This week In the Hot Seat with Mark Campana, and Bob Roux, co-presidents of North America Concerts, Live Nation Entertainment.
A day before it was scheduled to brief Wall Street analysts on its third-quarter 2010 earnings, Live Nation Entertainment disclosed that Jason Garner, head of the company's Global Music division, had left the company, effective Oct. 29, 2010.
He was replaced by a trio of executives, Mark Campana and Bob Roux as presidents for the South and North regions in North America, respectively; and Rick Franks who was elevated to president of North America for talent/touring.
Campana, based in Chicago; and Roux, based in Houston, oversee booking, operations and venues in their respective territories.
The northern region—handled by Campana—comprises New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
The southern region that Roux oversees comprises Florida, the Carolinas, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Texas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Seattle, Denver, New Mexico, and California.
Formerly president of Live Nation Detroit, Franks remains based in the city overseeing touring strategies.
Campana, a Chicago native, was appointed to Midwest regional president for the company in 2005, assuming all activities in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota and the Dakotas. He divided his time between Live Nation offices in Detroit and throughout the Midwest. In 2007, Campana relocated to the company's downtown office in Chicago.
After graduating from Illinois State University with a B.S. in Theater and Art's Management, Campana worked for Nederlander Concerts from 1980-1999. He was theatre manager at Poplar Creek Music Theatre in Chicago (1980-81) and the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles (1982); GM of Kingswood Music Theater in Toronto (1983-1989); a junior talent booker (1990-94); and head of booking for Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC, Cincinnati and Toronto offices (1995-99).
Prior to his appointment to president of North America, Roux was president for the Dallas/Houston/New Orleans region for the company, and also served on Live Nation Entertainment's Board of Governors for North America. As well, he was previously president of Houston-based Pace Concerts.
The executive shuffle came on the heels of a difficult summer concert season for Live Nation, characterized by slow ticket sales, and cancellations of several tours.
The shuffle has now come to signal a shift in company strategy where it is less centralized and has placed more decision-making authority in the hands of regional management—tapping further than ever into local market expertise in talent buying, marketing and promotion.
As well, there’s been a move in 2011 to try to lower ticket prices, and pay lower guarantees on major tours.
The changes seem to be paying off, as Live Nation’s live music business has had an encouraging rebound in 2011.
Live Nation Entertainment said Nov. 3, 2011 that its 3rd quarter net income inched up 1% though revenue from selling concert tickets fell.
How do you two work together? How does it work?
MARK: Pretty good so far. First of all, we work as a team in terms of policy. So if we are getting into a circumstance where we have to change policy or an approach—Bob and I tend to be very close—and we spend a lot of time talking about how it is that we would like to roll out a material policy related to the company.
Our business is broken up into two aspects. The first being the geography of it and the other being what we call national disciplines—the law department, the finance department, booking department and things like that.
For practicality, we have divided the geography of the company into north and south. I take responsibility for all of the offices in the north. Bob takes responsibility for the offices in the South in terms of direct reporting. Boston, Philly, New York, Detroit, Cleveland, all those report into the north, and I take responsibility.
So after we divided it up by the geography, we then took the disciplines of the business and we divided those up so that people that work in the company have a pretty good idea of who the boss is in their area of the business.
So Bob takes responsibility for running the touring area of the business. He runs our revenue management and a number areas of the business on a national basis. I take responsibility for the finance side—for the marketing, for the venues and the facility management.
Where does Rick Franks fit into this as president of North America, talent/touring?
MARK: He reports to Bob. He has two roles. Rick is the president of (Live Nation) Detroit, and responsible for Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. So he has a business unit that he runs, and then he also reports to Bob in his responsibilities related to the touring entities.
Mark, you are based in Chicago where Live Nation has a significant presence.
MARK: We do have a large footprint here in Chicago. It’s been built up over the years. Chicago is where I grew up before I hit the road to the various markets I worked in over my career. It’s great to be home.
