Booking Madness, Venture Capital, Mental Health: ILMC 2020 Tackles The Nitty Gritty

ILMC 2020
– ILMC 2020
Legendary artist manager Peter Rudge was interviewed by fellow iconic manager Ed Bicknell.

Visitors of the 32nd International Live Music Conference, who were hoping to engage in meaningful discussions about the state of this business, got their money’s worth, March 3-6 in London, UK.
It’s a business that has become so successful it now attracts venture capital and private equity. The implications of this development were addressed in a panel moderated by Jessica Koravos, the co chair of OVG International (OVG is Pollstar’s parent company).
The panel agreed that it was still a high-risk business: while it has gotten increasingly more professional, it has also become more expensive to put on shows. Financial clout has become more important than ever, which is why festival and concert promoters seek out partners with deep pockets.
Since one company usually invests in several events, those events can then make use of all sorts of synergy effects. “As the group gets bigger it get’s easier to route tours and get the big names on the bill,” Sziget festival’s Tamás Kádár explained, adding that it was important to find an investor that “gets it.”
In the case of Sziget that for example means understanding that a 200-cap classical music stage should be on the festival site, not because it attracted loads of ticket buyers, but because it was part of the festival’s DNA.
The annual agency panel revolved a lot about the current booking reality, which is intense. The sheer amount of talent on the road, the resulting unavailability of venues and poaching of clients by rival agencies, create a pretty stressful working environment.
Most agents on the panel wouldn’t have been able to even list all of the artists they represent these days, UTA’s Jules de Lattre certainly couldn’t. “It’s difficult to stay disciplined in the current environment,” he said, explaining that a lot of offers came from managers you were already working with, for instance, which made it extra hard to say no.
“It’s a volume business,” de Lattre continued, admitting that the senior agent couldn’t handle everything by him or herself any longer, except for the priority acts. 
Paradigm’s Rob Challice said this industry was increasingly turning into a “24/7 job.” He lamented that “we’re losing agents in the late 20s early 30s,” because they find out at that age that they wanted a family or simply not go out five days a night any longer. “Agencies need to support that,” Challice said.
Another big pressure on UK agents was actually coming being exerted by their U.S. colleagues, Challice continued. “They don’t actually understand the clock,” he joked, referring to the insane hours he sometimes found himself on the phone with a stateside partner. “We’ve got to look after our health, it’s become toxic,” he said. 
De Lattre revealed that agents at UTA can join mediation sessions, which he recommended: “It’s amazing what 15 minutes of clearing your mind will do to your day.” According to de Lattre extreme pressures required extreme responses, which is why he had to exercise every two or three days to stay sane. “Everybody’s got ways to cope,” he said, adding that “you need to be honest with yourself. It’s not showing weakness. People need to be comfortable with being honest.”
Mobile tickets were a big topic at ILMC 2020 as well. On the one hand, promoters love the fact that they can know exactly, who is in the room. On the other hand, Europe’s new data laws have restricted the ways in which customers can be targeted.
Ashish Hemrajani of BookMyShow was able to share experience with dynamic pricing for concert tickets. In India, where BookMyShow enjoys a 98% market share and sells some 200 million tickets per month for cinema, sports and live entertainment, people will pay more for a ticket the closer they get to showtime. 
He also talked about a few innovations the BookMyShow app offers its customers, like checking out what the view of the pitch from their future seats will be like.
Because the panel talked a lot about digital innovations and solutions, DEAG’s Detlef Kornett brought up a point that gets forgotten among all the talk about sustainability in the live events sector: the fact that huge data centres get activated whenever digital transactions are made, which could easily offset the positive measures undertaken by tour producers on the road.
Sustainability was also the topic of the day at the Green Events and Innovations Conference, which traditionally kicks off ILMC alongside the production focused International Production Meeting. 
The former discussed ways in which festivals could reduce their negative environmental impact, and awarded the most prolific events in terms of sustainability with the A Greener Festival Award (all winners online on The latter addressed topics including the consequences of show cancellations, challenges of expanding markets, stage design and decor.
Coronavirus was talked about on several panels, and while the UK isn’t currently under threat, a few companies had cancelled their participation in ILMC. Conference head Greg Parmley told Pollstar that attendance was down 10% due to travel restrictions caused by people taking precautions agains the virus, which means some 1,100 attended this year. 
The fact that ILMC’s conference rooms were still packed during major topic discussions “shows the resilience of this business,” according to Parmley, who added. “For most it was business as usual, and the buzz in the rooms shows that ILMC is the right meeting at the right time for this industry.”
An industry that is celebrated each year ILMC at the Arthur Awards ceremony, which this year took place at London’s Sheraton Grand Park Lane hotel, March 5.
The industry’s best and brightest across 11 awards categories accepted their awards in front of a sold-out crowd of 350 guests. The evening culminated with The Bottle Award, the lifetime achievement prize, which was presented by ILMC founder Martin Hopewell to CAA co-head Emma Banks, who also hosted the awards.
Emma Banks with The Bottle Award
– Emma Banks with The Bottle Award
It’s ILMC’s name for the lifetime achievement award.

