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New York to require Covid-19 vax for all indoor shows

New York City, one of the world’s live music capitals, will soon require proof of being vaccinated for anyone who wants to attend an indoor live show, mayor Bill de Blasio announced today (3 August).

The strict new requirements will be extended to other indoor activities, including dining at a restaurant and working out at in the gym, throughout August and September, as the city seeks to stop the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, reports the Associated Press.

New York is the first major city to impose such restrictions, though some venues already have similar requirements: Iconic arena Madison Square Garden, for example, has required all fans to be fully vaccinated for its non-socially distanced events since the Foo Fighters’ huge show in June. (Interestingly, the city mandate won’t require ‘full’/double vaccinations – only the first jab.)

“If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated”

According to AP, the policy will come into effect on 16 August but inspections and enforcement won’t begin until 13 September, when the city’s schools reopen. About 66% of adults in New York are fully vaccinated, according to official data.

De Blasio has so far rejected calls to require masks indoors, as some cities in California have, focusing instead on getting the city’s population immunised against the virus.

“The only way to patronise these establishments indoors will be if you’re vaccinated,” says de Blasio, whose office administers a city of over eight million people.“The goal here is to convince everyone that this is the time. If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated right now.”


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US: Live Nation, Nederlander make senior hires

Live Nation has appointed Cindy Agi, formerly a partner at WME, as global tour promoter in its Live Nation Concerts division.

In her new role, Agi, WME’s first black female partner, will be responsible for building relationships with international touring artists and booking major global tours. She will report to Omar Al-Joulani, who leads Live Nation Concerts’ talent and touring team, and Arthur Fogel, chairman of global touring.

At WME, which she joined in the post room in 2009, Agi represented Rihanna, Big Sean, Andra Day, Demi Lovato, Jazmine Sullivan, Snoh Aalegra, Cordae, 2 Chainz and Blxst.

“Agi brings an incredible breadth of knowledge and years of experience in the music industry. The respect that she has throughout the industry and her undeniable work ethic made her a must-have promoter on our expanding global team,” says Al-Joulani. “We are excited to have her on board and know she is going to continue to be a force in the touring industry.”

Leaving Live Nation, meanwhile, is Kate Guarrieri, who has joined independent US promoter Nederlander Concerts in its talent booking team.

“Cindy Agi brings an incredible breadth of knowledge and years of experience”

In her new role, Guarrieri will programme Nederlander’s core California venues, including Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles, City National Grove of Anaheim, San Jose Civic, California Performing Arts Center in San Jose, Heart Health Park in Sacramento and Somo Concerts in Sonoma County among others, as well as  seeking new regional and national tour opportunities up to arena level.

Guarrieri most recently worked Live Nation as a local talent buyer and national tour director, booking events ranging from 2,000-capacity theatres to 40,000-capacity stadiums.  She has worked with artists such as Foo Fighters, Panic! At the Disco, Incubus, Sia, Chris Stapleton, Bon Iver, Leon Bridges, Avril Lavigne, Ray LaMontagne, Massive Attack, Weird Al Yankovic and Alt-J.

“Kate’s national touring experience is a perfect fit to expand our booking department’s efforts,” says Alex Hodges, CEO of Nederlander Concerts. “As we continue to add venues and route and curate tours, it is essential to enhance our team with seasoned professionals, and we are thrilled Kate is joining our team.”

“I am excited to join the Nederlander Concerts team and look forward to contributing to the growth and success of their touring goals,” says Guarrieri.


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Ticketmaster inks global ticketing deal with OVG

Ticketmaster will provide digital ticketing technology for six Oak View Group (OVG) arenas as part of a new global partnership between the two firms.

“OVG is setting a new standard for arenas with world-class hospitality and state-of-the-art technology. Their portfolio boasts some of the most modern and progressive new venues in the world,” says Mark Yovich, president of Ticketmaster. “Through our leading-edge ticketing technology, Ticketmaster will help OVG deliver premium fan experiences for sports fanatics and music lovers.”

The partnership includes New York’s UBS Arena; Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena; Austin’s Moody Center; Coachella Valley Arena in Palm Desert, California; Savannah Arena in Georgia; and Co-op Live in Manchester, UK, with the OVG venues able to call on “Ticketmaster’s digital technology to provide the industry leading tools needed to operate and adapt to the needs of concerts, games and other events”, say the partners.

This includes ‘Ticketing Concierge’, a contactless box office powered by Ticketmaster’s TM1 product suite which enables all ticketing transactions, account support, refunds and ‘will-call’ (on-the-door tickets) to be handled digitally, reducing the need for physical interactions between fans and staff.

