This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Jeff Apregan President, Apregan Entertainment Group/Venue Coalition.
Jeff Apregan has nailed down the sweet spot of the live music industry.
The Apregan Entertainment Group and Venue Coalition, based in Westlake Village, California, are the industry leaders in providing artists, venues, promoters producers, and organizations with such entertainment services as talent buying, tour direction, venue consulting, and strategic planning.
Working with a network of 65 leading venues in North America, Venue Coalition specifically provides its participating members with booking information and research that helps them identify new business and booking opportunities.
The organization is able to assist its members who seek to promote shows in-house, as well as provide representation for its venues through its strong relationships with agents, managers, and promoters.
Clevelandís I-X Center recently engaged VC Strategic Partners, a division of Venue Coalition, to develop content and introduce this new venue to the live performance industry.
ďThis new venue will offer multiple venue configurations and can host intimate reserved seat shows for 3,000 to 5,500 with GA capacities that are much greater,Ē says Apregan. ďImagine an indoor music festival for 23,000. Best of all, when you step off your plane at the airport next door, you are only 5 minutes away from the backstage area."
A weighty Apregan Entertainment Group client is the Gridiron Stadium Network with 12 members. GSN was formed in 2005 as an advocacy organization to raise awareness of the opportunities available to industry, business and community leaders at GSNís facilities, and to pursue new business opportunities for its members.
Over three decades Apregan himself has experienced the live events industry from a variety of perspectives including as a venue operator, artist manager, promoter representative, talent buyer, tour promoter, tour director, and venue booking consultant.
Landing his first entertainment job as an accountant at Management III/Concerts West in Los Angeles in 1980 after being on the programming committee at college, Apregan then went on to tour throughout North America with the firmís management clients, John Denver, Bob Dylan, and Neil Diamond, as well as Eric Clapton, and the Blues Brothers.
After Apregan left Management III/Concerts West, he worked for Eric/Chandler Ltd. which had acquired a stake in Avalon Attractions, and was also the managing partner for 16,000 capacity Irvine Meadows Amphitheater in Orange County, California. During his 11 year tenure, Apregan acted as executive dir. of the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, and as VP of business affairs for Avalon Attractions.
In 1993, Apregan Entertainment Group was launched.
A terrific summer for American stadiums?
On the stadium side, it was an amazing summer.
With tours out with the Grateful Dead, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, the Rolling Stones, and Taylor Swift, there was the prediction of a combined summer gross box office of $140 million for members of The Gridiron Stadium Network (GSN). That probably got blown out of the water.
Yes. Initially, we thought that it was going to be about $140 million, but it ended up, I believe, being in excess of $180 million.
I donít recall a time when so many music acts could fill a stadium. There seems to be more acts, though thereís not a lot of them.
I remember years ago going to the Day on the Green concerts at the Oakland Coliseum that Bill Graham presented. That was a certain event that had a legacy in certain markets (like Chicago), but they werenít necessarily artists that could play in a stadium-sized venue every time.
Plus there were always a half-dozen acts on the bills.
Yes. And I remember the Texxas Jams (the Texxas World Music Festival, 1978Ė1988) and some of those kinds of things. This summer was....first of all to your point that there arenít a lot of those major, major artists that can sell that many tickets. This just happened to be a year that there was enough of those (major) artists that just happened to be working all at the same time. It was Taylor Swift, and Kenny Chesney; Luke Bryan starting to play more stadiums; and Zac Brown (Band) was playing ballparks. He didnít play football stadiums, but he played ballparks. The Foo Fighters played a few ballparks too. Then the Stones sort of fell out of nowhere. It was a great surprise.
While country music continues exploding, Kenny Chesney keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Kennyís business is remarkable. Look at the number of times that he has played stadiums in the same market in the past 10 or 12 years. He has gone back to Pittsburgh and Detroit and some of these markets for stadium shows, maybe, 8 or 9 times now, which is remarkable. I canít think of another artist that can make that kind of a claim. He always puts together a great package. Always puts together a great show. People know what they are going to get, and he always delivers. But what a remarkable story. His team has been so good to our stadiums. To NFL stadiums, in general. Heís played so many of them now.
Country used to attract an older demographic. Thatís not true anymore.
