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Wasserman revels in branding opportunities for artists

New live music power player Casey Wasserman believes his company’s experience in working with brands will be the number one opportunity for its many new artist clients, following its multi-billion dollar acquisition of the Paradigm Talent Agency’s American assets.

As chairman and CEO of Wasserman Media Group (and the president of the Los Angeles Olympic organising committee), which includes newly rebranded Wasserman Music, he said buying Paradigm at a time when there is no live music was an easy gamble. “To be able to buy an agency that had scale, like Paradigm’s US business – and the UK business is not far behind for us – was a unique opportunity,” Wasserman told delegates at Pollstar Live! yesterday (17 June).

“Timing is luck. We didn’t buy a music business because we could get it cheap. We bought a music business because we believe in the music business – and we believe in it for the next 20 years – and opportunity to own a business with a great group of people and a great set of clients fits with how we think about the world.”

Appearing on stage alongside Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke and C3 Presents’ head promoter and talent buyer Amy Corbin, during the conference’s final keynote conversation (Reviving Live, What’s Next?), Wasserman said adding close to 50 music agents to his company’s existing 130 sports agents was a great deal.

“On the work we do for our brands, music is a big platform – it’s artist driven, it’s event driven, it’s festival driven, it’s building driven,” he stated. “The science behind what makes dollars valuable in the sports world and the music world and the cultural landscape is very similar, and we think one of the big opportunities that we have is that we are amongst the leaders in helping brands spend their dollars. I think it’s the biggest single opportunity for artists from the connectivity inside our company. Our ability to understand what the brands want and what the artists will do, and bring those two together, will create a lot of value for the artists.”

Noting the company’s strengths in data analytics, Wasserman added, “As our team likes to say, ‘the world is drowning in data and starving for insight.’ We think the insights we can offer on top of the data that everyone spews is as valuable to an artist as it is to an athlete or it is to a brand, and we’ve already started to do that. Most of the time I’ve spent with our agents is in thinking about brand connectivity and brand relationships, and for us that always starts from the data.”

“We think the insights we can offer on top of the data that everyone spews is as valuable to an artist as it is to an athlete”

Leading the panel, Oak View Group’s Francesca Leiweke-Bodie congratulated C3’s Corbin on selling out 450,000 tickets for Austin City Limits in record time. Corbin admitted that working from home was akin to being “in an isolation chamber,” unable to bounce ideas off her team, making the challenges of organising this year’s event considerable. “We had no idea that we would sell out in just three hours. The appetite was insatiable, and that’s promising for our industry.”

She added that with such C3 events as Lollapalooza to organise, amidst a tour landscape that will be the busiest ever in 2022 and 2023, her team are already working on festivals well into the future. “The traffic I’m seeing in 2022 is pretty crazy, so we’re being forced to get out ahead of it and at least secure the headliners… the sooner we can get started the better.”

Meanwhile, with seven arenas due to open in the next 18 months, Oak View Group’s Leiweke revealed they will announce “about ten more” in the near future. And with Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena set to open in October, Leiweke took the chance to speak about the sustainability challenge that the music industry is facing.

“We have about a ten-year window where if we don’t solve our planet and sustainability, and what we’re doing to ourselves, the whole Earth is going to disappear one day,” warned Leiweke.

Applauding Amazon chief Jeff Bezos for coming up with the idea of a carbon-neutral arena, Leiweke continued, “Climate Pledge [Arena] is the first step; UBS Arena will also be carbon neutral, but will take more time as we have existing utilities we have to deal with. But we are committed ultimately now to make sure that for our industry we are a platform and we’re going to invite everyone up in October so we can share with you everything we’ve learned about how we can be carbon neutral, how we can help make this Earth a little bit better, and how we can lead the charge at making everyone understand that we have a few years to change this and if we don’t, we’re going to lose this battle.”

On a more upbeat note, Leiweke concluded that the industry’s recovery from the pandemic lockdown looks like it could be phenomenal.

“The amount of content that’s going to be out there is going to be spectacular and the amount of demand is the best we’ve ever seen,” Leiweke noted. “There’s new leadership and a new direction on how we ultimately maximise the value of touring for an artist by thinking outside the box. I think we’re now living in the golden age for live entertainment.”

