Q’s With IEBA Executive Director Pam Matthews On #IEBA2018: Talking Ticketing, Consolidation & More

In The Alley:
Jason Davis / Getty Images for IEBA
– In The Alley:
Pam Matthews poses with Target Center GM Hugh Lombardi, Artist Group International’s Adam Kornfeld and Emporium Presents’ Dan Steinberg at the Agents Alley plus Promoters Alley trade show during the 2017 IEBA conference in Nashville Oct. 17, 2017.

International Entertainment Buyers Association executive director Pam Matthews spoke with Pollstar on the eve of the 48th annual IEBA conference, taking place Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at the JW Marriott in downtown Nashville. 

Along with panels featuring some of the music industry’s biggest professionals and plenty of chances to network, the conference includes a prime opportunity to buy, book and sell talent at IEBA’s Agents Alley. The three-day event wraps with IEBA’s Honors & Awards Ceremony and the WME Party at the Cannery Ballroom. 

Matthews, who has served as the executive director of IEBA since February 2013, got her start in the music biz at just 15 as a runner working for Bob Kelly of Mid-South Concerts. She’s been in Nashville for 33 years since relocating to Music City to be part of the team that built the Starwood Amphitheatre. Matthews also spent 12 years in artist management working for The Judds and was the GM of the Ryman Auditorium from 2000-2007.

Pollstar: What can you tell readers about the focus of the 2018 IEBA conference? 
Pam Matthews: The major headlines this year are consolidations, changes in ticketing, and safety. And please don’t think that safety is anything new. I mean, people died at The Who show in the 1970s. Safety is not new. And then just in America in general, it’s the #MeToo and Times Up [movements].

With regards to #MeToo and Times Up, our Agents Power Panel that we have every year, it’s all females this year. And they’re badasses. I mean, Sam Kirby [Yoh] works with Florence + The Machine among others [including Björk and LCD Soundsystem]. She’s a badass. Half of the people that would tell you the truth would go, “I’m a little scared of Sam Kirby.”
The panel also features Corrie Christopher Martin from Paradigm, Allison McGregor from CAA, Cheryl Paglierani from UTA, and Ali Harnell from AEG Presents, so it should be pretty fantastic.  
And then we have a panel called “Terms & Conditions.” We’re going to talk about employment discrimination, standards of ethical conduct, employee rights, the equal pay act and the EEOC. And we’ll look at it from both sides – as employees and employers.   

Safety is always a conversation that we have. This year Jeff Nickler, with the BOK Center, is going to lead the conversation (at the Breakout Session “It Takes A Community To Protect A Community: 5 Steps To Evolve Your Safety Protocols”). 
Along with moderating the “Terms & Conditions” panel, you’re moderating “Ticketing 2018: A Progress Report.” Can you give us a preview? 
The difference between this year and last is that we really tried slow ticketing. Jason Comfort with Red Light Management said [at IEBA 2017], “I am ready to commit to slow ticketing.” Ticketmaster has had the technology for a while now but artists have to commit. 

And no one has greater scale than Red Light Management. If Coran Capshaw says that’s what we’re doing, then he’ll be first, he’ll bust through the door, he’ll take all the hits for everything that is glitchy in the beginning because his artists are big enough and then everybody can go in when it’s safe. … And so it began with Verified Fan. 
The description of the panel says “Did we answer 2017’s wake-up call?” What do you think? 
So the most important sentence [in the description] is the second sentence: It’s been a constant arms race with technology. We build something and they find a way around it. 

It’s kind of like if you ever get ants at your picnic and they’ve found your food. We’re trying to talk to our grandma and eat our sandwich and the only thing the ants want to do is come and take our food. And that’s what’s true of scalpers. They know where our money is. That’s all they do all day long. Promoters are trying to get the catering right, they’re negotiating ground transportation and they’re looking at advertising. 
So it’s a constant arms race. We’ll win for a little bit and we won with legislation. One of the last acts that President Obama signed was the BOTS Act, making it illegal to buy or sell a ticket with a bot. But enforcement is always the issue.  

We are selling tickets to anonymous people on a first-come, first-serve basis, at below market value. No one likes to sell to anonymous. That’s the reason why online is great. I know everything about you and I can follow you around the internet. I looked at that dress from Zara and now every time I check something on the internet, there it is – “Buy me! Buy me!” 
No scenario in a capped market is best if it’s sold first-come, first-serve. That’s ridiculous. 

And then we sell our tickets at below market value. Clearly, if I sell a ticket for $55 and on StubHub it can sell at $85, then perhaps I should have sold it for $85. And you know why people don’t do that? It’s because artists don’t want you to think that they’re trying to charge you too much money. 
What can you share about how IEBA will be addressing consolidation? 
Here’s the thing about consolidation; 79 percent of all worldwide concert tickets are sold by two companies. The 79 percent is just what AEG and Live Nation claim. If you add in Goldenvoice, C3, NS2, the Franks, AC – all their partners and their controlling interests – it’s 97 percent. 

It’s Coke and Pepsi. And should the concert business be Coke and Pepsi? I don’t think anybody really says that number that often. I got that number because I took Pollstar’s Midyear reports and I took out a calculator.  

It’s shocking. So what do we do about that? Is there anything to do? I think the first thing is to acknowledge it. It is what it is. 

Bob Roux with Live Nation said at IEBA last year that he was interested in going into tertiary and secondary markets. He’s not just interested in New Orleans, he’s interested in Lafayette. … And by God he proved it this year. He went out and bought controlling interest in more companies.

I don’t know that people took him seriously. I kind of heard it out of the side of my ear and went, “Seriously? Surely to gosh he’s got something better to do than booking shows in North Little Rock, Ark., and Jonesboro.” Turns out not. 

Anything else you’d like to say about the conference? 
Many people who haven’t been to IEBA think this is a Nashville conference but 79 percent of our membership is from outside of Nashville.

It’s not to say we don’t do Nashville things for the people who come to visit us. For instance, this year all of our showcases are at the Cannery Ballroom, which was built in the late 1800s and became a nightclub in the 1970s so it’s a nice, historic building.  
And to get us back and forth from the JW Marriott to Cannery we have shuttles that are honky-tonks on wheels, and those are fun – it’s the honky-tonk party express! And we’ll have a hot chicken party on Monday night.