“We know what a strong partner Ticketmaster is when it comes to bringing that premium ticketing experience to fans, and we look forward to partnering with them”

Venues equipped with Ticketing Concierge may admit fans through contactless scanners, with digital tickets accessed on their mobile devices, providing faster entry.

The venues may also implement new capabilities for contactless payment, mobile ordering and in-venue experiences via the Ticketmaster app, says the company.

“Ticketmaster is the best ticketing system in the world, and we’re pleased to offer their industry-leading technology across all of our world-class venues,” says Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group. “We know what a strong partner Ticketmaster is when it comes to bringing that premium ticketing experience to fans, and we look forward to partnering with them to bring the biggest artists and sporting events as we return to live.”

The deal with OVG follows the signing of a new agreement by Ticketmaster with ASM Global (formerly SMG/AEG Facilities) across its venues in North America.


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TEG launches joint venture with Rockefeller Company

TEG has announced the launch of TEG Rockefeller, a new global partnership and joint venture with the Rockefeller Company of New York.

The Rockefeller Company creates film, animation and live family entertainment shows based on children’s books and movies. Its Rockefeller Productions subsidiary, founded in 2014, has a host of productions including The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, the world’s most popular children’s show (with 14 productions on four continents), Paddington Gets in a Jam, and Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Adaptation, which opens in New York this October.

For Sydney-based TEG, the partnership will see its portfolio of experiential family content promoted in the United States and elsewhere by the Rockefeller Productions team. Rockefeller Productions is led by company co-founder Jonathan Rockefeller, who will lead TEG Rockefeller alongside fellow co-founder Wilson Rockefeller and TEG Live managing director Tim McGregor.

The JV unveiled its first project earlier this week: Pixar Putt, an 18-hole pop-up mini-golf course designed by TEG’s Life Like Touring, which opens in Manhattan at the beginning of August with Rockefeller Productions as the US promoter.

TEG CEO Geoff Jones says: “The Rockefellers have created a unique business with a great track record delivering brilliant and innovative productions that have delighted families the world over. We welcome Jonathan, Wilson and their team to the TEG family and look forward to continuing their success under the TEG Rockefeller banner.”

“There is a great future ahead for both companies working alongside each other”

“We’ve always focused on bringing quality entertainment to people everywhere in the world, from Sydney to Shanghai, from London to Los Angeles, introducing the next generation of audience members to an exciting new world,” says Jonathan Rockefeller. “Our work is designed to be universal.

“We’re very pleased to be working alongside TEG to bring some great existing projects like Pixar Putt to a broader audience and begin new and wonderful projects together. There is a great future ahead for both companies working alongside each other.”

Wilson Rockefeller adds: “Rockefeller was established as the anthesis to an antiquated and broken Broadway and studio systems of ‘that is how it has always been done’. I believe our successes over a short period of time have confirmed our innovative approach. With TEG, our new partnership will continue to embrace the new as we move from strength to strength. We at Rockefeller could not be more delighted at the prospect.”

Australia-headquartered TEG operates out of seven country offices and includes TEG Live, TEG Dainty, TEG MJR, TEG Van Egmond, Laneway Festival, Handsome Tours, Qudos Bank Arena, Ticketek, TEG Analytics, TEG Insights and TEG Digital.


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Providence buys into music retailer Sweetwater

Providence Equity Partners, the private-equity owner of live entertainment firms including Superstruct Entertainment, Ambassador Theatre Group and Tait (Towers), has bought into Sweetwater, the leading US retailer of musical instruments and audio equipment.

Terms of the transaction, which sees funds advised by Provide make a “strategic investment” in Sweetwater, were not disclosed.

Founded in 1979 by Chuck Surack, Sweetwater now turns over more than US$1 billion annually and has served over 1.5 million unique customers. “I am incredibly proud of the growth our company achieved over the last year, which would not have been possible without the dedication of our employees and world-class team of music gear experts,” comments Surack (pictured). “I am confident this growth equity investment will allow us to reach new heights and further our mission of enabling customers to make music and pursue their dreams.”

Other music-industry investments by Providence include software firm Impact, the UK’s Brilliant Stages (via Tait) and, formerly, Greencopper parent company Patron Technology, which it sold last year. Its festival division, Superstruct, recently acquired Dutch event Zwarte Cross, in its first acquisition since before the pandemic.

“We believe the company is well-positioned for sustainable growth as live events return”

“Providence is a great partner to continue our momentum and take Sweetwater to the next level,” says John Hopkins, Sweetwater’s COO. “As the world emerges from the pandemic, we believe the firm’s strong track record of helping music-related businesses accelerate their growth will be invaluable.

