IEBA Day 1 Recap: Women Nation, Promoter 101, Wheeling And Dealing & Party Time

IEBA Day 1
– IEBA Day 1
Jim Cressman, Roger LeBlanc, Becky Colwell, Ali Harnell, Jim Mallonnee

Gentle(wo)men, start your engines… IEBA 2019 is off, and they’ve wasted no time declaring that beyond the schmoozing, the showcasing, the feasting and festing, some impressive conversation is going to take place! 

With the Jim Cressman-moderated “Award Winners Power Panel” to kick things off, it was a roundtable from across the business that saw Invictus Entertainment’s Jim Cressman bringing together Amphitheater of the Year winner Becky Colwell from the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, Promoter of the Year Ali Harnell, who’s now leading Live Nation’s Women Nation initiative, Festival Buyer of the Year Roger LeBlanc from Madison Entertainment and Club Buyer of the Year Jim Mallonee from the Orlando-based House of Blues.
Beyond the impact of the impending election year (all agree: advertising inventory is limited and expensive) and environmental initiatives (the Greek no longer has plastic straws and  composts to fertilize the grounds; Malllonee just co-promoted a zero carbon footprint Jack Johnson show with AEG’s John Valentino at St. Agustine’s Amphitheater), the panel took a more personal approach to the challenges, opportunities and realities of promoting in 2019. 
Harnell, especially, had much to say, as curiosity about Women Nation remains high.
She suggested the audience read “FairPlay: A Game Changing Guide for When You Have Too Much To Do” as a way to level the family responsibility reality, and the database to find qualified women candidates for potential job openings.
A passionate member of the live music ecosystem – she joked “promoting shows is like heroin” – Harnell explained it was Michael Rapino himself who gave her the advice to take her time, really identify the goals and initiatives for ways to create enduring places for women across the business. She also, because she is Harnell and can’t help herself, is promoting Oprah Winfrey’s tour. 
For Colwell, it was also about saying “yes” to the universe that led her to the Greek from the Carolinas. “I never thought I’d live in a Blue State,” she joked.  But, more importantly, she offered the reality of her husband’s willingness to support her opportunity by taking on the (unthinkable) role of stay-at-home dad to their daughter.
It literalized what Harnell explained to the audience as “the invisible work,” a fact most don’t acknowledge. For both highly achieving women, it was a strong reality check in an industry that often caters to “woke” artists and managers. Not that it was all estrogen and equality.
Mallonee spoke of artists scaling back, seeking a deeper intimacy in their live experience. Shinedown recently did three sold out nights, while A Day To Remember sold out four nights in 30 minutes. Beyond the underplay for these larger scale acts, “the money’s probably close to the same since it’s two trucks, not 20.”
With a consensus to say “yes” to opportunities, LeBlanc offered the greatest perspective on the future. Having joked about being “a dinosaur husband” earlier, his plan for the future was expansive and inclusive: “The industry is evolving as we know. We’re getting to the point it’s better to work together than against each other … I encourage working together more,  being more transparent – and make the industry more fun.”
PROMOTER 101 LIVE: The Final Podcast with AEG Present’s Debra Rathwell 

Promoter 101

Having turned into the go-to, tune-into podcast for music history, touring and promoting, “Promoter 101” hosts Steiny and Luke have decided to wind it down. In the once-more-with-feeling live finale, they enlisted AEG’s Debra Rathwell whose sense of humor, associations (U2, Elton John, Woodstock ’94, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Carrie Underwood) and business acumen span  the last four decades. 
Whether telling the story of Springsteen wanting to kill seats and issue refunds and her pushing back, or recognizing the power of the “American Idol” franchise, she was a temple of humor, tenacity, grace and especially love of the music.
As the woman who runs 3- to 3-1/2 miles a day, every day, outside suggests, “It’s not no, it’s not yet. If you really want a job, or something, know ‘I’ll be back.’ Think, ‘I’m gonna make all these (negatives/reservations) go away, then I’ll be back.”
To that end, she closed her time with terse sagery, advising all deals shouldn’t be made. “Don’t be afraid to pass. Stop magical thinking. It’s not going to happen. Let go, cut your losses. Good radar if you see something, be reactive. I’ve learned so many lessons.  Agents are mostly bluffing.”
Oh, and she paid for her “Promoter 101” hoodie, presented as a thank you. With all proceeds from the merch going to MusiCares, she fully displayed her moral compass.

