Evolve Or Die: From Four Walls To Partner To Promoter

The trend is toward venues more frequently dealing directly with agents and bypassing promoters.

Pollstar Live! panel moderator Matt Gibson of Spokane Arena got right to the point: Is this bad for business or just natural progression?

Resch Center’s Ken Wachter, also of PMI Entertainment, said it’s evolution.

“I think you’re seeing more smaller- and medium-sized buildings buying than the bigger buildings because they don’t have to,” Wachter said. “The way the business has grown with needing to take care of club seats, suites [and] signage partners, you have to have content. If you’re not getting content, you have to go find it yourself.”

Live Nation’s Rich Best said it’s a problem, but he understands the need for it.

“Content is king right now. There’s a serious lack of it whether you’re in a major market or a secondary and tertiary market,” Best said. “Shows are hard to come by and it’s more competitive than it’s ever been. We work in secondary markets where there are two options at the arena level.

“It’s a slippery slope. It works on a smaller level using maybe theatre setups or smaller configurations but when you start buying bigger shows, the model breaks down quickly. I think having that dialogue with your partners, your promoters but creating that partnership is better than going out and being a sailor.”

NS2’s Darin Lashinsky said venue reps buying direct is fine, but recommends they still partner with a promoter to bring in more than one event each year.

“I do that with venues,” Lashinsky said. “There are markets I’ve never been in before. I know I have a partner, a venue, It might be on their dime the first time but all of a sudden, we’re doing three or four shows a year because I’m now engaged in the market and it’s not just a short-sided, one-off kind of situation.”

CAA Nashville’s Brad Bissell said in some cases, cities have built venues with projected tax dollars that are empty, so reps are forced to step up and go direct to buy shows.

Cirque du Soleil’s Finn Taylor said the company’s productions don’t work with promoters within North America but will utilize local expertise when needed.

“One of the things we have going for us is we have a structure behind us that can allow us to work with a building on marketing and PR teams,” Taylor said. “ More and more as we move forward, and times are tough, we’re going to look for a way to sell the most tickets. For us it’s what’s the best way to achieve our goals.”

Taco Bell Arena’s Lisa Cochran said she and staff make sure all parties involved are in sync with the goal.

“When we’re looking to do deals with promoters and with agents, we’re looking to make sure that we’re all on the same page and [with incentive] to work together so it’s a win-win,” she said. “We’re a member of Venue Coalition and that provides us with opportunities that we find that extremely helpful.”

The panelists agreed that maintaining communication and transparency, building trust, delivering on promises made and working well as a team are key points to make the direct-booking trend a positive experience for all.


See Also: Pollstar Live! Panel Coverage