What Beyonce Can Learn From Podcasts & More From Rob Light's Billboard Touring Conference Q&A

Rob Light, the Managing Partner of Creative Artists Agency, on stage at the 2014 Touring Conference and Awards
Michael Seto

Rob Light, the Managing Partner of Creative Artists Agency, on stage at the 2014 Touring Conference and Awards, The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City on Nov. 19, 2014.

Creative Artists Agency managing partner & head of music also talks co-headlining tours and rising genre trends.

Creative Artists Agency managing partner/head of music Rob Light is one of the most powerful people in music -- No. 9 on Billboard's 2014 Power 100 ranking, to be precise -- but he's also one of the least outspoken.

Billboard Touring Conference & Awards: All Our Coverage

So an intimate Q&A session with the power agent, which kicked off Billboard's 11th annual Touring Conference & Awards on Wednesday (Nov. 19), was a welcome chance to hear his insights on everything from co-headlining tours to rising genre trends to what Beyonce could stand to learn from the podcast market. Below are five highlights from Light's fireside chat with Billboard senior correspondent Phil Gallo.

Hot, co-headlining tours are coming fast and furious. Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull's joint outing, as well as Sting and Paul Simon's last shared bill, are just two of the ones Light has booked recently, with an Elvis Costello-Steely Dan pairing on tap for 2015. "I give Live Nation a lot of credit. They come out to see us every year in October, November, and we sit down with the entire touring schedule and say, 'How do we put Heart with Sammy Hagar? Or CSNY with Jackson Browne?' So they're working toward the same goal we are. My hope is you're gonna see younger bands do that. It would be great to see Mumford & Sons pair up with someone you wouldn't expect."

Speaking of Iglesias, Latin is heating up. CAA will open its first Miami office next year for its growing Latin music division, headlined by Iglesias. "Miami is to Latin music what Nashville is to country, and we have to be in that marketplace," Light says. "It's similar to the investment we made in comedy five or six years ago -- now we're seven agents strong, with 12 arena headliners."

Mid-size brands are the new labels for smaller touring artists. "I think live touring has become the single most important part of marketing artists, and I would impress the record companies to come to this conference because they can get as much out of this as touring people do," Light said. "We've had a lot of success in the last couple years with sponsors putting money behind young bands, whether it's 30, 40,000 dollars to help on touring. We personally write checks -- because the labels have disappeared. I love the record companies, we've had great success, but their ability to underwrite touring is not the same anymore. Sometimes, we have to help fund the video, I think that's part of our role."

Trust Light when he asks you to fly to Columbus. "We have an act, Twenty One Pilots, out on tour playing 3,500-5,000 seaters. Two years ago, they played downstairs at Webster Hall in front of 200 people. I personally wrote a letter to every festival booker and offered to fly them to Columbus, Ohio [the band's hometown] so they could see the band. Some people took me up on it, some people said, "If you're that passionate about it, I'll come anyway." And they played 20 festivals that summer; every festival they did we had them back in that market within two months because they knew they were so good live and connected, even if it was to 100 kids we'd know they'd bring four more the next time. They've yet to have a real hit or airplay, but they move 3, 4, 6,000 a night. All of you can make an impact -- how do you market those bands we believe in?"

Beyonce could learn a thing or two from This American Life's Serial podcast. "It's the single hottest podcast, and it makes geniuses every Thursday when a new podcast comes up -- 1 million people are logged on. That's how we have to distribute music. Why isn't some artist once a week getting on live, talking about how he wrote a particular song and creating a way every Thursday to see what's new? The fallacy of the Beyonce stunt, while it was brilliant in its moment, was that most people never listened to all 17 songs or watched all 17 videos. She should have been releasing a new song every Thursday for 17 weeks and engaging us every time.


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