 


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Thousands look forward to Pollstar Live! 2021

More than 150 speakers will be appearing in person at the Pollstar Live! conference next week, as the event becomes a pioneer for similar gatherings around the world in the months to follow.

So far, more than 2,000 people have registered to take part in the 15–17 June conference, which for the first time will also allow delegates around the world to tune in and watch livestreamed coverage of the panels and sessions.

“It’s been a challenge because back when we first announced we were going to do Pollstar Live! in-person, in December last year, to be frank I don’t think very many people at all thought we could or we would be able to do it,” admits Ray Waddell, president of organiser OVG Media & Conferences. “Our CEO Tim Leiweke was adamant that we do this, and our hope was that we would find the sweet spot between being allowed to do it, with a relaxation in certain restrictions, and before everyone became too busy and were unable to attend anything. And by all appearances, we’ve found that sweet spot.”

The event will have capacity limitations, says Waddell, while there are “a lot of protocols that we’re following to make sure we have as safe an event as possible.” Those measures include on-site testing, while delegates that can prove vaccination will also be allowed entry.

Rather than a hindrance, the testing regime will allow specialist companies to showcase their services to the live entertainment industry execs in attendance, prompting Waddell to observe, “In many ways I think we could be the prototype for what events might look like going forward. The steps we are taking are similar to what OVG as a company is doing at arenas where they play a role.”

Among the highlights that Waddell is looking forward to during the three-days of discussion are the panels at Production Live!, the main event’s companion conference for the production community that takes place on 15 June.

“Throughout both Production Live! and Pollstar Live! we’re taking on the traditional legacy topics of our business: selling tickets, artist development, branding and sponsorships, and all the global touring issues.

“In many ways I think we could be the prototype for what events might look like going forward”

But everything this year is through two specific lenses – one of them is about how do we come back and what it’s going to look like; and the other is that the social and political landscape has shifted while we’ve been away, so to speak, in that inclusivity and safety and wellness aspects will be woven throughout our three days.”

Waddell himself will moderate the opening session at Pollstar Live! where he will be joined on stage by Marty Diamond (Wasserman Music), Arthur Fogel (Live Nation), Ron Laffitte (Patriot Management), Dre London (Fionda Management) and Marsha Vlasic (Artist Group International).

Waddell notes, “The last ten years of our business has been a golden era with every year better than the previous, so we’re going to address how we can get back to that right out of the gate with ‘Golden Era 2.0: How the concert business comes back and what it looks like’.”

Another highlight will include a session entitled ‘Now, where were we? Picking up the pieces after a year off the road’ which will see the likes of Billie Eilish agent Sara Bollwinkel (Wasserman Music), Elton John agent Howard Rose, Ken Fermaglich from UTA, Artist Group International’s Adam Kornfeld and Kiss manager Doc McGhee.

“There were a lot of tours and artists that had gathered momentum only to be halted by the pandemic – Billie Eilish, Tame Impala, farewell tours by Kiss and Elton John, or returns like Guns N’ Roses – so it will be interesting to hear from people involved in those projects about how you pick them up from cold after 15 months,” says Waddell. “Having Howard Rose on a panel is like getting Bigfoot – it’s very rare. So we’re incredibly privileged to have him and I know that being Elton’s agent from day one, he has some stories to tell.”

The full conference schedule can be found here, while registration for anyone wanting to follow the livestreaming footage can be accessed by visiting here.

 


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Pollstar Live! 2019: Ray Waddell on topping a “mind-blowing” 2018

Pollstar Live!, the largest live music industry conference in the US, returns to Los Angeles next week, welcoming thousands of delegates to the Beverly Hilton hotel for three days of discussion, networking and deal-making.

Kicking off with the fifth Production Live! on Monday 11 February, Pollstar! Live 2019 is set to be the conference’s biggest year yet, with guest speakers including the Messina Touring Group’s Louis Messina, Live Nation’s Arthur Fogel, Paradigm’s Marty Diamond, KLG/Warped Tour’s Kevin Lyman, WME’s Tony Goldring, Live Nation’s John Reid and C3 Presents’ Leca Guimarães, as well as a recently announced keynote featuring Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl in conversation with Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino.

