The Exit Interview: Promoter 101’s Steiny & Luke Peace Out
We are incredibly excited to have two legends of the live business on today’s show: Emporium Presents’ Dan Steinberg and Works Entertainment’s Luke Pierce who founded the wonderous “Promoter 101” podcast. It all began Oct. 16, 2016, with guest Tom Ross, and the little podcast that did it is closing up shop 202 episodes, 250 guests and a little more than three years later at the International Entertainment Buyers Association conference in a final keynote interview Oct. 27 with another quality guest, AEG Presents Senior VP of Touring Debra Rathwell. There will be a “Fare Thee Well” series wrap Nov. 11 and when the theme music plays out, that’s it (except for the archives). Fini.
It’s been the podcast the live industry didn’t know it needed. Must-hear, appointment listening for a huge chunk of those making a living in the concert industry. A concert promoter and an artist manager, shooting the bull with what turned into a roster of business badasses from across every sector of the industry. Determined dudes and dudettes. Ballers.
CUE OPENING THEME WITH CRAZY OVERLAPPING VOCALS AND SEMI-SCAT SINGING.
Every week, APA VP/Head of Performing Arts Craig Newman sets the tone for “Promoter 101” – the agent and musician known to many in the industry as Craigie Fresh wrote the totally hummable theme music for the podcast. He explains that “Dan and Luke are near and dear to my heart” and says he was honored to be asked to come up with music for the show.
“I like to make music and freestyle,” Newman says. “I was just sitting around one day and Steiny said, ‘We’re doing this “Promoter 101” and we’re going to need some theme music. We feel like you’re the right guy to do it. Would you be willing to?’ All he said was ‘Go have fun and create the “Promoter 101” theme music!’ He never tried to tell me how to do it.
“I like classic TV and film music and, for whatever reason, I had the music from the television show “Taxi” stuck in my head. It has that warm, Rhodes sound. You see the taxi driving over the bridge and you hear that warm Rhodes music come on. I thought, ‘What if I could do a spin on that and give it a groove?’ I found a keyboard sound that evoked a bit of that and came up with a riff.”
Craigie Fresh had his iconic “Promoter 101” theme. “I knew I wanted something that would make people smile and sing along,” Newman says. “I’ve had people I’ve known forever and I’ve met for the first time come up to me and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I love that song, it’s stuck in my head and I sing along! It makes me feel so good!’ I’m a regular listener to the podcast as well, and it never fails to put a smile on my face.”
IT’S TIME FOR NEWS OF THE WEEK!
ICM Partners agent and uber art expert Andrea Johnson will co-host the final “Fare Thee Well” episode of “Podcast 101.” While she admits she hasn’t looked at the Google doc run sheet yet, she promises some surprises. “I’m not going to let any cats out of any bags, but there’s also another episode coming up where I’m interviewing someone. That’s all I’m going to say about that.”
Johnson and Steiny have been friends since meeting on the conference circuit 15 years ago. “He was kind of a smaller fish when we met,” she says. “I was still a territorial booking agent at a small fine arts company … we were both trying to find our place in the world, as we do. Dan was actually responsible for me getting a job with The Agency Group. He recommended me and that marked my transition from the fine arts to the commercial music industry. Eventually there would be this beautiful intersection where we worked together, which was great for both of us.”
NOW IT’S TIME FOR THREE QUESTIONS!
Pollstar Channeling P101: What was your first Concert?
Luke Pierce: Boyz II Men, with my sister, in 1993.
Dan Steinberg: Tony Orlando & Dawn when I was seven, in Denver. which would have been 1982.
That’s really cool. What was your first paying job?
LP: I worked at a Cart Barn, it had a golf course. Kind of a country club in Pennsylvania. I still to this day think it was the best job I ever had. Free golf every day.
DS: I worked for my folks. They had a hot dog chain in Colorado. After that, my first job was at Kmart as a cashier.
Wow. Whose name on the caller ID strikes fear in your heart?
LP: Harley Neuman, the business manager, strikes fear in my heart. I don’t deal with Harley on the day-to-day but usually if he calls it means there’s a problem somewhere and it will require some maneuvering. There’s a handful of lawyers I won’t name but are never a pleasant experience.