“The Providence team appreciates what makes Sweetwater different and we are aligned on how we can further leverage our unique culture to capitalise on new opportunities that create even better customer experiences.”

Scott Marimow, managing director of Providence, comments: “Sweetwater’s status as an online industry leader is a direct result of its unique culture and dedication to customer service. We believe the company is well-positioned for sustainable growth as live events return and artists and entertainment companies look to provide the memorable experiences that have been absent over the past year and a half.

“We are excited to partner with such a culture-driven company and look forward to working with Chuck and team to grow the business together.”


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New study shows physical events more important than ever

UTA IQ, United Talent Agency’s research, data and analytics division, has released the findings of a study of consumer sentiment about live and virtual events as the end of Covid-19 restrictions approach.

For Virtual + Reality: The Future of Digital & Live Entertainment in a Post-Pandemic World, UTA surveyed consumers in the US about their post-pandemic plans, finding that online events will augment and supplement, rather than replace, in-person experiences as live events return.

Joe Kessler, global head of UTA IQ, says: “As real life re-emerges, consumers are roundly rejecting a binary choice between virtual and live entertainment. Much like hybrid work, consumers are demanding a best-of-both-worlds approach to their entertainment choices. Consumers are enthusiastic about returning to live experiences, but they also are unwilling to give up the enhanced virtual experiences that helped get them through the pandemic.”

“Those who see a zero-sum game are missing the ample opportunities ahead”

Among the key findings of the report are that:

Consumers’ top reasons to attend virtual events, even when it’s safe to return to ‘real’ shows, are to avoid crowds; experience the event “comfortably”; go to an event that wouldn’t visit their region; spent less money; and explore an event they’re only casually interested in, in that order.

Commenting on the high percentage of Americans who say they’ll continue to attend events virtually, Kessler adds: “Those who see a zero-sum game are missing the ample opportunities ahead if you listen to consumers and their increasingly discerning expectations for both virtual and IRL entertainment.”

The new study follows an earlier report, Forever Changed: Covid-19’s Lasting Impact on the Entertainment Industry, released last April.


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Bulls-hit on parade

I wrote this column at least 1,000 times in my head over the last eight weeks before putting it down on paper today. When ink did hit paper, I ended up with a very different version to the prior madness, and although it was very poignant it wreaked of an anger so deep with frustration and ugliness that there was no way to contain it in an 800-word essay.

You see, I was fired recently from a major sold-out arena tour that was to start up a week after the pandemic shut us all down. Then unceremoniously terminated – two weeks past the one-year anniversary, to be exact. Seriously, a year into a global pandemic, and then I get fired? Fucking ridiculous. Putting me out with gasoline while on fire is an understatement. And goddamn, I have been spitting piss and vinegar ever since.

Although I have been fired thrice before from other projects over what I would call on paper a successful and respected 35-year career, this was definitely different. Not that the previous times didn’t hurt and or make you question yourself and your abilities eight ways to Sunday, this had the added fear of a never-ending global pandemic attached to it with zero constructive communication from day one by my employers.

However, after checking my head with the help of some dear and trusted peers, the soul-searching melted into a clear and underlying suspicion that you had been employed by some incredibly dysfunctional and most likely heartless people that actually knew very little about large-scale touring and had zero interest in learning from the professionals that they hired to give such guidance. Not that I haven’t always had the classic Hunter S. Thompson quote about the music business in my veins to rationalise such shitty behaviour, but enough is enough. When you sell your brand heavily based on the plight of the working man and woman, the impoverished, the exploited, the systemic violation of human rights across the globe, then maybe it’s time to put down that copy of the ‘Anarchist’s Handbook for Dummies’ for a second and look in your own back yard and find out what your responsibilities are as a corporate employer of a large labour force.

Communication on the task at hand, and to the people you hire, is key here – with any of our touring projects, it’s the framework to getting all parts of the project built when applied successfully. You, sirs, give zero fucks. Add serious dysfunction and animosity within a group and your chances of that success are lowered considerably. Heck, I feel for you, man; everybody has that drunk uncle at the Thanksgiving holiday table, but please don’t pawn your personal problems onto the kids’ table. I’m just trying to have a piece of that apple pie, too, brother.

Contrary to what you are reading here, please note that I hold no ill will towards you. I love your band’s music, I wish you continued success and I cherish you as human beings, as we are all God’s children in the end. But we are professionals here, and we are tired of being exploited by such flippant behaviour. So please pay up and honour the commitment we all made when hired.

