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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Tim Leiweke: “Climate change is the fight of our lives”
Oak View Group (OVG) co-founder and chief executive Tim Leiweke has issued a call to arms for the live entertainment industry to take action on climate change.
“Climate change is without a doubt the fight of this generation’s lives,” he tells IQ. “At OVG, we believe that we, along with the whole live entertainment industry, have a unique opportunity to inspire others to take action on this era-defining issue,” adding that sustainability is one of OVG’s core values.
The global sports and entertainment company, along with ecommerce giant Amazon, is a few months out from opening the world’s first carbon neutral venue, Climate Pledge Arena (CPA) in Seattle.
“It hasn’t been easy, but I’m proud and excited that CPA will become the world’s first certified carbon neutral arena when it opens later this year. It’s also going to lead the way with commitments to zero waste from events and using recycled rainwater to service the NHL ice-rink,” explains Leiweke.
OVG and Amazon have set their sights on the 18,100-seat arena becoming ‘the most progressive, responsible, and sustainable arena in the world’ – a commitment underpinned by four goals.
The first goal is to maintain CPA’s carbon elimination by eschewing fossil fuel consumption for daily use; generating renewable energy from onsite solar panels; reducing all carbon emission activities and offsetting those not possible – like transportation – by purchasing credible carbon offsets.
“We have a unique opportunity to inspire others to take action on this era-defining issue”
CPA will also aim to eliminate single use plastics and achieve zero waste by ‘greatly simplifying the supply chain’.
Finally, the arena, home to ice hockey team NHL Seattle, will conserve water via its ‘rain to rink’ system which will harvest water off the roof and collect into a 15,000-gallon cistern. According to OVG, the system will save 50,000 gallons annually.
Other ways the CPA will conserve water include waterless urinals and ‘ultra-efficient’ showers, significant on-site retention tanks reducing stormwater runoff and water bottle filling stations throughout the arena.
Beyond this the CPA will have an advisory committee with partners at Amazon; create transparency and public reporting on initiatives progress; host arena events that celebrate the environment and its commitment to green operations; partner with educational institutions to utilise the arena as a classroom for environmental education.
Leiweke says that OVG is taking the learnings from CPA to guide future projects: “All of our arenas in both the US and around the world, from the UBS Arena in New York to Co-op Live in Manchester, are putting sustainability at the heart of both design and operations”.
If all goes according to plan, the UBS Arena (cap. 19,000) in Belmont Park, New York, won’t be far behind CPA in achieving a carbon-neutral status.
The arena, scheduled to open in time for the 2021-2022 National Hockey League season, is projected to be 100% carbon neutral by 2024 – which will make it the first to do so on the East Coast of the US.
“Climate Pledge Arena is going to lead the way with commitments to zero waste from events”
The UBS Arena is currently being built to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction (Leed) standards.
Elsewhere, Manchester’s Co-op Live (cap. 23,500) is leading the way for environmentally sustainable arenas in the UK, both in terms of design and future commitments.
The roof alone boasts 10,500 square-metres (1.5x a football pitch) of rooftop solar panels, air source heat pumps, high spec insulation and façade designed to reduce cooling and heating requirements.
The venue’s architecture is paired with renewable energy, low carbon technologies and intelligent building controls such as LED lighting design and smart building systems to minimise energy use).
Plus, in a bid to meet Manchester City Council’s 2038 net zero carbon goal, the venue is also using 100% electric fuel.
Taking note from CPA, Co-op Live will also use 100% rainwater harvesting for toilet flushing, bathroom use and water efficient catering, and will aim to be zero waste.
The Co-op Live development is targeting Breeam (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) ‘excellent’ accreditation.
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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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OVG, Amazon team up for first carbon neutral arena
The former KeyArena in Seattle is to become the first carbon neutral venue in the world, powered exclusively by renewable energy sources.
Ecommerce giant Amazon announced it had secured the naming rights to the 18,100-seat arena yesterday (25 June). The venue, home to ice hockey team NHL Seattle, is to be known as the Climate Pledge Arena.
The online retailer has pledged to make the venue the first-ever net zero carbon certified arena when it opens in summer 2021, with zero waste production, ice made from reclaimed rain water, locally sourced food and an elimination of single use plastics by 2024.
