Chairman & CEO
The Azoff Company
If a Mount Rushmore of contemporary music business “founding fathers” was commissioned, surely Irving Azoff would be the first guy confirmed. As it is, Azoff was in 2020 inducted into the closest thing to immortalization for the biz: the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The Azoff Company, preceded by Azoff Music MSG Entertainment since 2013, is a privately-held media and entertainment company “dedicated to investing in positively disruptive businesses that put artists and fans first.” Based in L.A., the portfolio includes Full Stop Management, one of the world’s leading music management companies; Global Music Rights, a performance rights company boasting some of the greatest catalogs in contemporary music; Pollstar and VenuesNow parent Oak View Group; and Iconic Artists Group, dedicated to acquiring and managing a portfolio of select artists’ assets and preserving the important legacy for those artists, including The Beach Boys and David Crosby.
Azoff has variously been a film producer, record label chief, the top executive at Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment, and much more, but he would tell you first
and foremost he is an artist manager. Azoff has been the personal manager of Eagles since 1974, and also counts among this clients Jon Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, John Mayer, Gwen Stefani, Steely Dan, Maroon 5, Van Halen and many others.
The artists Azoff represents in their touring efforts are capable of generating hundreds of millions in touring revenue, but a testament to the diversity of their Azoff-influenced careers means that when touring was shut down in 2020-’21, there were other sources of revenue. Now touring is up and running, and the flood gates are open.
“Business has been phenomenal,” Azoff told Pollstar of the four artist’s tours he has been working on this year and last, including Eagles, Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, and John Mayer, which combined are averaging some $10 million in ticket sales per show, according to Pollstar data. “Bon Jovi has been incredible, Eagles are putting up some of the best numbers in their history, Buffett is Buffett, John has just been exceptional, and it has all been very, very strong.”
That said, Azoff says COVID still impacts touring in various ways, whether delaying a date here or there, dealing with a positive test on a touring crew, or just the time, effort and expense of maintaining a safe, protected touring operation. “We are still strictly enforcing the ‘bubble,’ but we are definitely not out of the woods in terms of the pandemic affecting touring,” Azoff said.
Also impacting touring is the steep rise in expenses due to inflation and fuel prices. “Yes, it’s more expensive to tour right now,” Azoff confirmed. Given ticket prices were mostly set well before the worst of the inflation set in, across-the-board price increases can’t be implemented on tours that are out right now, and Pollstar data confirms that ticket prices in general are not higher on average than inflation might dictate. Despite that tough, challenging environment, Azoff said premium and merchandise sales, both of which are exceedingly strong, are keeping tours well in the black.
Fans are embracing popular artists like the ones Azoff works with, and he expects that trend to continue well into 2023, which will be “huge,” Azoff said, “to the point that we’re running into trouble finding avails. Next year will be a massive year for the touring industry.”