Creating a new business from scratch is never easy, especially for a woman in a male-dominated field like live music. But Shelley Lazar, who died March 31 at the age of 69, not only founded her own company, SLO Ticketing, she pioneered premium tickets and VIP packages, the start of what has become a multimillion-dollar industry.
“She was special,” says Artist Group International president Marsha Vlasic of her longtime friend. Vlasic notes how Lazar began her ticketing tasks while working with hard-nosed promoters like Ron Delsener and the late Bill Graham before striking out on her own in 2002 to form SLO Ticketing. “It was ballsy,” adds Vlasic of Lazar’s move. But Lazar went on to become the go-to contact for insiders seeking seats to every superstar’s tour.
When Lazar died after a long battle with cancer, tributes flowed in from rock luminaries like Paul McCartney, who tweeted a picture of himself presenting Lazar with a birthday cake. At the 2013 Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, McCartney even dedicated the song “San Francisco Bay Blues” to her.
“She crept inside your life and would share her own tragedy with you in a way that stayed with you,” says Vlasic of Lazar, who was born in Brooklyn and worked as a schoolteacher before getting a job in the box office at Madison Square Garden, eventually catching the attention of rock bands and New York promoters as the “keeper of the list.”
Six years after launching SLO, she sold her company to Ticketmaster in 2008, and her clientele quickly expanded to include Paul Simon, Beyoncé, Barbra Streisand and Lady Gaga. She even provided ticketing services for papal visits from Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict.
“I don’t believe there was anything like [Lazar] before,” says Vlasic. “There was no other person who would make an act feel comfortable that they would take care of the guests and move through demand without fucking it up — she never fucked it up.”