The veteran agent told a standing room: “If I should say anything, it’s that we should all pick up the phone more. You can’t have a relationship via text message or WhatsApp. We need to speak to each, to be more nice to each other.”

The night’s other winners include Live Nation’s Kelly Chappel (best promoter), French festival Eurockéennes (best festival), All Points East London (best new event), the Roundhouse in London (best venue), Charly Beedell-Tuck from Solo Agency (Tomorrow’s New Boss), CAA’s Summer Marshall (best agent), Showsec (production services), Tina Richard of T&S Immigration Services (professional services), San Phillips of Kilimanjaro Live (best assistant), Ticketmaster (best ticketing).
Prior to the Arthurs, Parmley presented two special ILMC Medal of Honour awards for longstanding service to the organization to production manager Bill Martin and agenda consultant Allan McGowan, who were both invited to the stage. 
“Bill is nothing short of a magician,” said Parmley, “He juggles set design, lighting, stands, stages, and a hundred other elements to make the conference and this dinner happen every year.”
And speaking of McGowan, he said, “Across two decades, Allan has been a central figure in all of ILMC’s panels, putting hundreds of them together. And for ten years, his role as associate editor on IQ was instrumental in the magazine’s growth.”
The last day of ILMC was dedicated to the next generation of this business. The day culminated in a panel with “Team Mumford & Sons,” Adam Tudhope of Everybody’s management, Lucy Dickins, head of WME’s music department in the UK, and Ben Lovett, Mumford & Son’s vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.
Lovett talked about the “sleeves-rolled up mentality,” with which the band approaches their career, a mentality that is shared by Tudhope and Dickins.
“I’ve never seen a work ethic like it. The way they treat their fans, the way they treat their crew. They’ve deserved everything they got,” said Dickins.
Lovett said, “the main reason of Mumford & Sons exists is to tour. We respect promoters as a band, because it’s in our DNA.”
He also talked about the band’s unusual touring approach, which has seen Mumford & Sons stage their own little mini festivals around the world.  “People don’t want [this industry] to be a cookie cutter [industry], so why are we moving towards a cookie cutter [industry]?”
Later he addedd, “I wouldn’t ever tell anyone to just stick to what works,” referring to the band’s in-the-round stage utilized on their last “Delta Tour.”
The tour took Mumford & Sons to the U.S. in the second half of last year, with most dates selling out, according to Pollstar Boxoffice data. The Oct. 11 show at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, OK, for instance, sold all 9,800 tickets, grossing $651,885.
The real gem of the day, however, was the session that preceded this one. Dubbed “OK, Boomer: Closing the generation gap,” it saw senior executives from the promotion and agency side of the business being paired with their junior counterparts. 
It was fascinating to hear Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery, CAA’s Maria May and ICM’s Scott Mantell tell the audience what they’ve each learned from their young proteges Joe Schiavon, Jen Hammel and Kevin Jergenson, respectively. 
The panel agreed that this business required more hard work and dedication than ever before, something the juniors were just as willing to invest as their mentors.