DS: There aren’t many I can think of. Nobody comes to mind that if the phone rings I mind talking to!
Chyna Photography – Bob Roux
Live Nation’s Bob Roux is interviewed by Dan Steinberg and Luke Pierce for “Promoter 101” during a well attended live podcast recording during IEBA 2017.
HERE’S THE INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK!
Jamie Loeb of Nederlander Concerts here. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce the illustrious Dan Steinberg of Emporium Presents/Live Nation and the suave Luke Pierce of Works Entertainment, the masterminds behind it all.
Pollstar: This must be kind of bittersweet for you?
DS: It’s just sweet.
The highest praise we often hear is how positive “Promoter 101” is, even in a cynical world.
DS: We agreed early that we wanted a place that would be inclusive; we didn’t want to see anyone talking shit and making fun of people; we wanted to feel like it was an educational kind of social space were everyone could have fun. But we weren’t taking shots at people unless we really thought somebody was out doing bad things.
Awesome. What’s an example of that?
DS: We took a couple of shots, when it was clear. Like the Fyre Festival. The Pemberton guys I think we were pretty openly hostile, like, these guys were making it tough in the space for people just trying to do business. We saw a couple of tertiary ticketing companies come and go and we were pretty vocal about how they did business and why they might not be around anymore.
We got to the point where we realized there was a listener base paying attention and it was a responsibility. We’ve tried to exercise caution before hurting somebody’s reputation.
It’s also important to ask those questions, though.
LP: That’s one reason we started the podcast. There was already a repository of social media sites like “Agent vs. Promoter” that were already up, and we wanted to do something that would address the [concert] business.
Well played! You guys have these amazing guests who sound totally comfortable telling you their secrets, how do you do it?
DS: When we’re talking with people we were coming at them from the standpoint of being peers, where we maybe understood the business a little bit better or we’d sat through a settlement or challenged a date, or seen someone playing a game of keeping a date away or avoiding something. We were so familiar with the game there was an instant bond of comfortability. Just like two or three people talking in a bar; kind of a bro hang (laughs).
Great. Sometimes that bro hang might be with a Jay Marciano or a Michael Rapino, right?
DS: Those were different interviews, of course. The live stuff we prep more for. The more eyeballs, the more people paying attention, the more research and effort went into making those. When Luke and I are recording an interview, we’re better able to edit and clean things up and retake a line. When we do it in front of audience, there is no second take. So there’s more time involved with those and we respect the people who are in front of us and make sure that our guests look as good as possible. When Jay or Michael are sitting next to us, I think it is our responsibility to not take that for granted and get as much information out of them as possible.
You’ve had an awesome run with “Promoter 101,” how are you handling the end?
LP: When we started doing this, we had very little expectation about how it would be received, how far it would reach or what it would mean. It really means a great deal to know that people are listening and getting something out of it and it’s not just for me and Dan’s personal enjoyment. We thank the people at the end of each podcast with a deep sense of appreciation for what they’re doing, to spend time and listen to our interviews and guests, our week-to-week ramblings on things – it’s extraordinarily gratifying to have those interactions.
DS: I don’t know how to follow that. Luke nailed it. At first, I didn’t think this was going to last for more than three weeks. Like, what will this be and will it actually be anything? Both of us had a very low bar, like if we could make it to month two. It was clearly based on if anybody was listening and if anyone was willing to be a guest.
We got really lucky with solid people in the industry who responded when we asked. We got Tom Ross and Stuart Ross and Jay Marciano right off the bat and people like Marc Geiger and Tom Windish early on. Once Bill Siddons and Jim Runge were on the podcast, suddenly it wasn’t such a weird thing when we came asking.
Our friends showed up for us – the Nic Adlers of the world – Jamie Loeb, Brian O’Connell. It started to happen and it was cool. We didn’t have any rules; there was no bar because nobody else was doing it. We kind of got to invent our own genre, which made it easier than if we’d had somebody to compare ourselves to.
There are people who listen to every episode and learn about other parts of the business, was that what you had in mind?
