What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger: Touring Executives Discuss 'The Great Slump of 09' & Its Lasting Impact at Pollstar Live!

Rob Prinz
Lester Cohen

Rob Prinz

Panelists cite adaptability & globalization as reasons why touring remains king.

“I’m gonna call an audible and change the title of the panel from ‘The Great Slump of 09’ to ‘The Great Growth of the Music Industry from 09 to 2019’ -- what do you guys think?” The audience in the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom cheered rapturously to moderator Joey Scoleri’s mid-panel proclamation that business is better than ever after 10 years of rebuilding.   

Following a wave of cancellations and emergency discounting after the Great Recession, the touring industry was forced to hit the reset button at the turn of the decade. An assembly of promoters and agents at Pollstar Live! discussed the exceptional growth and expansion across the music industry at large, though the rebound wasn’t always a sure thing.   

“We felt clobbered a little bit in California in 2009. Since then, I’ve just been trying to forget it,” said Nederlander Concerts veteran Alex Hodges. He continued, “It hit harder in 2010, it just kept going down. And actually it was about a four- to five-year period until you started to see it climbing back.”  

Rob Prinz of ICM noted that timing of “The Great Slump” was key, on the back of a national recession and a turning point for the music industry. “2009 was such a different place. It was the tail end of Napster, the beginning of Spotify. The big story was the drop of physical albums sales, there was no streaming. We definitely took a hit, we had to respond to the fans, and the economy, and the market shifts but it was kind of one step back and two steps forward.” As the live industry was forced to adapt to music’s digitalization and ever-expanding social media landscape to recover from 2009’s low-point, touring claimed its position as artists’ key revenue stream.  

When asked about parallels between the current state of the industry and 2009, WME’s Michelle Bernstein responded, “I think that we use very few traditional methods like we did before.” She continued, “10 years ago feels more like 20 years ago. It doesn’t feel close to the same. We are in an age when fans can respond right away. We are living in an age of dynamically priced tickets. We use value channels. We would never have done that 10 years ago.” Adapting to fast-changing technology and hoping to ensure the continued evolution of the touring industry, she added “I ask, what did we learn from two months ago? We didn’t do that 10 years ago.”

Live Nation’s Bob Roux attributes much of their growth over the last decade to the two-pronged approach between their local buyers and centralized touring division. “We want a promoter in every city we can reasonably get into. When you think local, you understand what’s happening in that city top-to-bottom.” Further, Live Nation continues to grow via global acquisition. CAA’s Andrew Simon adds, “You didn’t have these fragmented pieces. They were all under one umbrella and they were able to unite their marketing on a more global level.”

Marty Diamond of Paradigm stresses that the rebound from 2009 and continued upward motion across the music industry is due to a unified front, highlighting the spirit of collaboration between the many members of the artist team. “We’re all sitting in the room together with the same goal of career and artist development.” And even beyond the label, manager, agent, and publicist, Prinz notes that “music is going to drive this all.”


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