Event kicked off Nov. 8

The post-Katrina revival of the Gulf Coast region dominated conversations today (Nov. 8) at the third annual Billboard Touring Conference & Awards at New York City's Roosevelt Hotel. Artists and venue promoters reported that those in and around New Orleans are eager for the touring market to return.

Encouraging signs from the post-Katrina Gulf Coast market were found during the morning keynote Q&A, "Rebirth of a Region: Concerts Return to the Gulf." Matt McDonnell, assistant GM of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, which was heavily damaged during the hurricane, noted that things are getting back on track.

"Our phones are ringing and promoters know we're back and ready to go," McDonnell said.

Additionally, the region's residents are eager for live music to return, according to Brad Arnold, vocalist for the Escatawpa, Miss.-based band 3 Doors Down. "When I told people I was coming [to the Billboard Touring Conference], they told me to tell everyone, 'Come back, we're ready to go,'" Arnold said. "They're anxious to get into a venue and listen to music -- or any event -- and let off some steam."

But the Gulf Coast revival was just one of many topics touched on at the conference. Other hot subjects included the evolving role of agents and promoters, and the impact of technology on the touring business.

Participants on the afternoon panel "Secret Agent Man” discussed the growth of venues and routing options, despite the fact that only about 30 artists--noted by panel moderator Alex Hodges, executive VP of House of Blues Concerts--are driving 60% of concert tickets sales.

"There are more options than ever before,” according to Artists Group International VP Adam Kornfeld. "Artists can visit territories where they've never been before. There was an artist where we routed a tour through Wyoming, literally. I can't believe there are that many places to play in Wyoming."

Hodges later asked if there is an evolution occurring with more venues directly making offers to agents. Kornfeld remarked that he is observing a definite shift in that more buildings are directly buying concert dates.

"There are times when you have to go to the venues," Kornfeld said. "The major promoters passed on the money we needed. It's not our first choice, but it's happening."

The Messina Group's Louis Messina responded, saying he hates when agents put buildings on hold and "when the agencies sell to the buildings."

The day's closing panel, "Wired," touched on digital issues, including artists' exposure through various Web sites, and cell phone ticketing technology.

Nina Guralnick, GM of Control Room, summed up the discussion, saying, "Technology has allowed fans to engage much more closely with artists. Every time you raise the bar with new and unique content for your fanbase, you're creating a deeper connection that can do nothing but drive people out to see a band in concert and buy their record."