As a Live Nation market, we do touch a lot of our key elements of the business, whether it’s the House of Blues or we have an 8,000 seat boutique amphitheatre (Charter One Pavilion) in the market. We have a 35,000-seater up in Alpine Valley (the Alpine Valley Music Theatre), and a 28,000-seater down in Tinley Park in the First Midwest Bank (the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre).
Arthur Fogel (chairman of global music, and CEO of global touring, Live Nation) I kid him, he’s the biggest promoter in Chicago. There’s nothing that I can do that compares with multiple shows of U2 at Soldier Field; four and five nights of Madonna at the United Centre; and Lady Gaga playing Lollapalooza (2011) and then coming back and playing the United Centre. That global touring artist roster that Arthur brings to our market on a regular basis helps us immensely. But we do have a good footprint in this market.
Your relationship with Arthur Fogel goes back many years to Toronto when he was with Concert Productions International.
I worked for the Nederlanders. We built Kingswood (Kingswood Music Theater in Toronto). (As GM), I was Arthur’s competitor, actually.
Bob, being based in Houston, can you speak to the rebirth of the Gulf region following Hurricane Katrina in 2005? Did it take a long time for the region to come back?
BOB: That the market has come back. I can just tell you that a recent show (Dec. 3rd) on a Saturday night with Jay-Z and Kanye West grossed over a million dollars. We played the New Orleans Arena. It was one of the most rocking nights that I have ever been at. We had people from all over the region. Their closest dates were in Houston and Atlanta, where they opened the tour. It was just a very highly, highly successful show.
What was it like for business in New Orleans in 2005 and 2006?
BOB: We never stopped doing shows. Obviously, there was a period of time immediately post Katrina where New Orleans was at a complete stand-still but once the arena was back—U and O (University of New Orleans) opened a little bit later than the New Orleans Arena—but once the buildings were back open, we were back open for business, and programming the market like we always have.
It certainly is still the kind of market that you are careful during certain times of the year whether it’s Jazz Fest or Mardi Gras—things when there are other competitive forces there. But for the most part we do really well there.
Bob, Live Nation’s broke Louis Messina’s heart by scooping up Nickelback from him. Still friends?
BOB: (Laughing) Louis (founder/principal of The Messina Group/AEG Live) and I are quite good friends. I have probably been out to dinner with him twice in the past month. We are getting ready to put our next Nickelback tour on sale next month. We love the guys in the band. They have been great partners with us. This is a band that just puts on a terrific show. They have a great catalog of music. We’re looking forward to a very successful 2012 tour with them.
[Nickelback signed a three-album/three tour deal with Live Nation in 2008; then estimated to be worth between $50-$70 million.
Under the deal, Live Nation acquired 12 separate artist rights to feed its global distribution pipe. These include touring, tour sponsorship, tour merchandise, tour VIP/travel packages, secondary ticketing, recorded music, clothing, licensing and other retail merchandise, non-tour sponsorship and endorsements, DVD and broadcast rights, fan club, web site and literary rights.]
You both were working with independent promoters when SFX Entertainment rolled up the North American concert market in the late ‘90s. Bob, you were president of Houston- based Pace Concerts; Mark, you were working with the Nederlander family.
How disruptive was the period following the consolidations?
MARK: Wow. I have no perspective on it because it’s not like I have been involved in a couple of roll-ups. So I don’t know what an easy roll-up is compared to a difficult roll-up. I think you had a number of entrepreneurs who made decisions to sell their businesses to a Wall Street company. Bob Sillerman had a design on what he wanted to do. You had a number of entrepreneurs with very diverse opinions, and diverse backgrounds. I guess in that sense it was interesting to watch the diversity, and how we came together as a group.
For some people Larry, it was a terrific environment and it allowed people to revel and use their skills; and for others, it was an environment that turned out that they weren’t that interested in.
For myself, it offered me a lot of resources and opportunities that I wasn’t necessarily seeing in my days with the Netherlanders. As a partner in Nederlander when we sold the business, it was terrific. But when we made the decision to sell our business to SFX, and ultimately when we ended up working for Clear Channel, you went from being the decision maker to having a vote. For some, that was difficult. For others, it was a terrific environment to work in.
