‘My Skin Has Certainly Got Thicker’: Q’s With AEG Presents’ Simon Jones

Simon Jones
Simon Jones, senior Vice president, international touring, AEG Presents

Simon Jones is heading up the international promoting operations for AEG Presents as senior vice president of international touring. As such, he works closely with the AEG offices in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, promoting a broad range of artists from intimate club gigs through to stadium shows.
Highlights on Jones’ itinerary this year include a fully sold-out stadium run in Mexico with Justin Bieber, and the first mainland European/UK tour post-COVID with Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, and three sold-out nights at Brixton Academy London by Fred Again.. (Dec. 7-9). Coming up is a sold-out BLACKPINK European arena tour, which wraps Dec. 22 at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Pollstar caught up with Jones for his 2022 Impact International profile to talk shop.

See: Impact International Honoree Simon Jones

Pollstar: Do you recall the moment you fell in love with live music?
Simon Jones: Listening to “She’s Electric” by Oasis at my uncle’s house for the first time, jumping up and down like a lunatic, in 1995.
A lot has happened since then. What’s your state of mind looking back at the year and approaching the end of 2022?
Since becoming a promoter, I’ve never known a period with such highs and lows. Only recently, I had two major on-sales, to great success, interwoven by news of a major cancellation in the very same day. Jubilation meets crushing disappointment. That said, we always have to deal with what is in front of us and stay positive. But my skin has certainly got even thicker recently!

How do you maintain a calm mind and continue to deliver, even under intense pressure? Any tips or tricks for less experienced promoters?

To be honest, I’ve always found it important to acknowledge that the things that are genuinely beyond your control, are simply just that, and not to let that get in the way of ultimately getting on with the show.

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Fred again.. performing for a sold-out crowd at Brixton Academy in London, Dec. 9. (Picture by Theo Batterman)

The business returned with a vengeance in 2022, facing supply chain and personnel shortages, increased prices, and a market oversaturated with live events? What were the most important factors in overcoming those challenges?
Ensuring everyone goes into each show or a tour with an open mind, knowing that it’s likely to throw up some challenges that weren’t there prior to the pandemic.
Over-saturation has been a major factor in the cases of some of the acts I work with not selling anywhere near the amount they enjoyed previously. Many managers or agents believe their artist will be immune to it, so continue to push for higher ticket prices and bigger rooms, but it can hit home come the general on sale or the end of the tour, when all was not as hoped. There are many smart managers and agents that navigate this properly with promoters, taking the right collective decisions to get the best end results.
Sure, there are situations where ticket prices have had to increase to ensure the artists can actually stage the show, because supplier costs are going up on all sides of our business, from artists to promoters to venues. But doing it with a sensible team and analyzing the right way forward rings true in the end.

See: Pollstar & VenuesNow Impact Int’l European Honorees

How have you motivated and led your teams through this challenging time?
Positivity. It’s tough out there, but always remembering why we do this despite the challenges and working towards great end results and amazing experiences for everyone is what keeps me motivated, and hopefully that rubs off on other people.

Most promoters agree that there’s not much more leeway to raise ticket prices, particularly because of the cost-of-living crisis. That leaves a scaled-down production to offset higher costs. Do you agree? Do you see other ways to make margins work? What do you predict for this business in 2023?
Try telling some of the major artists around the world to reduce their show size, when their peers aren’t changing up theirs.  Only in a few circumstances have I seen some major artists truly cut back on their presentation on the stage.

A lot of the time, you see examples of artists endeavoring to cut back and present a more slim line show, but what may look aesthetically reduced on a production render, is often still eye-wateringly expensive to deliver, due to spiraling supplier costs, and so it doesn’t net out much different in the end unless there are some true drastic cuts.

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Ed Sheeran performs as part of his record-setting “Divide” world tour at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa – one of the most memorable shows in Simon Jones’ career (Photo by Simon Jones).

I actually disagree on the ticket prices point, in certain scenarios. I think many ticket prices will continue to rise, but people will go to less shows in an average year but spend more on a show/experience. And that includes at the bar and on the merch stand.

With the crunch on the FX continuing, and the rising costs to produce and promote shows, and the costs for artists to present their show increasing, including higher wages for crew, ticket prices are going to go up. We have a responsibility to manage that in the right way.
You’re used to working on blockbuster events. What’s your favorite grassroots music venue or club you still enjoy visiting to see a concert?
Village Underground for me. But I miss the original Borderline.
Any personal takeaways from the pandemic? Has it changed your mindset at all?
It has made me recognize that balance is essential, even though I am still striving to achieve it between work and personal life!
The 110mph work rate shows no sign of slowing down and this isn’t sustainable for the long term. As an industry, we’re no doubt all aware of the impact this can have on people and artists, and I think we all need to come together to actively seek solutions and create a supportive and understanding environment. 

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