Iíve walked around a Kenny Chesney show at times, and felt like I was the oldest guy in the whole place. My perspective is a little bit different. I walk around. I will walk through the tailgate parties. I want to see whatís going on. Country has done a great job of attracting a young demo. Whatís interesting is that if you think about a younger demo, younger demos very often can switch gears very quickly. But country has been cool for younger people for the past 6 or 7 years, and you see some of these artists developing out of that. Itís a little bit different. For the (country) artist, itís very much about singles. Itís like breaking rock acts now.
Iíll bet within 3 to 4 years that Florida Georgia Line will be playing stadiums.
Oh, yes. What amazing growth just in the span of five years. Absolutely.
A few weeks back George Strait announced that he would be playing a series of shows in Las Vegas in the spring and fall of 2016. Surely, a national tour canít be far behind.
The cowboy didnít ride away for very long.
You have had a multi-faceted career before launching your own company in 1993. Was it primarily a booking agency before getting into other affiliated sectors?
It was a combination of things. I was booking artists, but I was also working on projects. I had been doing some festival things. My role in all of the projects is that I have been sort of like an in-house promoter, but really what I was back then was what I would loosely describe as a business guy in a creative environment. So I was building budgets for festivals and running festivals and settling shows. A lot of execution type of projects.
You have had a multi-faceted career. Has it included artist management?
A few years ago, I managed Parachute Express, and then going back 4 or 5 years I was managing Gary Hoey.
You have overseen each part of the live music deal so whoever you negotiate with, you can likely identify with what they do.
I think so. Yes.
Did you produce many shows this summer for others?
We are not an at risk promoter. We will buy talent. We will certainly produce shows for other people. Itís more a function of how the client wants to utilize us. So we can be involved with talent buying. We could be involved looking at the marketing of the (show) plan, and having a say in all different elements of executing the show. Or we can help put the deal together, and then get out of the way. It really just depends.
You promote for other people, whether for a venue, a corporation or artists, and you provide such services as talent buying, tour direction, venue consulting, and strategic planning?
Was it a busy summer for that side of your business?
The summer wasnít as busy for us as was the late spring and the fall. One of the big projects that we have been working on for the past few years is Nitro Circus Live. I have been their tour director in North America for arenas. I think weíve been working for them since 2012. We had a tour that we took out in May, and we have another tour that we are just getting ready to put out next week (Oct. 8) thatís in 24 cities.
Kelly McCormick, who was recently promoted manager of tour operations and booking at the Apregan Entertainment Group, is heavily involved with Nitro Circus Live.
Yes. Kelly is very involved. Kelly has been with me for three years. We just expanded her role, but she has been very, very involved in all of the Nitro Circus activities. All the routing, the building deals etc. We are kind of like their in-house promoter. Nitro Circus Live is essentially the producer and promoter, but we have the promoter responsibilities, essentially.
Venue Coalition was launched in 2005 following a conversation you had with two Canadians, Gilles Paquin of Paquin Entertainment, and Kevin Donnelly Sr. VP, GM at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, during a Concert Industry Consortium conference (now Pollstar Live!). You and Gilles then became partners in Venue Coalition.
Gilles and I had known each other for a long time. Gilles had always been involved with family entertainment, and I had been involved with family entertainment for a period of time. We both had acts that signed to the Walt Disney Record label.
Gilles had managed Fred Penner for years, and was managing Norman Foote.
As I said earlier, I managed a (California-based) group called Parachute Express, so we kept crossing paths, and we had known each other. Gilles had not only been an artist/manager but also he had been a promoter as well. Kevin was a mutual acquaintance. Yeah, we were just kinda talking about business, and traffic and about trying to get more shows. Out of that conversation came the idea of Venue Coalition.
[Gilles Paquin is founder/CEO of the Paquin Entertainment Group founded in 1985. Paquin Entertainment Groupís management clients include Buffy Sainte-Marie, Randy Bachman, Bachman & Turner, Darcy Oake, and Del Barber. Its affiliate Paquin Artists Agency represents more than 150 artists for Canadian bookings. Paquin was the recipient of the 8th Annual MMF Canada Honour Roll Award presented in 2014 by the Music Managers Forum Canada recognizing outstanding achievements, and excellence in Canadian, and international artist management.]
The Gridiron Stadium Network represents how many stadiums?