The project, a joint collaboration between Amazon, NHL Seattle and venue operator Oak View Group (OVG) – which is funding the reconstruction of arena – has reportedly reached the $1 billion mark, partly due to the upgrades required to achieve carbon neutral status.
OVG has hired Seattle architect Jason McLennan, a specialist in sustainable design, as chief sustainability consultant for the arena.
“It’s not just about one arena. It’s the platform,” says OVG CEO Tim Leiweke, who is leading the arena development efforts.
“We must take steps to build arenas and stadiums that front-and-centre align with our zero-carbon mission statement”
“We challenge music, facilities, concert tours, and sports. It is our time to step up to face the challenge of our generation. We must take steps to build arenas and stadiums that front-and-centre align with our zero-carbon mission statement.”
“Instead of negotiating the assets, we’ve been brainstorming: What if we did this? What if we did that?” adds Tim’s brother, Tod Leiweke, president and CEO of NHL Seattle.
“Every day, we get to promote this idea of a sustainable world. It’s a beautiful vision, that we can change the course of what’s happened to our planet and dream of having a zero-carbon footprint. It’s going to require investment and policy, but it’s absolutely possible.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says the arena’s name is to serve as “a regular reminder of the importance of fighting climate change”.
“We look forward to working together with Oak View Group, a new Climate Pledge signatory, and NHL Seattle to inspire global climate action,” says Bezos.
Amazon created its climate pledge last year with activist group Global Optimism, pushing for corporate America to achieve net zero carbon by 2040. Current signatories include Verizon, Infosys and consumer-goods giant Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB).
Earlier this week, Amazon announced the Climate Pledge Fund, a US$2 billion venture capital fund dedicated to investing in clean energy.
OVG chief joins Well entertainment venues advisory
Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group, has been named a co-chair of the Well Advisory on Sports and Entertainment Venues, the advisory group behind a new rating system that aims to help venues reopen safely in a post-Covid-19 world.
The Well Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management, an initiative of the International Well Building Institute (IWBI), is an “evidence-based, third-party verified rating focusing on operational policies, cleaning protocols and design strategies to address a post-Covid-19 environment”, according to its creators. The rating – which draws on guidance from the World Health Organization, US government agencies including Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, and IWBI’s own Covid-19 taskforce, among others – will also apply to theatres, offices, hotels, restaurants, schools and retail businesses.
“Given the current challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the sports and entertainment industries are going to be changed forever,” says Leiweke, whose Oak View Group is developing venues in Milan, Manchester and Seattle, among other cities, and is partnered with many more through its International Arena Alliance.
“We’re pleased to help lead the reopening of venues with the International Well Building Institute, the world’s leading standard bearer and certifying body for healthy buildings, and to provide guidance on how best to ensure people can return safely to sports and entertainment facilities this year.”
“We’re pleased to help lead the reopening of venues with the International Well Building Institute”
Leiweke is one of seven co-chairs of the entertainment and sports group, alongside the likes of Doug Behar, director of stadium operations for the New York Yankees, Tim Romani, CEO of venue consultancy CAA Icon, and former US surgeon-general Richard Carmona.
“We look forward to working with IWBI and the other partnering companies to ensure the industry has the necessary tools, training and world-class industry standards to offer both a secure and welcoming environment for all players, artists, touring personnel, venue employees and fans,” adds Leiweke.
OVG’s backing for the Well Health-Safety Rating follows rival venue group ASM Global’s unveiling of its own in-house reopening protocols, called VenueShield, in May. Live Nation is also believed to be close to revealing a how it will make its venues safe after coronavirus; sources tell IQ its VenueShield equivalent will be “best in class”.
Participation in the Well Health-Safety Rating programme, which launches in June, will require the submission of policies, protocols and strategies for review by a third party, as well as annual compliance verification, according to IWBI. Current Well-registered ‘healthy buildings’ will be able to earn the Well Health-Safety Rating as part of their existing certification.
“I believe this collective group will accomplish what the sports and entertainment sectors and other market sectors are seeking”
“Restoring the sports and entertainment sectors is among the most complicated challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has engendered, socially and biologically. And doing so is also among the most desired goals with the public,” says Allen Hershkowitz, chairman of Sport and Sustainability International and environmental science advisor to the New York Yankees. “IWBI’s effort to help provide confidence to all stakeholders – from fans, audiences, players and performers to staff and the medical community at large – that a sports or entertainment venue is taking proper, verifiable precautions is of the utmost importance.”