DS: It was because of my irredeemable love for Aaron Sorkin. There was a “The West Wing Weekly” podcast that Joshua Melina and Hrishikesh Hirway had started that was really great. Luke and I were constantly going back and forth talking about this podcast and having more interest in promoting live podcasts and about how there hadn’t been one in this industry – how it might be good to connect with the industry when there wasn’t a conference going on, to keep the community going.
We kept playing with the idea, considering the success of [conference] panels and interviews, wondering if it could be possible and how to do this. We thought it would be a good way to learn about the whole podcast world by getting in the middle of it, and it would help us to be able to speak to podcast hosts who knew the world they were living in. So, it was kind of an experiment. Would it work, and would it help us understand the space better? I think that was the original idea. Luke, is that how you saw it?
LP: Yeah, that was definitely it. I credit a lot to that “West Wing Weekly” podcast. I went through a lot of emails that you and I and Andrea Johnson had about embracing podcasts, the “West Wing” podcast specifically, and doing more in the live space. Then I think it kind of spurred some curiosity. We went to the conventions and conferences a couple of times and asked a bunch of questions and tried to learn about the business. But there really was no better way of learning something than by doing it. We had this idea stuck in our head and there was nothing left to do but try it.
So amazing. So it came together pretty organically with both of you?
DS: It came together at a Denny’s in Dallas after a Straight No Chaser show after some drinks. We were talking shit, early in the morning. The odds of us getting beat up by the people in the next booth were 50/50 at that moment. But we were just shit talking with each other, like, “We should do a show. We’re so entertaining!” But yeah, when you’re drunk, you think you are funnier than you are and we said, “Yeah, we could do an amazing podcast show. We should do our own!” We started outlining it on the Uber ride back and it was just this half-baked idea that was never going to come to fruition. But then later, it was like, “We should try it. It could be like Aspen Live like for half an hour once a week. It could be kinda cool. Let’s just give it a shot!”
– Luke Pierce, Mark Kates
podcast nation: Luke Pierce talks music history with record exec turned artist manager (Mission of Burma, MGMT) Mark Kates.
Wow, that’s so cool. So how long was it between that and the first show?
DS: It was almost a year. It was a funny idea we’d be kicking around and I’d bring it back up. We’d both been so busy. Straight No Chaser was doing amazing growth at the time and Luke was involved in their day-to-day and coming up quickly and I was doing a big part of that tour. The idea of taking on a full project, our day gigs plus the growth we were dealing with, was definitely a challenge. It took a minute.
LP: We read an article about “The West Wing Weekly” in about August of 2015 and started in October of the next year. So 13 months or so of trying to find the right time and the actual mechanics of actually podcasting and what that meant and looked like. So, it took a minute, for sure.
There were some false starts, too; just figuring out how to record things, understand the technology, realizing we were much worse at this than we thought. But it looks easy because we’ve got a great engineer behind us figuring out how to record on a quality basis that people will want to listen to, especially people in the music industry; it was a high bar. Figuring out the right equipment and that you need an engineer – all of these things – it was a learning curve that we had to get over. And learning how to interview is a trick.
I can totally relate to that. Was there ever a point where you knew you either had to give it up or go all in for the long haul?
DS: I thought about giving it up a year and change ago. Jason Zink and Connor, our engineer, and Luke kept me motivated when I thought “Eh, I’m done with it.” Our numbers continued to chart higher and higher. Every year was better than the last and continued to chart higher and we hadn’t really seen any burnout. If there hadn’t been any numbers, if we didn’t have an audience, we would have stopped doing it a long time ago.
LP: Jokingly, I hate the sound of my own voice. So, every week, listening to the podcast was a terrorizing experience. I was like, ‘Oh God, I don’t want to subject anyone else to this.” At the beginning, it was a function of time. It was fun to interview and have a time for someone to tell those stories to us. And it was really gratifying to have people actually listen to the podcast, that really helped to keep things going.
Totally. In the last three years, who were your favorite guests and why?
LP: There were two moments that come to mind. The Brian O’Connell interview was a lot of fun and owing to the fact that we both know Brian but to be able to peer into his mind at work.
