How Best to Navigate Fluctuating Economies, Political Minefields & Diverse Cultures
Julia Lofstrand/Black Coffee – Talking worldwide touring opportunities at Pollstar Live! 2019
From left: Chris Nilsson, Carl Breau, Tony Goldring, John Reid, Christoph Scholz and David Zedeck.
The panel dubbed “How Best to Navigate Fluctuating Economies, Political Minefields & Diverse Cultures” analyzed the state of the world’s touring markets, and agreed that there has never been more opportunity for artists to build a worldwide live career.
Chris Nilsson, President, 10th Street Management
Carl Breau, CEO, Saimen Entertainment
Tony Goldring, Partner, WME
John Reid, President, Live Nation, Europe-Concerts
Christoph Scholz, Director, Non-Traditional Touring & Exhibitions, Semmel Concerts
David Zedeck, Global Head of Music, United Talent Agency
Asia, in particular, was a “very interesting” market, according to Goldring, who added that it had been hard to tour artists there for a long time, mainly because it wasn’t possible to secure enough dates to make it viable. That was changing.
Reid said, “markets have never grown quicker, and [there’s never been] more of them. Streaming is driving real-time development of artists. It’s good all-round.”
Scholz, who’s in charge of the non-traditional live events at Semmel Concerts, observed a wide range of new formats like podcast tours ganging traction internationally.
Zedeck talked about the “explosion of international music.” No longer are worldwide careers only available to English-speaking artists. K-Pop, which was a strictly Korean phenomenon a couple of years ago, now filled stadiums in the U.S. The same held true for Spanish-language artists, who have been experiencing a second boom over the last 12 to 16 months.
So while there were more markets to tour than ever, there were also more artists to send on tour than ever.
Julia Lofstrand/Black Coffee – Pollstar Live! 2019
The panel agreed that there was never more opportunity for artists to build a worldwide live career.
There were also more music genres than ever selling tickets, while the traditional ones like rock were still going strong, as the growth of Live Nation’s Download festival brand showed, Zedeck continued. “Every genre now has a chance to break globally,” he concluded.
The agent identified three territories each posing different challenges. India, with a middle-class the size of the entire U.S. population, had the audience but was lacking infrastructure. The Middle East would offer great markets once it got its politics straight. The population of Africa was hungry for live music, but the country, too, had to get its politics and the economy in order.
South America, like Asia, was no longer a one-city-only touring market, he added, explaining that C3 exporting its Lollapalooza brand to Argentina, Brazil and Chile had contributed greatly to that shift. “There’s growth in territories as well as within the territories,” the agent said.
Reid acknowledged that a couple of European countries were financially struggling at the moment, which affected their power to invest, and also mentioned “this Brexit nonsense hanging over everybody’s head”. So far, however, that didn’t affect Live Nation’s ticket sales.
Moderator Nilsson wanted to know how important it was to understand cultural nuances, to which Reid responded that Live Nation pursued a simple, old-school approach across the world: think globally act locally. The company tends to get behind a strong infrastructure that is already in place in any given territory, whether that’s a promoter, ticketing agency or festival. And those partners usually stayed with Live Nation, he added, “because we let them do their thing.”
Scholz remembered his first business trip to South Korea 15 years ago, during which he learned that it was always best to behave normally and “be yourself” wherever he went. It was important to remember that people in South Korea wanted the same things from life as anybody else. “Be a Mensch,” he concluded.
Briefly touching upon the topic of security, the panel agreed that there was only so much one could do. Live Nation, for instance, has been investing heavily in security infrastructure, but Reid was aware that “you’re always vulnerable where there are people.”
Zedeck said security was “a priority for everybody, adding that the buildings did a great job with clear bag policies for instance. “Now we just have to be more conscious of what goes on outside the venue,” he said.
The panel concluded by daring a look into the crystal ball of live entertainment. Goldring said that once some of the aforementioned territories developed an infrastructure that would allow for multi-stop tours, it would change the whole economics of touring.
He added that while the current festival boom in Europe was great, it also cannibalized the traditional touring business to some extent, because the festival period was now from mid-May to mid-September.
Reid mentioned more and better shows in more countries, offering better experiences at better prices. Streaming would continue to grow and lead even more people to wanting to see their favourite artists live. “We’re very optimistic, there’s a nice runway ahead,” he concluded.
According to Scholz, the big players like Live Nation, AEG or CTS Eventim would educate and professionalize the markets, adding that it was “a good time to work in this industry.”
Zedeck mentioned the “globalisation of pop culture” thanks to technology, which allowed social media influencers to become touring artists, for example.
Breau explained that China had 120 cities with a population greater than one million. “And I’m sure that we could draw a similar example from Africa and many other developing markets. We try to simplify an area [by boiling it down to] just a few cities, but actually there is real potential to grow touring.”