s going to take for him to pull it down. [But] Prince reposts the picture. And this is exactly what it says. No words. And I feel like a gazillion dollars. I never had another encounter with him. I never called him and thanked him. I never did anything because he wound up passing away fairly soon after that event. But it was amazing. When you’re a live musician, everything is about playing, giving back and sharing. That’s the shit I live for.”
“We had to fight every step of the way to give her the biggest album of her life”
“Every song I’ve ever written is based on a non-fiction event, and then we use fictional elements to help complete the story. One night, I’m club hopping and I go to this transvestite club because they have the best music, they don’t have to worry about the Top 40 records, they can play all the records that they think that the crowd is going to be down with. I go to the bathroom. I’m standing there at this trough and on either side of me are at least five Diane Ross impersonators, and a light bulb goes off in my head – I’ve got to write a song about the queer community’s love of Diana Ross. So I call [Chic co-founder Bernard Edwards] and I say, ‘Bro, write down, “I’m coming out,” because I’m gonna stay up, I’m gonna get drunk and I’m gonna forget this. Imagine that she walks out on stage and the first words out of her mouth are, “I’m coming out.” We’re gonna sell a million records just to the queer community alone!’ The next day, he comes in the studio and we put together I’m Coming Out. Today, to you guys that probably just sounds like a pop record. But when we wrote that, [Motown founder] Berry Gordy was furious. He was like, ‘Whoa, this is not a Diana Ross record.’ After months of lawsuits and this and that, they decided to put it out. The biggest record of Diana Ross’s life is the album Diana. We had to fight, fight, fight, fight, every step of the way, to give her the biggest album of her life, and I’m so proud that we had that fight. I’m Coming Out has historically meant something to the LGBTQ+ community, which is exactly how I got the idea that first place.”
“He works his butt off. He’s the sweetest, sweetest guy, and we work in a business where I’m fortunate to have worked with some wonderful, charming people. I’d like to say a few things about him because he’s just so awesome. He’s been a part of my life for a number of years now. He’s celebrating his 50th year in the business, which is amazing to me. And I just want to give thanks to him for being one of the loveliest guys I know. Happy 50th Phil, I love you. David [Bowie] always called me ‘Darling’? Well, Phil always calls you ‘love’. I just want to say, ‘Thank you, love,’ to Phil Bowdery.”
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ILMC 34: Live business regroups after Covid storm
Co-chaired by Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery and CAA’s Maria May, the Open Forum session featured remote guest speakers Alona Dmukhovsla and Sasha Yerchenko from Ukraine, who updated delegates about the current situation in their homeland.
Yerchenko from SEA talked about the “terrible and awful war” they are experiencing. “It feels like we live in two different worlds now,” she said. Explaining that she and her 15-year-old daughter stayed in Kyiv, she said every citizen was now volunteering for various causes to support the war effort. “My daily routine is not just about concerts, it is about delivering humanitarian aid to older people and people in need,” she told delegates.
“If Ukraine fails, the whole of Europe will fail”
Dmukhovsla, of Music Export Ukraine, said every single Ukrainian believes they are responsible for the country’s mutual victory. On the music side, she said she is coordinating efforts to have Ukrainian bands play at festivals around Europe. And she highlighted the partnership with ARTmania in Romania and Pohoda Festival in Slovakia to find work for some of the live music industry professionals who are desperate to find employment. “If Ukraine fails, the whole of Europe will fail,” she warned.
Codruta Vulcu from ARTmania urged ILMC attendees to participate in the ARTery.community not-for-profit programme that centralises jobs at events for Ukrainian professionals “so that they can be treated with dignity rather than end up in European capital cities doing menial jobs for unskilled workers.”
Looking back over the past two years, Rauha Kyyrö (Fullsteam Agency) talked of the frustration in getting government assistance in Finland and the fact that freelancers and musicians in particular suffered when they could not work because of pandemic restrictions. However, she noted her company had survived and had organised some highly successful livestream events that captured the imagination of Finnish fans.
Kornett said that convincing baby boomers to return to live events would be a trickier task
Marty Diamond (Wasserman) noted that some streaming platforms that emerged through the pandemic were interesting because they were interactive, and some clients had embraced the technology. But he said persuading other clients to use livestreaming was not something he would do.