DS: Debra “Fergy” Ferguson was sitting next to him while the interview was going on … to see her facial expression was the most fun part of that interview.
LP: He’s a fun guy and we got to share a lot of cool stories and a different perspective because he operates at a high level, he’s very impressive. On the flip side, Bob Roux at IEBA in 2017 happened a few days after the Route 91 tragedy and he addressed that in an inspiring way that was something I’ll always remember.
DS: Not only that, but he went to bat for us. He should have canceled but he had our backs.
He said, “I gave my word. I will absolutely be there.” And he showed up. And not only did he show up, but he addressed the security issue. I mean, how menschy was that?
Toby Leighton-Pope was an amazing interview for me in London. He showed up and he thought he was just meeting with me. He didn’t find out until the next day that he did an interview – he had a microphone in his hand but didn’t realize it was happening. He just killed it.
A really great time was when Jim Glancy from Bowery Presents talked to us in New York. I think it was the very first time he’d talked to anyone after the sale [to AEG] and he was so incredibly open with us.
Rapino’s interview was one of my fondest moments I’ve ever had. I felt like I was the independent promoter who had won the golden ticket.
That’s the biggest promoter in the world and any question I want, for an hour, and he’s not going to go anywhere. He’s going to answer all of my questions.
I was like, “Okay! Why me? Never mind, let’s do this!”
LP: I think we’ve had serendipitous luck to have timed interviews to happen after major events and certainly not just in the case of Bob Roux or Jim Glancy but we’ve had a really great run of moments that have been a matter of fortuitous timing in getting peoples stories.
DS: The Three Questions, The War Stories, Turn The Tables, were a way to include people who maybe wouldn’t have gotten the full interview but we were able to include. Maybe their career hadn’t gotten to that point yet but we’re able to include some of the younger people and give them exposure and it was neat to see people who reached out and got involved and had great questions.
This is why you are legends. Was there an interview in which somebody took you someplace you didn’t expect?
DS: Bob Lefsetz is so forthcoming and truthful and vulnerable and let me ask everything I wanted and answered everything. I’ve known him for years but for someone who is usually in the other seat, he’s probably the world’s best listener. But nobody ever actually asks him the questions. That was an uncomfortable space for him but he was OK with it and opened up. I was amazed at how vulnerable he made himself and how gracious he was about the entire process. I keep him in high regard that he was so awesome with his truth. It was a little humbling to be in the room with him, asking him questions.
That’s really interesting. Was there anybody you were not sure you would ever get to sit for “Promoter 101” who did?
DS: There were 250 of them, actually.
There are a handful of people we know don’t talk to the press. There were definitely some surprises that came up.
Rapino was definitely a get. Bob Roux was one of them. Lefsetz was one I wasn’t sure was ever going to happen. Gregg Perloff, I was really excited about. Harvey Goldsmith really surprised us. Dennis Arfa isn’t a guy who does a lot of press but was super gracious. Another one who was really great was Jim Gosnell, who is the head of APA.
Was there anyone you really wanted that you didn’t get?
DS: Irving [Azoff]. He was super cool; we thought we were close a couple times. He was super responsive every time we asked. It was a matter of finding the right time, the right moment, and it didn’t happen.
But he responded, was willing to do it, and I have high hopes that somewhere down the line we’ll be invited to do an interview at a keynote somewhere.
I don’t think me or Luke have done our last interview ever. I think we’ve done our last podcast but at some point, if the opportunity were to present itself, I would interview Irving in a McDonald’s parking lot if I had the opportunity to ask him a question. They made an available time for us but I was on my way to L.A. to interview Dave Navarro and it was with a MusiCares thing so … Doc McGhee, Rob Light, Michael Cohl – all were very gracious about trying to make time but they didn’t happen but they all agreed to do it.
You guy are legends and an inspiration. Thank you so much for coming on the program.
TWEET OF THE WEEK!
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>We’d just be talking to ourselves with out you, thank you for making our show come to life <a href=”https://t.co/Uzw3s3iOlu”>pic.twitter.com/Uzw3s3iOlu</a></p>— Promoter101 Podcast (@Promoters101) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Promoters101/status/1185546878479294465?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 19, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>