The Open Forum: The big round up
Chair: Phil Bowdery, Live Nation (UK)
Charles Attal, C3 Presents
Emma Banks, CAA
Paul Craig, Nostromo Management
Marty Diamond, Paradigm Talent
Folkert Koopmans, FKP Scorpio
Geraldine Wilson, Amazon Tickets
Officially getting this year’s ILMC conference schedule under way, Bowdery ran through some facts from 2016 and gleefully pointed out that not a single EDM act made it into the list of the top 100 tours during the year.
Starting out with the political madness of 2016, which brought the world both Brexit and President Trump, Bowdery quizzed the panel about their predictions of what both situations might mean for the live music business.
“We don’t know because the government doesn’t know and the EU doesn’t know,” said Banks. “What we do know is that Sterling doesn’t buy as many dollars or Euros that it used to and that is having an impact right now.” She added that long term, artists and crew might have to get Schengen passports and Schengen carnets, “but hopefully we will just have to get one rather than multiple for each country.”
Commenting on the situation in America, Diamond admitted that things are scary, but observed, “The exciting thing is what might come out of it – there may be a new scene for punk rock again as people speak up and get angry.” Attal added, “It’s sad that visa lawyers are the people you are having to rely on, on a day-to-day basis just to get artists and even your staff working in the country.
Recounting the events of last summer, when he had to cancel a festival for the first time, Koopmans confessed to being more worried about Trump than the Brexit situation because of the effect it might have on international touring. Turning to Bowdery’s questions about the festival business, Koopmans said, “Costs are rising because of weather, insurance, artist fees, so we have had to raise ticket prices. But we are at the limit now and we cannot go any higher.”
Acknowledging that the likes of Lollapalooza Berlin has a much lower ticket price than the likes of Koopmans’ Southside event, Attal commented, “We have to stay cheap. We’ve seen that even putting $10 on a ticket devastates sales. We make a little less money when costs go up and ticket prices stay the same, but that’s just our business model at the moment.” Nevertheless, he reported that sales for Lollapalooza Berlin compared to last year were up by about 10,000 tickets, joking that, “we’re on our third site in three years, so maybe that’s the trick – having a festival that tours just around one city.”
Craig, who manages rock act Biffy Clyro, underlined the importance of the festival market to the band by stressing, “Festivals are very important to our strategy – it’s a big aspect of what we do. Rock doesn’t get on radio that much, so festivals are a good way of the band being heard by people.” However, noting that every act has different needs, he said career planning is, “all about strategy and what your band or artist wants. The life on an album is really short now, so you have to keep putting good music out there.”
Diamond agreed, revealing, “my 13 year old does not know what an EP is.” But he said that while every new signing wants festival bookings, “I’ve got to work with those acts the other 9 or 10 months of the year when it’s not festival season. You can’t just work weekend to weekend – I have clients that need to work seven days a week, so you can’t do it for every act – it’s a case-by-case basis.”
Talk turned to increasing consolidation and diversification in the agency sector, with Bowdery asking panellists’ opinions of full-service booking agencies with non-musical clients, and whether they offer value to artists.
Diamond, whose Paradigm agency also represents film and literary clients, said that while he recognised the potential benefits for musicians of having access to prospective partners in other media, “at our core, we’re still a music agency,” while Craig said “it depends where you are in the lifecycle of the artist. If you’re still small, you want an agent who lives and breathes music.”
“If you’re trying to sign bigger artists,” said Banks, representing clients in other sectors – and the potential for “endorsements, books, video games – is a factor. We need to empower our clients to know different people in different departments.” Adding, “Everyone’s busy – I want my client to have a relationship with the people pitching them films, voiceover work, etc,”
Banks emphasised the importance of collaboration with agents working in other industries. “The way to work at a company like ours is to be very open,” she said. “If you insist it’s your client, and nobody’s allowed to touch them and everything comes through you, you’re going to miss opportunities… The great thing about being part of a team is that everybody gets a bit of the action.”
Amazon Tickets’ Geraldine Wilson then joined the panel to talk about the ecommerce giant’s potentially disruptive entry into the ticketing market.
She outlined the history of the new operation – starting from a division of Amazon UK’s main business before being spun out to a separate company in its own right – and revealed it is working on a multi-year agreement with AEG to provide ticketing services for The O2 and Wembley Arena, in addition to British Summer Time festival.
From a manager’s point of view, Craig said, more ticket sellers are a good thing, as each has different reaches and user-bases. Banks, however, cautioned that too many cooks could make it difficult to effectively price shows. “Ticketing is very complicated in the UK,” she said. “You have arena box-office deals, promoter deals with ticketing companies… another ticket agency further squeezes the allocations.”
Touching on the secondary market, Banks said one way to “redress secondary is by flexing ticket prices in arenas… If you’ve got four ticket agencies that becomes almost impossible.”
The room also welcomed GNL Entertainment's Alp Gunal to the panel to discuss the security situation in Turkey – “We respect the decision of artists not wanting to come, but we want them to know the actual risks,” he said, highlighting that, despite the risk of terror, Turkey remains a relatively safe place for touring.
Bowdery finished by asking each of the panellists their hopes for the year ahead. Craig and Diamond both wished for a big 2017 for young artists in their respective countries, with the former pointing to Ed Sheeran selling 540,000 albums in a week as proof “we can still sell music in the UK,” while Banks wanted this to be the year when EDM artists and DJs finally “start getting taken seriously.” She commented, “There’s no reason why a two-person act should be paid less than a five-person band if they’re drawing the same crowd. The live music industry used to look down on the dance music world, but I think we’re getting over that.”
Koopmans, meanwhile – who was forced to cancel Southside 2016 after a torrential downpour – had a simpler request: “Good weather!”