Pollstar Year-End Executive Survey (Pt. 2)

Cara Lewis Nov 2018 Headshot
Cara Lewis (Courtesy of Cara Lewis Group)

While 2021 may have predicted the “Great Return,” 2022 has proven it was real. And not only did the year bring a full return to touring, but record-breaking revenues and ticket prices. Pollstar reached out to top executives in the music business to share their thoughts on live’s massive comeback. Here, industry leaders take stock of this year’s success, and what fans and the industry can expect from 2023. Part one of the executive survey can be read here.

Alex Hodges
CEO of Nederlander Concerts

Seth Hurwitz
Chairman of I.M.P.

Cara Lewis
Founder of Cara Lewis Group

Jen Sandstrom
VP of Programming and Booking at SoFi Stadium, YouTube Theater & Hollywood Park

David Zedeck
Global Head of Music, UTA

See: Pollstar’s 2022 Year-End Hub

What do you consider you/your company’s greatest successes in 2022 and how were they accomplished?

Hodges: For most venues, having a 12-month calendar available for booking and artists willing to work in 2022 were key factors to a good year. Even with a few hangovers from the three years of COVID, getting the public, artists, venues, and fans back on the same page was a win.

Hurwitz: Getting everyone back up to speed with some sense of normalcy.

Lewis: Being a successful female-owned and -run company and representing the next wave of the most iconic female rappers; GloRilla, Ice Spice, Bia & Coi Leray. Eminem at the Super Bowl. Strategically planning Travis Scott’s successful run with him headlining two O2’s in August, three Primaveras in South America and announcing hip-hop’s biggest event in L.A., Rolling Loud. Announcing Khalid and Russ, both supporting one of the biggest tours of the year, Ed Sheeran. Pusha T “It’s Almost Dry” tour.

VN Alex
Alex Hodges (Courtesy of Nederlander Concerts)

Sandstrom: We continue to host many firsts at the venue and grow as a team. We kicked off the year with Super Bowl LVI where our home team, the Los Angeles Rams, beat the Cincinnati Bengals. We hosted our first soccer match with the Leagues Cup 2022 Showcase, plus over 90 artists with nearly 900,000 tickets sold just for concerts between SoFi Stadium and YouTube Theater. SoFi Stadium hosted its most concerts in a calendar year, including its first country concert with Kenny Chesney, and sold-out Bad Bunny shows which set an all-time record for a two-show concert gross by a solo headliner. YouTube Theater also had a record year, with over 80 artists and multiple sellout performances including Jack White, H.E.R., Alicia Keys, Rosalía, and Lil Nas X, among others. The 6,000-capacity venue hosted its first Esports competition, two award shows and a book tour stop with Michelle Obama. Plus, Hollywood Park hosted its first multi-event day with the Los Angeles Chargers versus Jaguars at SoFi Stadium and Gorillaz at YouTube Theater. Additionally, we announced our first-ever music festival, Rolling Loud California, which will take place in Hollywood Park March 3-5, 2023. 

Zedeck: Coming out of the pandemic we’ve been able to keep galvanizing our team and continue to do great and important work for our clients. Whether it’s selling out a club or an arena tour, or aligning our clients with brand partners, or putting them into opportunities in film/TV – we’ve kept our focus on our clients and making sure we deliver in all areas they are passionate about. 

What were the greatest challenges you faced this year and what strategies did you implement in response? 

Hodges: Fans with tickets and not showing up because of protocol and COVID fears. Repetition of marketing and outreach helped, but the most significant approach was for people all over to see how many shows were really happening and to gain confidence. Time, positive changes and keep moving forward.

Hurwitz: Getting everyone back up to speed with some sense of normalcy. 

Lewis: Strategically booking successful tours in a very crowded market can be a challenge at times. It is about the right packaging, timing, routing, and scaling the rooms to insuring maximum sales. Many of my clients went out and played to sold-out audiences in one of the most competitive years in touring history.

Sandstrom Jen 2
Jen Sandstrom – Programming Hollywood Park Staff Portrait SoFi Stadium Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Sandstrom: The high volume of events this year led to many first-time attendees, and an opportunity to improve the customer experience. We leaned heavily on communication and education. We added more way-finding signage throughout the venues, bolstered our digital presence and email communication. We saw an opportunity to expedite ingress for our guests, therefore, SoFi Stadium and YouTube Theater partnered with Evolv Technology to utilize Evolv Express technology, which uses powerful sensor technology with artificial intelligence (AI) to provide threat detection at unprecedented volume and speed. Fans walk through the sensors without always having to stop, creating shortened lines, and the ability to move right through each venue’s entries. With the addition of Evolv, plus standalone ticket scanners, and additional signage we have dramatically increased our scans per minute creating a better customer experience.

Zedeck: Like many people in the industry, we worked around labor shortages, supply chain delays and venue avails due to the volume of tours on the road – increased communication and more detailed planning helped reduce the impact of these and other variables that arose. 

What opportunities did you see in 2022 and how did that influence your strategies?

Hodges: Extending our territorial reach to new cities and venues we haven’t previously worked in was important as a rebound from COVID and a part of our growth strategy.

Hurwitz: This is rather goofy, but after all the emptiness that was COVID and the shutdown, 2022 gave us all the opportunity to realize just how ridiculously lucky we are to be in the middle of all of this magic. I’ve always thought “oh please” when other people say things like that, but the fact is there is nothing better than seeing the audience and the acts back enjoying themselves and appreciating what we missed, so let’s not fuck it up by thinking we can do no wrong now. 

