Joey Scoleri, Head of Industry Relations, Live Nation Canada
Jenna Adler, Music Agent, CAA
Gerry Barad, EVP Booking, Global Touring, Live Nation
Mike Betterton, SVP, Wasserman Music
Christy Castillo Butcher, SVP of Programming and Events, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park Chris Wright, General Manager, Allegiant Stadium
Attendees knew they were in for an interesting panel when moderator and head of industry relations for Live Nation Canada’s Joey Scoleri opened his remarks, as that country’s truckers were shutting down Ottawa in protest of vaccine mandates, with the pronouncement that “Canada is not a communist country, despite what you might have heard.”
Scoleri could be the panel’s leading authority on Canada, having gotten his start with that country’s largest rock radio station and moving on to work with Arthur Fogel and Riley O’Connor. “I got an early education, but didn’t know the minutiae of [large-scale touring] until I got to Live Nation.”
While 1994 was an epic year for stadium shows with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and Elton John with Billy Joel and more helping to fill out stadium calendars between football and baseball seasons, 2022 is shaping up to be one of the biggest yet.
With superstars like Kenny Chesney, Elton John, Bad Bunny, Coldplay and Rammstein booking headlining stadium tours, there’s a plethora of packaged tours – following the lead of last year’s hugely successful “Hella Mega Tour” with Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy – making the rounds, too.
“The Stadium Tour,” with Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison, and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts kicks off in June, and Red Hot Chili Peppers with various artists including Anderson .Paak, A$AP Rocky, The Strokes, Thundercat, Beck and more open a June trek in Europe before landing at Denver’s Mile High Stadium July 23.
New stadiums like SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas are providing top notch amenities for artists and fans, and are increasingly being booked like arenas, says Christy Castillo Butcher, SVP of Programming and Events, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park.
“It’s like doing a puzzle,” she said, noting that she’d come from a building with multiple tenants so knew to get out in front of scheduling.
“As a consequence, we opened to ticketed concerts in the summer,” Castillo Butcher says. “In the summer, we’d done 10 concerts, starting with the Vax Live free concert, private and corporate events, the Jimmy Kimmel L.A. Bowl, and we have our football tenants as well. You run this place like an arena. The Rams and Chargers are important, but the rest of the clients and content are equally important.”
Another key to booking stadium concerts is what’s popularly known as “sharing steel,” Scoleri pointed out. If two tours can play a stadium and share production, everybody saves money.
Gerry Barad, EVP Booking, Global Touring, Live Nation, said, “I don’t care who’s playing, give me a two-week window when you’re away, so we can share steel with Kenny Chesney.”
He pointed out that it’s easier during football season, because the home dates are known well in advance and dates can be requested early. But this year, baseball is another story. “MLB is in a lockout now, so we don’t know.”
Barad also explained that basic staging can be shared easily, but others, which he called “pig vomit,” are another story.
“Those are custom stages that nobody can use,” he said. “Beyonce and U2 use custom stages. You can fill in the blanks. And then there’s the Motley Crue/Def Leppard tour, which is playing stadiums most of the others aren’t.”
CAA music agent Jenna Adler pointed out that when production can be shared, it saves “hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Wasserman SVP Mike Betterton, who books Chesney, adds that while his client is mounting a rescheduled tour in 2022, “it was the fastest our tickets ever sold. Even with moving, rerouting and moving the tour again. Some tours have been rerouted four, five and six times and we were no different. We had to change our package – we had Florida Georgia Line opening before, and now it’s Dan + Shay in 2022.”
Betterton got nostalgic talking about Chesney’s first stadium gig – a hometown show at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., in 2003. But he also lavished praise on Gillette Stadium near Boston, where the country superstar will play his 20th show this year (“We may get to our 23rd”).
“We’ve had a special relationship with Gillette Stadium,” he says. “You get to the hallway and they have banners with photos from each show. Kenny just stops and stares at them because he can’t believe it. They are a second home Kenny Chesney and a great partner.”
Hospitality and amenities is a big part of what makes a successful show, and SoFi and Allegiant stadiums have been designed around concerts, with separate dressing rooms for as many as five bands instead of converting locker rooms usually used by athletes.
Allegiant Stadium’s Wright says principal tenants the Las Vegas Raiders have been fully supportive of making the most of the venue.
“Fortunately, we work with a team that is focused on maximizing the use of the stadium,” Wright said. “The State of Nevada and City of Las Vegas were instrumental in getting that building done and our team is aligned with the mission of maximizing use.”
SoFi Stadium’s Castillo Butcher said she was brought in because of her background in music, rather than sports. “The stadium feels intimate,” she says of the concert experience in the stadium that will host Sunday’s Super Bowl LVI.
“The large infinity screen makes it feel intimate. And we were able to consider what we need to do to make a great experience for the Stones (who played an early SoFi Stadium show on their “No Filter Tour” last fall), whether it was ease of load-in, and amenities backstage for the crew and construction teams as well as amenities for fans.”
With “Hella Mega” in 2021, Adler was the first to test the stadium touring waters in the wake of COVID restrictions and lockdown.
“There is a process,” she said. “There’s the stadiums we just dealt with and they were incredible. Where there were challenges, everybody pitched in. Christy and Chris were the most gracious hosts. There were some that weren’t. But even then, when you look out at 50,000 screaming fans, that all goes away.”
For Barad, there’s just one more thing he wants for 2022: “Get me a baseball schedule.”