Mike Biggs, VP of sports and entertainment partnerships for cleaning company Jani-King, adds: “When it comes to disinfecting and cleanliness of sports and entertainment venues and assisting in securing peace of mind with the public, the two things we have heard most often are the desire for industry consensus and the backing of science.
“With the support and expertise of IWBI and the group of leaders assembled to date and joining us in the coming weeks, I believe this collective group will accomplish what the sports and entertainment sectors and other market sectors are seeking.”
OVG’s Manchester arena plans progress amid Covid-19
Venue development company Oak View Group (OVG) has published the planning documents for its new arena in Manchester, which it estimates will bring 750,000 to 1.05 million additional arena ticket sales annually to the city.
OVG today (2 April) announced the appointment of the Royal BAM Group (BAM) as its preferred construction partner, and Populous, the architecture design firm behind Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, the O2 and Wembley Stadium, as the architect of the new arena.
The progression of the plans for the 23,500-capacity arena, which would be the largest privately financed venue in the UK, with £350 million direct investment going into the city, indicates OVG’s commitment to moving the project forward despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
OVG – the global sports and entertainment company founded by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff in 2015 – confirmed its plans for the new Manchester arena last month. The venue will go head to head with the existing ASM Global-operated Manchester Arena (21,000-cap.). An ASM Global spokesperson says it is “unfortunate” that the planning application for the new arena has been submitted “at an extremely challenging time for our city”.
“We live in unprecedented times and we stand in solidarity with everyone affected by this disease,” comments Tim Leiweke, co-founder and CEO of OVG. “We obviously have a particular concern for those who work in the live entertainment industry, which is hugely impacted by the current situation. But I know Manchester, and this city has always come back stronger from whatever has hit it. We are 100% committed for the long-haul.
“The city has undergone transformational growth in recent years, but without a new state-of-the-art arena it will continue to lose out to other cities on some of the world’s best events.”
“I know Manchester, and this city has always come back stronger from whatever has hit it”
The design brief for the arena, explains Leiweke, has three main aims – to deliver “the best artist-fan experience of any arena in Europe”, to have the flexibility to accommodate multiple event types, and to be “the most sustainable arena in the UK”.
OVG also states that the arena will generate 3,350 jobs during construction and over 1,000 once opened, paying Manchester Living Wage or higher.
“We’re incredibly grateful for the guidance and feedback from local people and the city’s business community over the last seven months. We are confident the plans we are presenting today are extremely beneficial for the city and will put Manchester on the global entertainment map for decades.”
Leiweke says that studies have indicated Manchester’s capacity to support two successful arenas, “even under the most conservative growth projections”.
The potential saturation of Manchester’s large arena market was discussed at the International Live Music Conference in March. Tom Lynch of ASM Global maintained that comments around Manchester’s capacity for two arenas have been “wildly misunderstood”, whereas OVG’s Brian Kabatznick offered Birmingham as an example of a UK city that “has seen a lot of success with two arenas”.
“Two 20,000-capacity arenas in Manchester are not sustainable and will drive events and footfall to an out of town location”
Birmingham’s Resorts World Arena, which is part of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) site, last month outlined plans to increase its capacity by a further 6,000 to 21,500.The neighbouring NEC is one of a number of UK venues serving as field hospitals as the country copes with the coronavirus crisis.
“We are carefully reviewing the application documents that have been put forward alongside claims OVG has previously made around the impact to Greater Manchester’s transport, environment and economy,” reads an ASM Global statement.
“Existing independent analysis on market demand from Oxford Economics and Grant Thornton is clear; that two 20,000 capacity arenas in Manchester are not sustainable and will drive events and footfall to an out of town location, with devastating effects to the city centre economy and the region’s air quality.”
According to ASM, where two arenas do exist in the same city – as is the case in London and Birmingham – either one or both of the venues are “significantly smaller” than Manchester Arena.