[The consolidation of North America’s concert market began with SFX Entertainment's acquisition of New York promoter Delsener-Slater Presents in 1996. Under Robert Sillerman, SFX spent about $2 billion buying promoters and other entertainment properties, including snapping up 11 regional companies and 82 venues.
SFX acquired Pace Entertainment in 1998 in a $130 million deal that included Pace Concerts, Pace Theatrical, Pace Motorsports and the company's 13 amphitheaters. The following year SFX acquired interests in seven venues and other assets from entities controlled by the Nederlander family in a deal worth $93.6 million in cash.
Sillerman then sold SFX to Clear Channel Entertainment for an estimated $4 billion in 2000. In 2005, Live Nation was formed from a spin-off of the subsidiary, Clear Channel Communications.]
Several of the promoters involved have told me that it was a difficult transition.
MARK: They may have a better recollection of it than me. You had a lot of really talented entrepreneurs that were brought together. Most of them (had) a sole proprietorship or a very small business. All of a sudden, they were blended into a big room of people who all did similar things. I don’t know. I just don’t remember it being such a bad situation.
BOB: I don’t remember it being problematic at all. There were a lot of people in the late ‘90s that were happy to have a bit of security and were excited about being able to work toe-to-toe with some guys that had been former competitors.
Some promoters later felt sidelined within Clear Channel Entertainment.
BOB: When you get a wide variety of personalities, and they are all involved in trying to lead and move the company, you are going to have disagreements from time to time, as in any organization. I would say that the vast majority of the team got together and worked fine.
MARK: Bob articulated very well about the environment that we worked through. I would add to that a lot of the same people that were initially acquired by Bob Sillerman are some of our top executives. Whether it’s Rick Franks, and Wilson Howard from the Cellar Door (Cellar Door Concerts) as well as Don Law and Ron Delsener. Bob from the Pace side, and me coming from the acquisition on the Nederlander side. We’ve got a lot of those folks. There are a few who may have decided to move on and look for greener pastures; but there are a lot of those people here. I don’t know if I would have ever had the opportunity to work with Rick Franks the way I have over the past 10 years if we were in the old paradigm.
Frankly, the Clear Channel days, that is pre-Rapino; and that is the dinosaur days of our company. The Mays family still sit on our board and have a terrific relationship with our business, but this is the business that Michael Rapino built as opposed to the business that Bob Sillerman built. That’s the way I look at it.
[Canadian-born Rapino began his career in 1988 at Labatt Breweries in Toronto as director of marketing and entertainment. Through Labatt, Rapino began working closely with Michael Cohl's Concert Productions International, then the largest concert promoter in Canada.
Upon leaving Labatt, Rapino co-founded Core Audience Entertainment, a leading concert promoter in Canada. CAE was acquired by CCE (then SFX) in 1999, creating SFX Canada.
After running CCE's Canadian operation, Rapino ascended to the head of its European operation in 2001.
Rapino became global president of CCE’s music division in 2004; and CEO of Live Nation the following year. Rapino was the 5th head of CCE's music division since 2000. When he became head, Rapino quickly set about revamping the company. He spent millions in shed improvements, and made attempts to lower ticket prices, and removed many of facility fees.]
When Michael Rapino took over, the sentiment within the company the company was, “We really need someone to lead this company.” Within a year, he seemed to bring the company together.
BOB: It also became a concert company whereas Clear Channel was very diversified with their entertainment offerings, and what they pursued. We became a strict concert company and divested those non-core assets very quickly; and we got into global expansion mode very quickly.
MARK: Michael brings focus that this industry has not seen in the past. We have been in an industry of today; and Michael has made it an industry of tomorrow. He really has. And when you have a leader instill that type of thinking, and that type of strategy, it is pretty easy for the masses to gravitate toward it. By all means, we became a stronger— and I think more vibrant—business when we became more focused.
With such a huge chunk of the concert market, Live Nation has received no small share of the blame for the sector’s troubles from the media, and from internet blogger/critic, Bob Lefsetz.
