Pollstar’s 2022 Year-End Executive Survey (Pt. 3)

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. Parts 1 and two of the executive survey and be read here and here

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Howard Handler (Courtesy of 313 Presents)


Howard Handler
President of 313 Presents

Levi Jackson
Head of Music Marketing at WME

Silvio Lund
Agent at WME

Sean Saadeh
Executive Vice President of Entertainment at Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment

Keith Sheldon
President of Entertainment at Hard Rock International & Seminole Gaming

What do you consider your company’s greatest success in 2022?

Handler: This year has not only marked our return to a full concert season since the pandemic, but also the announcement of the return to a very beloved moniker – Pine Knob Music Theatre. We hosted a record five stadium concerts at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. On June 18, we had an unprecedented event day with five of our six venues hosting a show and then did it again on August 14, including a Red Hot Chili Peppers stadium show at Comerica Park.

Howard: For the Lollapalooza team, we went from having zero shows in 2020, to only Lolla Chicago domestically in 2021, to all seven Lolla festivals returning globally in 2022 (Santiago, Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Stockholm, Paris, Chicago, and Berlin). It was a rewarding moment for the collective team to see the international Lolla shows coming back online after two-plus years. 

Jackson: This year we booked over 39,000 shows for our clients. We also signed some incredible talent including: Stormzy, Little Simz, Snoop Dogg, Yusuf/Cat Stevens. We did this by working as a team, with colleagues from many locations and departments.

Lund: The constant communication between colleagues in the touring department is what enabled us to have so many acts on the road successfully without cannibalizing each other. The team was able to move on a dime for any needed routing adjustments, or even when clients had a desire to add legs to their tours. In the end, the strength of this department is we are a team.

Saadeh: In 2022, Prudential Center had a historic year coming out of the pandemic with a wide variety of artists and performances. Superstars and legends including Elton John, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Bad Bunny, Justin Bieber and many more have all sold out Prudential Center in the last year. At Prudential Center we continue to pride ourselves as being heralded throughout the industry for our great fans’ energy and atmosphere they create. Our recent successes have propelled our rank as a top five arena in the world.

Sheldon: Hard Rock enjoyed several amazing new entertainment venue openings highlighted by Maroon 5’s launch of the 2,500-capacity Hard Rock Live Sacramento; John Legend’s opening of the 500-capacity Venue on Music Row at Hard Rock Hotel NYC; and Guns N’ Roses’ launch of Hard Rock Live Florianopolis Brazil.

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

Handler: 313 Presents is unlike our counterparts in the industry, in that we book, produce, and promote content for six venues across Metro Detroit. However, our biggest challenge is like most throughout our industry: finding adequate staffing. We are a team of 52, so working on 350 events in one year for this group is tremendous. 

Howard: Our biggest challenge this year was getting the first Lolla Int’l shows back up: the Lolla South America festivals this past March. We were the first festivals to get canceled in March 2020. The run consists of five festivals in five different countries over a 10-day period, all of which are fly dates for the artists. Each country was in a different phase of COVID reopening, so tracking and anticipating ever-changing COVID and immigration policies in each country was stressful. 

Jackson: Working through the political and economic changes that ebb and flow around the world daily. We have an amazing immigration and business affairs teams that help our agents and clients to make the right decisions and actions around the world each day and allow our clients to work in a safe and reputable way.

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Levi Jackson (Courtesy of WME)

Lund: With the continued reopening of live entertainment coupled with every touring act needing to make up lost income, venue availability was a constant hurdle. Thinking outside the box for appropriate venue spaces was a strategy that helped routes fall into place.

Saadeh: It’s important that we consistently stay focused on driving bookings and selling tickets in unique and proactive ways, where there are many options for event producers. We are very aggressive in trying to find true partnerships with various content providers and continue to identify New Jersey as a separate market to New York City, that can serve as a successful standalone stop for entertainers. 

Sheldon: As a global operator with properties in various regions around the country and the world, some of the challenges from 2021 as they pertained to COVID continued to persist in terms of dealing with inconsistencies from state to state, market to market – especially in the first half of the year. Fortunately, as of today and as we approach 2023, we feel like we’re more or less back to business as usual.

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

Handler: Reconnecting with Robin Zander from Cheap Trick at Pine Knob this summer was gratifying and cool. Robin spoke to our 313 Presents team on Zoom in April 2021 and pumped everyone up at a time when we all needed it. Also enjoyed spending time with Chris Rock at the Fox Theatre after his show this past October. He’s one of the true masters of comedy these days and everyone across the three sold-out shows (Oct. 16-18) loved his full-on assault of political correctness.

