ArenaNetwork, Venue Coaltion help venues get on agents, promoters and artist managers' radar.
There's some good news for the North American arena business.
"The volume of things we're working on has never been greater," Venue Coalition president Jeff Apregan says. "As challenging as business is right now, I see lots of opportunities."
ArenaNetwork CEO Ed Rubinstein agrees.
"We've had some slow periods over the last 12 months, but now things are on the upswing," he says. "It appears more and more acts are touring, both legendary acts and up-and-coming bands."
With competition between arenas in the United States and Canada always on the rise, the need to align with facility consortiums like ArenaNetwork, Venue Coalition and Venue Alliance-which aim to put their building members on the radar of music agents, concert promoters and artist managers to help secure more bookings-is strong.
Los Angeles-based ArenaNetwork, a consortium of 42 North American arenas, has undergone significant changes during the past year. In addition to the departure of former executive director Brad Parsons in February to join Comcast-Spectacor (Billboard, July 28), the group named Rubinstein CEO and tapped live entertainment business veteran Tina Suca as VP of entertainment.
Rubinstein, who joined ArenaNetwork as COO in 2009 after serving as tour director for the 2008 Tour of Gymnastic Superstars, says the addition of Suca has strengthened the organization's mission of informing members about new live entertainment productions and helping secure bookings for buildings. Prior to joining ArenaNetwork in early February, Suca was GM at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., and has enjoyed past stints at Nederlander Concerts and MCA Concerts, along with House of Blues, the Wiltern Theatre and the Forum in Los Angeles.
With Suca onboard, "the information we're getting is much more up to date and proactive, as far as what's going to be happening, way out in front of when they actually start to get calls for holds," Rubinstein says. He notes that Suca has extensive relationships with artist managers, booking agents, concert promoters and venues. "She lives and breathes music," he adds.
ArenaNetwork, which launched in 1998, boasts a membership that includes major-market buildings like TD Garden in Boston, American Airlines Center in Dallas and Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The organization also includes smaller-market venues like the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis.; Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.; and CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
Ryan Jones, an agent in the nontraditional touring department at William Morris Endeavor (WME), says the talent firm has worked closely with ArenaNetwork and Venue Coalition during the last year on such touring productions as How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular, Batman Live and Mythbusters.
"We always go to [ArenaNetwork] when a tour is going on the road so they can disseminate that information," Jones says. "They also work to help us get offers with the venues direct and talk to us about who might be right to promote a show."
John Urban, executive VP of events and new business at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, says ArenaNetwork collectively helps its venue members by being at the front end of new touring productions and leveraging its large numbers to help secure bookings.
"The volume-buying notion is ultimately what [Rubinstein] and the folks there are looking to do for us," Urban says. "They're looking to use the impact in both directions of being able to represent a number of venues to producers or agents. And likewise from the other direction: An agent can make one call to [Rubinstein] or [Suca] and get the interest level of a dozen or more buildings. That connectivity is what we all value most."
Another positive aspect of being affiliated with ArenaNetwork is that its members watch out for each other, says Rob Henson, the interim director of Tacoma, Wash.'s public assembly facilities, which manages the Tacoma Dome.
"Let's say artist x was touring. We'd look down the list of cities to see what buildings are in our network and see what dates are in front and behind us," Henson says. "They'll call prior to that show going to the building and ask if there's anything they need to look out for. After the show plays, we'll do a post-show briefing with them to see if there's anything we need to know. In turn, wherever we are in the routing, we can pass on to the next building anything they need to be aware of."
Going forward, Rubinstein hopes to strengthen the relationship between ArenaNetwork and artist managers. "A relationship with the artist manager sometimes can help win the flip of a coin if one of our venues is in play versus its competitor across the street," he says. "[Suca] knows a lot of the managers and has been dealing with them for years."
Rubinstein also reports that many ArenaNetwork members are experiencing heavy bookings for the fall and first-quarter 2013.
"From a music standpoint it seems to be going very well, and from a family show standpoint there are a number of new projects out there that are being routed," he says. "Between the two, it becomes a very packed schedule, and quite frankly it's sometimes difficult to route all that product in ways that makes sure each venue and city can space things out appropriately."
At a time when some North American arenas are being recognized by the live entertainment industry as viable independent promoters, the Venue Coalition is staying on top of the trend by actively seeking new booking opportunities for its facility members.
Throughout the past couple of years, Venue Coalition executive VP Andrew Prince has observed that many of the consortium's 54 facility members throughout the United States and Canada have done an excellent job of building their marketing departments and databases, and using those tools to sell tickets to events.
"They're the local eyes and ears in that market," Prince says, "so they know their market very well, like an experienced promoter would."
If there's a situation where a promoter passes on an event, "we'll work with the venue to put together the deal that works best in that specific market," Prince says. "Then we'll submit as Venue Coalition an offer on behalf of the venue to the agency in order to book the show."
WME's Jones says Venue Coalition also has assisted the talent firm with identifying potential venues equipped to promote events.
"[Venue Coalition is] extremely helpful in letting us know who's really set up to do something like this and who might do a disservice to a show because they don't quite have the staff and resources to do it," Jones says.
The organization, based in Westlake Village, Calif., includes arenas in midsize and major markets across North America. Current members range from the Crystal Centre in Grande Prairie, Alberta, with a capacity of 4,684 to the 23,500-seat Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
Since launching in 2006, Venue Coalition has experienced an incredible retention rate with its arena members, Apregan says.
How has the consortium been so successful in keeping its members onboard?
"The trick is to never sit back," Apregan says. "We always have our antenna out and are looking for who's working, what their objectives are and how we fit into their plan."
During the past 12 months, Venue Coalition has helped many of its buildings land bookings by Journey, comedian Jeff Dunham, Barry Manilow, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Cirque du Soleil, Batman Live and How to Train Your Dragon, among others.
Mark Powell, VP of events/booking at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, says he's been working with Venue Coalition for about six months, and the results have already exceeded expectations.
"I'd say [Prince] and [Apregan] have steered three shows our way," he says, citing concerts by Lambert, the Bill O'Reilly/Dennis Miller Bolder and Fresher tour and the Rock and Worship Roadshow.
Earlier this year, Prince worked closely with promoter Brad Garrett of Police Productions on securing arena bookings for Lambert and Blake Shelton.
"[Garrett's] goal was to play a lot of secondary, smaller-market buildings. So we took the parameters he had and did the research, in terms of the other country [tour] history in these markets," Prince says, noting that he also assisted Garrett with placing holds, providing venue information and diagrams. "We helped connect them with the building managers and ultimately facilitate a venue deal between the promoter and venue."
The partnership between Venue Coalition and Police Productions helped the group's members land nine shows by Lambert and seven by Shelton, according to Prince.
Other Venue Coalition members have developed new relationships in the concert business as a result of their membership. Lisa Cochran, executive director at Taco Bell Arena at Boise State University in Idaho, says the group helped open doors with such promoters as Police Productions, Outback Concerts, Rush Concerts and Premiere Productions.
"These are folks they have relationships with that they can make an introduction to," says Cochran, whose arena has been a coalition member for three years. "When they make a recommendation for our venue and market, it carries some weight."
Venue Coalition also hosts a biweekly conference call to inform its buildings about upcoming live entertainment projects and other issues in the arena management business. The calls sometime feature guest speakers from the music industry.
"For venues like us that are independent, it's really nice to have a group you can identify with and ask questions about," Cochran says. "If we're doing a show that someone else has already done, just knowing what to look out for from a venue-operation standpoint, crowd management-all those kinds of things-is very helpful."