Nearly 100 panelists-more than half of them first-timers-will share their strategies, vision and perhaps even a few trade secrets at the sold-out 10th annual Billboard Touring Conference, set for Nov. 13-14 in New York at the conference’s longtime home, the Roosevelt Hotel.
To mark the conference’s 10th anniversary, this year will host the return of one of the event’s most popular and informative panels, a deep drill-down on artist development, this year titled “Who’s Got Next.”
Several of the most savvy assessors of talent in the live music industry will weigh in on proven artist-development touring strategies; the pros and cons of headlining, support and/or festival plays; and digital/social/mobile campaigns proven to move the needle in selling tickets.
The panel will also make informed predictions on artists in the pipeline ready to move up the venue chain-and veterans are sure to be called out on past predictions by moderator Liana Huth, senior VP of partnership marketing for Fuse.
The industry is developing more and more artists, and the panel will have a handle on who’ll be selling tickets in the future. The panelists are Live Nation North America VP of touring Omar Al-Joulani, William Morris Endeavor (WME) Nashville co-head Rob Beckham, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) agent Bobby Cory, Paradigm agent and Island Def Jam A&R guru Matt Galle, Bowery Presents partner Jim Glancy and Vans Warped tour founder Kevin Lyman of 4fini Presents.
Regarding the significance of this year’s panel, Huth says, “After a decade of consistently working this format into the conference, I’m proud that we have brought it back. I’m looking forward to challenging panel veterans Rob Beckham, Jim Glancy and Matt Galle while welcoming newcomers Bobby Cory, Omar Al-Joulani and Kevin Lyman with our signature ‘no filter’ approach. Also, it’s weird that I’ve been doing this panel for 10 years, since I am only 29 years old.”
FESTIVALS THAT LAST
After discussing artist development, the conference will move to a state-of-the-sector talk about one of the most important artist development platforms to emerge in North America since the conference began in 2004: festivals. Ticketfly founder Andrew Dreskin will moderate “Building the Perfect Beast: Keys to a Festival That Lasts,” a key session given that North American live music fans have enthusiastically followed their European counterparts in embracing the fest experience. More festivals have launched on the continent in the past three years than in the previous 30, but some aren’t making it, and some established events struggle to stay fresh.
A few of the most innovative and entrepreneurial game-changers in the space, representing events from a broad range of genres, markets and sizes, will discuss the integral elements of building, booking and branding a credible and profitable festival. On the agenda are operational, budgeting and sponsorship strategies; brand extensions; and a digital presence that creates year-round engagement with fans.
The market isn’t saturated, but festivals are still figuring out their role in the live music ecosystem and only the best-conceived events will survive. It’s a dynamic sure to be addressed by our panelists: Ashley Capps, president of AC Entertainment (Bonnaroo, Forecastle); Dave Frey, a partner in the Lockn’ Festival in Charlottesville, Va.; Adam Lynn, managing partner of Prime Social Group (Breakaway); Charlie Jones, partner of C3 Presents (Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Music Festival); Jordan Wolowitz, partner of Founders Entertainment (Governors Ball); and Firefly director Greg Bostrom.
“I can promise you one thing: With the caliber of talent on this panel, it will surely be the most epic panel in the history of music conferences,” says Dreskin, himself a festival producer who counts fests among his clients. “The list of speakers on this panel looks like a list of headliners from one of their festivals, and I hope the panelists come thirsty and ready to drink. I will say that 10:45 a.m. is certainly not too early for Bloody Mary shots.”
ALWAYS ON DUTY
The role of the manager has evolved during the 10 years of the Billboard Touring Conference, with today’s managers now taking on many of the responsibilities once handled by labels and other stakeholders in artists’ careers.
The power dynamic in the industry has shifted and prudent managers are handling a wide range of practices in-house, including digital career development and overall social/mobile strategies that foster the critical fan/band relationship. Some of the sharpest and most visionary managers in music will provide insight into how they think, best-in-class strategies and how smart managers navigate a power dynamic that has shifted to their side of the table. These issues will be examined during the session “I Am a Manager. What Am I?”