“We sincerely hope that despite being submitted at a time of national crisis when attention is understandably focused on life saving efforts, this application will still receive proper scrutiny. We would urge the Council to carefully consider whether now is the time to approve plans that will further jeopardise our city centre.
“We need to stand together to protect culture, entertainment and hospitality in the heart of Manchester.”
NEC Group joins OVG’s International Venue Alliance
Oak View Group (OVG) has welcomed the UK’s NEC Group to its newly formed International Venue Alliance, making the Birmingham-based venue operator the second founding member of the alliance, behind Silverstone Circuit.
The International Venue Alliance, which launched last week, is modelled on OVG’s US Arena and Stadium Alliance which comprises 28 arenas. OVG plans to make further announcements around the growth of its international alliance in the coming weeks.
The NEC Group’s membership in the alliance covers the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, along with the four other venues: the International Conference Centre (8,000-cap.), the Vox (900-cap.), Resorts World Arena (15,685-cap.) and Arena Birmingham (15,800-cap.). The partnership will focus on helping the NEC drive new commercial partnerships across the venues.
“It’s very exciting to have NEC on board,” says Sam Piccione, OVG’s international president. “We’ll be partnering with them as an extension to their talented sales team to find the right naming rights partner for the NEC and Arena Birmingham.
“We will also help them maximise new and unique commercial opportunities and additional revenue through driving content and leveraging our platform,” says Piccione, adding that the NEC, which was acquired by US private-equity firm the Blackstone Group in 2018, is a “first class organisation with strong leadership” that plays a “vital role” in hosting live events.
“The NEC Group really recognises the mutual benefits of the Venue Alliance and will be putting plans in place to work in true partnership from the start”
“As the Venue Alliance grows, we’ll continue to help our members in areas that are important to them and the overall business, which will extend to everything from ticketing and premium hospitality strategy, event scheduling, and unique sponsorship opportunities,” says Piccione.
NEC Group’s chairman of arenas and ticketing, Phil Mead, comments: “The NEC Group really recognises the mutual benefits of the Venue Alliance and will be putting plans in place to work in true partnership from the start.
“As a first step, we’re looking forward to dovetailing our NEC Group commercial team with the Venue Alliance team to extend the reach and resource applied to commercial rights sales. We are equally optimistic that further value will be added to our events programming through the Venue Alliance.”
The partnership is the latest in a series of developments for OVG, which launched its UK-based international division in March; announced its first European venue – the Santa Giulia arena in Milan in June; and confirmed its interest in building a major new concert venue in Manchester in August.
Oak View Group, a venue development, advisory and investment company was co-founded in 2015 by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and ex-Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff.
OVG confirms interest in new Manchester arena
Oak View Group (OVG) has formally confirmed its interest in building a major new concert venue in Manchester, its first in the UK, IQ can reveal.
In partnership with Manchester City FC owner City Football Group, feasibility studies are already underway for the new arena, whose preferred location would be the Etihad Campus – the site of the club’s ground, Etihad Stadium – in Eastlands, in the east of Manchester, Britain’s second-most populous city.
Oak View Group, a venue development, advisory and investment company co-founded by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and ex-Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff, launched its London-based overseas division, OVG International, at ILMC in March. The first OVG International project, Santa Giulia Arena in Milan, was announced in June.
In a statement, OVG says it is working with City Football Group “as part of its commitment to continuing the growth of Eastlands and the Etihad Campus as a thriving community and world-leading sporting and leisure destination”.
Leiweke, OVG’s chief executive, says: “Manchester is an amazing city with a proud music and sporting history, and one that we believe would see substantial benefits from a new arena. East Manchester, in particular, has a strong track record in entertainment and hosting major events.
“We believe Manchester would see substantial benefits from a new arena”
“Over the last two decades, Manchester has consistently ranked in the top five global cities for arena events. A new world-class arena would create thousands of skilled jobs, apprenticeship and training programmes, and generate significant additional revenue for businesses in the city.”
OVG’s confirmation of its interest in Manchester comes amid controversy over plans for a second arena in the city, with SMG Europe, operator of the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena, warning that a new venue could put its property out of business.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News in June, SMG’s EVP of European operations, John Sharkey, said “there is not a market for two 20,000-capacity venues [in Manchester]. We are going to see a council report that says there is, but there isn’t.”