We have 12 stadiums.
All NFL facilities?
Yes, they are all NFL facilities. The participants in that group are either representatives of the team ownership or in Tampa, Florida, for example, the Tampa Sports Authority is a member of the group.
How many venues are part of the Venue Coalition?
We are right around 65, and we are extremely proud of that. We started in 2005 with 9 buildings in Western Canada. We started from Kevin Donnelly (in Winnipeg) west. We ran the business like that for about the first year and a half. Our business model was definitely evolving. We ran the business for the first year and a half trying to drive content to these 9 buildings and, at the same time, trying to figure out how this was going to turn into a real business. We picked up some additional members about a year and a half later after this idea really got traction. We went back to a Pollstar Live! conference and we invited general managers mostly from tertiary market arenas. We made a presentation to them and we walked out of that conference with another 20 some odd (venues). From that point forward we had a better understanding of who we were, and what we wanted to do. So we experimented for the first year and a half trying to figure it out, and itís been non-stop since.
Gilles isnít involved in the Venue Coalition today?
No. Gilles is no longer a partner in the business. Gilles and I were partners until 2009 or 2010. I hope to see him in a few weeks. Iím going to be up in Winnipeg with Nitro Circus. Gilles has represented some people that have stayed with him forever and that speaks volumes.
Membership in the Venue Coalition used to be $9,500. What is it today? The same?
No. Itís gone up a bit, but not too much.
The launch of Venue Coalition was well-timed. It came as many arenas were seeking to be more proactive, and be more competitive. Operators realized that they had to have increased interactions with agents and others. Correct?
Well yes, and I think that as the years have gone by that more and more venues have realized that they need to be competitive. You can talk to any kind of venue, whether itís a theatre operation or an arena or a stadium, anyone you will talk to will say, ďJeez, I could use more events.Ē
Thereís more venues, fairs, casinos, and festivals around than there were. All competing with each other.
Well, yeah for all those reasons. Competition has continued to intensify. Not only are there a number of markets in the country where...certainly, there are plenty of markets in the country that have an arena and an amphitheater, and multiple theatres, but there are markets in the country that have multiple arenas, and then add in Indian casinos, add in, maybe, the proximity of the tertiary markets to a major market that is getting more traffic, fairs, and now the proliferation of festivals.
All competition, and it has continued to intensify. Yes, there is no shortage of new arenas being built. There are more venues than there is viable content that can fill all these venues up. Everybody is competing to get a smaller number of shows.
You think back to a time where...I remember years ago when I was with the group that had Avalon Attractions. I was the guy who would go out, and sell the shows. I was doing 130 or 150 shows a year. I think of all of the bands that were touring at that time that were doing lots, and lots of shows. It was Kiss, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Scorpions. Bands that would just tour in the United States forever. They would tour for six months. They would go to a state like Texas, and they would find 6 or 7 cities to play. Thatís why so many of these (heritage) artists still have viable touring careers so many years later because they laid that foundation. But now itís not that common for an artist to do a tour that has 60 dates. That just doesnít happen like it used to. So the artists are doing fewer dates, and certainly the older artists they have to make touring more comfortable. They arenít going to do 100 shows on a tour. The long point is that there are more venues competing for fewer shows
As a result of the increased competition, are there plenty of conference calls, one-on-one meetings, and group meetings within the Venue Coalition?
All of the above. We have booking calls. We certainly have one-on-one calls. Maybe project-related calls, if thereís a project that we are working on that affects some members and, maybe, not everybody, we will have special calls for that. We are at all of the conferences. We can schedule time throughout the year to have one-on-one meeting just to get up to date with something and make sure that we are versed on whatever is going on in the market, and what the competition is doing. (Discussing) who is playing their building. Who used to play their building, and isnít playing their building anymore. Crafting strategies to try and get them back and get more shows.
Will agents or managers swap information with you on upcoming tour dates? Will a conversation start with, ďThere are 10 venues I need to go into?Ē
Well, yeah information absolutely flows both ways. There are agents who will call us. They know that they will get all of the information that they will need, maybe, in one phone call. In other words, if someone is working on a tour and they want to route it, and they want to play buildings that have a 180 degree capacity of X to Y in this part of the country, and ďby the way I need to know those arenas, and I need to know if they are available for August, September and October,Ē yes, they will call.
