Executive Profile: Stacie George, SVP Booking Live Nation Northeast
Stacie George, SVP Booking Live Nation Northeast, sees herself as a connector.
And like New York City, where she has been based for nine years, she has built bridges connecting some of the world’s most iconic venues and top-tier artists with a diverse, global audience.
George oversees a team that attracts 2,500 live events to more than 30 venues across NYC including Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Barclays Center, Central Park, Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, Irving Plaza and Lincoln Center.
An 18-year veteran, George held positions in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and NYC, where she was promoted to senior vice president in 2018.
Pollstar: People are aware of the challenges coming out of the pandemic, but what do you see as the opportunities?
Stacie George: I believe there is actually so much opportunity in terms of job growth, job placement. I’m seeing agents switch to talent buyers, people are moving around and they are finding new opportunities within the music industry that work best for them, and I love that.
How is that impacting what you are doing in your office?
I see how much we are hiring just in the last two years in the New York City office. For example, we hired an east coast Latin tour buyer, with a focus on the northeast. And that was a position that was created post COVID.
How much does having a global strategy matter in a market like New York City?
Being in New York, you have no choice but to be very strategic because it is a very competitive market, the biggest in the U.S. besides Los Angeles, and we have the most fans. And because of that we are constantly being strategic in many ways – “Is there a talent buyer we should be looking at? Is there a venue or market we aren’t going into?” We do 2,500 shows a year in 33 different venues in New York City and have sold 5 million tickets.
What were the challenges with all of those venues reopening around the same time?
New York City restrictions on COVID were extremely unique and different compared to New York State and New Jersey. The five boroughs of New York City had different restrictions than the states did and you know what was tough about reopening was literally every state and jurisdiction had different regulations. We had to make sure we were following the guidelines and also make sure that the artists can safely tour.
You have a staff of 10 talent buyers that report to you covering stadiums, theaters and clubs in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Where did the heavy lifting land for executing the new protocols?
A lot of it fell on our awesome team of production managers because they are the ones advancing the shows and making sure each artist knows the protocols. We hired nurses for onsite, but the logistics of handling that day-of-show? I really give it to the production staff. They have carried us and still do to this day.
What is your booking strategy for a market as diverse and discerning as New York City?
Actually, it’s exciting because basically we are a test market. If an artist isn’t selling tickets in New York City, they are probably not selling in most markets in the United States. And it’s global. We are able to do so much unique and different programming that many other cities can’t do.
We are able use so much LBGTQ programing here because it is such a large community, Afrobeat, Latin, Brazilian. 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 the number of genres and talent to draw from, how do you make booking decisions?
I still do a lot of research. My research comes from Spotify and seeing how many plays an artist has. I also definitely look at socials and see how many followers they have. At the same time, social engagement doesn’t mean ticket sales.
How do the metrics in New York City differ from other markets?
We are very lucky in New York City. Because New York is a marquee play for an artist, no artist or manager wants to leave tickets on the table. They want every play sold out and that leads to progressing up to the next-capacity venue and in an organic way.
Every manager is positioning their artist at the right capacity in New York City to make sure they sell every ticket and have that sellout moment. Because of that, I truly trust the artist team. I trust the agents and managers that I am working with, it’s a partnership. They want it to look good for their client as much as I want to sell every ticket.
What is your proudest career moment this past year?
I will never forget it. I was sitting on a mountain in Moab, Utah, and I had just found out I was pregnant with my son and I got a call from Don Muller from William Morris and he says, “The Foo Fighters are going to open up Madison Square Garden the first show post-COVID and you are going to be the promoter.” It’s one of the pivotal moments of my career. I was able to have a tiny part of reopening Manhattan at MSG with the Foo Fighters post-COVID. It was June 20, 2021, and it had been 466 days without live music in New York City. It was on Fathers Day and my father tragically passed away in February from an accident and it was such a moment for me. I knew how proud he would have been.
How does the live experience differ for you now versus pre-COVID?
Going back to the last show I saw, it was the 50th Anniversary of the Allman Brothers at Madison Square Garden and the world shut down the day after. And my first show back was The Strokes at Irving Plaza. I practice yoga every day, I love being a mom, I’m a wife and I’m a runner and love that runner high, but there is no other feeling in the world like being part of a huge show like that, one organism singing along. I’m not a religious person, but to me, it feels like going to church. You cannot get that feeling watching it on TV, or streaming, or listening. You truly have to be part of that live concert experience to understand that feeling. As soon as I was in that room, I realized this is exactly what I’ve been missing in my life the last two years.
How do you manage an artist’s needs with the variety of venues you represent?
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. 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 can be a career changing moment, or the Apollo Theater. Sam Kirby (Samantha Kirby Yoh, co-head of UTA music) called and said, “Florence and the Machine want to do a unique spot. She’s never done Lincoln Center. How about we work on that together?”
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.
You were on the ground floor of opening Rooftop at Pier 17 in 2018. How does that venue feel different for you?
I feel so fortunate and lucky to be the lead on that venue. It’s a phenomenal place. It’s unique and when I do look back on my long career, it will be one of those venues that will always be near and dear to my heart because I started with it from the beginning. I have great partners there, it feels like a big family because we all want it to be successful, together.
You have clearly had a lot of success, but what have you learned from your failures?
Every day I make mistakes. I’ve learned to step back and breathe and then I respond. And I find it lends itself to a more trusting overall relationship. And let’s face it, this business is really small and the same people I worked with 15 years ago I’m working with today. I’ve learned to treat people how I want to be treated.
You have mentored people like Molly Warren, who was recognized as a rising star by Pollstar, and you have been mentored by industry veterans including Northeast casino talent buyer Leslie Master. How has that experience informed your management style?
Depends on who you ask, because everybody is so different in the way they need to be managed. I try to push people, and I do push people to get the best of their ability. I have a track record of taking somebody who has been an assistant and educating them on how to be a great talent buyer. And in New York City, it is so important to include them in any networking opportunities. The biggest thing I have to give is introducing them to people and the relationships I have so they can carry the torch.
You are also a mentor and speaker at HBCUs. What advice do you give people who want to break into the business?
I love being a connector. I want to be the type of person I always wish I had when I was in my 20s. I was the first female in the New York office, I have two children and I’m in an executive role, so it’s important to be an example to the younger generation. You can be a great parent and also have a really demanding job in a city like New York City. There were less women doing that 10 years ago, but you really can do it.
You have degrees in business and psychology from Drexel University. What was your college experience like?
Well, I only went to Drexel to become a DJ. I listened to that radio station in high school because they played all punk rock music and I said to my parents, “I want to go to Drexel University because I want to be on that radio station.”
And they said, “Well you better work really hard and get great grades because you need scholarships because we can’t afford it.”
And that is exactly what I did. First day at Drexel I went to the radio station and applied. I was a DJ from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. on Wednesday night. You have to start at the bottom.
What about your personality contributes to your success?
I’m a social person, a social butterfly, and I yearn for that connection with humans.
And I think that is probably why I’ve succeeded in New York City because you have to be the type of talent buyer who is out all the time seeing managers and agents and I enjoy that.
In 2021, you spoke at the United Nations about sustainability goals in the concert industry and you serve as a mentor with Femme It Forward. How have your relationships and access to some of the biggest platforms in entertainment shaped your interest in advancing social causes? I will say that it is extremely important to me to continue to promote women and diverse voices within our industry. That is truly more important to me than any other cause – championing women and diversity.
What keeps you awake at night?
Ticket counts. My husband is always making fun of me. He sees me scrolling every single night and he’s like, “Really?” I can’t help it.