Country the Focus of Billboard Touring Conference Panel
Several of the key players behinds the unprecedented success of country music touring will take part in discussion of the genre's live business in a Nov. 19 panel at the Billboard Touring Conference…
Several of the key players behinds the unprecedented success of country music touring will take part in discussion of the genre’s live business in a Nov. 19 panel at the Billboard Touring Conference titled “Are You Ready for the Country?”
By many metric — artist development, career sustainability, price/value proposition, strategic routing, the growth of festivals — country music is the dominant sector of the North American touring industry today. While other genres often receive more media attention, the simple fact is that the most consistently successful tours in music are rolling out of Nashville. Country sells tickets, the touring industry at large can learn much from the way the country sector manages and maximizes its opportunities in headlining, branding, sponsorships, pricing, festivals, packaging, social/digital, timing, venue options, deal structures and economics.
With country’s success comes new challenges, including the potential for saturation in country festivals and managing a marketplace with more headlining acts than ever. Even so, the community/lifestyle element that drives country’s success on the live front is rock solid and growing. Some of the brightest and most successful execs in the industry, whose clients churn hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office, will break down country touring models and what this genre is doing right. On board are Brian O’Connell, president, Live Nation Country, the No. 1 promoter of country music in the world; pioneering promoter Louis Messina, president of TMG/AEG Live, whose model has brought huge success at the arena and stadium levels for artists including George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and Eric Church; veteran agent Rod Essig from CAA, whose country clients include Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band and Hunter Hayes; red-hot agent Jay Williams, William Morris Endeavor, who books such acts as Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, and Eric Church; manager Clarence Spalding, Spalding Entertainment, who represents Jason Aldean and Rascal Flatts; and manager Clint Higham, Morris Higham Management, who represents Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen, and Martina McBride.
The panel will be moderated by Emmy-winning producer John Hamlin, Senior Vice President, Music Events and Talent, for CMT. Hamlin oversees all live music and event programming for the network, including such shows as the annual CMT Music Awards, CMT Artists of the Year and the long-running hit, CMT Crossroads. In addition, Hamlin is responsible for all aspects of talent booking and label relations for on-air initiatives at CMT. A 30-year television veteran, Hamlin has spent 20 years as a producer for CBS News’ award-winning show, 60 Minutes, where he worked with journalists Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, Steve Kroft, Bob Simon and Anderson Cooper to produce segments on the biggest names in entertainment, including the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Faith Hill, Madonna, Paul McCartney, U2, the Dixie Chicks, Kenny Chesney, and Toby Keith.
“When it comes to touring and putting artists in front of fans, country music gets it right in so many ways,” says Ray Waddell, executive director, content and programming for touring and live entertainment at Billboard, who programs the Billboard Touring Conference, now in its 11th year and set for Nov. 19-20 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. “Obviously, country is hot right now and certain elements to its success on the road are genre-specific. But other lessons that can be learned from country would apply to all genres, like over-delivering for the ticket buyer, the deep connection with fans, and a strategic rise to headlining. The panelists here are the people that are making it happen for country music right now, and what they have to say should be of interest to anyone involved in live entertainment. And having an esteemed journalist of the stature of John Hamlin moderating the panel should make for a highly informative and entertaining session.”
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