You can then tell them what dates are available. Do you have ďNot on the 7th here, but the 9th which is 100 miles awayĒ type of conversations?
That is our job. Get that information turned around as quickly as possible. We have agents reaching out to us all of the time, but we are always reaching out to people too. If anybody is driving content, if itís an agent or a producer or a tour promoter that has the whole tour, itís our job to learn about it, and find out about it and if we can help fill in holes, thatís great. If we can help them route parts of the tour, there are certainly instances where that happens as well. Thatís great too. We try to stay in that conversation so we are learning about something before it is already done.
If thereís any talk about a tour that your venues would be interested in, are you and your staff immediately on the phone to the agent or the manager seeking dates if they available?
Yeah, we sure try. Yes, and even if something is already routed, there might be an opportunity. Every circumstance is different. There might be a situation where thereís a package of talent, and they have a night to fill and, maybe, the opening act might be a good fit in a tertiary market. There could be a situation where there are festival anchor dates that are locked in, and we are able to piggyback onto that. Thereís no shortage of avenues to explore. We do our best to make sure that we are exploring all of those things.
At one time, it was impossible to get major acts to tour rural America. Over the years, acts like Elton John have played smaller markets and made a lot of money for everyone.
Elton John is such a great example. If you look at the markets that heís played in the last couple of years, there will be cities that you would be astonished that Elton John would play, and they have had such tremendous success.
How about bookings for The Gridiron Stadium Network? Do stadium bookings develop differently than arena bookings? Do agents seek out dates or do you have to chase a them down?
Itís very similar. It really works both ways. The stadiums are so different because there are such a small number of artists that belong in a stadium setting. It really has to be right. The artists and the managers want to put their artists in right kind of situation.
Do you have to say sometimes to an agent or manager, ďI donít care what this act is getting for a stadium date in Atlanta or New York, you canít get that kind of money in this market?Ē
I am more likely to give out that kind of advice to arena plays than I am for stadiums. The reason is that at the stadium level we are dealing with guys that are pretty sure about what they are doing, and theyíve got good reasons for wanting to go into a market. If you look at the growth track, we were talking about country, if you look at the growth track of a Jason Aldean or a Luke Bryan or even Kenny Chesney, if you go back a couple of years, you can see that they have graduated from playing arenas to doing doubles in an arena to, maybe, doing doubles with theaters. I think thatís part of the growth plan that ultimately takes an artist to a stadium. Itís about looking at an artistís growth in that specific market, and determining the right time, if at all, to play a stadium.
An artist has to graduate to that level.
They have to graduate to it. Then, at some point, they have to decide whether or not to take a leap. Hereís an example. Kenny Chesney is playing Denver and heís gotten to a point where heís playing three shows at Red Rocks (Amphitheatre, capacity 9,450). Whatís that, 28,000 seats or so? Do you take that leap from 28,000 seats to playing a stadium where itís going to be set up for, maybe, 45,000 seats? You know what? They took that leap. It was the right thing to do and then they came back around two years later, and did it again, and sold even more.
I guess that the point that Iím making is that what has happened with stadium acts is that there have been very few acts that have played.....again, everything about what Iím about to say is really the exception. There are a lot of artists who selectively play stadiums. If you look at artists playing stadiums, there arenít many tours built just to play stadiums is what Iím trying to say. For example, Kenny Chesney may go out and play a bunch of stadiums. He may also play arenas, and he may also play amphitheaters or festivals. All on the same tour. We have seen artists like Paul McCartney who will play arenas, and just knock it out of the ballpark, and he will also play a ballpark. Bruce Springsteen is not an artist that would play stadiums across the board. Or he hasnít. Or Bon Jovi hasnít for that matter. But they absolutely might in certain markets. So when you look at stadium shows itís not always an artist that is looking to do stadiums. This summer, Taylor Swift, that was absolutely what they were going to do. One Direction, thatís what they were going to do. The Stones only played stadiums for the most part. Luke Bryan played a handful of stadiums, and then played other venues as well. It really depends on what the game plan is.
During our time, we saw Robert Sillermanís SFX Entertainment spend about $2 billion snapping up 11 regional promoters, and 82 venues in America, and then selling them to Clear Channel Entertainment for an estimated $4 billion. In 2005. Live Nation was formed by a spin-off from the subsidiary, Clear Channel Communications. As well, AEG Live is an aggregation of some great boutique regional companies. Is there still room for independent promoters in America today?
