What’s today’s pathway from club gigs to arenas? And, for a developing band, is there such a thing as a “traditional” touring cycle? A gang of leading agents and promoters discussed the business of breaking young acts in the live space in The Roosevelt Hotel’s grand ballroom in midtown Manhattan Wednesday for the 2013 Billboard Touring and Awards Conference.
Liana Huth, SVP of partnerships for Fuse TV, moderated the panel, which featured Kevin Lyman, founder of 4fini Presents; Jim Glancy, Partner, Bowery Presents; Rob Beckham, VP of William Morris Endeavor; Omar Al-Joulani, VP Touring, North American Concerts, Live Nation; Bobby Cory, Agent, CAA and Matt Galle, Agent Paradigm entertainment.
Discussing how he engages the young concert goers who support his events, which include the Warped and Mayhem tours, Lyman said he’s noticed changes in the dominant online platforms in just the past year.
“I’ve pulled all our money out of Facebook,” Lyman said, contending that young people have migrated largely to Instagram and Twitter. “Even when they were having their IPO, what I always said was ‘Who wants to be in a club with their mom?’” (Huth, who has a 10-year-old son, countered: “Moms aren’t so bad, you know,” she said).
Lyman also recommended another tool that he said proved invaluable for making booking decisions for the next Warped tour: Survey Monkey. He said a survey asking Warped fans who the top 5 bands they wanted to see on tour were received 100,000 responses.
The number one most requested band? Pierce the Veil.
Huth asked the agents on the panel how many club level bands they work in a given year. Cory, of CAA said between 75-100, while Beckham and Galle each estimated 50. Cory was critical of the so-called “longtail” model — which Huth called “The Windish model,” after the agent Tom Windish — in which an agency sustains itself by signing a large number of small bands who each earn modest ticket sales.
“If you’re working 1,000 bands, I think the question becomes ‘How many are you really developing?’” he said.
Halfway through the panel, Huth leaned in and asked the agents “When was the last time you screwed a promoter?” The dodges were immediate if the panelists spoke at all, but eventually Cory offered a hypothetical.
“If I develop a band at the Mercury Lounge with Jim [Glancy, of The Bowery Presents, which owns the Mercury Lounge, Terminal 5, The Bowery Ballroom and other New York venues] and then they blow up and I take a big check to play the [AEG owned] Best Buy Theatre instead of Terminal 5, that could be considered screwing him over.”
Cory then asked Glancy whether he had ever done something like that to him, to which Glancy replied in the negative.
In general, Glancy said his relationships with agents have become more collaborative and less adversarial over the years.
On the topic of growing a band from a club to an arena, he said that success can often be defined in other ways.
“Our goal isn’t to get every artist to headline an arena, but to work with them as far as they go,” he said. “If they can get to the Bowery Ballroom from the Mercury Lounge, that’s a success.”
More broadly, Al-Joulani, who books Imagine Dragons, said the traditional practice of a band touring for a few months timed to an album release had changed. Now touring schedules have to be more flexible based on factors like single performance.
“The start of the cycle is the same, but it can go longer if you have songs that are reacting,” he said. “In some cases there are bands who can tour for three years off one album.”
Cory said radio support is often a key factor.
“Fun. is having a very long cycle, alternative radio was a major player for Imagine Dragons,” he said. “I try to base bookings on momentum. If you have an act that is selling out the majority of their shows, you should start planning another tour. If you pull back and start to do another album right away, you’re leaving ticket sales on the table.”
To conclude the panel, Huth asked the panelists to name their predictions of bands that will have breakout tours in 2014. Read their choices below.
Galle: SoMo, Naughty Boy and Sam Smith
Beckham: Chris Young, Justin Moore
Glancy: The Knife
Huth: Lorde, Bastille