The 30th Pollstar Awards, meanwhile, take place on Wednesday 13 February, recognising the year’s biggest tours and most talented promoters, agents, managers and production staff who put them together.

Ahead of the event, IQ caught up with Ray Waddell, president of Pollstar parent Oak View Group’s Media & Conferences division, to find out what to expect from Pollstar Live! 2019…

 


IQ: How important was it for you to come out with your strongest conference line-up to date for this year’s anniversary event?
RW: Last year was the first Pollstar Live! since Oak View Group acquired Pollstar, so it was very important to us to come out of the gate with a mind-blowing conference. We feel like we did that to a large degree, with Garth Brooks, Eddy Cue, Michael Rapino, Mark Cuban, Jon Bon Jovi, Sharon Osbourne, Scooter Braun and a whole lot of other visionaries, along with plenty of those ‘in the trenches’ that make this business work, day in and day out. The immediate question before the 2018 event was even over was, ‘How are you going to top this?’.

Those attending are the ultimate judge, but this year we really tried to focus on making sure the content taps into what’s most important and relevant to those in the global touring industry, discussed by those who are influencing and making decisions. At the same time, we feel like we have plenty of big names as well, and address issues pertinent to the music industry at large. So, to answer your questions more succinctly, it was very important.

Dave Grohl and Michael Rapino… that’s quite a pairing. What was the genesis of that session, and what are you expecting from it?
The perspective of the artist is something I think music industry conferences don’t explore enough, and that’s something we’ve tried to address from day one. We were looking for an arena- or stadium-level headliner to offer the perspective of the artist, and one with lots of nuance to their career. Dave Grohl is someone I personally have been hoping to have speak since I was at Billboard, and it never worked out for whatever reason. From those initial discussions, it became about, ‘Who will interview Dave?’.

I believe there is a sort of mutual admiration there between Dave and Michael Rapino, and they both were into the idea. They see many parallels to their respective careers, and I expect this will be some of the more compelling content ever for Pollstar Live!.

How has the backing of OVG helped the business to grow, especially in terms of securing speakers and panellists? There’s collectively a lot of expertise to draw on there…
Certainly that is true, and there is no question that working with Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff and their various network of associates and professional relationships can be very helpful – they have a lot of friends! I would say they get involved on an as-needed basis. They never try to dictate the direction or topics of the content, the same as they never try to influence coverage in any of our publications. They, and everyone else at OVG, very much understand the need for the media/conferences division to be Switzerland when it comes to people and companies and coverage.

That said, there is indeed a lot of expertise to tap into across our various divisions, and being able to call Tim and Irving never works against us!

“The immediate question before the 2018 event was even over was, ‘How are you going to top this?’”

It’s a packed schedule that covers a lot of ground, but can you pick out some key trends from 2019’s programming?
We’re really happy we are able to come at the artist perspective from a lot of different angles, from a young superstar like Khalid to someone in the middle of a sterling career like Dave Grohl, to a veteran artist who has been working the road for over 50 years like the great George Clinton. We also have artists like Jim James and others offering their take on specific topics, and a panel we’ve always wanted in I’m With The Band, featuring experienced, top-shelf musicians to explore how they view this business.

Beyond that, the Louis Messina/Arthur Fogel session brings together two of the two most successful promoters in history for a candid discussion, and we dig into others of the most important discussions going on today, like inclusivity in our business, the rise of boutique festivals, tactics in mobile marketin, and what’s going on with blockchain and ticketing in general. Finally, we really made an attempt to increase our global live entertainment relevance, with the International Track in association with Midem, which tackles specific global challenges and opportunities over two days.

Personally, what are you most looking forward to seeing?
Tough question – it’s been such a long process and myself and the awesome [OVG] Media & Conferences team feel very close to all of the content. That said, I’ll have to go with ‘Two Guys Walk Into a Stadium…’ with Arthur and Louie, because I’m moderating it!

Finally, what do the next 30 years hold for Pollstar Live! and the Pollstar Awards?
We want to continue to grow our Production Live event, which this year benefitted greatly from the involvement of production guru Jake Berry, who is just an awesome, well-respected guy.

