‘The Show Must Go On’: Patrick Whalen And Ray Waddell To Host An Industry-Wide Town Hall On Moving Forward

The Show Must Go On
– The Show Must Go On

Like just about everyone in the live business, Backstage Productions CEO Patrick Whalen has been “obsessing” about what became a nearly overnight collapse of the global concert industry and how this patchwork of disparate stakeholders, suddenly out of work, would find a path forward post-pandemic. 

So he reached out to Pollstar’s Ray Waddell (President of Media and Conference for Oak View Group, the parent company of Pollstar and VenuesNow) with an idea: bring together thought leaders not only across the industry but in public life, all of whom will have a say in when and how the live business relaunches, for a global Town Hall meeting, open to everyone. 

“The Show Must Go On,” takes place Monday, April 20, at 3:00 p.m. EDT on YouTube. Whalen and Waddell will lead a conversation with guests across the full spectrum of live events including production, security, safety, venues, tour and artist managers, agents, transportation, and even an accountant. Public figures including elected officials and medical experts, who need to hear the concerns of an industry that was the first to close and may be the last to open thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, are invited as well.

Among the participants, in addition to Whalen and Waddell, are Backstage Productions’ JR Lynn, Event Safety Alliance’s Jim Digby; Red Light Management’s Stuart Ross; Jake Berry Productions’ Jake Berry; Nederlander Concerts’ Alex Hodges; Artist Group International agent Adam Kornfeld; tour account David Norman; Stage Coach Unlimited’s Lori DeLancey; Pioneer Coach’s Doug Rountree, tour and production manager Misty Roberts, NIVA/independent venues’ Dayna Frank; and Cavalier Operating Company’s Antony Bonavita.

The purpose is twofold: Not just to find solutions, but to offer reassurance to those in isolation, out of work, or both as individuals and support a positive outlook for the business.

“This was something I’ve been obsessing about for a couple of weeks. We’ve all been having Zoom meetings production, tour managers, venues and agents all talking in almost sidebar conversations and we are all kind of talking in circles,” Whalen says. “I want to get all these people with differing views and perspectives on one platform where we can have a discussion of each discipline and getting more definitive answers.

“A lot of people feel like each week brings more bad news and we also want to  encourage people to hang in there and also be able to see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Whalen explains.

The YouTube channel is capable of accommodating more than 1,000 viewers, Whalen says, which makes it the venue of choice rather than Zoom. There is a question form for viewers to submit in advance of and during the Town Hall. Questions submitted in advance will have a better chance of being directly addressed during the Town Hall.

Click here for “The Show Must Go On” YouTube Channel and Question Form

“When Patrick approached me with the concept of a ‘town hall’ for the live entertainment industry, I immediately thought it was a great idea and jumped at the opportunity to support,” Waddell says. “With all the uncertainty so pervasive in our industry and elsewhere today, communication becomes critical, and is the hallmark of our endeavors at Pollstar and VenuesNow. As with Pollstar.com‘s new ‘One-On-One’ series of virtual Q&As and similar initiatives we are launching on VenuesNow.com, for the time being, digital is our best opportunity to engage. I applaud Patrick’s efforts and look forward to participating in this session with our esteemed panel of experts.”

There’s also a meeting agenda at the YouTube page that includes discussion of security  and seating protocols, changes to production size and scale, touring vs. residencies, backstage environments and changes in concessions and merchandising.

“What we need to talk about is how we are going to adjust and adapt,” Whalen says of his purpose. “The goal for this is if someone from (Los Angeles Mayor Eric) Garcetti’s or (California Gov. Gavin) Newsom’s office, or even globally, maybe they can see that we maybe have a plan that works and maybe we can start earlier. Maybe someone watches and realizes we actually have our shit together. Our plans might fit in with their plans as governments do this in a way that we don’t get choked.”

The Town Hall couldn’t be more timely, with Garcetti recently being quoted as saying Los Angeles won’t have any large gatherings including concerts and sports until well into 2021, and President Trump establishing an advisory council of business leaders that includes none from the entertainment sector.

“This industry is so fragile to begin with. I compare it to walking on a sheet of ice and it could crack at any time; 9/11, the recession, those weren’t a drop in the ocean compared to this. This ripple effect is something none of us would have ever imagined. It’s shocking to me the size and volume of this industry that has been so violently overlooked by our leaders. We’re not going to get political, but approach from a place of common sense.

“We are massive. We have a voice that will get louder,” Whalen continues. “I am happy to champion anything or anyone who needs a voice to get us all back working again.”