However, May noted that the opportunities for additional income and for allowing access to disabled people or fans who cannot make gigs means that livestreaming is here to stay. And she also lauded the opportunities that the metaverse might offer to concerts and live events for people who prefer to remain on their sofa.
Detlef Kornett (DEAG) said that convincing baby boomers to return to live events would be a trickier task, so bands that attract fans of a certain age group could struggle in the months ahead.
Talking about the return to touring, Diamond revealed that on the recent Louis Tomlinson tour the audience was noticeably younger and there was a degree of education needed to remind people how to attend shows, while on the latest Snow Patrol tour there was a degree of slippage in terms of fans who didn’t show up for whatever reason. And he noted that he is seeing ticket price rises in America, while many events are still priced at pre-Covid rates.
No-show rates had reduced from 40% last year in the UK, but spiked again during Omicron
Alex Hill (AEG Europe) said no-show rates had reduced from 40% last year in the UK, but spiked again during Omicron, however confidence among fans seems to be slowly returning. Diamond said this mirrored what is happening in America, where he also said merch rates have rocketed with fans eager to get their hands on t-shirts and the likes.
Having asked their guests about the Covid experiences and the challenges and opportunities that brought with it, the co-chairs moved the conversation on to the very real problems of the supply chain where both staff and equipment are in short supply.
May noted that some of the festivals that she is working with have dropped performance areas because they cannot physically find the stages for their events.
Meanwhile, Amy Thomson (Hipgnosis Songs Fund) explained that she had actually closed down her artist management operation just prior to Covid and while in isolation went down a rabbit hole where she looked at exactly where the money goes from performance rights around the world. And she criticised PRS in particular for increasing rates for struggling artists who turned to livestreaming to earn some money. As a result, she revealed details of a campaign to make performance rights more transparent and push for itemised statements that show exactly what the breakdown of payments are to rights holders.
Voicing their support for the people of Ukraine, the panellists concluded by talking about the year ahead and the hard work that will be needed to negotiate the hyper inflationary conditions that face everyone. Kornett predicted that at next year’s ILMC we will be talking about all the problems we had to deal with in fall and winter 2022 and the fact that ticket prices will only be going in one direction.
IQ 110 out now: ILMC, Phil Bowdery, Fullsteam & more
IQ 110, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online and in print now.
The April issue sees IQ magazine return to physical print for the first time in two years. In what is possibly the biggest-ever issue, readers can view the full conference and events agenda for the in-person return of ILMC (International Live Music Conference).
Elsewhere, IQ celebrates Phil Bowdery’s half century career in live music, 20 years of Finland’s Fullsteam agency, and Hans Zimmer’s latest tour.
This issue also examines the world’s fastest-growing entertainment market, the Gulf States, and profiles ten new tech innovations.
For this edition’s columns and comments, Music Export Ukraine’s Alona Dmukhovska expresses her country’s passion for music and Semyon Galperin speaks of the Russian music sector’s support for their friends in Ukraine.
In addition, ASM Global’s Marie Lindqvist highlights the importance of supporting and bringing young people into the heat of the business as part of ILMC’s Bursary Scheme partnership.
As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next six weeks.
However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £7.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:
Pandemic lessons learned by live: #1-5
The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge that the live entertainment industry has ever had to deal with. Thankfully, thousands of businesses around the world have survived two years of unprecedented hardship, proving that the ability of this sector to come up with creative solutions has been underscored. But just what are the main lessons we should be taking from the Covid experience? IQ talked to a number of business leaders to identify the 10 key lessons that the pandemic has taught us. Here, we present the first five…
1. Don’t trust declarations that we’ve won the war against Covid-19
“It’s not over (the pandemic) until it’s over, much as we wish it were,” says Teresa Moore, director of A Greener Festival. “We need to be innovative, flexible and adaptive as things change. Connected to this, we need to be able to diversify using the skills we have in the industry to create new experiences, new businesses, and more sustainable business models. These need to include environmental and social impacts, not just the economic ones.”
WME co-head of live music Lucy Dickins underlines the need to be flexible. “Be prepared for the unexpected,” she says. “Make sure you have multiple outcomes and have several backup plans.”