I think that there is absolutely an opportunity. I really am fortunate. Whatís interesting is that because I started my career at Concerts West (Management III/Concerts West,) which was a tour promoter, which is not unlike what happens today when Live Nation or AEG promote an entire tour. So having that experience, and then going to a company (Eric/Chandler Ltd.) which had (a stake in) Avalon Attractions which, at the time was an independent concert promoter, and seeing a different kind of a model while still on the promoter side, I started thinking that Concerts West was the normal model which at the time it was not at all.
Well, neither company was said to respect the traditional promoter territorial boundaries.
Yes (laughing). Depending who you asked. Yes. Then to watch as the industry went through this consolidation. You had all of these old school promoters that were fierce competitors. They had developed businesses out of nothing. They get consolidated, and as that consolidation has continued part of it has broken apart too. Live Nation, of course, is an enormous company. They are doing 25,000 or so odd events annually worldwide. The business of AEG and Live Nation has expanded globally in a big big way. But I always want to think that there are opportunities for new people coming in. I see examples of that everywhere.
Nothing like a younger voice pointing out how wrong you are about an act.
I was a young guy when I started. I have now been around long enough that some of my best relationships are with guys that are also older guys. Not likely that the next coolest, hippest thing is going to necessarily pop up on my radar screen. Iím fortunate that Iím surrounded by some really smart younger people who point out things, and get me focused on things that I might otherwise might not be seeing.
There was a time when the North American concert field was divided into 20 or so empires, local promoters with strong regional roots. Thereís still some strong regional promoters like Jam Productions, Bowery Present, Frank Productions, Another Planet Entertainment, and Beaver Productions.
Yes. I think that one of the things that is great is that years ago if you were an independent promoter, you were the promoter in that specific town or, maybe, in the next town. That region. Whatís happened now is that you can be an independent promoter, but still have a national relationship. Just because you are parked in St. Louis or Westlake Village or wherever you happen to be doesnít mean that you have to do shows in your own backyard. If you have the relationships, you can do shows anywhere.
Larry Frank and his brother Fred of Frank Productions in Madison, Wisconsin certainly know the regional markets.
They do, and they walk the walk. They are in the trenches. Iím big fans of theirs. They are great promoters. They are good friends of ours. Iíve gotten to know Larry pretty well in the past 8 or 10 years. They have grown tremendously just in the past six or 7 years financially.
Their father Herb Frank owned and operated box offices.
Yes, he ran the box office. I remember their dad. I remember him being very nice to me. I was a kid. I was a young guy. I didnít know what I was doing.
You were a business major at university. Ever see a business like the concert business which is high risk, and low margins?
It is definitely a different model but because of the risk reward ratio itís the reason why promoters and risk-takers need other sources of income and protection.
Promoters are wedged in the middle as acts, managers, and agents usually try to demand top dollar, while venues try to maximize their slice of revenues. I often feel sorry for the promoter.
I do too. Look, itís very easy to make bad decisions.
Some promoters are one decision away from being out of the business.
Thatís why the smart guys have looked to diversify; either by doing different events or owning a venue and controlling the ancillaries. The business model is very different. But you are right. If the only business you are in is a high volume/low margin business with no safety net, thatís a very dangerous place. One of the things that is so backward about the business is that if you are calling the agent and asking, ďHow much for this act?Ē And the answer is, ďWell, the act wants X.Ē So you put all of the numbers together. You put down an X. You figure out where you want your break even to be and then you back into the ticket price. Thatís a very upside down business model.
If you were in the widget business, you would do your market research. Youíd see who wants to buy the widgets. You would see if you should have widgets at this price level for the elite. At this lower-price level for the average (customer). Youíd do your research, and see if thereís a market for widgets in a certain area for that certain price. If you get into the business where the last number you plug in.....in other words, if the artists wants this, and the expenses are this, that means that the ticket prices must be X, thatís a very dangerous place to be.
Especially if you are a promoter or venue reliant on music-related events. Some promoters and venues have been successful by branching out to present theatrical extravaganzas, and diverse sporting events.
