Global Touring Now! (Pollstar Live! Panel Recap)

Global Touring Now
– Global Touring Now!
Christian Coffey, Georg Leitner, Jason Miller, Lesley Olenik and Neil Warnock MBE share a light moment on stage at Pollstar Live! Feb. 8, 2022.

Moderator: Christian Coffey, Tour Director & Owner, Coffey Black
David Goldberg, Advisor, BookMyShow
Georg Leitner, CEO, Georg Leitner Productions GmBh
Jason Miller, CEO, Eventim Live Asia
Lesley Olenik, SVP Global Touring, Live Nation
Neil Warnock MBE, Co-Head of UTA UK & Head of Global Touring Music, United Talent Agency

Although Tuesday’s 11 a.m. Pollstar Live! panel was called “Global Touring Now!’, pretty much everyone in the industry can agree that getting international tours back on the road is more nuanced than that as many pandemic-era challenges persist.   

Georg Leitner, CEO for Georg Leitner Productions GmBh, discussed booking the company’s first post-lockdown tours for Kool & the Gang and running into issues with different countries throughout Europe having various COVID-19 regulations.  
United Talent Agency’s Neil Warnock MBE, Co-Head of UTA UK and Head of Global Touring Music, concurred, saying, “We’ve had so many problems just trying to tour across Europe or in Asia, Australia. … So much strain for artists, promoters, in general just trying to get through this time.”
While the success of the vaccine has brought touring back in full swing in the U.S., in some parts of Europe it may as well be mid-2020 rather than 2022. 
“What shocked me and disappointed me and other people is that we ran into the same thing the first [few] months of this year with parts of Europe … it’s been incredibly difficult,” Warnock added. 
No matter the border, as live shows return some of the biggest challenges facing the industry are staffing and bus shortages.
“A lot of tour staff, tour managers, designers, they’ve been shut down for two years, they looked at their lives and thought ‘I like it at home; I’m going to do something else.’ We’ve lost some brilliant people we’re not going to get back. We’re suffering at every level … security staff, just to run shows, we’re running thin,” Warnock said. “If you want to get a bus in Europe, there’s no buses. … If anyone knows about a bus, please let me know afterward.”
With all of the postponements and rescheduled shows, along with setbacks caused by new COVID variants, the industry is also grappling with a lack of consumer confidence. Warnock noted that with some shows that were sold out, 30 percent of ticketholders didn’t show up. “The confidence of people who’ve bought tickets … We need that to come back to the buying public. It’s not there yet. It’s going to be a process,” he said. 
Jason Miller, CEO for Eventim Live Asia, talked about how it’s “probably fair to say that Asia is perhaps the region of the world that’s been impacted most” by the pandemic as far as live touring goes. “It was the first to close, I suspect it will be the last to open.”  
But the panel wasn’t all doom and gloom. Miller explained that while 2020 was a wash, in ‘21 he had the opportunity to launch Eventim’s Asia division: “It was a bit of a blessing and a curse. It gave us plenty of time to build relationships. As far as on-the ground operations, … if we’re lucky by the end of the summer, fall, but probably last quarter for events happening across all of Asia.”
Over in India, David Goldberg, advisor for BookMyShow, explained that the company has been inspired to be more creative at looking at different routes to get artists into and out of the country.  
“A silver lining of COVID is there’s a lot more cooperation among the industry to route tours,” Goldberg said. Also, he’s seeing “artists looking at coming back to India rather than just a bucket list to play it once. Now building it as a market, are there two or three shows? … if you’re coming in for one show [routing can be] really hard; three, four or five shows? Makes sense, especially cooperating with booking other markets.”
Regarding strategy with booking U.S. acts in Europe, Leitner said his company tends to do less one-offs, booking artists for four or five weeks, giving them days off in between gigs rather than flying them back. 
“Working for the artist side of it, one of the biggest things I’ve seen change, it was happening before the pandemic, the conversations between the entire team and what that production is has started earlier,” said panel moderator Christian Coffey, tour director and owner of Coffey Black. 
“The community aspect of that and the togetherness and being forced to figure that stuff out … I think it’s kind of become a stronger strategy almost, the strategy of the all-encompassing artist business.”
Lesley Olenik, SVP Global Touring, Live Nation, spoke about the importance of having a 24-month plan – and back-up options. ““Working with the artists teams and having back up options, in the fall we want to go to South America, but if we cant go … [Or] Asia is slated but if we cant go on sale by X date, then let’s go to another territory.”
Looking forward, Coffey noted that with people having left the live industry, it’s more important than ever to “grow people within our companies and mentorship.” 
“From UTA’s point of view, we probably doubled our staff worldwide during the pandemic,” Warnock said “If there is a great thing that has come out of the pandemic, it’s allowed us time to strategize, how do we want to grow? It’s also giving us professionals time to think are we happy with the company I’m in? Can I grow? … We are a very different, aggressive company than we were 18 months ago. In London the agency is twice the size it was and we haven’t finished yet.”
Miller added that Eventim is bringing on some senior people and making that announcement in a couple of weeks. And as far as the people who have moved on to other jobs, he said “that doesn’t mean they wont come back – maybe that’s an optimistic view, but that’s my view.”
Speaking of looking on the bright side, Leitner said, “For us we’re looking at a very, very bright future. It’s a very fun time to work. I’ve taken up golf [during the pandemic] but now I don’t have time for golf anymore.”