Agent legend Dennis Arfa has seen a lot in his day, starting his own Artist Group International as an already established agent in 1986 and representing household names like Billy Joel, but the coronavirus is a first.
“This is hopefully a once in a lifetime experience, but it’s awful,” says Arfa, who adds that he and his company have been hard at work rescheduling most of the summer into 2021, with fall to follow. “You’re out of control. Your whereabouts, your limitations of life are being controlled by acts of God. There’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of fear.”
“We’re all in the storm,” he adds. “Not everybody’s in the same boat but we’re all in the storm. Some are feeling it differently than others, but we’re all feeling it.”
The good news is that the demand is still there for next year and, surely, beyond.
“Most people are retaining their tickets and are going to the new rescheduled show,” adds Arfa. “That’s as good as you can get. I can say most people are holding on to their investments to see some of our artists. I think that’s a great attribute to the artist, if most people are retaining the ticket and waiting a year to see the shows, as opposed to everybody looking for a refund.”
“My job is to have dates in place, deals in place, ready to go if we can go. If you can’t, you can’t, but if you can, you’re prepared.”
Of course, those dates are sure to be a smash when they do come roaring back, with the big Mötley Crüe / Def Leppard stadium tour chief among them.
“It’s been amazing,” Arfa says of his career watching bands continue to get bigger and bigger. “We take great pride in what these bands have been able to accomplish. The Mötley Crüe/Def Leppard tour, the biggest tour in the USA that was to take place in 2020, had sold out most of the 31 shows before March 15, sold out stadiums. We started out with 21 shows and added another 10 . It was a phenomenon”
Stadiums are a theme for Arfa, the most exciting pinnacle of the live business – and most lucrative too.
“That to me is the ultimate high, and it’s as high as you can get in doing what we do, representing artists that can play stadiums,” adds Arfa. “Any time I walk into a stadium, to watch 40,000-50,000 people celebrating an artist you’re affiliated with. They’re events, I love events, when you come to town and it’s on the news and everyone is talking about your show. The whole thing is just great.”
With many cutting back and furloughing, Arfa and his team are aggressively seeking to grow their business with new opportunities.
The show that changed your life?
Led Zeppelin at the Fillmore East headlining for the first time.
Artist to watch breaking in the next year?
Technology most impacting your daily work or personal life?
Best/worst career-related advice you’ve received?
“I’ll never call you again until I need you.” The other one is, “If you don’t handle your problem well, then you’ve got two problems.”
The best live show you saw this year?
Billy at the Garden.
Your favorite venue to see a show at and why?
The role of live-streaming going forward?
I’m from the school of “nothing is like live.” Livestreaming, there’s a place for it obviously. I don’t know the figures some of these companies are making when they put these concerts out on streaming, and there’s certainly a niche and market for it, but nothing can replace what live is. There may be a little bit more of a demand during these times, but there’s nothing like live.