Of course, we want to keep trying to top ourselves and look at issues in different, relevant ways with the perspectives from those who are really influencing the course of this business, whether they are directly involved in live or not. This is the 30th anniversary of the Pollstar Awards, so we tried to treat that milestone with as much respect as possible while still evolving the scope of the awards, including more artists, incorporating a bit of box-office performance with the peer voting for some awards and, most of all, having some fun and recognising the great personalities and people in this business. Long term, we feel very much that the live business drives the entire music economy today – live is truly the leading barometer of fan passion around the world, now more than ever.

So we will always be trying to make sure we put on an event that rises to the level of this awesome business.

Pollstar Live! 2019 takes place at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, from 11 to 13 February.

 


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International live biz recognised in Pollstar Awards 2018

Some of the biggest names in live music were honoured at last night’s Pollstar Awards in Los Angeles, bringing the curtain down on the 2018 edition of the annual Pollstar Live! conference.

The awards, hosted by America’s Got Talent-winning illusionist Mat Franco, wrapped up the three-day event, whose highlights included appearances by Garth Brooks, Jon Bon Jovi and Mark Cuban along with a host of high-profile industry figures.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were presented with the major tour of the year award, with manager Tony Dimitriades picking up the gong alongside the late Petty’s band members. Petty also won rock tour of the year, while Dimitriades was named personal manager of the year.

Elsewhere, Gregg Perloff of California’s Another Planet Entertainment won the Bill Graham award for promoter of the year, with Paradigm scooping the prize for booking agency of the year. CAA’s Emma Banks was named best UK booking agent, while The O2 took home the award for international venue of the year.

Goldenvoice’s Stacy Vee, who won talent buyer of the year, thanked thank AEG, Goldenvoice, their partners at WME, CAA’s Rod Essig, the whole team at Paradigm, agent Marsha Vlasic and her husband Brian, all of whom she said “have been my champions, and especially Paul Tollett for the opportunity and kindness shown to me for a lot of years.”

Cara Lewis, meanwhile, became the first woman to win agent of the year.

A full list of Pollstar Awards 2018 winners is below:

Major Tour of the Year: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Comedy Tour of the Year: Dave Chappelle

Country Tour of the Year: Chris Stapleton

Rock Tour of the Year: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Urban / R&B Tour of the Year: Bruno Mars

Latin Tour of the Year: Enrique Iglesias

Pop Tour of the Year: Bruno Mars

Best New Headliner: Portugal. The Man

Music Festival of the Year: Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival | Indio, CA

International Music Festival of the Year: Glastonbury Festival | Pilton, UK

Nightclub of the Year: 9:30 Club | Washington, DC

Theatre of the Year: Ryman Auditorium | Nashville, TN

Arena of the Year: Bridgestone Arena | Nashville, TN

Red Rocks Award / Best Small Outdoor Venue: Greek Theatre | Los Angeles, CA

Best Major Outdoor Concert Venue: Hollywood Bowl | Los Angeles, CA

Best New Concert Venue: Brooklyn Steel | Brooklyn, NY

International Venue of the Year: The O2 | London, UK

Venue Executive of the Year: David Kells | Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN

Nightclub Talent Buyer of the Year: Melanie Cantwell | 9:30 Club, The Anthem, Lincoln Theatre, Washington, DC

Talent Buyer of the Year: Stacy Vee | Goldenvoice

Bill Graham Award / Promoter of the Year: Gregg Perloff | Another Planet Entertainment

International Promoter of the Year: Barrie Marshall | Marshall Arts

Bobby Brooks Award / Agent of the Year: Cara Lewis | CLG – Cara Lewis Group

Third Coast Booking Agent of the Year: Joe Atamian | Paradigm Talent Agency

UK Booking Agent of the Year: Emma Banks | Creative Artists Agency UK

Independent Booking Agency of the Year: High Road Touring

Booking Agency of the Year: Paradigm Talent Agency

Rising Star: Lenore Kinder, AEG Presents

Personal Manager of the Year: Tony Dimitriades | Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Road Warrior of the Year: Dale “Opie” Skjerseth | The Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses

Lighting Company of the Year: Upstaging

Sound Company of the Year: Clair Global

Staging / Equipment: Company of the Year: Stageco

Transportation Company of the Year: Rock-It Cargo

Video Company of the Year: Moo TV

Tech Enhancement of the Year: 3D Live, Flying Lotus

 


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