Giddings Flies Solo Again

Rolling Stones / U2 agent John Giddings has reached the end of his Clear Channel / Live Nation contract and won’t be renewing it, although he told Pollstar he doesn’t expect there’ll be any change in the way he and the company work together.

“You can’t put a price on loyalty. I’ve worked with Michael Cohl, Arthur Fogel and Michael Rapino for years and we’re good friends.

“Now we have what you could describe as a ‘strategic relationship going forward’ and I expect I’ll be working with them for the rest of my business life,” Giddings explained.

“I’ve had a great five years with the company and I say thanks for what it’s done for me. There’s no big deal to the story, it’s just like a record deal coming to an end.

“There’s been a lot of criticism of corporate structures dominating the industry but, as far as I can see, Clear Channel has done nothing but good.

“The music business landscape changes every day and now I’m in a position to make the decisions for Solo Agency because I’m independent again. Hopefully, it will also mean that I get to keep more of the money,” he said.

Live Nation CEO Rapino left little doubt Giddings will stay with the team even if he’s chosen not to stay with the company.

“John is one of the most creative and brilliant people in the business,” Rapino said. “We will no longer continue with Solo the agency as that is not our core business.

“However, we have a long-term strategic relationship on all our global and European touring, which John has been instrumental in building for us.”

The next major step in what will undoubtedly continue to be a very close-knit relationship with Live Nation is this year’s Bigger Bang tour with The Rolling Stones, while the first Solo shows of 2006 are Iggy & The Stooges at Australia’s Big Day Out events between January 20th and February 5th.

Giddings’ business relationships with Fogel, Cohl and (later) Rapino have a history of being close but fluid.

SFX’s original part-ownership of Solo resulted from a string of intertwining business moves and mergers that date back more than a decade. In 1990, Giddings sold 50 percent of Solo to ITG (International Talent Group), a partnership between agents Wayne Forte and Michael Farrell, who also had Michael Cohl investing in them.

Forte and Farrell split in ’95, effectively ending the Solo-ITG arrangement.

The working relationship with Cohl continued when Giddings became a partner in Ballard, Cohl, Labatt (BCL) alongside longtime associate Bill Ballard and the Labatt brewery. It was a connection that enabled Giddings to run Labatt-sponsored events in the U.K.

BCL was a traditional concert promoting company concentrating almost exclusively on the Canadian market, but it decided to give that up in favour of promoting entire tours and built the company up before selling out to House of Blues.

Fogel’s TNA (The Next Adventure) was formed to produce those tours. It was at this stage that Giddings restructured his company with TNA.

TNA later sold out to SFX in a deal that meant that any stock that TNA held in Solo would also move to SFX.

Throughout 2000 and the first half of 2001, Giddings was open about being in the process of selling to SFX but the U.S.-based company was reticent to talk about the deal. As little as two weeks before the June 2001 announcement, SFX public relations chief Rachel Gary was still offering no comment.

SFX CEO Brian Becker let the cat out of the bag 10 days before the official announcement when he – seemingly inadvertently – referred to SFX’s three U.K. promoters as “SFX Entertainment, International Talent Booking and Solo” during a keynote speech in London.

The deal may well have been in place far in advance, as five years from the date of that announcement would leave the contract with about six months to go.

Even before it ran out December 31st, Giddings had split from the rest of the company’s U.K. operations.

A little more than a year after joining SFX and moving into its Regent Street headquarters, he packed his company’s bags and went back across London to Solo’s old offices in Fulham.

“It’s so I could walk to work,” was the only explanation that Giddings would give at the time.

Apart from The Stones and U2, the other acts on Giddings’ Solo roster include Madonna, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Celine Dion, Meat Loaf, Westlife, Josh Groban, The Corrs, Suzanne Vega, Simple Minds, and Starsailor.

– John Gammon