Pollstar Live!
Keeping Up With The Big Boys

Moderator Danny Zelisko of Danny Zelisko Presents in Arizona, who spent 10 years working for SFX, then Clear Channel and Live Nation, said the topic of the panel is about more than just keeping up with majors like Live Nation and AEG. It’s a matter of keeping one’s head above water and staying in the game.

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“In terms of competing, I’m in a market with three other promoters, all three of which I employed at one time.  So there’s four promoters who used to be under one roof,” Zelisko explained. “[But] the competition that we’re facing all over the country from the bigger promoters is that they have the deep pockets and can buy an entire tour.

“They can lay off a loss in your market against another place just to get the tour. That makes it hard. I think what we all have to realize is if you’re going to try to compete with these guys, you’re probably going to lose. Even if they lose, you‘re going to lose bigger.”

Zelisko then asked the panelists to describe their strategies for their markets.

John Sanders of Iron Horse Presents in Massachusetts says he works exclusively based on past experience, but Numa Saisselin of the 1,900-capacity  Florida Theatre in Jacksonville is open to collaborate.

“I’m in a very different position because I work for a non-profit corporation that manages the building,” Saisselin said. “I manage a building on behalf of the city and we could, in theory, close the room and be the exclusive promoter, but it probably wouldn’t sit well with all sorts of groups and factions. So we’re open to relationships with other people.”

Michael Goldberg, owner of the 450-cpacity Belly Up Aspen in Colorado, said his focus is more on how to coexist and build good relationships.

“My point here, as it relates to the ‘Big Guys,’ [Aspen is] an anomaly and AEG and Live Nation are infrequently in our market. We’re a small place,” he said. “The vast majority of the time, if we’re competing, we’re competing for a show that’s either going to play in Denver or Boulder, or maybe Aspen, where we have no appreciable or meaningful regular market. For me, it’s back to co-existence.

“Everyone has to be nimble and everyone has to make the determination how you work with everyone around you to make sure you’re collaborative. But that doesn’t mean you give away the house or give away your secrets.”

 When the discussion turned to how to handle failure, Zelisko put it simply:

“When you find yourself in a situation where you’re upside down, there’s a number of different things you can do. You can go crying, ’I need money back,’ and ‘When is a deal a deal?’ which opens up that whole topic,” he said

“But I think you always have to remember you don’t settle out the year in one day. You settle it out in the course of your year and there’s a reason for why you do things.”