Indie vs. corporate promoter debated.

The benefits of using an independent versus a corporate promoter for major tours were heavily debated at this afternoon's (Oct. 26) "Change My Way of Thinkin'" panel at the Billboard Roadwork '05 Touring Awards and Conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in N.Y.

"Indies have suffered because of these guys," said Jerry Mickelson, co-CEO of Jam Productions, pointing to Randy Phillips, CEO of AEG Live and Michael Rapino, president/CEO of Clear Channel Entertainment. "We want to be cut in."

Mickelson said that the good shows are all being taken by national promoters, even if independents like Jam have a previous relationship with the act.

The business has changed over the years, said Paul McGuinness, managing director of Principle Management, which handles U2. "It would be nice to maintain relationships, but it isn't practical."

Mickelson noted that while U2 is such a superstar act that it makes sense for them to work strictly with a national promoter, there are few artists of that caliber. He said that because independent promoters know their markets better than the national promoters, it would make better business sense for most acts to work with an independent.

Clear Channel's Rapino said that there will always be a place for independents, but that today's artists have a whole new set of needs. "They are now making most of their money from tours and marketing is expensive," he explained. "Now, it's all about what you will bring that artist."

In that vein, Rapino mentioned Clear Channel's deal with InstantLive, to provide CDs of shows after a concert, and with Verizon, to offer content through its V Cast service, as examples of marketing options that artists are now seeking and independents are not providing.

Additionally, panelists debated whether being private or publicly held makes a difference in how it relates to artists. "Our company has a benefit because it is privately held," said Phillips. "Dealing with public entities is hard."

Rapino noted that the fact that Clear Channel has a corporate umbrella and shareholders is actually a positive for artists because the company must be audited and come away with clean books month in and month out. "We're buying talent regardless of quarterly reports," said Rapino. "We do more club shows than anyone, between 3,000 and 5,000 a year and have 61 local offices."