A CIC Fit For A Prince

Another Concert Industry Consortium is in the history books, and the nearly 1,500 who descended upon the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles got a preview of Clear Channel Entertainment‘s plans to rejuvenate amphitheatre attendance for the coming summer. And at The Wiltern LG, they got a regal visit from a surprise guest.

The royalty came in the form of Prince, who made a surprise appearance at the final event of the conference to personally accept his Concert Industry Awards plaque for Major Tour of the Year.

The appearance of The Purple One was such a well-kept secret that even the usually irrepressible host, Lewis Black, seemed to be struck momentarily speechless when Prince left the stage.

But the real story of CIC 2005 was the promise of a renewed commitment to the concert fan by those best able to make it happen.

At Clear Channel Entertainment, there’s a new sheriff in town and he means business. Global Music President Michael Rapino made it clear that his company intends to put the fan experience on the front burner in the coming year.

He came right out of the gate and laid it on the line in front of a capacity CIC crowd at the panel titled “2004: The Public Pushes Back,” in the Century Plaza’s largest room. “I have zero patience for people who say Clear Channel is the bad guy” when it comes to high ticket pricing, low enjoyment and the resulting exodus of fans from last summer’s concert season.

And Rapino spelled out what Clear Channel is doing, rather than what it is talking about doing.

He reiterated the company’s plans for revamping the shed business by focusing on the lawn seat ticket buyer, and the arena biz by concentrating on improving the concert experience in the middle- to back-of-house sections.

At the sheds, Rapino repeated CCE’s plans to eliminate or minimize facility management fees and some box office charges, to work with Ticketmaster to lower its service charges, implement a flat $20 ticket price for those less-desirable ducats, repeal bans on blankets and coolers, and provide intermission entertainment and other value-added goodies.

Time will tell if the public jumps on the amphitheatre bandwagon again this summer, but Rapino made it clear he intends to take the lead in a changing concert climate.

Keynoter Merck Mercuriadis is another young gun with news for the industry.

The newly named CEO of Sanctuary Group Worldwide urged the crowd of agents, managers and promoters to invest more energy into today’s artists, citing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire, and Mastodon as examples.

Mercuriadis compared this investment to that of Arthur Fogel during the early days of U2, noting it was that kind of commitment that led to Fogel’s strong relationship with the band today.

Garnering rave reviews at CIC 2005 were two new features: roundtables and mentoring sessions where advice was dispensed and grievances aired with an eye to career advancement.

Roundtables February 3rd ran the gamut from “Staying Clean & Sober On The Road,” featuring former Jefferson Airplane vocalist Grace Slick, to “Basic Deal Structures & Negotiations” with Another Planet Entertainment LLC veteran Sherry Wasserman.

Mentoring sessions were a great hit, with no less than CAA Music chief Rob Light overheard raving about the format. Light joined 10 other industry leaders, including AEG‘s Debra Rathwell and Randy Phillips, Entourage Talent Associates‘s Wayne Forte and Monterey Peninsula Artists‘ Dan Weiner, to share knowledge and exchange ideas – which is, above all, what CIC is all about.