How do you cope having a company you have worked to build up being so vilified?
BOB: One, I don’t read it (bad press). On one occasion when that particular writer got particularly antagonistic, I was sent a few copies of his daily blog. It made me extremely upset. We have a great company, and people here work very hard every day. We certainly have made mistakes, but we have tried to fail quickly, and learn from those mistakes. The greater majority of the time, we are doing something that we can all be proud of.
MARK: I don’t know if I can answer it better. I will say that it absolutely wears you down when you see someone who is attacking for no other reason than to attack.
But when Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged to create Live Nation Entertainment in 2010, there was also enormous criticism in the newspapers too.
MARK: Agreed. We take our business very personally, and it would be difficult to not have it have some effect. But what I find most important, and allows me to get beyond it is that I probably have in the company right now 15 to 20 or maybe even 25 people who started their careers working for Bob and I years ago. They have great lives, with wonderful homes, and are experiencing being part of the music business. All I have to do is think about a few of those people and pfffff the bad press is way back in the background in my mind.
I’m with Bob in terms that you don’t let it (criticism) get to you at a certain point. You don’t let it fester. It’s out there, yeah. It wears you down a little bit, but I look at the people working for us who have great jobs and great lives and are enjoying the music business, and I say to myself, “We can’t be all of those things that they are saying we are because look around.”
A weak economic environment, poor pricing guidelines, misjudging the appeal of certain acts, and questionable marketing strategies can be said to have negatively impacted Live Nation’s concert business in 2010.
In 2011, there’s been a bit of a bounce back for the company. How did that happen under the same economic scenario as 2010?
MARK: Well, where to begin? I would say that first of all the approach that we took to buying talent this year…we went in with a very basic plan, and that was “can we do fewer shows and make more money on the fewer shows?” So being a bit more selective and in the booking process, we were trying to avoid situations where we were forcing square pegs into round holes. So we were probably a bit more selective.
Replacing the one size fits all strategy of centralizing buying and booking and marketing while tapping more into the local markets?
MARK: Yes, absolutely. And Bob, maybe we should share a little bit about one of our most important tasks for (Michael) Rapino in the first year here was getting that local office, and the local promoter re-established as an incredibly important part of our business; the focal point of our business as a local promoter rather than a national promoter.
The challenges of 2010 may have precipitated some of these changes you mention. But don’t you also think that some of the changes developed because Live Nation is naturally evolving. This company is not that old, really; and the way it came together was by patch work.
BOB: Do you mean an evolution of back to the basics?
Evolution of the company overall.
BOB: Right, yes. Certainly.
There’s certainly been some impressive talent match-ups this year with Live Nation.
BOB: Also part of the differences between 2010 and 2011 is that we knew in this economy that we needed to create more value. So whether that was pricing our shows correctly from the start in order to provide value to the fans or creating great packages like we did with New Kids (New Kids on the Block) and Backstreet Boys, and Britney (Spears) and Nicki Minaj , Sade and John Legend, and Journey/Foreigner. All of those things helped us to enjoy the successes that we saw this year.
MARK: When you look at the differences, absolutely (there were differences including) the booking approach, and involving the locals at a higher level in terms of involvement in the booking process, but it boiled down to value. Value at the ticket price, and value at the packaging.
When we looked at our product, Bob and I were always looking at what will be the value proposition. In the past, promoters in previous economies probably were a bit more cavalier in how they approached it. Bob and I took a very, very conservative approach. We didn’t go through a recession. We really re-set the economy for (Live Nation) North America. And in re-setting the economy for North America in terms of how much people are making; how many people are going to be unemployed; we felt that we needed to look at our value proposition and make sure that we gave greater value. That means pricing the tickets properly at the beginning.
Secondly, we make sure that wherever possible—and we worked very close with the managers and the agencies —that wherever possible, it was saying, “Let’s jumbo-size. Let’s bring more value to the package.” You mentioned some of the best highlights of that. Sade and John Legend, great value. The New Kids on the Block with the Backstreet Boys, incredible value.