Howard: For me, opening doors on Friday, March 18 in Santiago, Chile, was an emotional and proud day. It was Day 1 of Lollapalooza Chile, the first edition of the festival in three years, and it memorialized the huge effort that was made by our team to will these shows back to life, and it set the stage for the whole year of “comeback shows” for the Lolla International portfolio. It was also a bittersweet day when, unbeknownst to anyone, the Foo Fighters would deliver their second to last performance with Taylor Hawkins (they would play their last show with Taylor two days later Sunday, March 20 at Lollapalooza in Buenos Aires, Argentina). Foo Fighters and Lollapalooza have a long-standing, multi-decade relationship, and there could not have been a more appropriate band than the Foos to kick things off that first night.

Jackson: Adele (Hyde Park & Vegas). Luke Combs (World tour) – showcasing the opportunity for country artists to have real international success.

Sean Saadeh (Courtesy of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment)

Lund: When Hasan Minhaj sold out five shows at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it reinforced the idea that working with a long-term plan is the key to success.

Saadeh: There have been so many great experiences this past year, as the live entertainment business continues to boom in this post pandemic world. Some of the most successful concerts we have had in our building’s 15-year history took place this year. Back-to-back, sold-out nights of K-pop superstars BLACKPINK, along with Stray Kids and ATEEZ put us on the map. The Karol G event became one of the highest-grossing concerts of all time at Prudential Center. 

Sheldon: There were so many great moments, but at the top of the list has to be our involvement with the F1 Miami Grand Prix at Hard Rock Stadium. One of our biggest goals as a brand has been to find ways to consistently reintroduce and reinforce a newer, more modern Hard Rock brand positioning that speaks to all demographics and all musical tastes.

 If you had to sum up your 2022 in a few words, what would you say?

Howard: The international reunion year where we turned the Lolla lights back on in some of our favorite cities across the world.

Jackson: The Bob Iger quote: Don’t allow tradition to get in the way of innovation. You need to respect the past, but it’s a mistake to revere your past. 

Lund: 2020 was a rebirth for the business. You had to put your head down, trust your team, and swing for the fences.

Sheldon: 2022 was about capitalizing on an unprecedented environment where historic demand from fans intersected perfectly with an abundance of entertainment content.

What are your predictions for the live industry in the year ahead?

Handler: As we’ve been able to go fully back to live since late June 2021, the most enduring takeaway has been the resounding enthusiasm for live entertainment that just never waned. Sure, live pivoted and provided new digital and social engagement opportunities – but ultimately virtual entertainment could never replace live – that magical place where people come together to experience those unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime moments. 

Howard: 2022 was the heaviest touring year in history. 2023 looks to be building towards a similar trajectory. 

Jackson: I think the ongoing global economic and political climate plus the volume of new music and tours will create challenges where only the best will cut through and be/remain successful. Nostalgia will continue to be strong. Music will play a big part in key cultural moments across the world. Ticketing will continue to be a hot discussion/debate.

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Silvio Lund (Courtesy of WME)

Lund: As digital ecosystems continue to expand, more acts will be able to foster larger fan bases, meaning more live touring shows and the need for more venues.

Saadeh: As we look ahead to 2023 and beyond, we know that touring and live events will continue to be very strong. Fans really want to get out of the house for a couple of hours to see their favorite artists and athletes perform. There truly is nothing like a live event and, with New Jersey having some of the most passionate fans, it is very evident at every event now that we are back hosting events. I predict that we will continue to see many new and established artists continuing to tour despite some real economic challenges we are facing.

Sheldon: While we continue to monitor economic factors like inflation and the recession concerns that could disrupt our business, our Hard Rock event calendars are as robust as ever and ticket sales are still historically strong. In the venue space – from the club level up to stadiums – there remains plenty of reason to be incredibly bullish about live in ’23.

What are you looking forward to in 2023?

Handler: The live entertainment and sports business is flourishing. We have been in a good rhythm putting on live shows. We are on pace to have another record-breaking year similar to what we did during the last full concert year in 2019. Our schedule this year is jam-packed with 358 shows across our six incredible venues.

Howard: I look forward to bringing the newest member of the Lolla family, Lollapalooza India in Mumbai, online for the inaugural edition this January. We are also exploring other parts of the world. Stay tuned.

Lund: Watching clients who have been grinding for the last couple of years have their breakout moments.

Sheldon: We have some pretty massive underplay announcements for each of our Hard Rock Live locations in Sacramento, Atlantic City, and Hollywood that we can’t divulge quite yet, but the existing lineup of headliners like Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, The Killers and Greta Van Fleet across our portfolio gives us plenty be excited about as we head into 2023.