‘Now, Where Were We?’ Heavy Hitter Agents Talk Re-Routing, Re-Launching Tours At Pollstar Live!
– Where Were We?
Moderator Sarah Pittman (Pollstar) with agents Howard Rose, Tom Windish, Adam Kornfeld and Ken Fermaglich.
Everyone has a story about when the pandemic hit, with most touring artists either already on the road or about to hit the road in a big way. But not everyone had 50 stadium shows about to kick off (like AGI’s Adam Kornfeld), or a multi-year farewell arena tour playing across the globe (like Howard Rose, Elton John’s longtime agent), or a superstar client with seemingly limitless demand (Wasserman client Billie Eilish).
While postponing and rescheduling became a way of life in 2020, figuring out how — or maybe more importantly when — to reschedule or route new tours varied depending on numerous factors.
“The idea was trying to guess ahead to what would be open that you could deal with 100%, and the dates had already been sold out,” said Howard Rose, Sir Elton’s longtime agent, who was rescheduling the third year of the massive, three-year “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour.
“It worked out that January of ‘22 was the logical place to start based on his worldwide touring. So we set those dates, gosh, it has to be almost a year ago and had our fingers crossed that the pandemic would be over and the venues would be open at 100%, because if they weren’t 100% we wouldn’t be able to play them. So the January, February, March tour will go along as scheduled, unless something else happens.”
AGI’s Kornfeld, representing major stadium tours including the Def Leppard/Motley Crue run, Metallica, Billy Joel and others, said there simply was not enough time or clarity to try to make 2021 work, with the Motley Crue/Def Leppard/Poison tour supposed to kick off in mid June.
“All of those shows will happen,” Kornfeld said, noting a few of the agency’s stadium dates, including Billy Joel, will happen in August. “While now everything is opened up, we obviously couldn’t advertise, couldn’t market, couldn’t gear up to start now, it would be too early. We definitely made the right decision to move to ‘22. Unfortunately it’s going to be a two-year wait for that tour, but hopefully well worth it.”
Some have been able to find a way to make ‘21, work, however, leading to some of the biggest dates on the calendar this year — of any type.
“When we first took a look at what we wanted to do – we just didn’t know when anything was going to come back,” said UTA’s Ken Fermaglich, agent for Guns N’ Roses who have multiple stadium dates on the calendar for 2021. After moving everything up a year, then moving the beginning of the tour to the end, and then being able to add some dates around that, he said they were able to route a tour that begins in July and runs into late October. The routing even includes a stop at the new Las Vegas Allegiant Stadium, which Fermaglich said Axl Rose is stoked about as a Raiders fan.
“It’s been a complete maze, would be the word,” Fermaglich adds. “Of course, nobody’s had to deal with this before and there’s no road map, you’re playing guessing games about a whole lot of different aspects of what goes into mass gathering — that’s really the name of the game.”
While most postponed tours either attempted or succeeded at pushing a full year (or two) ahead, which largely allowed fans to choose whether to keep refunds and not require a whole new onsale with all new tickets, it wasn’t always that simple.
“In deciding whether or not to refund, it was something we debated and talked about for a long , long time. And finally we felt were holding onto these peoples money for such a long time, didn’t know when she would come back, and the right thing to do was give the money back,” says Tom Windish, who along with Wasserman agent Sara Bollwinkel represents Eilish, whose breakout “Where Do We Go?” tour kicked off in March 2020 and only made it a few dates in.
“A bunch of people were upset we gave the money back, and I guess we realized you can’t make everybody happy,” Windish added. “It is a different tour now, it goes with the new album. We have re-routed and sometimes held lots of different dates, six, seven, eight times. We’re still debating what to do for the second half of ‘22 and ‘23, we’re not sure what’s going to happen in South America next year.
“Not that we’re surprised, but demand in the States is huge. She sold every single ticket the moment they were available. Everybody wants to see her, it’s a great problem to have.”
In determining what made 2021 viable or not for most, the answer was simple.
“For many of the larger shows, it has to be full capacity or financially it can’t work,” Kornfeld said. “It’s a non-starter. So, yes or no, is it at 100% capacity, and you go from there.”
Going forward, and right now, one of the biggest factors is making sure fans understand the situation is different this time.
“We have to make sure the consumer understands the shows are happening,” Fermaglich says. “From a marketing perspective, you have to really drive home that this is really happening.”