When we had a great package coupled with the right ticket prices at the beginning, we felt that we had some success. That’s why we had the marketplace embracing concerts again. It certainly had nothing to do with Bob and me in terms of being managers. It had to do with the industry putting better packages out there and we, as an industry, looked at the ticket prices differently.
You and Bob overhauled Live Nation’s discounting strategy which had been heavily criticized for cheapening the concert marketplace. Discounts now can be opening weekend, with tickets going up after 72 hours.
BOB: Certainly, we want to reward those loyal customers who buy early by giving them the best price point; making sure that they are aware of it and are taking advantage of it. It worked pretty well. It is something that we will continue to emphasize for 2012 as we move forward.
Did the concert industry also hit a pricing threshold in 2010? Promoters used to work out a guarantee with an act and their representatives, and then figure out what tickets would sell for. It seems there’s more of a concern upfront today of what the ticket price should be, and then figuring out what the guarantee should be. Has the paradigm changed?
MARK: Every show is different but you make a good point in that generalization. The one thing that I would tweak on your representation of the process is that we (now) talk with the artists about the ticket prices from the beginning (of the booking process). (This year) Bob and I as well as Rick Franks and a number of our people sat with the key agents, the key managers and talked about ticket prices, long before we were talking about a specific band. we were talking about ticket prices in general. Bob, when did you do your round robin with the agents?
BOB: Probably after the first of the year as we were getting into the buying season. We sort of set forth what we thought was the proper value proposition and we wanted to make sure that we had buy-ins from the agents and the managers that we worked with.
That hasn’t been the way this industry has worked.
MARK: It has not. In some levels it was, but generally speaking you are right. We went to the industry to talk about ticket prices and what we could do together in order to make sure the venues are filled with full-priced tickets. We also have a number of terrific vehicles that we use with floor packs, and mega tickets and things like that. We talked as a group; whether it was with Rob (Light) and Mitch (Rose) and the folks at CAA (Creative Artist Agency); or Geiger and his team over at William Morris (Marc Geiger, VP, William Morris Endeavor) or any of the major agencies.
We also went and dipped into some of the management companies. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t barking up the wrong tree.
Bob, wouldn’t you say that the concepts were embraced from the get-go? I don’t remember ever anyone saying, “No. We want higher prices.”
BOB: I think that generally people got scared of the results of 2010, and understood that the logical way to proceed and turn the business around was to communicate a bit more and, if anything, make sure that we were creating those value propositions from the very beginning.
This past year was probably just the beginning of what you are going to see as a long-term trend of artists really trying to properly price in or to maximize attendance which will give them a much longer sustainment of their career. In 2011 and 2012 (bookings), we are already seeing that. It is basically a continuation of the platform that we started this past year.
There’s long been criticism that high ticket prices are the result of greed by acts, managers and agents. True?
MARK: Artists, much like athletes, are always going to look at their career in terms of where are they in the cycle. If they feel that they are at the peak of the cycle, they are going to try to maximize their earnings. I don’t know if that has necessarily changed. Athletes are always going to want to make more. Performers, artists, entertainers are always going to want to make more. I don’t use the term “greed” because I don’t know if that necessarily applies to everyone. It may to some. But I think that when people are at their highest earnings potential they are going to push as hard as they possibly can to earn as much as they possibly can. I again say that it’s also relevant to athletes. They are looking at it as, “How long is my window of opportunity, and how to maximize my earnings during my peak periods?”
Many major artists don’t have the recording revenue they once had. So performing has been more important as a source of revenue. That may have driven up guarantee demands too.
BOB: I think the other thing worth noting is that there is a kind of new regime of headline acts that are much more attuned to their audience, and what they can afford as they build their careers. If you look at acts like Black Keys that are really breaking, Katy Perry on her first arena headlining tour, the Foo Fighters, Jason Aldean, you’ve got this group of relatively new artists that are capable of selling out arenas, and selling out amphitheatres, and they are approaching (touring) at very value-oriented ticket prices. I think that we are going to see more and more of that as we go along. There are just tons of these acts that are starting to break and other acts that are learning, “Hey, if we keep those ticket prices reasonable, we can do big numbers.”