IEBA queen Pam Matthews put the sellers and the presenters on the barbeque to weigh issues, consider development, recognize the risks and wins for each. Assembling another blue ribbon group, she matched Paradigm’s Jeffrey Hasson, WME’s Gayle Holcomb and CAA’s Aaron Tannenbaum with Nederlander’s Alex Hodges, NS2’s Darin Lashinsky and Goldenvoice/AEG Presents’ Susan Rosenbluth for a candid, occasionally opposing but ultimately trust-endorsing conversation.
With Hodges coming out of the box acknowledging the market is really for the artist, this moment can be both challenging and risky. Lashinsky used a different set of metrics, choosing to focus on the return – and sometimes it’s the return of developing an act further. Rosenbluth went right up the middle, stressing it comes down to looking at the ticket prices with the managers, seeking a reasonable amount of risk in a longer build.
Hasson echoed that from the agent’s side, stressing that “if you’re doing the right thing, there isn’t really risk. In the long term, it means you can make it up down the road,” while Holcomb stressed the reality of one-sided deals being toxic. She declared with great passion, “Our job as agents is to represent our artists, but we have to with the right promoters for each artist to truly develop the right plan for each artist’s longevity.”
While tour promoters make for a neat bundle, she continued, “I got stuck with a major client on an arena tour, and asked a promoter I work with for a favor. It wasn’t one of their regular buildings, but together, it ended up being one of the highest grossing dates of the whole tour.”
Tannenbaum cited the limitations of time and tasks. But even more importantly, for him, is faith in the work. “In any business, there are certain favored promoters and, as an agent, you’re essentially vouching for the promoter’s works to the artist and manager. If a client’s worked with a certain promoter and there’s been a successful relationship, that’s meaningful.”
Time, Rosenbluth agrees, is a key factor. Citing twice as many agents as ever before, “I can’t buy every single show”
For Hodges, it’s the experience his team brings that helps cut through – and positions acts to grow. “Our talent buying team, they’ve all worked elsewhere and they’re not just buyers, they’re promoters – and they’re looking for who will do the job. They have people they work with, and when a manager says, ‘Take ’em to the next level,’ it’s the opportunity to take an under-risk.”
Holcomb, especially, leans into the notion that all plays aren’t created equal. Vehemently, she declared, “It’s not about national touring, because not all artists get national tours. You have to look at the fairs, the festivals, the casinos and clubs to decide what is best for the longer haul in each artist’s career.”
Hasson  stresses he doesn’t sign artists if he doesn’t see them having the capacity to be a career artist. Acknowledging that into a career, it takes some creativity – and cites Ben Folds having fans write requests on pieces of paper, then folding them into paper airplanes that turned into a 2,500-seats-a-night tour.
Without a crystal ball, Rosenbluth took Southern California’s diversity to break K-pop over a dozen years, and Holcomb marveled at the impact of “Baby Shark.” As with true music. aficionados, they all have faces they’re watching for the superstars of tomorrow. Lauren Daigle was universally cited, as was 2019 breakout Lizzo. Other names in the swirl included Tyler Childers, AJR, Ashley McBryde and Riley Green. 
Beyond straight-up concerts, Tannenbaum cited dynamic ticketing through hotels and airlines “being a bigger player in our world,” and Lashinsky cited success with “nontraditional engagements, speaking and celebrity podcasts. We’ve done 40-50 this year.”
Party Time
And then the formal information gathering was over. Taking over the legendary (and recently sold) Cannery complex, a full shift of music ensued. Paradise Artists hosted the opening reception in the Lone Star Lounge with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Leonid + Friends and Alter Ego.
Paradigm followed with an equally retro modern line-up of Richard Marx, the Bacon Brothers and Chris Daughtry. Then APA merged country and pop with David Nail, Little Texas, the Scooter Brown Band, and the Plain White Ts.
Saving the wildest for last, Caleb Johnson & the Ramblin’ Saints and Fee Waybill and the always outrageous Tubes closed out Day One with swagger, bombast and hits from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. A full repast of music, it sets the stage for Day Two’s more focused Breakout Sessions.