Three Decades Of Conference Calls: From The Concert Industry Consortium To Pollstar Live! & Beyond
Boasting panelists from Garth Brooks to Khalid, Michael Rapino to Dayna Frank, WME to Ground Control Touring, Barbara “Mother” Hubbard to Noelle Scaggs, Roadies of Color to Clair Brothers, Pollstar Live!, along with sister event Production Live!, is the largest and most important gathering of the live industry on the planet. Each year – including throughout the pandemic – PSL! attracts an array of the industry’s best and brightest from across the globe, for its innovative programming filling stages and seats with major executives, thought leaders and brilliant artists who move this business forward, along with unparalleled networking opportunities. None of which happens overnight.
Nearly 30 years in, the conference’s evolution aligns with the live industry’s colorful history itself, from Balkanized regional promoters to multi-billion-dollar global juggernaut touching every corner of the planet (see Metallica’s 2013 Antarctica gig). Along the way, Pollstar Live! and its antecedents helped chronicle and develop strategies for the tectonic shifts radically changing the industry.
The Concert Industry Consortium, or CIC as it was known, formed in 1994 and set the foundation for PSL! at a critical moment in live’s history. Part concert industry power collective, investment opportunity, affinity group, platform for exchanging ideas and awesome hang (see the “Ian Copeland Invitational Poker Tournament”), the CIC for 14 years was at the epicenter of the industry just as it was hitting an inflection point
Pollstar’s co-founders Gary Bongiovanni and Gary Smith had long attended conferences by Performance and Billboard but knew they could do something better that spoke more directly to the live business. “We felt if we could essentially get the major promoters and the major agents to commit to participating in this consortium, we would be very successful,” says Smith. “So we created the consortium, which by California law was a limited partnership with 35 member partners who we offered individual shares to for not a great deal of money.” Partners could buy shares for up to $3,000.
Among the CIC partners were most of the major regional promoters like Brian Murphy of Avalon Attractions, Jam Productions’ Arny Granat, Concert/Southern Promotions’ Alex Cooley and Peter Conlon, Belkin Productions’ Michael Belkin, Universal Amphitheatre / HoB’s Alex Hodges, Electric Factory’s Larry Magid, Cellar Door’s Jack Boyle, Bill Graham Presents’ Gregg Perloff, Metropolitan’s John Scher, Don Law Company’s Don Law and Evening Star’s Danny Zelisko, who all took shares in CIC for a limited 15-year partnership.
CIC also enlisted partners from other industry sectors, including Ben Liss and Cynthia Wallace of NACPA, CAA’s Rob Light, William Morris’ Peter Grosslight, Monterey Peninsula’s Fred Bohlander, Front Line’s Irving Azoff, Radio City’s Ed Micone and Columbia Records’ John Ingrassia among others.
Following the inaugural Pollstar Awards in 1990, the first CIC conference took place a few years later at L.A.’s Century Plaza Hotel, which Smith says “knocked Performance out of the water,” with no looking back. Important moments at CIC that live on in industry infamy and lore include: Keynoter Tom Ross of CAA in 1996 quoting Bill Graham’s explanation of two very different crowd sizes on sequential sold-out nights (“bigger people Saturday night”); Perry Farrell in 2004 giving his philosophy on festivals (“Location, location, location”); and Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne in 2007 announcing the largest ticket giveaway in history for Ozzfest (some 428K ducats). One other pivotal moment at CIC particularly stands out.
“In the words of Godzilla: Size matters,” said Robert F.X. Sillerman, CEO and founder of SFX Entertainment who gave the CIC keynote address in February 1999, as cited in “Ticket Masters” by Dean Budnick and Josh Baron. By then, Sillerman had rolled up a good chunk of the most successful regional promoters in the country including most of the key players in the CIC.
“There has to be a market leader in every business segment. … You either make things better for all your constituencies or you are abusive, or some combination – there’s no question in my mind and in the minds of 99% of the people that we’re making things better,” Sillerman said. “I respect the fact that other people will be concerned about it. We have plenty of competition.”
The CIC audience was skeptical he would stay in the concert promotions business and the following year, Sillerman sold SFX to Clear Channel Communications for $4.4 billion. The industry was never the same.
CIC ended its limited partnership in 2008, and the industry’s preeminent conference became Pollstar Live!. Since its inception, PSL! has helped navigate continued consolidation, fallout from the Great Recession and a global pandemic that once again radically changed the live landscape. With PSL! held in February 2020, June 2021 and February 2022, Pollstar Live! safely gathered the industry to exchange ideas and develop best practices as the live biz helped lead the way out of the pandemic with proof-of-concepts for health and safety protocols adopted the world over.