Managers onboard all have clients that have seen marked success in 2013, including Jordan Feldstein, CEO of Career Artist Management (Maroon 5, Breaking Benjamin); Jonathan Azu, GM of Red Light Management, the world’s largest management firm; Larry Jacobsen, president of World Audience (Avenged Sevenfold, Damien Williams); Paul Korzilius, who leads Bon Jovi Management; and Michael McDonald, who runs Mick Artist Management (John Mayer, Lord Huron, Passion Pit).
Just as in management, the roles of agents and agencies have broadened significantly in this era of national and global touring and strategic routing. During “Agents in the New World Order: Throwing Darts With Accuracy and Aplomb,” power agents who personally represent clients generating some $500 million in annual box office will discuss state-of-the-art touring strategies, synergized marketing plans, an agent’s status as the new A&R executive and the types of acts he or she signs and how promoters and buildings can stay on an agent’s radar to bring in top talent.
Promoter Ali Harnell, VP of TMG/AEG Live, will moderate the panel as a dream team of agents share their vision, including Artist Group International president Dennis Arfa, ICM Partners senior VP of concerts/head of contemporary rock Marsha Vlasic, Paradigm Talent music division head Chip Hooper, CAA head of contemporary music Mitch Rose, Windish Agency president Tom Windish and WME Nashville co-head Greg Oswald.
“I have a lot of respect for the agent’s role in an artist’s career, especially in this day and age,” says Harnell, who promotes shows throughout the Southeast for AEG Live. “Innumerable moving parts, deals, routing, traffic, pressure, competition. It’s almost as tough as being a promoter — except that risk vs. commission thing. Twenty-five years of dealing with agents, and a marriage to one, I’m pretty qualified to grill an agent. Except I don’t want them to be mad at me and not sell me shows, so I’ll be nice.”
The agent panel will be followed by the Agency Forum, one of the conference’s most popular components, where agents from every genre meet with venue executives, talent buyers and other interested parties in informal roundtables that have a track record of producing bookings. Agents booked to appear include AGI’s Pete Pappalardo and Adam Kornfeld, WME’s Drew Welborn and Keith Miller, CAA’s Cory and Brad Bissell, Universal Attractions’ Jeff Epstein, the Agency Group’s Josh Dick, Paradigm’s Galle, ICM’s Nick Storch, TKO’s Mike Monterulo, AM Only’s Cody Chapman and the Windish Agency’s Sam Hunt.
At the first Billboard Touring Conference in 2004, Warped’s Lyman, sitting on a panel, informed those in attendance about a promising new Internet site.
“It’s called Myspace. The kids are all into it. You should check it out,” he said.
Myspace has come, gone and returned, but the promise of the digital age that Lyman saw back then has truly come to fruition in the live arena. The concert industry is in a boom period that, barring unforeseen forces, could last for decades. A primary reason for the increased number of tickets sold today are the targeted and efficient marketing opportunities afforded by new media and strategic use of mobile, social, email and channel marketing. Creative use of these platforms tackle one of live music’s great obstacles: lack of awareness.
As it always has, the conference will address the topic with this question in mind: How can it sell more tickets?
“Push Me/Pull Me: Music Marketing in the Digital Age” isn’t just another “cool tool” geek fest, but rather an eye-opening look at the primary drivers in career building and turnstile spinning as concert promotion blasts into the new frontier. Moderated by AEG Live VP of digital Joyce Szudzik, this panel of innovators will include Gupta Marketing president Gogi Gupta, Live Nation senior VP of digital marketing Ryan Okum, Eventful CEO Jordan Glazier, Eventbrite senior director of products Sean Porter, Facebook client partner for global marketing solutions Ashley Bradbury and Ticketfly senior director of marketing Kristina Wallender.