Lewis: It is about creating the right opportunities for our clients. Whether it be supporting, headlining, festivals, residencies or branded events, it is important that it is the right fit to push their careers forward and continue to raise their profile globally. 

Sandstrom: The technology created around the pandemic tends to be more hands-free, and user-friendly has really assisted with the guest experience and the entry process.  From quicker security screening to self-ticket scanning to being cashless has improved lines both inside and outside the facility, and the overall guest experience has improved. The growth of new music genres, especially LatinX and K-pop has been exponential and expanded our audience demographics. Educating our guests about the facilities is still a major focus, and we continue to evolve our communication through email marketing, building signage, and staff training. The fan is more eager to come informed than before. 

What was the key show, event, or moment in 2022 that was most important to you and/or your business and why? 

Hurwitz: Personally, myself getting over COVID and getting back to regular involvement with the business. Although some here may say otherwise. But I think the most shocking and meaningful event to our little world was Taylor Hawkins. What a horrible reminder that nothing is safe. Dave and those guys are our D.C. rock star family and that one really hurt. And what an amazing dude.

Lewis: Definitely Eminem and his well-deserved induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Eminem has been my client for 23 years, from day one, so of course this was a very proud moment for me. When he shouted out his idols and the hip-hop village that raised him, it was gratifying to have represented 90% of that village and know the major role I played throughout the years for the culture and the art form. 

Sandstrom: Super Bowl LVI ranked as the most-watched TV program in five years, solidifying SoFi Stadium as a global sports and entertainment destination. 

David Zedeck (Courtesy of UTA)

Who was the individual who helped your business the most and why? 

Hurwitz: Bob Roux. A shocking statement from me, I know, and no, that doesn’t mean I secretly sold out. But he is the guy that finally figured out how we can do business with LN and have them play their tour acts at our venues, if that’s where the acts want to play. A solid dude with no hangover from the Holy Wars. 

Lewis: It is never about one individual and I need to express how proud I am of my passionate team that continues to move things forward despite any obstacles.

Sandstrom: Stan Kroenke’s vision was to build a sports and entertainment destination in the heart of the entertainment capital of the world and we have. We are bringing events to Los Angeles that wouldn’t be here except for a facility like this: Super Bowl LVI in 2022, College Football Playoff National Championship in 2023, WrestleMania 39 in 2023, Gold Cup Final 2023, FIFA World Cup 2026 and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in 2028. 

Looking ahead to 2023, what are your predictions for the live industry in the year ahead?

Hurwitz: I never doubted that people couldn’t wait to get back to shows. And right now they seem to have an insatiable appetite for it. But they gotta run outta money at some point, don’t they? We already have three sellouts at Merriweather for late 2023… it’s nuts. Unfortunately, my prediction is that people will continue to rationalize treating tickets as a fluid commodity and try and milk the public for all they’re worth. While this may earn the big acts top dollars, it will keep people from affording to go to the smaller shows that build acts to get to that point. The more people pay for shows, the fewer shows they can go to — that’s a fact. As a small and midsize venue operator and promoter, this is something I have to care about. I don’t blame Springsteen for wanting to be the one to make the money being charged, but when I get a call from an agent wanting to jack up the rest of a 9:30 Club show that’s selling well, I say no. Putting a lid on resale percentage over face value is the only way to control this. Anything else is just whack-a-mole. But nobody wants to take up that fight because the people making all that money are having the time of their lives, and will have better lobbyists. 

Lewis: A huge year for all great music and artists. Continuing to see the rise and influence of female artists and them becoming arena and festival headliners. 

Sandstrom: We thought 2022 was busy, but 2023 is shaping up to be a record year of concerts at SoFi Stadium and YouTube Theater.  Taylor Swift set a record as our first artist to sell five shows, Grupo Firme will return to the stadium and YouTube Theater will continue to host several world-renowned artists. 

IMG 6502
Seth Hurwitz (Courtesy of IMP)

Zedeck: From all accounts it looks like it will be a strong year across all genres and venue types. We expect to continue to navigate global political and economic uncertainties along with continued labor shortage and supply chain issues. 

What are you looking forward to in 2023?

Hodges: I think 2023 we’ll see a slight reduction in number of shows and tickets sold, but the timing for many artists will be perfect for 2023 and 2024. New products, less fear, the market won’t be as crowded perhaps, better percentage of sell-outs, those who stay at home might come out more, and the health environment will be significantly improved.

Hurwitz: I got some bike trips planned. 

Lewis: Rolling Loud L.A., and big surprises!

Sandstrom: We are looking forward to hosting even more global events at SoFi Stadium, YouTube Theater and across Hollywood Park. At SoFi Stadium, we will host the College Football Playoff National Championship in January, Rolling Loud California at Hollywood Park in March, and Concacaf Gold Cup Final in July. Plus, a robust calendar of world-class concerts and events, including Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Grupo Firme, Metallica, Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks at the stadium, and Vance Joy and Dermot Kennedy among others at YouTube Theater. Additionally, we will be opening Hollywood Park’s residential and retail district.

Zedeck: Watching our clients continue to grow and reach new levels in their touring career and develop in the other areas they choose to explore. Music and social media continue to make our clients more accessible across entertainment, media and in the brand space and we are excited to continue to help them build out multiple lines of business.