Moore adds, “Tough as things are, if any industry can do it and move forward into this new era, it’s the live industry, where innovation and flexibility are its bread and butter.”
2. Politicians neither understand nor value live music…
With a remit that includes overseeing theatres and arenas, as well as all the content and shows that fill the seats in those venues, Jessica Koravos, co-chair of Oak View Group and president of The Really Useful Group, has spent much of the pandemic period talking to policy makers.
“Our industry is in the hands of government and public health decision-makers who still fail to understand how our business operates and the enormously positive impact we make on local economies and the general happiness of the nation,” she says. “We must make sure that, going forward, we have more seats at the decision-making table.”
3….But fans do!
“While some politicians may still not grasp the importance of culture, the general population has shown us how much they value it,” states Beverley Whitrick of the Music Venue Trust (MVT).
“During the pandemic, music, films, TV, books, art – making things and appreciating the things others make – became a focus for many people’s mental wellbeing. We saw amazing public support for fundraising initiatives such as #SaveOurVenues and #ILoveLive; and pure joy when people could return to live music, festivals, theatres, etc.”
4. Everyone in the supply chain needs and deserves protection
“Huge swathes of the working population in live music earn very little money, and so when a pandemic or similar event that prevents working occurs, they have no savings or money to fall back on,” observes Emma Banks, co-head of CAA’s London headquarters.
“We are seeing costs for the ‘show workers’ – crew, security, etc – going up as they can dictate higher wages, and we need to embrace that and make sure that this is an industry that properly looks after all its people, not just the people at the top of the tree.”
“Encourage a healthy workspace,” urges WME’s Dickins. “The uncertainty around us and learning to adapt to working from home and then back to the office can take its toll. It’s important to look out for one another and make sure that at all times, people feel safe whilst still being able to brainstorm ideas,” she adds.
On a related note, Live Nation’s executive president of touring, Phil Bowdery, lauds the industry’s ability to embrace the concept of staff working remotely. “The value of flexible working – I think even the harshest sceptic of home working had their minds changed pretty quickly in 2020,” he says.
And MVT’s Whitrick adds, “We need to find a way to support activity that makes people’s lives better rather than just makes money. It is heartbreaking that so many people have had to leave the creative industries to work in more secure but less fulfilling sectors.”
5. Complacency should be confined to history
The live entertainment industry had been expecting a record-breaking year in 2020 but, like the rest of the world, was caught unprepared when the pandemic shut down touring and festivals.
“The pandemic has taught us that, overnight, we can lose many of the things we hold dear,” says Phil Rodriguez, founder of Move Concerts. “We’ve also learned how easy it is to control all of us. I’m a history buff; what we’ve been through and are still going through takes the cake!”
IQ 107 out now: Industry heads map the road ahead
IQ 107, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.
In the January 2022 edition, industry leaders from around the world share their thoughts about the state of the industry and the recovery of the sector, over the coming weeks and months.
Elsewhere, the IQ news team looks back at the trends, deals, events and, of course, the Covid restrictions that made the headlines during 2021.
On page 34, IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson explores the benefits that blockchain technology can offer the live music industry.
For this edition’s columns and comments, Wayne Forte details the process behind producing his critically acclaimed Mad Dogs & Englishmen documentary, and Richard Davies urges the industry to adopt a more strategic approach in its efforts to beat ticket touts.
And, in this month’s Your Shout, Dan Steinberg (Emporium Presents), Rob Challice (Paradigm), Mark Davyd (Music Venue Trust) and Nick Hobbs (Charmenko) describe their best moments of 2021.
As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.
However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:
Leading live execs share their hopes for 2022
Industry leaders have spoken to IQ about their biggest hopes and fears for the live business in 2022.
With the Omicron variant looking sure to disrupt the touring calendar for at least the first few months of the new year, the next 12 months are clouded with uncertainty. But speaking as part of a special feature in the new issue of the magazine, a raft of the sector’s leading lights have shared their optimism that better times are ahead.
“The pandemic fatigue will lead to full recovery of the live industry, but it will come with its ups and downs,” predicts Lucy Dickins, co-head of music at WME. “It’s certainly going to be a crowded marketplace. There is a huge backlog of touring due to the amount of new artists we have been breaking through and also the artists that have released multiple projects in the world where being on the road was halted.”