So many country acts have come up through the ranks including Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley and more recently Jason Aldean and The Band Perry.
MARK: There’s greater sensitivity (for development) there for sure.
BOB: And, it’s working.
Country seems to do more artist development than other genres.
MARK: I would think that the star system in country, the way that they place artists on packages, and help nurture the artist up into a star status, is admirable. They really do have a terrific system. When we talked about packaging; and when we talked about how much value can we get on that Journey show; and who should be on the Sade show, we quite frankly are taking a page from the country book where they have always made sure—wherever possible—to have a strong package. It seems as though the next generation is always bubbling under as that main support act in country; whether it was (Rascal) Flatts as a support act for Toby (Keith) or (Brad) Paisley as the support act for Flatts. You can just go through the list. They do a great job of (packaging) and we have taken a page from their book when it comes to finding value in our pop and rock shows.
Although rock doesn’t dominate radio anymore, there still were a lot of rock shows in 2011, including by Linkin Park, Metallica, and Bob Seger. Rock isn’t heard on radio as much these days.
MARK: Radio is obviously going through an evolution of its own. We’re losing alternative rock stations regularly in markets. That’s difficult for us. We are having to quite frankly find other ways to market our shows. That is where you run into a lot of the social platforms that we are building. There are the new marketing programs that we have instituted because the traditional means of promoting a concert unfortunately is not as effective as it used to be.
Many of the top shows in 2011 in the U.S. were with rock bands from the ‘70s. Few of those acts are heard on radio anymore.
BOB: But they have toured for a lot of tours, and they have built up a loyal fan base because of those great live shows. Every time you see them, they deliver.
Bob, you made that point while giving an award last month to Journey. You read off their tour schedule from the ‘70s, and it was like, “Wow.”
BOB: I know.
[On Nov. 10, 2011 in New York, Journey received Billboard’s Legend of Live award, a lifetime achievement award that Bob Roux presented by reciting the tour routing of the band’s first month of a nearly year long tour in 1978. It was impressive: 22 shows in 26 days. "Shit Neal," Roux said, "I can see why you went through so many lead singers."]
The cornerstone of artist development remains tour, tour, and tour.
BOB: And tour internationally. That was ’78 that I was referencing for that Journey tour. I’m not sure in those days that acts had it in their business plans to try to break worldwide. Nowadays that is in everybody’s mind from the beginning. We have had a lot more bands going to South America. Certainly every major tour is making a few stops in Mexico. You look at how the Canadian business has evolved. It is a great market. Everything internationally in Europe right now, even in Eastern Europe, is developing. Bands today don’t have as much time on one given record to concentrate on the United States whereas acts like Journey or Metallica would do a 90 city run in the U.S. on one record cycle.
There are many acts that have little mainstream visibility like Deadmau5 who is everywhere. A lot of electronica artists are very popular. Live Nation just started an electronica division, Electronic Nation. That is a scene that has greatly evolved.
MARK: It is pretty incredible what is going on with electronica. I was at an NFL game recently where they were playing a Deadmau5 mix during a station break in the stadium, and I thought, “Boy the days of playing Bon Jovi hits may be behind us.”
Yet, ask a dozen of your friends if they have heard of Deadmau5, and you will draw a blank.
MARK: You need to talk to your daughter’s friends, Larry.
In October, Andy Hewitt and Bill Silva came into the Live Nation fold. Are they part of the concert puzzle that you needed in the California market?
BOB: Andy and Bill, we have worked with as friends, competitors, and partners for many years, so it was a natural fit for us. We are very happy to have them as part of the Live Nation team.
What didn’t you have in that market previously?
MARK: I think that (the deal) brought an incredible couple of promoters for starters. With the history that Bill and Andy bring; the talent that they bring; and the intelligence in both concert promoting, in general, and in Southern California; they bring great value. They also are the in-house promoter for the Hollywood Bowl, and their involvement in buying talent is immense.
