Robomagic Live’s Rob Hallett Talks Shop: ‘We Don’t Have An Agenda Apart From The Artist

Rob Hallett, founder and CEO of Robomagic Live

Outback Presents acquired Robomagic Live last month, with Vaughn Millette, Chairman & CEO of Outback Presents, and Rob Hallett, CEO of Robomagic Live, expressing their shared vision for building a true artist partnership company. Pollstar wanted to know what exactly that meant. So, we reached out to Hallett in London to talk shop..

See: Outback Presents Acquires Robomagic Live

“We want to really be the artist’s partner, instead of having them work for us in the traditional way. We want to partner with the artists to maximise all revenue streams and share fairly in all of them, from rebates to f&b, wherever money is generated from a ticket,” Hallett explained, adding that it was also about helping to generate new income streams, “whether it be via streaming, whether it be via pre sales, however. But any dime, cent, pound penny, euro, generated by a concert ticket will be shared with the artist.”

Hallett didn’t have any shows out when COVID hit, so he hasn’t had to reschedule concerts, allowing him to fully formulate a vision for the Outback presents deal. What he noticed during the down period was that “everybody got overexcited about streaming, many saw it as an alternative to going to a gig, but it never was. However, I do believe there’s a hybrid model, when you got a sold out show with a hyped-up audience and big production, and you can’t get a ticket. ‘Oh my god, my favourite artist is on in town tonight, and I can’t go! Let’s get my friends round, stream it, and have a party at home.

“I think there’s a model there, and I think extra dollars can be can be generated for the artists from their live performance in that manner. We successfully did that recently with the Ye and Drake show at the Coliseum in LA that was streamed on Amazon. The show sold out, but you could still watch it on Prime Now. It’s extra money generated by the show to be shared with all the rights holders of the show,” Hallett explained.

It was after the Ye and Drake show that Hallett and Vaughn found out in conversation how aligned they were in their vision to become a true partner for artists. “Different artists need different things. There’s very young artists that need different things from their partnerships than stadium artists.

We intend to invest in content. We’re not investing in buildings or in the stock market, we’re investing in content. There’s a fantastic young artists that I love called YENDRY on RCA/Sony, who we’re getting involved with on a ground roots level. What she needs from a partnership is investment, she needs time, guidance through the tempestuous ocean of live touring, and we’ll help her through that. As she grows, and as revenue streams grow, all revenue streams from live will go into that mix,” said Hallett. The moneys will be shared on an agreed percentage with the artist.

Being an independent company certainly helps with both Hallett’s and Millette’s vision, “because we don’t have an agenda apart from the artist. Rightly or wrongly, bigger companies, they have other agendas they are driven by, whether it be the stock market, whether it be real estate holdings. We’re driven by talent. And that our only agenda.”

Hallett didn’t want to speculate whether the deal with Outback would have come together had the world not gone into lockdown. The forced break did free up his mind, though, to think, “hang on, is this model that we’ve been doing for years right? We’re basically still working on a 20th century model, that hasn’t changed since a concert was putting up a couple of WEM columns in a theater, and a band coming on you couldn’t hear because the girls were screaming. The actual business model hasn’t changed too much from that. Over the years, the artists’ lawyers and agents have gotten them a little bit bigger piece of the pie, but the basic model hasn’t changed.

“And so we’re trying to bring a 21st century model to the table. COVID did give you a minute to sit back and reflect and come up with a 21st century model as opposed to keeping on the same hamster wheel that we’ve been on since Bill Haley first hit the stage.”

This means incorporating more of the things that make up an average teenager’s live nowadays into the live show. “When they go to a festival or an event, it’s almost like stepping back in time from their normal life. We want to just bring things up to speed,” Hallett said.

He’s not discouraged by the many challenges currently faced by the biz, having lived and steered through many a challenge during his long live career. “In the 80s, when we were touring groups. like Duran Duran, who were enormous, we still had to play cow sheds in the Midlands because there weren’t any arenas. We had to tour the world with fax machines, and landing after a 16-hour flight having two miles of telexes to answer.

“There’s always going to be issues, and people are always going to want to be entertained. I think the infrastructure we have now is infinitely greater than it’s ever been. companies or overview are adding to that on a day is new arenas popping up in Bristol and Manchester. In the 1980s it was probably about 25 to 30 viable touring acts, there’s now about 25,000 to 30,000 viable touring acts.

“It’s easy to say it’s the most challenging, but I think it was probably more challenging before my time when Buddy Holly and the Crickets were touring in shaky planes. That was more challenging, I would think.”

“We’ve had it easy for a long while. Up until COVID, the trajectory was good, and it’s going to come back. Yes, we have staff shortages, a lot of people have taken other careers and other jobs, found out they prefer them and not come back. There is a backlog of touring from 2020/2021. I do think that people have now too many events, and there will be a culling period this summer. Natural selection will see what festivals survive next year.

“There are certain markets still unprovided for in the open air events summer market. One of reasons why sales are struggling is that there are a lot of similar shows out there were similar lineups, not too far away from each other in similar scenarios. And the market can only take so much.

“Yes, we have a recession, it’s not going to go away immediately. You still got the uncertainty of what’s happening in Ukraine, but there’s always those things. Under Thatcher we’ve had recessions, America has had recessions, the whole world’s had recessions, and yes, it’s difficult, but I’d rather be having the difficulty of touring than the difficulty of living in Kyiv or Mariupol. It just doesn’t even equate, it’s not challenging at all, when you put it in those terms. It’s a walk in the park.”

August Reinhardt
Why Don’t We if featured on the cover of Pollstar in 2018. The band is Hallett’s first international tour under the new Robomagic/Outback venture.

Robomagic’s and Outback’s first worldwide deal is the 45-date North American and 20-odd date European run by Pollstar cover stars Why Don’t We, which kicked off June 15 at The Bowery Ballroom in New York. Hallett’s quite pleased to have the first world tour under his belt, seeing that the deal was only signed March 24. More tours will be announced soon, but Hallett emphasized, “we’re not in a hurry. We want to do everything, right. We want every tour to be bespoke. We want to be LVMH, not Costco. Every artists will have a bespoke plan, and slowly but surely we’ll build the roster and the inventory.”

Hallett has been associated with a lot of artists over the years, including some of the biggest names in music. He said a lot of them have indicated that they were looking to tour again, and showed interest in working with the newly formed company. Hallett concluded, “I’ve always enjoyed growing artists organically, it’s always been the biggest pleasure to me. If I’ve won an artist in a Dutch auction, it’s great, but it hasn’t got the same feel like, say, a Duran Duran, where we started before they had a record deal playing to 50 people in clubs, ended up in stadiums, down to the arenas, back to the theater, back to stadiums. That is a journey you can’t beat.

“I remember playing the Greek Theatre in 1983 or something. We’ve been playing clubs in England, and there they were in this 5,000-capacity open-air theater with the stars above and beautiful people around. That’s the journey. And that’s why I still do it, for that journey from the club to the stadium.”

Subscribe to Pollstar HERE