You need us to sign an NDA and now a Covid-19 waiver? Sure thing. And let’s use that same pen to sign my employment agreement…

With that said, here is a list of additional lessons learned during my pandemic along, with some tips that might be useful to IQ readers:

And so, I quote:

“It has to start somewhere.
“It has to start sometime,
“What better place than here?
“What better time than now?”


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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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ASM Global expands partnership with Ticketmaster

ASM Global, the world’s biggest operator of entertainment venues, has expanded its ticketing partnership with Ticketmaster across its North American stadia, arenas, convention centres and performing arts venues.

In addition to extending their existing deal, the pair have have also expanded their relationship to include shows promoted by Ticketmaster parent Live Nation other ASM Global venues in North America. ASM, formed in 2019 by the merger of AEG Facilities and SMG, operates more than 300 venues on five continents.

The partnership will give the more than eight million fans that pass through ASM’s American and Canadian venues each year access to Ticketmaster’s digital ticketing offer, which includes contactless entry, mobile tickets, instant transfer to friends or other fans, and anti-counterfeiting measures, say the partners, while ASM benefits from Ticketmaster’s live analytics dashboard.

“ASM is our largest partner in North America, and we are proud to grow our great work together”

ASM Global president and CEO Ron Bension says: “With amazing content in all of our venues as a powerful foundation, we continue to discover imaginative new methods that leverage breakthrough technologies to create unparallelled consumer journeys, including innovative food and beverage and premium VIP treatment for fans. Aligning with industry leaders like Ticketmaster is a critical component in providing millions of people with the most seamless and secure live experiences.”

“ASM is our largest partner in North America, and we are proud to grow our great work together,” says Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation. “We are committed to supporting ASM’s efforts to provide fans with best-in-class ticketing and fan-engagement now and into the future.”

AEG took full control of its own ticketing platform, AXS, last year, though the business sits outside ASM Global. In 2018, it was announced that AXS was the official resale and mobile ticketing partner to a number of AEG venues, including Staples Center (Los Angeles), PlayStation Theater (New York), Target Center (Minneapolis) and Sprint Center (Kansas City). Those venues did not become ASM properties upon the 2019 merger.


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Steve Martin and Andy Somers launch Paladin Artists

Another new independent agency, Paladin Artists, has made its debut after former APA staffers Steve Martin and Andy Somers gathered a team of nine other agents to launch offices in Los Angeles, New York City and London.

Paladin has also created a strategic partnership with Wayne Forte of Entourage Talent Associates and Karrie Goldberg of The Kagency in a deal they say will re-envision the agency business, looking at artist and brand representation, touring and live events, literary representation, theatre production, touring exhibitions and estate management.

In addition to the principals, the Paladin Artists team will include agents Magaly Barone, Kath Buckell, Chyna Chuan-Farrell, Christian Ellett, Steve Ferguson, Seth Rappaport, Sara Schilevert and Zach Silva.

According to Celebrity Access, the turmoil caused by the Covid pandemic allowed Paladin’s founders time to assess the overall industry landscape and devise a more evolutionary approach to the agency side of the business.

Somers says, “Paladin, Entourage and The Kagency share similar visions and will each benefit by the sharing of information, experiences, and common goals; exploring new means of improving the future of artist and brand representation while remaining independent at a controllable scale of operation.”

“The industry is rapidly evolving and will continue to do so in the post-pandemic world”

Martin adds, “The world has been through hell for the last 18 months with many places and people still struggling. I’m simply grateful to work with people I like and artists that I respect, enjoy and have fruitful relationships with. Many were able to take a step back during the shutdown and evaluate what is important, be it personal or business. The industry is rapidly evolving and will continue to do so in the post-pandemic world.”

Both veterans of the independent scene, Martin and Somers have worked together for decades as their careers saw them both instrumental in the growth of Neil Warnock’s The Agency Group.

For his part, ILMC stalwart Wayne Forte says, “This pandemic has highlighted how short life truly is. So, why not work with people and clients one genuinely likes and with whom one shares similar visions and philosophies. The establishment and building of yet another successful business is a bonus! After all, success is not simply a destination, it’s a constant journey.”

The Kagency, founded by Karrie Goldberg in 2004, built one of the first venue representation businesses in North America focused solely on handling the corporate/private event, film and photo bookings for their clients. The company portfolio currently includes more than 500 traditional and non-traditional venues in the US and UK, while its talent roster includes artists and brands such as Nike, Givenchy, Duran Duran, Beyonce, Cartier, Under Armour, Maserati and Vogue.


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