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Q&A: Live Nation’s Lesley Olenik on the future of touring

Ever-changing best practice and technological innovation are impacting the live music industry like never before, while important issues such as diversity, equality, and sustainability are being embraced by every sector of the business. In the most recent issue of IQ, we talk to some of the architects who are helping to shape the industry of the future, to quiz them on their blueprints and predictions for how we may all be operating in a few years’ time. This excerpt from the feature sees Live Nation’s vice president of touring discuss the evolution of the touring landscape, keeping tickets affordable and developing the next generation of headliners.

IQ: How do you see the touring landscape changing globally in the next couple of years, now that we’re in a post-pandemic environment?
LO: We’ll continue to see artists doing more shows across the globe, and all signs point to the fan demand being there to account for that. Touring has always been a significant part of an artist’s career and a key way they connect with their fans at every level and across all genres of music.

With recession looming in many markets and inflation spiralling, a cost-of-living crisis seems like the latest challenge that live music will have to deal with. How can agents, promoters, and artists work together to try to keep tickets affordable for fans?
As the promoter, we work closely with artists and their teams to develop strategies that meet their touring goals from the vision of the show to the financials, which includes how the artist wants to ticket and price their shows. We also pride ourselves on the knowledge we have of markets across the globe and the research we do to make sure ticket prices are comparable and make sense for the fans and artists.

“The average global tour has continued to trend upwards in number of stops, and we anticipate that will only continue”

How do you predict the global touring business will develop in the coming decade, and what impact do you think technology will play in the way fans interact with artists?
We’re already seeing technology connect artists with more fans around the world than ever before through their social platforms and streaming, which gives them a bigger fan base to bring shows to. The average global tour has continued to trend upwards in number of stops, and we anticipate that will only continue over the coming decade. Another great example is how stage production is advancing with technology and becoming even more impressive. We’ll continue to see tech make all aspects of the fan experience more simple and convenient and on a global scale.

What more can be done to support the next generation of headliners, as well as those career acts who rely on their live work to make ends meet?
From my perspective, up-and-coming acts and younger artists are gaining momentum faster than ever before. Due to streaming platforms and social media channels like TikTok, artists have a much greater reach and better opportunity to grow their fanbase at a rapid pace. For other emerging artists, it is about hitting all of the steps from the beginning and connecting with fans.

Playing the clubs and smaller rooms for your day-one listeners, playing festivals to reach new fans and different audiences, and building those up to hit the bigger rooms like arenas. I’ve had the privilege of seeing it first-hand in artists like Billie Eilish who catapulted and Lizzo who dug in and worked the small rooms to the theatres and is now headlining arenas.


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