[On Oct. 25, 2011 Live Nation Entertainment announced an agreement with Los Angeles-based concert promoters Andy Hewitt, and Bill Silva in overseeing the booking, marketing and promotion of the company's concerts in Southern California and Las Vegas.
In 1991, Silva and Hewitt formed Andy Hewitt & Bill Silva Presents to produce pop and rock concerts at the Los Angeles County-owned Hollywood Bowl.
Over two decades, the pair have brought a wide range of talent to the Hollywood Bowl, including: Elton John, the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, James Taylor & Carole King, Paul McCartney, Andrea Bocelli, Cher, Luciano Pavarotti, Coldplay, Radiohead, Roger Waters, Dave Matthews Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Silva continues to operate Bill Silva Entertainment which consists of a concerts promotion and touring division, Bill Silva Presents; and an artist management division, Bill Silva Management.
Hewitt is also a key player in the Las Vegas entertainment scene, promoting shows at the Palms Casino Resort in partnership with Live Nation, and the Maloof family, among other ventures.]
Are Andy and Bill keeping the Hollywood Bowl bookings to themselves?
MARK: You know, I’m not sure. Bob, I am going to rely on you, given that it’s your territory. I’m not sure if we have actually dealt with that. What I am getting at is that I don’t believe that it’s public knowledge yet in terms of the particulars of their deal. So I would be somewhat reluctant to get into the particulars.
BOB: I think that the right way to answer your question is to say that Bill and Andy will continue to book and operate as they have at the Hollywood Bowl. We are happy to have them as their adjoining business as part of Live Nation now.
A decade ago Internet marketing was 2% of the company’s annual budget, and grew to 7% by 2008. What percentage is it at today?
MARK: That is an area that I am responsible for. I don’t have a specific percentage. But I will tell you that the numbers that you have quoted on the previous years are spot on. I believe that our spending has grown.
Social networking obviously is a bigger part of your business?
MARK: It is absolutely a much larger piece of it. There are some opportunities through partners that we have been able to put together and ultimately grow new avenues for promoting. For example, the Facebook relationship that we have developed over the past year. What we have been able to do with Facebook is on a couple of levels. One, in regards to a person’s address book and their list of friends, we are able to have them purchase tickets, and then to advise everyone on their friend list that they are going to the show. That’s incredible.
If you could have thought in 1985 that someone could buy a ticket and you would go through their rolodex and call each person and tell them that you were going to show, think how incredibly powerful that would have been for marketing.
With Facebook now, we literally do that now. It’s done in seconds within them making the purchase through Ticketmaster. It’s an unique relationship exclusive to Ticketmaster where we have interfaced with Facebook to make sure that when a purchase is made—that is if the person opts into that—all of the people on that person’s Facebook list of friends find out that they are going (to a show).
We have found out that through tracking sales that we have been averaging about $5 in incremental ticket sales for each one of those listings. So when you buy a ticket and your use your Facebook lists or interface with Facebook, we are going to sell another $5 because you did that listing. That’s incredible—when you can look at an avenue of advertising and tie back incremental sales. It is just an incredible opportunity.
Secondly, we’ve developed the Concert Calendar where if you are going to a show or there is a show that is of interest to you and your friends, you are able to post it and people can see what is going on in your musical calendar or your entertainment calendar.
Those sort of tools with Facebook allow us to market and promote like we have never marketed or promoted before.
We are working now with a number of different social platforms, whether it’s Twitter or all of the different social platforms that are out there to see what’s the next generation. Larry, it moves so rapidly that we have a team of people here (Live Nation's Live Analytics group launched earlier this year.) One of the values of being a big company is that we can invest very high levels of resources into new opportunities and new projects. We have a social marketing team of about 14 that are responsible for nothing more than making sure that all of our shows are reaping the benefit of the highest level of social marketing intelligence that is out there. It changes quickly and we want to make sure that we stay on top of it.
