Road Cases: Agents, Bookers & Buyers: Managing The Calendar, Connecting The Dots and Living The Dream

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El ÚLTIMO: Bad Bunny is an example of an artist who keeps on winning, having recently kicked off his “World’s Hottest Tour” stadium run after an already-blockbuster arena tour. The stadium tour launched Aug. 5 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. (Photo by Alex Perez)

Whether they fly solo or oversee an extensive staff, the big picture for talent buyers and venue bookers is more than just nuts and bolts when working with top talent in major markets.

“It starts with the idea, right? Either I come up with the idea, or an agent calls me with an idea, the artist has an idea, the manager has an idea,” said Stacie George, senior vice president of booking for Live Nation Northeast. (See current Pollstar Talent Buyer directory for extended interview with Stacie George).

 She oversees a 10-person team that attracts 2,500 live events at 33 venues in New York City including Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.  “It’s my job to say, ‘You did this last time’ or ‘What is your five-year trajectory?’ ‘Is there a record coming?’ ‘How do we want this to be special?’ Playing Carnegie Hall, or the Apollo Theater, can be a career-changing moment. 

“Sam Kirby (Samantha Kirby Yoh, co-head of UTA’s music division) called and said ‘Florence + The Machine want to do a unique spot. She’s never done Lincoln Center. How about we work on that together?’” 

George adds, “Half is an artist having an idea of what they see as their next play in the market, but the other half of the job is being a great partner to all the different venues that we have and making sure they are represented with the artist as a great opportunity, too.” 

PRUDENT: Stacie George, Live Nation
Northeast Booking senior vice president, pictured at Prudential Center with Live Nation Northeast production manager Casey Jaeger.

The diversity of the market also drives booking strategy.

“We are proud we can feature so much diverse programming here because there is such a large community of artists – including afrobeat, Latin, Brazilian, and more”, said George. 

“To be a great talent buyer/promoter in New York City you have to be educated on every genre of music because there is an audience here for it. On top of that, you have a huge European audience here. A lot of British acts that might only do 500 tickets in most markets will do 3,500 tickets here. And then you have all the tourists coming in that buy tickets. It’s exciting to be part of this market because it’s a market that breaks a lot of artists.” 

With a surge of tours, rescheduled dates and ongoing COVID cancellations, bookers face challenges and new opportunities at live performance venues at every capacity. 

“We are still very much in a pandemic – whether we like it or not, we are,” said I.M.P.’s Jen Hass, who books 300 shows a year at 9:30 Club alone. “Though we have a lot of shows that are coming up that have been confirmed for months and months –  if not years – they are still getting rescheduled and we have to be ready for quick changes and that happens very often.

“You know, we have this combination of artists and their entire tours out there with them and the great possibility that they could get COVID, but you also have albums getting pushed back. Everything – all the issues that caused things to get pushed back before the pandemic – are still there.”

Hass co-heads the booking department at I.M.P. where she books Washington, D.C.’s 1,200- capacity venues, the acclaimed 9:30 Club and the historic Lincoln Theatre. 

The remainder of 2022 is basically full, including double shows on most Friday and Saturday nights, and she is putting together show holds and offers for 2023. Working a year out rather than the typical six to eight months has become commonplace. A full calendar looks promising for the industry, but there are still obstacles.  

Rescheduling dates, months or even years later when artist careers rise and fall on the popularity of a single or record release, presents ticketing concerns. 

“For example, a younger artist that appeals to a younger fan base could have had a really hot track or album back in 2019 or 2020, but they may have lost their luster,” Hass said. “It’s just being mindful that we are not just rescheduling those shows to reschedule them and assume that there will be the same heat there was two years ago.”

Assessing how an act will perform post-pandemic adds a layer of uncertainty to the booking process. 

“We are very busy but, at the same time, it’s a struggle and the challenge has been to see what these shows would do pre-pandemic versus post pandemic,” Hass offered. 

“Sometimes that is just as great if not higher and for some it’s a little slower. We are just now starting to see what that looks like for different genres and different artists and we are trying to keep track and doing our best by spacing out some of these shows. Sometimes it is just too much traffic in our venue and some of the other venues in the city. You really have to be mindful of that. We need to be smart about pricing our shows and deciding where they belong.”

The metrics for booking talent have changed, too. 

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IT’S 9:30 SOMEWHERE: Jen Hass co-heads the booking department at I.M.P.,
which includes the famed 9:30 Club.

“With everyone at home and on their computers during the pandemic we have seen an emergence of TikTok and content creators with songs that quickly reach the top of the charts and they have become players in the game,” Hass said. “But what we want to do is build acts for the long term and grow them through our venues, not just book them and take advantage of a hot moment and forget who they are in a year. We are trying to build a fan base.”

For talent buyers, a return of business does not mean business as usual.

“It’s just the reality we are in,” said Hass. “We are still very much dealing with COVID and the repercussions that come up. It is never going to be what it was in 2019. We are never going to go back to that and we need to be forward leaning. This is just a new reality and we are all learning.” 


On the opposing – but not necessarily adversarial – side of the booking equation is the agent representing the talent.  

Always looking for the right opportunities for their clients, agents are used to making the most of situations. Despite challenges including inflation, labor shortages and a potential recession in the United States, it’s not all doom and gloom in the touring and concert world.

“The positive in touring is you can see any artist on the planet right now, and the negative is you can see any artist on the planet,” says UTA’s Matt Meyer, who represents Machine Gun Kelly, Halsey and many other touring artists on the road right now and having success.

Booking concerts has always required long-term planning, with Meyer saying, “We’re working for two (years ahead) and thinking for three.” 