Dickins’ clients include Adele, who returned with her fourth studio LP 30 last year and will headline two sold-out nights at AEG’s BST Hyde Park festival in the summer.
“I also think we’ll see more traditional songs and artist albums return,” adds Dickins. “We are already beginning to see this with a few big artists, as during the pandemic there were far less collaborations.”
The agent, who also represents the likes of Mumford & Sons and Mabel, expects technology to play an even bigger part in artist campaigns moving forward.
“TikTok is definitely having a moment with more artists using the platform, but I think we’ll see a rise in other mediums over time,” she says. “The metaverse has already made its mark on the music industry. I think we will see more in 2022. Roblox and Fortnite have millions of daily active users who have been living the avatar life for some time. I’m slowly getting my head around it all!”
“We will get through this, but it will be tricky for a while longer”
Following a “rocky” conclusion to 2021, CAA Emma Banks anticipates an even “rockier” opening to 2022.
“Clearly, the continuing lockdowns in various European markets are bad for business, and even when venues are allowed to remain open, we are seeing a high level of absence at shows, where people are no longer feeling confident to go out. So business is going to be tough because we are going to lose more shows, and that is bad for everyone,” she says.
“I assume that as the population gets vaccinated with a third shot, we will then see case numbers reduce and can get back to the place we have been in the last few months, with shows happening and everyone out and about again. We will get through this, but it will be tricky for a while longer, and the 2022 bounce back looks like it is going to take longer than we hoped.”
LIVE group chair Phil Bowdery, Live Nation’s executive president of touring, international, strikes an optimistic note.
“I think we’ve all learnt that the industry stands ready to deal with any bumps in the road, and the calendar looks great well into 2022 and 2023,” he concludes. “Whatever comes our way, I think 2022 is going to be a bumper year, and I can’t wait.”
Co-Head of UTA’s UK office Neil Warnock naturally has reservations regarding Q1, but is confident the business will burst into life come spring.
“The first three months of 2022 may be chaotic,” he advises. “The new variant has sent yet another curve ball through the whole of our live industry. We had hoped that the end of 2021 would see the start of a new normality in 2022. However, I’m hopeful that by April we’ll be back to business, and the business will be huge. We will have bursting box offices, and I look forward to a massive festival season from late May onwards.”
The full interviews will be published in the new issue of IQ, which is out later this month.
UK industry anxiously awaits government announcement
The UK’s live entertainment community is holding its breath for the government’s long-awaited 14 June Covid briefing, after speculation started to emerge over a proposed delay in allowing venues and festivals to reopen without restrictions.
With 21 June stated as the day when the government wants all restrictions in England to end, the spread of the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19 (also known as the Delta variant) in certain cities and communities is reportedly prompting scientists and government advisors to push for a delay from anywhere between two to four weeks.
The threat of such a postponement is being met with frustration and anger in parts of the live events industry, with luminaries such as Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber threatening legal action, while other businesses great and small worry if their return-to-work policies for staff have been activated too prematurely.
For others, any delay could prove far more damaging.
“It could be the final nail in the coffin for many grass roots venues,” exclaims Music Venue Trust (MVT) CEO Mark Davyd. “If they are prevented from reopening their doors, building landlords may cancel their lease and we will end up losing these venues for good.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters Association. “It’s critical that the government proceeds with its plans to end restrictions on 21 June. By its own admission through the Events Research Programme (ERP), large-scale events are inherently safe so long as the right precautions – in the form of testing – are in place.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper, composer Lloyd Webber, who owns seven West End theatres, is questioning the legality of the government retaining social distancing rules beyond 21 June, especially when the ERP’s test shows have proved that there is no greater risk of infection at concerts and other live events.
“If the schools, pubs and restaurants are allowed to remain open, but live music venues are prevented from reopening, it makes no sense whatsoever”
“If the government’s own science has told them that buildings are safe, I’m advised that at that point things could get quite difficult,” says Lloyd Webber. “This is the very last thing that anybody wants to do, but there would [be] a legal case at that point because it’s their science – not ours.”
