Where Can We Go Now? Pollstar Live! Looks At The International Touring Landscape (With UTA, C3, Live Nation & More)

Pollstar Live!
– Pollstar Live!
Participating in the PollstarLive! panel on international touring were, from left, moderator Brian Kabatznick, Oak View Group International executive vice president; Helena “Leca” Guimaraes, international festival director with C3 Presents; Ashish Hemrajani, founder and CEO of India-based BookMyShow; Georg Leitner, CEO, Vienna, Austria-based Georg Leitner Productions; Zaed Maqbool, vice president talent and touring-Middle East/South Asia, Live Nation Entertainment; and David Zedeck, global co-head of music at United Talent Agency.

At the Pollstar Live! conference in February of 2020, as COVID-19 was only beginning to ravage humanity, Ashish Hemrajani, founder and CEO of India-based BookMyShow, was talking about a record-breaking U2 show in Mumbai on Dec. 15.

At this year’s conference, Hemrajani had a different story to tell during a panel discussion titled: “Where Can We Go Now: A Look at International Touring Post COVID.”
He noted that BookMyShow was clocking 20 million tickets a month pre-COVID with offerings that included NBA exhibition games, WWE, Cirque du Soleil and the Global Citizen India Festival.
“We were doing five billion page views a month; 550 million visits; 50 million uniques; nine million subscribers on mobile phone — only in the domestic market,” Hemrajani  said. “The state of the business right now is, we’re up shit creek.”
The company has gone from 1,600 people to 500 and reduced some costs by 75%, he said.
“To be honest, sorry to piss on everybody’s parade, but we will never hire like we did before,” Hemrajani  said. “More companies die of indigestion than of starvation.”
The company’s leaner operation will translate into a shorter runway toward profitability once things reopen.
“When the markets do come back, what was a break-even of 14- 15 million tickets now will be 6 million tickets,” he said, adding that he expects cinemas to reopen in August and get back to normal by October and for live events to return sometime in November or December, with domestic acts.
“I don’t think we’ll get a lot of international content until 2023,” he said, noting that he expects the U.S. and other markets will dominate bookings until then.
As for the state of the pandemic in India, he said the country was hard-hit in the second wave, but vaccination rates are accelerating.
Zaed Maqbool, vice president talent and touring-Middle East/South Asia, Live Nation Entertainment, said the recovery of live in that part of the world will vary between regions and countries, each with their rules.
“I think largely, we’re very optimistic about next year,” he said, but some socially distant shows have been happening in the United Arab Emirates since October.
“When full-scale returns is yet to be seen, but we’re confident, optimistic and let’s see where that takes us,” he said.
David Zedeck, global co-head of music at United Talent Agency, said domestic artists will play more in their home countries than they had previously, and festivals are getting smaller with a lot more domestic acts included.
“Borders aren’t open in a lot of places. Artists can’t go anywhere without quarantining,” he said. 
Festivals are already being downsized but with a lot more domestic acts included, Zedeck said.
Georg Leitner, CEO, Vienna, Austria-based Georg Leitner Productions, said some artists are simply opting to hold off touring until 2022 as routing through Europe is such a mixed bag of situations with some countries closer to recovery than others and the conditions on the ground still changing on the regular.
“We have a special list of European-based artists to replace some of the American bands (that festivals have booked),” said Austria-based Leitner, who somewhat jokingly thanked the United States government for allowing him to attend the conference. “So, there is a big effort on the part of festivals to go ahead, however I have to say at the same time the governments in different companies don’t make it easier.”
Some festivals may not survive, he said.
Add Brexit complications to the touring picture and what’s left is “a mess,” Leitner said.
Helena “Leca” Guimaraes, international festival director with C3 Presents said Brazil appears to be on the road to recovery, but conditions and requirements vary from country to country in South America making predictions about when things get truly back on track on that continent a lesson in futility. 
As it stands, Guimaraes expects live tours to return in most countries in spring of 2022, but she’s less confident about dates, like Lollapalooza in Berlin in September, coming off as scheduled.
When live shows and festivals do return to South America, event organizers should expect a changed clientele, she said.
“I think the fans will ask more from the promoters, especially in the developing countries where they (previously) felt like, ‘Oh, thank God. There’s a band here,’” Guimaraes said.  “Now they’ll be like, ‘No. We deserve better. We can have a festival that’s safer and nicer and cleaner. I think the fans will be the ones requesting higher standards, more than just governments.”