Across the board, that has become challenging in the post-COVID era with increased uncertainty, but there are bright spots as well.

“I’m seeing additional holds being made, additional land grabbing, but also seeing excitement in new players,” he says, noting the SaveLive network of venues started by Marc Geiger that is working with venues to provide booking, marketing and other services, with venues across the country on board. 

“Maybe you don’t get a certain room you wanted on a Wednesday, but you have a new room and a new buyer on Friday in that city, and you’re able to do it,” Meyer says. 

Not So Secret Agent: UTA’s Matt Meyer’s clients include Halsey and Machine Gun Kelly, who has completed multiple tour legs over the past couple of years and is heading to Europe this fall.

“I’m seeing 25 to 30 shows a month in venues. Venues are slammed. You need to be proactive, but the great agents and teams and artists and managers are proactive. it’s a different balancing act and I think we’re all adapting well.”

Meyer notes the buildings are being proactive as well, coming to agents and artist teams directly rather than waiting for major tour dates to materialize.

“Venues are getting very vocal and coming to agents and to managers direct,” Meyer says. 

While that can lead to standalone successes like British hip-hop duo N-Dubz doing four dates at The O2 in London seemingly out of nowhere, it’s more important than ever for artists, managers, agents, promoters and labels to be on the same page when rolling out tour plans.

“The calculation is super important. People are getting super hypersensitive to packaging and ticket pricing,” he says. “Everyone’s all-hands-on-deck, continually, because there’s so much going on.”

Meyer’s own clients have seen success on the road in 2021 and 2022, with Machine Gun Kelly on the brink of wrapping another leg of arena and shed dates after 2021’s already-lengthy amphitheater run. He’s headed to Europe in September, where he hasn’t played in three years, making for extra demand and positive response from fans.

“The positive in this setting is we haven’t gone to Europe, so the tour is lightning hot,” he says. “There’s pent-up demand to see your favorite artists, whether that is Machine Gun Kelly or another artist of your choosing. For that specific question, the artist hasn’t been to Europe, so we’re seeing great success. When you can’t see your favorite artist in, you know, 1,200 days, you’ll stop and do anything to go. And it doesn’t matter the night of the week.”

While many in the industry note soft onsales or uncertainty when announcing tours, Meyer says it all comes down to the artist.

“I mean, there is a lot of traffic, but I think the artists that have a message that fans want to be a part of, they’re still winning and winning and then some,” he says. “People are being very smart about the way that they spend their finances.” 

The agent cites exciting international developments, including Lollapalooza being announced for Mumbai, India, and notes the importance of the agency team when considering the ever-changing role of the music agent.

“Is it your job to just book their show? Sure. But that’s only a tenth of an artist’s business,” Meyer says, mentioning multimedia superstars like J Balvin and The Kid LAROI who’ve had  their own Happy Meals through major branding partnerships. 

“They also want to be on movie screens. They also want to be in TV commercials. They also want to be in branding. They also want to discuss art and curate their own art collection or amplify their art. They also want to figure out their contribution to charity and foundations. So I think the job is not just the same old, ‘Hey, we need to just book your tour and high-five and move on it.’ It’s so much more and about being a step ahead.” 

He notes specifics, like Bad Bunny being the face of Cheetos, appearing in Netflix series “Narcos: Mexico” and action comedy blockbuster film “Bullet Train,” starring Brad Pitt.  

 “The brand team is then amplifying the artists on a long term basis, and then each artist individually is amplifying within their brands and being everywhere,” Meyer says, crediting UTA’s music branding partnerships team led by Toni Wallace, Alisann Blood and Sara Schoch. “It’s just phenomenal. That’s something that every artist should be doing.”

(Ryan Borba contributed to this report)


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Book ‘em Danno: Tyler Bates, VP of entertainment booking at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

With agents and managers scrambling to get their artists back on the road, venues have found themselves with more booking requests than they know what to do with – but also more opportunities.

“It’s busy,” said Tyler Bates, vice president of entertainment booking at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. “We have been fortunate to have some of the biggest months we’ve ever had, meaning we’ve had our biggest February ever, with eight shows. July, we had six shows, which is the busiest July we’ve ever had. The same goes for most months of the year so far.”

Bates is responsible for concert, family show and live event booking and developing live event opportunities across all Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment (HBSE) properties including White Eagle Hall and Loew’s Jersey Theatre, both in Jersey City. Loew’s reopens in 2024 after a renovation.

With sports tenants and other events filling out the calendar, this means looking even further than usual into the next calendar year, or years.

“It’s wild,” Bates enthused. “One of the things I felt was a trend pre-pandemic and is even more of a trend now, is that things are planning further and further out in advance. Ten years ago, 15 years ago, there was a lot of stuff happening in four, to six, eight months and you’d have the occasional show that was a year out. Now we are holding dates two years out from now and it’s not uncommon to see.”

For Bates, who previously worked as a promoter, arena booker and theater general manager, the size of the market, not its proximity to New York City, is a determining factor in filling 19,500 seats at Prudential Center. The population in the 10 surrounding counties is roughly 6 million.

“Understanding New Jersey and where people are coming from and what that geographic demographic looks like is a core pillar of the story we are trying to tell and the strategy we are using to move forward,” said Bates, adding that roughly 70% of their audience is from the state.

“And we’ve seen that with a variety of content that we have been able to be successful booking. So we do more Latin shows than any other arena in the area. We do more K-pop than any other arena.”

Bates said they will host 100 non-sporting events this year. “It adds up, but we are only as good as our last show and we can’t sit there and wait for the phone to ring. A major part of the gig is servicing the clients so we are giving them the best chance to succeed.”