MVT founder Davyd is equally bemused. “Government has laid down the criteria over whether live music and other performances could return to normal. We’ve met that criteria and now it seems like they are still thinking about keeping live music venues closed when there’s absolutely zero evidence to show that they change the transmission of the virus.
“If the schools, pubs and restaurants are allowed to remain open, but live music venues are prevented from reopening, it makes no sense whatsoever,” adds Davyd. “Keeping the Cheese & Grain [850-cap.] venue closed in Frome – where there is no Covid infection – is not going to help the infection rate up in Blackburn.”
The Night Time Industries Association has also said it will “challenge” the government if there is a delay to 21 June. “The decision to delay will leave us no other option but to challenge the Government aggressively, standing alongside many other industries who have been locked down or restricted from opening,” says CEO Michael Kill.
Rumours over a U-turn on the 21 June roadmap deadline began circulating last week when the Independent Sage group of scientists warned that the rise of the Delta variant in the UK could soar if England’s lockdown ends as planned.
“As things stand, it is very difficult to justify progressing with the last stage of the roadmap, scheduled for 21 June, a point that should be made now, to modify current false hopes,” said Independent Sage.
“Public Health England figures released on June 3 suggest that the Delta variant has spread widely across the UK and is continuing to spread, that it has higher infectivity than the previous circulating variant, and that it is more likely to cause disease and hospitalisation.”
“There would be a legal case at that point because it’s their science, not ours”
Government advisors will also be analysing data that shows the Delta variant is rare in people who have been vaccinated, while hospitalisations throughout the UK are currently flat, rather than rising as the infection spreads.
However, adding more uncertainty over the deadline, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, “It’s too early to say what the decision will be about step four of the road map, which is scheduled to be no earlier than June 21.
“Of course, I look at those data every day, we publish them every day, the case numbers matter but what really matters is how that translates into the number of people going to hospital, the number of people sadly dying. The vaccine breaks that link, the question is how much the link has yet been broken because the majority of people who ended up in hospital are not fully vaccinated.”
Meanwhile, those living in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire areas – where Covid is spreading fast – were today placed under new travel rules to combat spiralling Delta variant cases.
Residents are being advised to minimise travel in and out of the areas, while the army is being brought into the region to replicate the widespread vaccination drive that it helped to roll out in the neighbouring city of Bolton, under similar circumstances, in May.
IQ understands that the UK government is planning to make its final decision on the 21 June reopening as late as Sunday 13 June, or even the day of the announcement, Monday 14 June, meaning that the data gathered over the remainder of this week will be crucial.
In recent days the indication is that the average number of daily cases is now slowly rising in the UK. Figures for yesterday (8 June) reveal 6,048 new confirmed cases, but just 13 deaths of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 28 days.
“Government now needs to kickstart the ‘new normal’ economy rather than continuing to dither”
Nevertheless, a number of towns, cities and communities are experiencing sharp rises in case numbers due to the Delta variant, which is known to spread quicker than other variants, leading the Sage scientists and other experts to predict that the country may be on the verge of a third wave of infections.
But should the government bow to pressure, the timing of such a disappointing announcement will be scrutinised, given that on Sunday (13 June), 22,000 football fans will be in Wembley Stadium for England versus Croatia in the European Championships.
At press time, it was announced that the game would be the first sporting event at which so-called vaccine ‘passports’ will be used in the UK, with attendees required to show proof of full vaccination, with both doses having been received at least 14 days before the match. Those not fully vaccinated must show proof of a negative lateral flow test taken within the previous 48 hours.
The timing of the game is not lost upon Davyd. “We’ve basically asked the government that whatever position they take it should be a logical one,” he says. “Not allowing venues and festivals to reopen is not going to change the transmission rate.
“As far as I see it, they have two options: they can reopen everything; or they can announce that some things they have already allowed are increasing the infection rate and they should be closed down. But keeping other businesses from reopening – when they have not played any role in the infection rate rising – just doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Equally as frustrated, CPA chief Bowdery underlines the plight of hundreds of thousands of people and business that rely on live events for their income. “Government now needs to kickstart the ‘new normal’ economy rather than continuing to dither, helping to secure the future of the live music sector, which currently hangs in the balance,” adds Bowdery.
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.