“The music fan is in control: exercising choice, demanding convenience and challenging marketers with their always-on connectivity,” Szudzik says. “We will explore how we fine-tune our marketing practices to reach the largest number of high-value fans and align marketing resources to channels that deliver the best performance. We’ll kick off the day with 14 super-satisfying tricks for spinning turnstiles, followed by 22 life-changing tips for creating concert awareness that you wished you knew about sooner.”
BRAND ON THE RUN
Sponsorships and branding across the music industry are the rule rather than the exception, and the topic has been a part of the conference since the beginning. In this decade, partnerships have evolved significantly into an era where corporate partnerships can have massive impact on building the artist’s career. The Jay Z/Samsung deal brings new focus to this sector, but from up-and-coming bands and superstars to live events and venues, branding deals are helping sell tickets and build careers for a wide range of artists, across all genres and media channels.
Billboard senior correspondent of branding Andrew Hampp will lead a discussion featuring MAC Presents president Marcie Allen and Citi senior VP of entertainment marketing Jennifer Breithaupt, who worked together on Citi’s sponsorship of the Rolling Stones’ 50 & Counting tour; Jon Cohen, owner of branding/marketing firm Cornerstone; Warner Bros. Records senior VP of brand partnerships and music licensing Lori Feldman; Sloane Scott, partner in Fishbowl Spirits, holding company for Kenny Chesney’s Blue Chair Bay Rum; and Live Nation president of alliances Russell Wallach.
“Sponsorships for live music and events are on pace to reach a record high in 2013-$1.3 billion — but that’s just half of what the top four sports leagues are making,” Hampp says. “How can music close the gap with sports in the live space with brands, and what are some of the other roles that brands are taking in artists’ careers and revenue streams?”
VIEW FROM THE TOP
The conference closes out the programming for its 10th edition with the most powerful panel of power players in the history of the event. This isn’t an exaggeration: The session “OK, New Rules. What Are They? And What Are the Stakes?” features five of the top 10 executives on Billboard’s 2013 Power 100: Red Light Management founder/owner Coran Capshaw, Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino, CAA managing partner/head of music Rob Light, WME head of music Marc Geiger and Tim Leiweke, who began the year as CEO of AEG and is now president/CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
Throughout the 10-year history of the conference, ideas once considered risky — or even insane — are now commonplace, and the industry has moved beyond post-consolidation aftershock into a world where boundaries are blurred, synergistic partners are critical, and the live sector dominates the music biz. Still, this is a business that must balance billions of dollars in potential with the simple concept of selling tickets and developing bands that people want to see.
The headlines show that disruption leads to new opportunities, and those not locked into traditional models can win big. Yet the value of the live business is a moving target as the industry searches to demonstrate its true financial worth.
It is fitting that, a decade in, the conference concludes with a panel of rainmakers whose decisions could dictate the touring industry’s direction for the next decade. High-profile music business attorney Elliot Groffman will lead a discussion that will examine the forces at work at a time when the potential of the industry has never been more promising, yet the marketplace remains at a crossroads. “I look forward to moderating the panel discussion on the new rules of the live music business,” he says.
“The cast of characters is amazing,” Groffman adds. “Marc Geiger and Rob Light, both visionaries and leaders of the most powerful agencies in the business, will give us interesting perspectives on how the game has changed over the last few years, including changes in how deals are made, tickets are sold and careers expanded into the new worlds of digital content and advertising.
“I’m sure Michael Rapino, head of the largest and most powerful promoter and venue operator, will have plenty to say about their tactics and the impact of those negotiations on the viability of their core business.
“Tim Leiweke brings a unique perspective to the table with his move to the sports world after a distinguished career at AEG. What can we learn about our business by looking at the sports business?
“And, of course, Coran Capshaw, a restless entrepreneur in the live music space, will focus us all on what these new rules, new games and new issues mean to today’s artist community. What’s at stake? The future of the music industry.”