But (social media) has changed the advertising and marketing of shows. You can get into the marketplace (deeper). The most important endorsement that you can give on why you should go to a show is a friend telling you that they are going. It is incredible that we can now use technology to make sure that you know that all of your friends know that you are going to that show. We find that as an absolutely incredible tool and (it’s) something that you are going to see us growing by leaps and bounds as we go forward.
[This month Live Nation acquired BigChampagne, a Los Angeles-based company that collects and analyzes online digital media data. The acquisition is expected to enhance Live Nation's ability to provide relevant content to consumers and business intelligence solutions for entertainment businesses and brand marketers.]
What are the challenges of working with Prince? He did 21 shows at The Forum in the Spring.
MARK: The only challenge that we have working with Prince is trying to get him to do more shows because he’s so popular. Look at the incredible business that he has done. He is an incredible artist, and when you reach that level of star status or that level of importance within communities, you are afforded greater latitudes to make decisions as you see fit.
Prince tends to make decisions a little later than what an average artist would define when they are going to play, and what their touring plans are. But the fact of the matter is that virtually every decision and every direction that Prince takes in his career is something that he is deciding on his own. Steve Herman (president of artist services at Live Nation) who handles the day-to-day with Michael Rapino, who is really the account manager with Prince, they probably have greater insights to what it’s like working with the artists on his tour. Bob, your experience out at the Forum I recall, was incredible.
[Prince’s 21 show-stand began on April 14, 2011 at the Forum in Inglewood, California.]
21 shows, Bob? That’s impressive.
BOB: Yep, he’s been doing incredible business; putting on incredible shows. You just spent a few minutes talking about how fans are able to talk to each other virally much more aptly than they did previously. Prince goes on in any of these cities and people hear about what the show is like. In the case of Los Angeles, we started with, maybe, two or three shows. And as he played off shows, the response was so great and the blogs were so positive that we built on a couple of more (shows) and it just built into a frenzy in Los Angeles.
Few people can name a Prince album in the past decade, but he remains a superstar.
BOB: An incredible catalog of hits. An incredible musician. Maybe one of the best all around musicians and vocalists that I have ever seen.
Tell me the buzz you both get 15 or 20 seconds before the lights go down on a big show. What’s the feeling watching something about to happen with a show you and your staff may have worked on for months and months? What goes through your mind?
MARK: I believe that when we accomplish what we are set out to do, we create with the band, the times of your life.
You are giving me a business view. Give me a personal view.
MARK: No. listen. When you look at a fan and you can see them genuinely having one of the times of their life, and to see some of the excitement that I have been able to experience…
I remember when we did a Pearl Jam show and it was snowing at an outdoor venue and I was watching all of those people in their snow suits and mittens and snowmobile boots. You want to know something? They had the time of their life. That was in Alpine Valley, and we had a freak snow storm.
[“‘Welcome to the ice bowl,” joked Eddie Vedder at the Oct. 8, 2000 show after “Hail Hail.”’ Wrote a fan later in a blog. “I was at the Ice bowl and it was insane. Couldn’t feel my hands or feet by the end of the show. The venue was selling hot chocolate and actually ran out of it. The band had heaters placed on stage. Only show that ends with RVM, as far as I know. I think the band was too cold to play anymore songs!”]
My point is that just before those lights come down, and you can see that excitement in the fans eyes, if it is a really big event and the band delivers what they are going to deliver, it’s unbelievable.
But I have as much fun watching people leave the hall as I do with the few minutes before an act goes onstage. You see people who are exhausted. You see people who have grins from ear-to-ear. They have experienced one of the times in their life. That’s what we try to do. To create an event where people can escape for a few hours and enjoy one of the times of their life with their friends. I get quite a rush from those fans looking at them before the show; but I probably have as much fun and get excited leaving the hall. That’s when you see that you got the job done.
BOB: That feeling that you get as the lights go down, the audience is ready and is anticipating the band, I think that’s one of the reasons why I got into the business. I was an avid concert goer through my high school years. I loved going to concerts. I loved being part of the crowd. I think that probably is one of the things that helped propel me on a course to where I am today. I still love it.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.”
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