Qs With Pam Matthews: Convening the IEBA Community

Pam Matthews is sparkling. Two days after wrapping IEBA – International Entertainment Buyers Association – Conference 2022, breaking their attendance record by 120 people, IEBA’s executive director is excited by the energy and spirit of community and their first “in-person” conference since COVID.

The Tennessee native, who helped open Nashville’s storied Starwood Amphitheater, once managed The Judds and ran the Ryman Auditorium, loves everything about live. She talks about seeing the Sex Pistols at 12, with her friend and her 16-year-old brother: “We were listening to Journey, and this was truly punk! We stood in the back, watching, but we’d never seen anything like it.” That every show’s unique is what sets live – like this year’s IEBA conference – apart.

IEBA Executive Director Pam Matthews (center) poses for a photo with “Agents Power Panel” speakers Yves Pierre of CAA, moderator Jay Byrd of Live Nation, Aaron Tannenbaum of WME, Austin Neal of The Neal Agency, Jbeau Lewis of UTA and Lenore Kinder of Wasserman Music on Oct. 11, 2022, at IEBA 2022 at the Grand Hyatt Nashville.

Pollstar: Tell me about IEBA 2022. What sets it apart?

Pam Matthews: One thing is, it’s everyone … every kind of venue: fairs and casinos, stadiums and amphitheaters. PACs, independent venues. While the sizes vary, their issues are the same. Staffing. Gen Z. Inflation, and the fact everything costs more, but you can’t charge more for a ticket. Supply chain issues, which just are.

It’s very different than being in Los Angeles. Everybody convened and that created an energy I hadn’t felt in a long time. This is what a community really feels like, because it wasn’t about competing, but coming together. I believe a high tide lifts all boats … It really felt like old times. People were coming for the networking and being together. You could really feel that community.

How do you message to reach across all those different types of buyers and facilities?

I opened the conference with “Visionaries: A Keynote Conversation with the Architects of the Industry,” with all the heavy hitters: Alex Hodges, John Scher, John Valentino, Rick Mueller and Jerry Mickelson, moderated by Laurie Jacoby, which set a pretty high bar.

But then we followed it immediately with “Closing the Knowledge Gap: What We Can Learn from Gen Z” and “Buying Talent and Promoting Concerts in the Here & Now,” which got very real about where we are and what we need to do to be successful in the world we’re living in today. So, it was about the ends of the spectrum – the 72-year-olds and the 22-year-olds who were taking over.

Those sound great.

That’s where we’re at. We’ve got a bunch of the 72-year-old ballers with the 22-year-olds, and we have to find a way to impart what they know for the future. But it’s also about learning about what’s going on. We need to get our minds right for what’s happening now, not be nostalgic for how it was in 2002 or 2012.  

Everything’s online. Obviously how you market to 50- and 60-year-olds is different than 20-somethings; but the days of buying an ad in the Nashville Scene and selling out are over. So many things have changed; the millennials may have cracked the mold, they didn’t disrupt things as much as we think, but Gen Z sure did.  

Gen Z broke the mold. Gen Z expects you to bring the marketing to them; you have to. Now you have to learn constantly, or you get left behind. That could be the biggest lesson.

The biggest change?
The promoters used to drive the markets. Now the consumers do. We have to come to them, and they tell us how they want to be marketed to.

Any extra special awards or winners this year?

Chris Cobb from the Exit/In, who’s a leader in the independent venue world. He’s a real politician, who understands the politics and themes. He’s someone looking at the independent venue circumstances all across the country and really stepped up as a leader over the last few years.

And Michael Grimes and the Grimey’s guys for The Basement East after everything they’ve done since the tornado. Grimey is the world’s oldest teenager, a musician and one of the last true tastemakers. He owns a used record store and a couple venues; music, musicians, fans, it’s all he cares about. That’s rare.

Best part?

Again community. There’s always people going to dinner. NIVA hosted a cocktail party; NACPA did, too. The biggest promoters and agents, venue people and every part of the business came together and talked about everything! Data, execution, marketing, margins, the changes and how to win. What could be better?