“Invariably, one of these venues is going to fail if you build two,” he continued. “Why not work with the existing one? I think there’s a jeopardy situation if it’s granted.”
In July, it emerged that SMG had hired PR firm FleishmanHillard Fishburn to distribute leaflets on behalf of a group called ‘Friends of Eastlands’ which appeared to suggest Manchester City Council intended to invest in the arena, which would actually be 100% privately funded.
“We are delighted to be working closely with City Football Group as we begin this initial phase of consultation”
One city councillor, Sir Richard Leese, described the leaflet as “very misleading” and “one of the most outrageous things I’ve seen in a long, long time”, though SMG countered that it merely argued a new arena would require investment in infrastructure and policing, ultimately paid for by the public.
The public spat has echoes of the row between SMG-allied AEG and Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) in London, where the O2 operator AEG was accused in June of creating a residents’ group to oppose MSG’s Sphere arena.
“Understanding the priorities of the community will be a critical part of any proposal, and we are delighted to be working closely with City Football Group as we begin this initial phase of consultation,” adds Leiweke.
In addition to Milan, OVG is leading arena projects at the Key Arena in Seattle, Belmont in New York, the University of Texas in Austin and in Palm Springs in California.
ILMC 31: The Open Forum: With or Without EU
Live Nation’s president of international touring, Phil Bowdery, returned as host for this year’s standing room-only Opening Forum, which saw six heavyweights gather to discuss the last 12 months in the business, hot-button industry issues and the looming threat of Brexit.
After running through some of the headline figures from 2018 – the largest tour was Ed Sheeran’s ÷, which grossed US$432.4m from 93 concerts in 53 cities, with Taylor Swift’s Reputation in second – Bowdery asked what the trend towards rising ticket prices, coupled in many cases with falling attendances, outlined in IQ’s European Festival Report 2018 means for the industry’s future growth.
Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) CMO Detlef Kornett said that while his company experienced healthy growth last year – and that sales of top-end tickets continue to grow – less wealthy fans are increasingly finding themselves priced out of shows. “Twenty per cent of the population in Germany now can’t afford to go to a show,” he explained. “The P1s keep increasing, but the lower end is a concern.”
Coda agent Alex Hardee said while he didn’t have any statistics to hand (“not that that’s stopped me before!”) he feels the overall market is “flat”. “You’re never going to have a problem selling [new, hot acts like] Billie Eilish, but it’s more difficult with bands on their second, third albums… Record labels are the strongest they’ve been since the ’80s, but the live industry feels like it’s plateauing slightly.”
Tim Leiweke, the ex-AEG CEO who now leads venues company Oak View Group (OVG) – which used the conference to launch its new London-based OVG International division – cautioned that the business “need[s] to address whether we’re pricing people out of concerts”, especially if the global economy takes a downturn.
Solo Agency’s John Giddings countered: “Every time we put a show on sale, it seems to sell out. People want to go out and have a good time.” He revealed that his Isle of Wight Festival 2019 had sold more than 30,000 tickets before it had announced a single artist.
“Fortnite is a $60bn business, and it doesn’t charge to play. … I think there’s a lot to be learnt from that”
However, he added: “We push ticket prices all the time – the artists want more money, venues want that peripheral income – so there must be a level it reaches when we say it’s enough.”
Marsha Vlasic of Artist Group International (AGI) said AGI had a great year, with the likes of Billy Joel, Def Leppard and Metallica continuing to sell out shows. She said her biggest concern for the future is “who are the next headliners, and how do we get the next generation of acts to that level?”.
Asked about the impending merger of AEG Facilities and SMG, and the new company, ASM Global’s, potential to rival OVG, Leiweke said he doesn’t think “two [companies] coming together is ever good”, predicting that “they’re going to get challenged in the UK, they’re going to get challenged in Germany and elsewhere in Europe…” He also revealed that OVG’s lawyers are “looking at it” on anti-competition concerns.
Returning to ticket pricing, and the value of the market, artist manager Bill Silva argued that the live music industry – predicted to top $30bn in 2022, according to the latest PwC data – is actually small fry compared to the videogames business, where many IPs rely on a free-to-access model.
