So These Two Guys Walk Into A Stadium: A Conversation With Arthur Fogel & Louis Messina
Julia Lofstrand Photography – Two Guys Walk Into A Stadium
Ray Waddell leads a conversation with Live Nation’s Arthur Fogel and Louis Messina.
You know their artists. You’ve probably seen them a few times over the years. Probably in a stadium.
Arthur Fogel, chairman of global music and president of global touring for Live Nation Entertainment, has steered recent tours by U2, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Justin Timerlake, Madonna, and Phil Collins, and many more over the years.
Louis Messina, head of Messina Touring Group, is the man who makes things happen – or “throws strikes for,” as he puts it – Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Eric Church and other top shelf talent.
Oak View Group’s Ray Waddell led them both in a freewheeling conversation on the final day of Pollstar Live! that tackled topics including agents, managers, artists, and even security. They’ve seen and done it all, and their combined experience is “dealing with it” resulted in a combined $1.2 billion of gross box office receipts in 2018 alone, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports.
They’ve both attained superstar levels themselves, the way it is supposed to happen: through hard work, keeping the needs of their artists top of mind, and guiding their charges to their own pinnacles of artistic achievement.
Their artist clients trust them deeply with their careers, and that might be a source of irritation to agents who aren’t booking their tours or earning commissions because Fogel and Messina have that covered. Or to managers for somewhat similar reasons. But these guys do it all – they developed their skills starting at the bottom and working their way up and learning every aspect of touring on the way.
Fogel noted that industry roles have become more specific over time.
“The business has generally morphed into a world of specialization,” Fogel said. “People within our own company come to me and say they want to do this or that. I ask, ‘Have you loaded in a show, done a ticket count, done a load in?’ You had to know all this shit to move in to this business and have a broad-based understanding. I think management has evolved the same way.
“When people like [former U2 manager] Paul McGuinness started, they touched all parts of an artist’s career. One observation now is there are up-and-coming managers who would fall into the specialist category.”
Fogel and Messina agree that, above all, they are in the “relationship and trust business” with their artist clients. And their clients share a vision of being the biggest stars they can possibly be.
Messina offered Eric Church as an example. He asked the young star in waiting just how far he wanted to go in his career. “I want to play stadiums,” Church told Messina. “I said, ‘he’s my guy.’”
And sometimes artists literally trust these guys with their lives. Messina and Fogel shared some hair-raising security stories. Messina explained about a European show in which a bag checker had let a person with a gun enter a festival site because he’d said he was an off-duty police officer. However, in that country, even off-duty police aren’t allowed to carry. So the call was made to evacuate and re-search or call off the show when the alleged perp wasn’t found.
“I tell my people in those cases that if it were me, I wouldn’t get on that stage,” Messina says. As Waddell suggested, “Do you want to make local news, or national news?
Fogel says he wears many hats, but his job now mostly entails “getting involved with something that’s already bug and helping it get as big as it can be.
“I’m not in the artist development area because it’s not my skill set. So what I do works for me and works for my artist and that’s where I come from.”
Messina says he the guy who makes dreams come true: “I want the artist to have that dream and the goal is always to go to stadiums.”
And Messina intends to continue doing that for a very long time. “When George quits, I quit; when Kenny quits, I quit; and when Taylor quits, I’m dead,” he said, laughing.