I think that thereís a lot of energy going into looking at different types of events. You have seen examples that have worked well, and some that havenít. Once you started creating something to take into an arena, thereís a tremendous amount of upfront expense that goes into that. Yes, we love exploring those idea, but we are very cautious, conservative guys. Like I said, you have seen examples of arena tours that have been pulled.
I was thinking of Michael Cohlís ill-fated arena tour of ďJesus Christ SuperstarĒ that he scuttled in 2014. It was to star punk legend John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon, and Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child.
I was too.
Whatís the top ticket price for most markets?
Itís such a controversy. I think that the market will tell you what the price is. You look at the (live music industry) charts and the rankings comparing one quarter of the quarter before. There are so many different things that skew those kind of statics. I think that overall that the industry is doing a better job of capturing money that was leaking into the secondary market.
The concert industry seems to have a better grip at gauging the demand for tickets at differing price points.
I think that the promoters are doing a good job of managing the inventory. I think that with all of the clone websites, and all those type of things itís still very confusing for the fans. More than it should be. I understand why it is. As far as the right ticket prices, I do think promoters really do have to understand their market. Weíve talked about a big artist like Elton John going into a smaller market. He can get a big ticket price, but that market canít support three shows like that a year. Maybe, itís special and that can happen one time a year. I think thereís an ebb and flow to all of this. Itís about understanding what is going on in a specific market, and is there a threshold in that market for that artist at that point?
We go through this all of the time on the stadiums. Putting together a stadium offer. Thereís a threshold for price but thereís also got to be some recognition of how many tickets are we going to have at that price? Are we going to run off those $200 people at this or not.
Does secondary ticketing continue to be a headache for regional promoters and venues?
I think that secondary ticketing is a little bit less of an issue. My feeling is that itís less of a hot topic than it was a few years ago. People are going to re-sell tickets. I get that. Tickets are going to get into the wrong hands. I donít like that. Shopping online for tickets, as I said, is a lot more convoluted than it should be as well. I donít like that either
Itís probably impossible to stop secondary ticket.
I know. Itís frustrating.
At one time an album was released ahead of an artistís tour. Then radio airplay, charts, and media coverage kicked in. Many acts donít get radio airplay today. While social networking moves faster than word of mouth of the past, itís difficult to gauge if people will pay for a hard ticket for a new act.
I agree. I agree. You donít know if those are sustainable careers. Itís hard to know. Certainly with heritage acts that have toured a lot, you can look at the box-office history, and those sort of things. The ticketing companies now have better analytical information to look at to understand where your buyers are, and thereís certainly a cue that you can take from social media and that stuff. When you look at new artists getting that kind recognition in a short period of time, think about how different that is then it was like in the Ď70s. Think about when you bought an album in the Ď70s.
All your friends knew.
All your friends knew, and it was not uncommon to have an album that had four or five songs that were hits on the radio. Now you get a spike on YouTube, okay, and you get this thing that everybody is listening to. I donít know what that means now, never mind 5 or 10 years from now.
Itís interesting when you think about pop and about boy bands. The natural tendency is to go, ďItís the flavor of the month.Ē They are going to be hot today, and cold tomorrow. Then yet, when you look at New Kids On The Block, and the Backstreet Boy, those guys have found a whole new touring career 15 to 20 years later that you might not have expected. So who knows? I donít. Will people be going to EDM event when they are in their 40s? I donít think so.
People have been talking about the death of EDM for the past decade, and it continues to be popular. Topping numerous charts right now is The Weeknd. Can he sell tickets on a national tour of America or elsewhere? I donít know.
I donít know either. I just donít have a feel for it and he couldnít be any hotter right now.
Where are you originally from?
Iím from Fresno, California.
Where did you go to college?
Fresno State, where I met (Pollstar CEO/Editor) Gary Bongiovanni. When I was a student there Gary was my program adviser. He worked for the university.
You booked bands at college, and you were a business major with some marketing background. You once joked that you could have ended up working at Xerox or Pillsbury. But you thought you could be a booking agent. What led you to think you could be?
I probably didnít know any better. When I was a kid in high school I promoted dances. A buddy of mine we would go rent a hall with a fairground and book some bands.
You came to Los Angeles to try to get a job in the mailroom at William Morris, but that didnít happen. How did you come to work at Management III/Concerts West? Did you know somebody?