“Fortnite is a $60 billion business, and it doesn’t charge to play,” said Silva. “That’s one game that’s bigger than our entire industry by a multiple [of two]. I think there’s a lot to be learnt from what’s going on there – people are spending their time on that activity, rather than music and concerts – there’s a model around engagement and experience that encourages them to spend.”
“It’s the old drug dealer model,” he joked. “‘First one’s on me,’ right? Not that I was a drug dealer…”
Kornett argued the success of games like Fornite could help open up to the live business to a wider audience, using the example of DJ Marshmello’s recent performance in Fortnite, which was seen by 10m people.
“We need to remember we work in a system where other people rely on us”
Following on from ILMC head Greg Parmley’s welcome address, when he paid tribute to the ILMC members who had died in 2018, Silva urged the industry to come together and look after those in need.
“When we watch our artists taking their own lives – Chris Cornell, Chester [Bennington] and now this week Keith Flint – as well as promoters [referencing Croatia’s Jordan Rodić, who committed suicide in January], we need to remember we work in a system where other people rely on us as well.
“I guarantee any of the people around people who have taken their lives would say they did everything they could, or that they had no idea… We all have a lot of fun doing what we do, but I like to end most interaction on a high note and let people know I appreciate and respect them.”
Inevitably, with the UK set to leave the EU (with or without a deal) at the end of this month, talk then turned to Brexit. Several people in the room said they were hedging dollars to prepare for any post-Brexit plunge in the pound. “We’re in a gambling business, and that’s just another gamble we’re taking,” said Giddings.
“We’ve been following everything on Brexit, all the scenarios,” added Hardee, “but what can we do?”
Asked the view from the continent, Kornett said: “Once in a while, it’s good to take the other side. The UK industry accounts for almost 25% of Europe’s, so if it gets harder to get to the UK from Europe our business gets harder. So there should be a vested interest to avoid that.”
OVG International launches in London
Oak View Group (OVG), the US-based venue development, advisory and investment company co-founded by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and ex-Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff, today launched its new international business at the International Live Music Conference in London.
OVG International, based in London and led by notables from the European venues world, is tasked with building arena and stadium development and partnership opportunities in the UK, Europe and the Middle East and Asia. According to OVG CEO Leiweke, OVG International is already in “advanced discussions” on a number of projects in those territories.
Jessica Koravos, president of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, and formerly MD of AEG Live and COO of AEG Europe, will serve as co-chair of OVG International alongside Leiweke.
Other appointments include:
- Sam Piccione III, formerly CCO of motorsports championship Formula E and SVP of sales at AEG, who becomes president of OVG International
- Former O2 London managing director Mark Donnelly, who is named chief operating officer
- Brian Kabatznick, ex-AEG Facilities and Ticketmaster, who becomes EVP of business development and facilities
- Marc-Elie Robert, SVP commercial, formerly AEG China VP of global partnerships
- Martha Rolle, legal counsel
- Gary Hutchinson, ex-Wembley Stadium, who will serve as a stadium consultant
“Oak View Group is growing rapidly, and we’re delighted to welcome seven exceptional executives to our team as we launch OVG International,” says Leiweke.
“We look forward to extending the Arena and Stadium Alliance to like-minded venues outside North America”
“Our aim is to create a new generation of state-of-the-art entertainment facilities. Our venues will be an elite class in terms of fan experience, artist experience and technology, and will provide an unparalleled platform for the activation of global brands.”
Oak View Group was founded in 2015. In addition to its major arena development projects at the Key Arena in Seattle, Belmont in New York and the University of Texas in Austin, OVG runs the Arena and Stadium Alliance, an invitation-only partnership of 28 arenas in North America that seeks to help independent venues attract global sponsorship opportunities, additional events and content.
It also has a venue-management outfit, OVG Facilities, launched last October following the acquisition of Pinnacle Venue Services, and a security arm, Prevent Advisors, and owns industry trade titles Venues Today and Pollstar, the latter which it bought last summer.
“The live events market has grown significantly in the United States since Oak View Group launched three years ago, and we see a huge opportunity to drive similar growth internationally by creating world-class experiences in world-class arenas,” continues Leiweke.
“We look forward to extending the Arena and Stadium Alliance to like-minded venues outside North America and to announcing more about OVG International’s plans soon.”