Q&A: Michael Coppel, Live Nation Australasia Pres. on Strong Aussie Touring Market, Pink's Down-Under Domination

Michael Coppel, Michael Chugg, Paul Dainty and Michael Gudinski. They’re the “Fab Four” of concert promoters Down Under. They’re old-school, they’re tough, they’re ultra-competitive. And they’re undoubtedly all cornerstones of a wider live entertainment industry which generates well upwards of Australia $1 billion ($1.05 billion) each year, according to trade body Live Performance Australia.

In April 2012, Coppel sold his Melbourne-based Michael Coppel Presents (MCP) to Live Nation, and at the same time rose to president/CEO of Live Nation Australasia. The prior year, MCP had won the top independent promoter (internationally) at the Billboard Touring Awards in New York, ranking seventh on Billboard's top 25 highest-grossing promoters in 2011.

Now, LN has on its slate what promises to be the biggest blockbuster of the year here -- Pink’s “Truth About Love” tour.  The 42-date national tour starts June 25 at the new Perth Arena and has already shifted more than 450,000 tickets. It’s a staggering business. If you consider Australia’s population of 22 million versus the United States’ 311 million, then Pink’s tour would will have shifted somewhere in the order of 6.3 million tickets to her compatriots.

Coppel has organized a string of Pink visits to these parts in the past and he was at the helm Philadelphian’s record-busting 2009 trek here, which covered 58 arena shows and 650,000 tickets sold. That tour was the biggest-ever gross by a female solo artist, generating some Australian $90 million ($95 million) including merch. Other upcoming Australasian LN tours include shows by the Presets, Carole King, Black Sabbath and Linkin Park.

Billboard.biz: Tell me about the scale of Pink’s tour.
Michael Coppel: The production is modular. Pink carries her own stage and set designs with her. The sound, lights, video, that’s locally supplied. The Australian-based PA company JANDS is doing the PA for the world tour, which is a first for an Australian based company to do that. Roger Davies, who manages Pink, is a consummate touring professional. Every tour I’ve been associated with him on -- Tina Turner, Cher, Joe Cocker, Sade -- is run efficiently. You don’t have 100-150 people on the road, maybe 40-60, or 20-30 on a smaller tour. And they’re always “cream of the crop” production management, sound tech, lighting tech and so forth.

We’re doing tours with newer artists with fewer experienced managers which is a fricking nightmare from start to finish, because the information isn’t available and it changes or there are personnel changes at the last minute. Suddenly you’ve got 20-30 new names on a visa list a week before the group arrives when it’s an eight-week turnaround for processing.

It’s really refreshing to have a tour that’s well run. Roger Davies has always had Australian road crew on his tours. He recognizes they’re amongst the best in the world, in attitude and energy and ability to work hard on tours.

Pink clearly has an enormous fanbase in Australia. What lessons have you learned from how she's broken the market here?
There’s no formula, except you’ve got the talent and the personality that gels with the audiences here. And you’ve got great music. She’s been prepared to come down and work the market, she’s done great promo trips on the last three records. She’s just a great performer and she deservers her success. She works hard for it. She’s very natural. She’s got a personality that gels with the Australian public.

Last time she toured here she stayed for three months and criss-crossed the country, sometimes returning to the capitals. With Pink now a mom, did you have to factor that in?
That’s exactly why the routing now is more static. Because I felt that with Willow being just over a year old by the time she gets out here, she’ll welcome the ability to settle down and get into a routine. We’ve tried to route it to as much as possible to doing each city in a single run. It won’t be the case on the east coast, but certainly in Perth and Adelaide we’ll limit the seasons there and do a week in each place. Last time, we ended up criss-crossing the country initially as a plan, but it became a necessity because demand was so massive. We could have played another 10 or 20 shows above the 58 that we played on that tour. It was just so unstoppable. Look, I’d love to beat that. But this time round it’s not going to be possible because we’ve got a more restricted timeframe as she’s broken America in a big way. But there’s no chance for us playing 58 shows.

What’s your sense of the business here at the moment?
We’ve only got 22 million people and if you count New Zealand, we’re under 30 million. Every other big market in the world, whether it’s Germany or the U.K, certainly the U.S. and Japan, are at least two times that number. But because we’ve got a very high level of ticket prices and a very strong dollar, we’re extremely attractive to acts touring here because they can make as much money here at the top level as they can in North America and more than they can make in Europe. As a touring market, Australia bats very high financially and on enjoyment. We rank very highly.

Having said that, it’s definitely softening in a way that’s not uniform. The “triple-A” artists are doing great business, but a lot of the ”B” and “C” tours are struggling because people are being really selective. They really need to have a good reason to buy a ticket now. Promoters realize if they don’t have a Pink, Radiohead or Coldplay, or acts at that level, or a Soundwave or Stereosonic on the festival side of things, you’re really not going to see (sales) you would have counted on 12 months or two years ago. 

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