A Year Like No Other: Welcome To The Impact 50
When we in 2019 initially launched the Pollstar Impact 50, the concept was to profile 50 superlative live entertainment executives impacting the live entertainment industry, as determined by the Pollstar editorial team. In conception, the list would be informed by, but not tethered to, Pollstar’s industry-leading box office data, in large part based on each year’s current touring artists, large events, touring career development, and deals, models, strategy and operations within the touring ecosystem that impacted the live world at large.
Back in 2019, a world ago, when we were developing the concept, we were concerned that, given that ballers gonna ball, we would have many, if not most, of the same folks viable for the list every year. However, we overwhelmingly felt that, given the cyclical nature of touring, which artists are out in a given year, and the continued advent of new events, artists, technology and business strategy, the list would continually evolve as this incredibly dynamic and self-perpetuating business continues to re-invent itself.
Time shows we were essentially correct, but not for the reasons we initially believed. Yes, the 2020 Impact 50 list is vastly different from the 2019 list, primarily because we were challenged to create the most impactful executives in the touring business – when there is no touring business.
As we all are keenly aware, 2020 is a year like no other in the history of live entertainment, with not only a dearth of live events, but also an environment of urgent social issues and economic stress. As such, we relied on few of our traditional industry metrics and instead looked for those live executives having an impact in such areas as the creation of new revenue opportunities, streaming of live performances, the strategic return of safe live events, forward-looking task forces and coalitions, social and political activism, innovative artist/fan engagement tactics, philanthropy, and overall leadership as we navigate this extremely challenging landscape.
Such a list is highly debatable, but few could argue that the 50 individuals represented here are having an impact, and will play key roles in helping us bring back the industry we love, conceivably in a more inclusive, fair and equitable form. After all, even in the absence of live music, which we have suffered mostly without for nearly four months now, the same attributes apply when gauging those having an impact on our business: creativity, innovation, strategic management, financial success, leadership, artist development/career longevity, vision, fan engagement, consistency, and commitment to excellence. For 2020, I would add a heart and a soul to that equation, seasoned by some battle scars and hard lessons learned.
With no touring to speak of going on, several of the most accomplished and savvy tour and fest producers in the history of the business are absent from the 2020 Impact 50. Power players who would almost certainly be listed due to their success and the status of their tours and impact of their box office and models, such as Louis Messina, Arthur Fogel, Brad Wavra, Barrie Marshall, Stacy Vee, Debra Rathwell and others are absent from this list, though would most likely be on it had the year played out as initially intended.
The same obviously could be said for executives from the agency world whose influence goes without saying, including Marsha Vlasic at AGI, Frank Riley at High Road, Kirk Sommer, Jay Williams and Scott Clayton at WME, Marty Diamond at Paradigm, Nick Nuciforo at at UTA, and the CAA leadership quadrant of Rob Light, Mitch Rose, Rick Roskin and Darryl Eaton, for example (to name a few), are not explicitly involved in tours for 2020, but are nevertheless making their presence felt behind the scenes. Similarly, who touches more shows on an annual basis than does Bob Roux, president of U.S. Concerts for Live Nation, whose responsibilities include literally thousands of concerts annually at amphitheaters, arenas, and other venues, in markets of all sizes? Sadly, much of those efforts this year have doubtlessly been focused on canceling, postponing and rescheduling those shows for 2021, when Roux and others will likely be back on this list.
While the above is the goal, don’t look for consistency here, as rules are not hard and fast here or in the industry we cover. Plus, it’s our list. Though we veered off the path here and there, the inaugural Impact 50 focused primarily on the core live proposition of U.S. promoters, agents, managers, and marketers. We cast a much wider net this year in an attempt to reflect as accurately as possible what is going on (and, by omission, what is not going on) in the industry, who is making a difference, who is lending a hand, who is innovating and having an impact directly or indirectly related to live.
In conceptualizing Impact 50, we were dead set on recognizing 50 people and only 50 people, which sometimes meant partners weren’t recognized in a specific entry, and which is not intended to diminish the other partner(s). We also made a decision not to rank people, so any debate about who is ranked higher than whom won’t come to bear. Still, too often the discussion ends up about who’s not on the list rather than who is. In a year like 2020, when we’re all fighting for our very survival, we hope those sorts of debates are minimal and that we all support and salute those we landed on for Impact 50. And, if you’re doing something that is making a difference and that will help us get the industry back on track, to help us all do the right thing (and know what the right thing is), please let us know and we promise you’ll end up in our pages.
Finally, and most importantly, once again we were beyond conscious of inclusivity when compiling this list, and we hope it shows. We wish the Impact 50 were more diverse, but we can, as is obvious when perusing the list, say the Impact 50 of 2020 is significantly more diverse than it was even a year ago. We aim to see that trend continue. The industry is hyper focused on inclusivity today, as it should be, particularly when it comes to ethnicities and creating more opportunities, and we are confident that we are getting better in this regard. The industry is more diverse than it was even a few years ago, but still has far to go, and we are decidedly not patting ourselves on the back here. With certainty, however, the people on this list all deserve to be on it, period.
With such Pollstar franchises as Women Of Live, Impact NextGen, Impact International, and upcoming packages honoring leaders in such sectors as tech, agencies, production, and elsewhere, as well as sister publication VenuesNow with Women Of Influence and Venue All-Stars to come, we continue to salute those leaders of our industry who make it the best business in the world, hiatus be damned. We salute the 2020 Impact 50 and this entire industry that is so uniquely driven by work ethic, innovation, creativity, and a moral compass. We wish you smooth runs and packed houses. We will get through this. – Ray Waddell, President, OVG Media & Conferences