Charlie Daniels, Live Nation, AEG Live Reps Discuss Touring Saturation at Country Music Summit Panel
Charlie Daniels, Live Nation, AEG Live Reps Discuss Touring Saturation at Country Music Summit Panel

Touring Bureau: Gil Cunningham, President Neste Event Mktg.; Darin Lashinsky, CEO, NS2; Country Music legend Charlie Daniels; Billboard's Ray Waddell; Ali Harnell, Senior Vice President, Clear Channel Entertainment; Brian O'Connell, President of Country, Live Nation; Gary Weinberger, President, Red Mountian Ent. (Photo Gwinn)

The perils of discounting tickets, the importance of placing acts in appropriate size venues and the large numbers of country headliners hitting the road this summer were just a few of the topics addressed as Ray Waddell welcomed some of the industry's key players to the Billboard CMA Country Music Summit.

"In 2010 and 2011 we're kicking everybody's ass. People are buying tickets," Brian O'Connell, president of Live Nation Country Music, said crowing about the country community's strong presence on the road.

As Waddell noted there were 15 country headliners on tour, O'Connell commented "I've seen 10 or 11, but never 15."

"Everybody is on the road," said Ali Harnell, Nashville-based VP at AEG Live. "Last year a couple of the big guys took off, Kenny Chensey and Keith Urban."

A crowded marketplace doesn't impact CMA Award-winning country veteran Charlie Daniels. "We've got our niche and nothing affects it. I don't go head to head with Kenny Chesney. He's gonna be at Bridgestone Arena.

Charlie Daniels on the mic helping to answer the panel title question: "Touring Saturation: Are We There Yet? (Photo: Beth Gwinn)

At 74, Daniels remains one of the busiest artists on the road and was the outspoken star of the panel, often eliciting clapping, cheers and praise on the Twitter feed unfurling on the screen above the participants. In offering words of wisdom, he urged agents to put artists, especially new acts, in appropriate size venues. "One point I'd like everybody to take away is: Match your artist to the venues they are able to fill up," he said. If there's a question about how many tickets a new act can sell he advises, "Put him in a night club, start small and build or he'll end up going home and milking cows."

Gil Cunningham, president of Neste Event Marketing, said the festival business is extremely healthy and provides good opportunities for developing acts. "If you're a baby act, there's good opportunity for exposure," he said in terms of getting in front of radio and consumers.

When Waddell asked the panel to cite any disturbing trends, NS2 CEO Darin Lashinksy said "Discounting tickets is disturbing to me. I will fight to the bitter end not to discount," he said adding that could be avoided by smart pricing and scaling the house.

The discount issue raised a discussion of Groupon and reaction to its use was mixed. "We've had some good success on a couple artists and not good on some others," said Gary Weinberger, president of Red Mountain Entertainment.

O'Connell says they recently used Groupon to sell tickets for a Brad Paisley show and received overwhelming feedback, mostly from people who weren't even country music fans and didn't know about the show, but made the purchase because they are avid Groupon users and it was a good deal.

"What do you tell the fan who paid $75 and finds out their friend paid $35 on Groupon asked Harnell.

"Don't put them next to each other," O'Connell said.

When it comes to what audiences want, Daniels offered the perfect answer "to be entertained." He also spoke of the value of professionalism and urged all parties to work together. "I'd like to see a little more cohesion," he said. "We're all in this together. Nobody is an island. We need to be considerate of each other."

Check out all of our coverage from the 2011 Billboard Country Music Summit right here!