(Scroll down to the bottom for full-audio of the panel.)
What do the next 10 years hold for the music industry? According to a power player panel that closed out Billboard’s Touring Conference Thursday (Nov. 14) afternoon, way more revenue from streaming services and sponsorship, and more label-like functions at the top talent agencies and promoters.
Coran Capshaw, founder/owner, Red Light Management; Michael Rapino, CEO, Live Nation Entertainment; Rob Light, managing partner/head of music Creative Artists Agency; Marc Geiger head of music, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and Tim Leiweke, former CEO of AEG and current president-CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, five of the top 10 executives on Billboard’s Power 100 list, shared insights in a discussion entitled “OK, New Rules: What Are They? And What Are The Stakes?”
Just how powerful was the panel Billboard assembled? One unsigned musician in the audience attempted to rush the stage to get a meeting with CAA’s Light, but was quickly intercepted by Billboard’s editorial director Bill Werde. (Light, for his part, wasn’t too shaken, noting later at the Touring Awards, “The young man who came up to me was just an artist looking for a break, and that he picked CAA says a lot to me. So, it was all fine.”)
Here are some highlights from the wide-ranging that touched on each of the industry’s major sectors.
Live Nation is coming off a record quarter in revenue, and attendance and ticket sales for the touring industry are up across the board year over year. How can the industry sustain that growth? By finding ways to embed ticketing information within streaming services like YouTube and Spotify, and stealing back share from the secondary market.
“When you start getting a few hundred million people clicking on music, and tour information is next to it, you’re gonna start growing better and more directly,” said Geiger. “When the CRM [customer relationship management] comes into it — something I know — people want to be treated like a good customer like you would at an airline or a hotel group. That’s to come, too — people are focused on it, and we come from that business.”
Video outtakes from the panel
CAA’s Light credited Rapino and Live Nation for inverting the Groupon model on the ticketing front. “It used to be, we didn’t sell a lot of tickets and discounted them at the end, but now they’re giving the major fans a discount at the beginning.”
Rapino took a more pointed stance on his biggest competitor. “We can all get very rich if this room figures out how to take the $4 billion in the secondary market and put it back in our pockets.”
“StubHub, we hate them,’” Lieweke recalls hearing from when he first took on his role at Maple Leaf Entertainment in Toronto earlier this year. ‘“I said, ‘Look, I admire StubHub for what they did. Look at this company,” Lieweke said, gesturing toward Rapino, “how much do you spend every year in guarantees on live music?”
“$3 billion,” said Rapino.”
“So Mike’s out there spending $3 billion on guarantees,” Lieweke continued, “and StubHub’s spending nothing, and they built this whole business. I admire them. But I also think what we had to do is admire them and figure out a way to control it. As much as I admire and respect them, they have no skin in the game. Look at where that net profit is going — not going to [Michael], not going to Coran, not going to the artists and it’s not going to the venue.”
Light also advocated for more parity in ticket pricing. “Live Nation, in sheds, put these mega-tickets together to make them feel like they were getting value. That’s what so much of this is about,” he said. “Katy Perry three years ago, the ticket was $49.50 and probably could’ve gotten more, but the goal was, ‘Lets sell out every show and establish her as a real headliner.’ Did we maximize her dollars? Probably not. Did we give her a 20-year career? Absolutely.”
CAA’s Light had the most conflicted view on labels. On the one hand, he noted toward the panel’s end that there will “always be a need for A&R, marketing, curation and finance.” However, a topic that’s come up in a lot of conversations at CAA in the last two years has been, “Should we be hiring a radio promotions guy? Do we want someone who understands radio for our clients who may not have record deals or may not understand them?”
The explosion of EDM in the last three has also taught Light a lot about the relative lack of need for traditional labels. “It’s the biggest genre of music and it happened with no radio and no record companies. You want a glimpse of what’s next, it’s in that. And we’re all gonna adapt to that.”
Geiger pointed to publishing companies like Kobalt and BMG creating successful label services divisions that their clients have taken advantage of, and Red Light’s Capshaw added, “We have labels around the management company that can go to the marketplace. More and more services we find are happening from the management side.”
All five panelists felt particularly bullish on the impact of sponsorship and brand partnerships on their business, and appeared to be investing the most resources in making hires to build out their respective departments.
“We have 11 full-time people doing nothing but tour sponsorships and eight or nine doing nothing but marketing,” said CAA’s Light. “All because part of our job is to fill those holes created by other companies… The record company model provides very little marketing dollars and very little vision. It’s much more myopic and short-term. So part of our job is to find those dollars.”
Capshaw’s Red Light has two branding units — one that sits within the management division, and another (Green Light) that works on behalf of brands looking to create music-based campaigns. Even clients like Dave Matthews Band and Tim McGraw are embracing brands as more integrated partners in their latest tours. “We’ve got an artist where, the economics of sponsorship is very meaningful in the scheme of the tour he’s doing,” Capshaw added. “It’s tough out there, in some cases for the profitability of a tour, the emerging artist and building them, we’re really into looking wherever we can help supplement on the marketing and financial side.”
Rapino added that Live Nation has over 7,800 sponsor deals, the industry’s largest sponsorship department, the third-largest e-commerce platform in Ticketmaster and a $3 billion talent budget. “There’s a reason Spielberg has a bungalow on the Universal lot — there is an advantage with access to scale,” he said.
Those assets become particularly significant when negotiating and renewing deals with the 16 management companies Live Nation inherited with Artist Nation earlier this year, when Irving Azoff stepped down as chairman. That includes Madonna and U2, whose management’s pending $30 million acquisition Rapino would not confirm. “We think [management] is a high-profit, low-margin business. It supports our ticket business, our sponsorship — we’re not in any mad rush to ‘roll up,’ none of those words. But we think it’s a nice component to our business, if bands with the relevance of Madonna and U2 were available to bring in and sign Lebron James to that team to help round out the roster, we would look at all those opportunities.”
Record labels’ role in the management process “will change,” Light later noted. “They will find themselves in new places. Some labels will want to start agencies and management companies.”
“The world is going to run away with our content to create more Vice Medias for $2 billion,” said Rapino, “and the EDMs are teaching us all you can get 300 million views through some great YouTube content around your own lifestyle. As an industry, YouTube and digital content have a huge upside to creation and virally reach fans, and there’s a multi-billion dollar business of advertising attached to that. If we can figure out how [to] monetize that great content around YouTube we’re all creating and re-capture that $4 billion from the secondary market, it’s gonna skyrocket the level of growth.”
Geiger noted that most of the industry’s growth remains with streaming services. “I think we’re in an intermediary period, and we’re still coming out of some level of music distribution model idiocy and moving a little bit to some more exciting consumer offering. You’ll see YouTube, Beats and a bunch of other people launch on the streaming subscription side,” he said. “They’ll jump in more when they can see the certainty of revenue. It’s been overblown that money’s in touring — the checks that YouTube are writing and SoundExchange, these things are growing at a rate that we’re not growing.”