Letter From Ray: 2022’s Impact 50

In this issue, Pollstar proudly reveals the 2022 Impact 50 list. Our mission with Impact 50 has always been to accurately reflect the most impactful live entertainment industry executives for a given year, based on what they are doing now and in the coming months. Compiled by the Pollstar editorial team, with input from the industry, the list is made up of individuals who excelled at such attributes as creativity, innovation, strategic management, financial success, leadership, artist development/career longevity, positive disruption, vision, fan engagement, consistency, and commitment to excellence.

Over the past four years the list has been a critical annual exercise for the editorial team, not only in debating which executives are having an impact in the live business, but also as a deep dive into the overall health of the live economy. An added benefit is the insight into how the industry is doing in terms of creating opportunities to excel for everyone in what has traditionally been a white male-dominated business. More on that later.

From its inception, the list is informed by, but not tethered to, Pollstar’s industry-leading box office data. Nothing heralds success for artists, live events, and those who work on them more than selling lots of tickets, so of course we look at revenue and attendance figures. Obviously, that metric created a problem for us when there was no significant box office data to lean on in making our decisions due to a global shutdown. Thankfully, that particular problem is a non-issue now, as the floodgates are open, artists are on the road and touring titans are doing what touring titans do. In that sense, the Impact 50 list more closely resembles our initial year, 2019, with the managers, promoters, agents, producers and others that set the standard for live entertainment as it should be: talented artists performing live in front of rhapsodic fans at packed venues across the country.

Once again, decision making for this year’s list is in large part based on who is currently out on the road, or who is going to be out; large events that are actually happening; touring career development that shows quantifiable growth; and deals, models, strategies and operations within the touring ecosystem that impact the live world at large.
Touring is clearly not back to where it was pre-COVID, when records were broken year after year, but we see enough to know that fans are starving to be entertained by our artists, and artists are more than thrilled to get in front of them. That’s not to say we’re free and clear, as COVID is still impacting our business in many ways, whether it’s dealing with a crew member who gets infected, postponing dates due to some virus-related issue, instituting vigorous protocols that add expense and headaches to every show, or simply being overly cautious with planning ahead while waiting for yet another variant shoe to drop. Our data indicates we are not where we would be had the business not been shut down … but we are getting there.

And, hey, after what we’ve been through, I’m sure everybody would say we can work with this. This business is rocking, the rust has been knocked off, we got in a Coachella and a Lolla, and a massive summer lies ahead.

From the very beginning with this project, we, like everyone else, were beyond conscious of inclusivity when compiling this list, and that’s true for our 2022 list more than ever. The industry itself demands diversity now, and we at Pollstar are in lock step with that mission, as is our parent company, Oak View Group. What we have learned is that a wide range of people with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences are having an impact on the live entertainment industry. We firmly believe this list will continue to reflect a live music business that is becoming just as diverse as the artists who fill the venues, an industry that offers opportunity for everyone, that elevates deserving executives no matter their background, beliefs, or ethnicity. While the industry is becoming more inclusive, it still has far to go. To be clear, there are plenty of impactful executives from across the spectrum to choose from, and there will be more as Pollstar’s pages, panels, charts and stories are populated by a more diverse group of industry players. The challenge is growing our awareness and showcasing those who are out there getting it done. We recognize that sometimes we fall short, there are people we miss. Still, we won’t compromise, and with certainty, the people on this list all deserve to be there.

We set out to recognize 50 people (with the exception of cover honorees Charles Attal and Charlie Walker sharing a spot) instead of focusing on political prudence by putting several people under one entry just to make more companies happy and sell more ads. Our approach means excellent executives sometimes still don’t make it, and too often the discussion ends up about who’s not on the list rather than who is. History is important, but I50 is not about a body of work but overwhelmingly about what’s happening now. So as cycles revolve and new artists emerge, this list should be dynamic from year to year. We understand there are superstars of the biz who aren’t on it … this time. And when it’s a toss-up, with all things being equal, we can always go to the data. That’s another reason to report your numbers to Pollstar, as if you needed one. In the end, we land where we land, and make no apologies about the outstanding executives we honor here.

We congratulate those on our Impact 50 list for 2022, and everyone working in this awesome business of live. You are the most creative, resourceful, big hearted, determined, hard-working people out there. The artists you work with would agree. So let’s consider I50 ’22 a celebration of the return of the live thing.

As always, thank you for letting me look behind the curtain.

Ray Waddell
President, Media & Conferences
Oak View Group