CIC 2009: It’s A Wrap

The Concert Industry Consortium annual meeting, of course, isn’t all receptions and fancy luncheons.

Coverage of Arny Granat’s Jan. 29 welcome address and early panel coverage has already been posted. Friday and late Thursday panels were also well attended and covered new territory as well as providing “meeting” spaces for club owners, talent buyers, indie promoters and performing arts center operators.

Outdoor festivals have become an obvious trend in recent years, and clearly represent a boon to some and a bane to others. The “Outdoor Festivals: How Many Can Be Successful In North America?” was capably moderated by AEG Live Rocky Mountain CEO Chuck Morris, who produced his first destination festival, Denver’s Mile High fest, last summer and also co-produces Michigan’s Rothbury Festival.

He was joined by Paradigm’s Chip Hooper, C3 Presents’ Charlie Jones, Another Planet Entertainment’s Gregg Perloff and newly tapped AEG festival COO Stuart Ross.

Festivals are generally of two categories: destination and urban/city festivals. And both can be shot down in a heartbeat by city officials if organizers don’t get them locked on board early. Weather can be a killer, too – there’s a reason Coachella Music & Arts Festival happens in April in the California desert.

Perloff stressed that production on a big festival is extremely difficult, especially if local politics are knotty. And he should know, having just launched Outside Lands in San Francisco’s city-run Golden Gate Park.

Another tip for those considering throwing a multi-day, multi-artist bash is to secure a location that fans would go to even if there was no music involved. If fans wouldn’t go to a particular park when there aren’t bands, don’t expect them to show up even if there are.

Another heavy-hitting panel was “Making Money in a Down Economy,” moderated by It’s My Party’s Seth Hurwitz, who also operates Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club and the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland.

Hurwitz was joined on the dais by C3 Presents’ Charles Attal, Nederlander Concerts’ Adam Friedman, The Agency Group’s Steve Martin, REN Entertainment’s Steve Rennie and CAA’s Mitch Rose.

An immediate bone of contention on this panel was if there really is a down economy in the concert industry and, if not, is “the economy” just a convenient excuse for bad shows? Conversely, is the industry in denial?

There weren’t easy answers for that, with Hurwitz openly questioning if the U.S. economy in general is taking its toll on the concert world, Attal saying people are in denial and Friedman wanting to know what anyone was doing about it.

The discussion veered to bar sales and ticket pricing – the latter being a favorite topic across the board at CIC 2009.

Independent promoters are probably more sensitive than others to economic shifts, and this year’s meeting seemed to reflect some tension but also the belief that adversity produces a rich climate for creative thinking.

Moderator Dave Kirby of TKO led a panel comprising Bill Blumenreich, Bill Blumenreich Presents; Jerome Derrickson, Ground Support Entertainment; David Fitzgerald, DCF Enterprises; Darin Lashinsky, Outback Concerts; Jade Nielsen, Jade Presents; and Gilles Paquin of Canada’s Paquin Entertainment.

Kirby talked about past years in which independent promoters were somewhat at the mercy of agents and the artist managers who tended to side up with them, creating adversarial relationships.

“The promoter is the frontline, operating on behalf of the consumer,” Kirby said. “There was a lot of non-transparency, a lot of hiding expenses and a high level of distrust.

“That’s charged a great deal now and it’s obvious that people realize that if we don’t keep promoters in business, we won’t have any one to sell shows to.”

A line of audience members with questions formed early, and provided a couple of opportunities for drama, which the indie promoters meeting seems to never lack.

After an audience member asked about opportunities in China, Kirby let the crowd know in no uncertain terms he didn’t have much use for censors, whether they be officials of the Chinese government or of the Disney Co.

“I represent bands that would never get in China or, if they did, they’d certainly never get out,” he said before explaining how several of his bands have been banned from performing at the House of Blues in Orlando, Fla., which is on Disney-owned property.

Next in line for the mic, however, was a guest of the person who raised the “China question.” Turned out he was part of a contingent from China, who gave it to Kirby as good as he apparently felt like he got it.

“You don’t understand our culture,” he said. “We want to make money, just like you. We don’t want to hear ‘Free Tibet.’ We don’t want the politics,” he said, sparking a lively debate with Kirby and his fellow panelists. Once everyone apologized for various offenses, Kirby moved on to the next in line: a woman who said simply, “Free Tibet.”

The Arena Managers’ meeting was sponsored by IAAM and moderated by Comcast Arena’s Kim Bedier. Subjects ranged from the importance of creative marketing, flexible ticketing to give fans more value, the possibilities of packaging concerts and sports and how the role of box office staff has changed in order to keep venues competitive.

Over at the Focus on Performing Arts Centers panel, discussion centered upon keeping a balance between in-house programs such as the philharmonic and ballet companies and concerts, possible partnerships in the community and elsewhere in conjunction with patron donations and knowing your market to bring patrons in.

Now established as a tradition, the final day of the conference included roundtable and mentoring sessions to got everyone fired up for the afternoon’s final panels.

The moderators at the table discussing substance abuse, ironically situated right next to the Tales from the Backstage and Beyond roundtable, joked about the disparity in attendance between the two.

It seems everyone wants to hear the drunken stories from the road, but far fewer people want to discuss artists getting sober.

Paradigm’s Duffy McSwiggin noted that he’s seen the effects of addiction on bands’ performances and ticket sales. If an act performs poorly on drugs/alcohol, ticket sales for the next few shows may drop.

There was a consensus at the table that many of the people who’ve lasted the longest in the concert industry do so only because they got sober – but the subject is still relatively taboo.

The Tales from the Backstage roundtable, facilitated by Goldenvoice’s Elliott Lefko, wasn’t all about groupies and other escapades on the road.

Photographer Herb Wise gave a presentation and the backstories on his in-the-moment portraits of concertgoers and onetime rising artists including Bob Dylan, Todd Rundgren, Black Oak Arkansas, Blood Sweat & Tears, Frank Zappa and John Cage.

The Climate Change: Touring Impacts & Opportunities panel discussed Julie’s
Bicycle, a non-profit company established to educate the U.K. music industry on climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn, Big Life Management’s Jazz Summers and Oxford University’s Diane Liverman facilitated this wide-ranging discussion.

A conversation about Grassroots and Lifestyle Marketing, led by Insight Management’s Maria Brunner, revealed an unlikely source of word-of-mouth promotion: Moms – especially those with blogs.

Mom-bloggers are extremely important as the mouthpieces of communities. One way to engage them is to offer Mom-bloggers show tickets to family events. Develop those relationships, and they will be more likely to blog about future family shows in their towns.

Over at the Country Music Touring table, CAA Nashville’s Rod Essig answered questions about ticket pricing, strategies for touring artists like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, how to avoid over-saturating markets and putting together showcases for new country artists.

Each CIC includes discussions on the latest tech, and this was no different, with roundtables discussing mobile marketing and new online toys for marketing whizzes.

Hal Hassell from Echo, a Ticketmaster Entertainment subsidiary, stressed the importance of consolidating audiences. He called the current system of Web marketing a “furball,” with the artist’s Web site sending fans every which way. He envisioned a model where all other related sites point to the artist’s homepage.

Hassell encouraged panel visitors to check out Google Analytics, which
also came up during the Internet Marketing For Live Events panel, hosted by TopSpin Media’s Ian Rogers and Jeff Schroeder.