I knew somebody who knew somebody. The guy that I knew was my brother who had had gone to work at Anderson Consulting, which had Concerts West as a client. His boss mentioned me to somebody and got me an interview. One of the other great mentors of mine is Tom Miserendino (now president/CEO, AEG Europe). He brought me in.
You werenít full-time at first?
Initially, I came in part-time, not knowing if there was a job for me, but hoping that there was. Hoping like crazy that there would be. At the same time, I was trying to get into the mailroom at William Morris. In the beginning itís really hard to get going. I didnít necessarily want to be an accountant, but I figured it was at least good as sorting mail.
What position did you start with at Management III/Concerts West in 1980?
I started in the accounting department part-time. The great experiences that I had there. The first thing I did was go through show files from Bad Company and the Eagles, looking at settlements from shows. So I had a chance to look at how shows made money, and what the expenses looked like. I was looking at all of the money that had been left at the buildings for damage deposits.
Not collected later?
Try and go back and collect it later (laughing). That was where I met Tom Miserendino. Eventually, they brought me in full-time.
You were at Management III/Concerts West for three years.
In less than six months, I was on the road with Bob Dylan, which was the first tour. The first city I did with Bob Dylan, and I was pretty terrified, was in Toronto at Massey Hall. We played for 4 nights. It was during his Christian period.
You also did tours with Eric Clapton and the Blues Brothers.
If Neil Diamond calls, do you still pick up the phone?
I worked with Neil for a very long time. I was very fortunate.
Do you still work with him?
No. I started working with Neil in 1982 when I was at Concerts West. It was pretty early in my career, and it was an amazing experience. In that office Neil Diamond was thought as being one of the most highly regarded tours. It was just really filled with good people. I was involved with his touring off-and-on over the years. He was an artist who would tour, and then three years would go by before heíd tour again. So I was always involved with his American tours, whether it was a whole tour or parts of a tour, really all the way up to 2009.
Another notable artist you worked with at Management III/Concerts West was the late John Denver. He toured like Neil Diamond as well.
The thing about John is that when John worked, he would cram in as many shows into as short a period of time as possible. I toured with John somewhere in the early Ď80s. He would go out for a short tour of 21/2 weeks, but heíd knock out 14 shows in 16 days. Heíd go go go go.
Why did you leave Concerts West?
I left in 1982.. It was a crazy, very exciting time. A tremendous experience. I left on a high note. The reason that I left was because Terry Bassett, who was a partner, had left the company with Robert Geddes. They had Eric/Chandler Limited. They had acquired a 50% stake in Avalon Attractions, and they were managing Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre at the time. The other key was Tom Miserendino had left to join them. So I eventually followed those guys.
You once made the point that the concert business today faces dealing with an older audience who has to decide between having a nice night at home watching Netflix or seeing a heritage act. I recall standing on a plastic seat watching Bruce Springsteen a decade ago. From my seat he was the size of my finger nail. I thought, ďThis sucksĒ and left.
I get it. I was at a festival recently, and we had all of the VIP stuff, and it was wonderful. It made me realize how much better we have. My wife and I were walking aroundóthese were friends that had built the festivalóand I wanted to show her all of the VIP areas. So much of what goes into creating these areas has nothing to listening to music. They are so far away from the stage.
Itís a social high.
Yeah. People still want to be part of something.. Thatís why the festival culture is still so big.
My wife and I saw the Rolling Stones at Air Canada Centre in Toronto 2013, and it was an incredible experience.
You are right. When you see a show like that itís still fun to go to a show and realize how excited you still get. I feel very thankful for that.
Now we have Rush playing casinos.
Things are definitely evolving. That audience has gotten older. I think that there is a certain part of their fan base which that would be very comfortable going to someplace in a nice comfortable building in a casino. I donít know if they are doing a lot of those but yes, you are seeing enough examples of artist playing in every kind of situation. Who would have thought 20 years ago that rock bands would be playing in Las Vegas?
Well I recall seeing Alice Cooper playing a week at the Sahara Tahoe in late 1975.
Well, maybe not 20 years ago (laughing).
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 ďMusic From Far And Wide.Ē
Larry is the recipient of the 2013 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the Canadian music industry. He is a board member of the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ontario.
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