Tim Leiweke’s Pollstar Live! Opening Remarks: ‘This Is the Moment Where We Get on With Our Lives’

Tim Leiweke

Tim Leiweke

Having spent his entire career in the live industry, including as CEO of AEG, CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and especially now, as CEO and co-founder of Oak View Group, Pollstar’s parent company, there is no better person in the live business, or on the planet for that matter, to kick off Pollstar Live! 2022 than Tim Leiweke. His singular knowledge of, enthusiasm for and investment in this industry is unparalleled.

“This is the moment where we get on with our lives,” Leiweke declared from the stage of a packed Beverly Hills Ballroom. “We got this and we know what to do…Our industry does a phenomenal job, quite frankly a better job, of trying to keep people safe, than any industry I’ve ever seen.”

For proof of concept, look no further than the hundreds of thousands of events that have transpired safely throughout the course of the pandemic, which the 1,500 gathered for the 33rd annual Pollstar Live! conference had a large hand in. This year’s confab, significantly, is the third in-person conference, including The VenuesNow Conference in October, that Oak View Group’s Media & Conferences division has successfully produced in last eight months.

Leiweke first described the many challenges this industry faced over the course of the last 24 months. “Many in our industry ultimately didn’t get the attention of Congress, bailouts or subsidies and a lot of people had to exist during this period without that help,” he said. This includes those working at amphitheaters, festivals, arenas, stadiums and other sectors. “The artists, stagehands, the ticket takers, security, the parking lot operators, the concession workers, they all just disappeared or fell through the cracks because we couldn’t put live back on.”

Decidedly non-partisan, the Oak View Group CEO lamented a lack of national health standards, government mismanagement and overreach stifling the economy, the psychological and physical toll the last 24 months and how international territories are lagging economically and socially, including our neighbors to the north.

“I feel terrible for our brothers and sisters internationally and many of them that are still coping with this,” he said. “If you’re any promoter, manager  agent and trying to figure out how to route tours with Canada shut down, it is ridiculous.”

tim Leiweke

Leiweke also stressed the importance of industry unity at the conference despite the fierce competition. “Pollstar isn’t about OVG, AEG, Live Nation, or the independents,” he said. “It’s none of that. It’s our industry and a place to come together, learn and celebrate.”  He then said what was on the minds of many at the conference with two long years of pent-up frustration at not being able to do their jobs. “We’re really good at this, get the hell out of our way and let us open up our industry.”

You might feel similarly if you had spent the last six-plus years building a venue development, advisory and investment company from scratch. This includes investing some $5 billion dollars in new buildings—including opening three major arenas in the last four months in Seattle’s sustainability-leading Climate Pledge Arena, UBS Arena in Belmont, NY, and Enmarket Arena in Savannah, Georgia—and acquiring Spectra, a venue management and hospitality firm just two-and-a-half months ago. Adding to that are plans to “double down,” with new buildings coming online including the Moody Center in Austin, TX; Acrisure Arena in the Coachella Valley, CA and Co-op Live in Manchester, UK, and plans for more.

Leiweke is acutely aware of the crucial role live events, especially music, play in bringing people together. “For me, when I watched Coldplay and the Foo Fighter and then the Eagles open up Climate Pledge Arena and when we did Harry Styles at UBS, it was just unbelievable to see people come together for two or three hours and forget about all that they’ve been struggling with…They put on some of the best shows I’ve ever seen.”

“Now it’s important to come out of this” Leiweke concluded. “It’s critical that ultimately we keep that heartbeat alive because the live entertainment industry, while being the hardest hit, is now going to be the most important industry coming out of this and setting a tone of the new normal. We will be religious  in our commitment towards making sure that our facilities are safe, our concerts are safe, our festivals are safe,” he continued. “So thank you for persevering. This is a resilient industry. I have huge admiration for the small business owners in the music business, the theaters and the clubs and the festivals–all of you who have survived this. Music is going to be what lifts us out of this. It is time to get on with our lives, it is time to get on with our businesses, it is time to get on with our industry.”