ArenaNetwork and Venue Coalition, the two leading associations that represent independent venues, continue to offer their members services and networking that they wouldn’t benefit from on their own. As venue executives head to the annual Arena Management Conference, taking place Sept. 8-10 in Toronto, Billboard checked in on the two trade groups and their members.
The Los Angeles-based ArenaNetwork launched in May 1999 with the purpose of providing representation and information to its members so that venue bookings would increase. It has members in nearly 50 markets. According to CEO Ed Rubinstein, who joined in 2009, the network has “maintained the depth and breadth of our membership over the past 12 months. We are currently in active discussions with a few venues that may join in the near future.”
Rubinstein believes members have access to exclusive benefits. “The value of the network is the ability to share information about touring content and operational issues that affect all of the members,” he says. “From time to time we are able to aggregate offers for touring product that may allow for a quantity discount on guarantees and other deal points for our members. The old adage that there is strength in numbers is really true.”
ArenaNetwork members have recently played host to Beyoncé, P!nk, Fleetwood Mac, Jason Aldean, the Eagles, Bruno Mars, the Rolling Stones, Carrie Underwood, George Strait, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, among others, according to Rubinstein. “Our venues have also hosted the most successful dates on the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ family show,” he says.
Looking at trends in arena booking, Rubinstein says, “It seems many acts are staying out on the road a little longer than in previous years. Additionally, there is a plethora of new family show product that is getting ready to tour in the coming months and years.”
Venue Coalition, which formed in 2005 and is also based in Los Angeles, has member facilities in 60 markets in the United States and Canada. The coalition has added a number of new members in the last year, including Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland; US Airways Center in Phoenix; Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Wash.; Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City; and First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y.
“All venues have the same basic need: more event days,” Venue Coalition president Jeff Apregan says. “We all have certain relationships in this business, but no one can know everyone. Venue Coalition provides its members with access to agents, promoters, producers, managers and organizations that they may not necessarily have a relationship with.
“We are able to capture and share information with our members about touring opportunities in an expeditious manner,” Apregan adds. “Additionally, agents, producers and promoters know that with one phone call, they can gather market information, competing traffic, avails, seating diagrams, tech packets and deals for a number of cities.”
In the past year, Venue Coalition’s Apregan and executive VP Andrew Prince have helped its members secure a variety of events including Aldean, Bob Seger, Kid Rock, Luke Bryan, Selena Gomez, Zac Brown Band, Michael Bublé, Journey, Cirque du Soleil and Jeff Dunham. “As Venue Coalition has continued to grow, so has its level of service and relevancy to the arena touring industry,” says Apregan, who adds that the touring industry sees value in his members. “One of the things we are seeing more of is the recognition of Venue Coalition and our member arenas by key decision-makers,” he says. “Our venues have demonstrated that they’re very skilled at promoting and producing shows in their buildings and, in many instances, are able to take or share risk.”
Billboard invited executives at venues affiliated with the two associations to highlight the advantages of their partnerships.
Kirk Rhinehart, director of arena programming and marketing, Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, Calif. (ArenaNetwork): “The biggest benefactor is the sharing of information — being able to communicate on a regular basis for other shows and what holes people have. ArenaNetwork also helps to give us leads or directly put in offers. Lately they’ve helped us with electronic dance music. They have someone on staff who is a resident expert on all the different movements and DJs in the EDM world. We’ve got a radio station in the market that’s really gung-ho on doing one of these shows and [ArenaNetwork has] been extremely helpful in guiding us through the process, because it’s such a unique world.”
Ken Wachter, president, PMI Entertainment Group, which manages the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis. (Venue Coalition): “We had Bob Seger in March and they gave me a heads-up that he was looking to play dates, probably a month before other people were looking at it. I talked to some other buildings in the area that aren’t in Venue Coalition and they were a month behind us. It ended up being a Live Nation show, but Venue Coalition got us in there really early talking to the agent and telling them why they should play here. It got us a month’s head start on our competitors in the Midwest.”
Matt Gibson, GM, Spokane (Wash.) Arena (ArenaNetwork): “What ArenaNetwork is really good at is the dialogue I get to have with those folks in the trenches. They’re out looking for information and making sure that people are aware of what’s out there to possibly purchase, co-promote or offer up to a promoter. They can also get me attendance information and touring history. I know there are services out there that offer that if you have a membership, but ArenaNetwork is kind of a personal thing. You have Ed Rubinstein out there shaking the pavement looking for anything we might be able to take advantage of. It saves me a lot of time and effort, because they bring the stuff to me.”
Nick Vaerewyck, director of event booking, US Airways Center, Phoenix (Venue Coalition): “We’re a fairly new member; we joined back in January. We’ve really benefited as far as the communication that’s passed along. Andrew and Jeff are pretty well-respected and grounded in the industry — they’re in constant contact with agents and managers. They seem to get a [quicker] jump on shows than what I get sometimes. If they have something, they’ll give me a call or shoot me an email to see if we’re interested. It’s nice having someone to bounce ideas off of and in your corner to fight for you.”
Bob Howard, Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pa. (ArenaNetwork): “I was probably the 17th building to sign on. They’ve been wonderful since the beginning, as far as trying to find us shows and actually finding some. They’ve also been good at getting the word out that as a building we buy. We have one coming up that we had actually bid on many months ago — Rod Stewart-and we didn’t get consideration. Then, out of nowhere a couple months ago, ArenaNetwork announced to us that Stewart had an open date on Oct. 14. We quickly went ahead and put a bid through them. We ended up getting it, and we think the show will do great.”
Mark Powell, VP of events, EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah (Venue Coalition): “The biggest thing is direct shows I’ve gotten from being a member. That’s what we measure everything on. There have been a few shows that I absolutely would not have gotten in this competitive market without being a member. They steered Michael Bublé our way. We were able to get Miranda Lambert, Rock & Worship Roadshow, Nitro Circus Live and the Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller show directly because of Venue Coalition.”