The Return of the Global Touring Model (Pollstar Live! Panel Recap)
John Boyle, Global Chief Content Officer, ASM Global
Rob Hallett, Chief Executive Officer, Robomagic Live
Barnaby Harrod, Head Promoter, Mercury Wheels @ Live Nation
Lee Anderson, EVP & Managing Executive, Wasserman Music
Hans Schafer, SVP, Global Touring, Live Nation
Marlene Tsuchii, Music Agent and Co-Head of International Touring, CAA
It’s one of the big questions on everyone’s mind at this year’s Pollstar Live: how far along the road to recovery is global touring. A panel dubbed The Return of the Global Touring Model, sponsored by Flash Entertainment, tried to find answers.
The first question moderator John Boyle, global chief content officer for ASM Global, asked his panel was, “Are we really in a global recovery?”
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To which Marlene Tsuchii, co-head of international touring at CAA responded, “Yes, we are recovering, not sure if we’re quite there yet.” She said that exchange rates were still a problem that has “wiped out a few markets” like Japan. This was part of why the worldwide recovery of touring happened slower than expected.
Lee Anderson, EVP and managing executive at Wasserman Music, explained that, post-pandemic, artists just wanted to play again and many would have loved to go everywhere. However, it has been difficult to move around internationally seeing the different countries approach to reopening, traveling, etc. And while Anderson still observed differences between markets, his general take was that the world was opening up again, affording agents the luxury of planning ahead again.
Rob Hallett, founder and CEO of Robomagic, found the current traffic in the business most troubling, saying it was hard to get avails. The other problem he’s never had to deal with before in an illustrious 30-plus year career in international touring: artists that didn’t want to go into every market if there wasn’t enough money involved. “It’s a new thing for me,” he said, explaining how artists used to do anchor dates to make the cheaper dates work, just to cover more markets. “That seems to have changed,” he added.
Live Nation’s SVP global touring Hans Schaefer questioned, how many countries made up a global tour? Did a tour by an artist visiting specific pockets scattered across the world, based on where their fans are, qualify less than a Beyoncé tour covering every territory imaginable in one run?
He said that while global touring hasn’t yet picked up to the extend it had pre-pandemic, he still saw “very healthy markets” as well, especially for Latin artists. And he added that streaming, and the data it brought with it, allowed promoters to work out what those markets were. And as the data showed, “some bands turn out to be bigger than they seem on paper,” he said.
Barnaby Harrod, founder of Mercury Wheels, which belongs to Live Nation Spain, said “the language barrier has been broken.” Artists singing in Spanish were no being accepted everywhere. Likewise, he can nowadays promote English comedy in Spain, which was also unheard of only a few years ago. Again, streaming services led this development, allowing Spanish fans to watch US or UK comics with subtitles.
He added that the big artists no longer only visited Madrid or Barcelona on their European runs, even if those markets were still key. Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Guns N Roses are just some of the names that ventured into new markets like Bilbao, Seville, and Vigo.
It means business. The June 4 opening show of RHCP’s 2022 European stadium run at Seville’s Estadio La Cartuja de Sevilla sold 55,756 tickets for a gross revenue of $4,504,422 according to Pollstar Boxoffice.
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Tsuchii agreed, there was a handful of artists that could just go everywhere in one run, but for most, it wasn’t that simple anymore. For most artists, a worldwide trek required a lot more planning and being strategic – also because of the lack of avails mentioned by Hallett before.
Anderson said, there was no one size fits all, any touring strategy was dictated by the artists, the point in their career and where they wanted to take it. Artists want to go out there to reach fans, but also to maintain cashflow, and both determined where to go and when.
Hallett promoted his own company by pointing out that Live Nation and AEG were no longer the only ones doing global touring. “We may not have an office in every territory,” he said, but through strategic partnerships and working alongside the agents, and combining that with his own experience, Robomagic was able to deliver.
He said, international music being accepted globally was groundbreaking, adding that “there aren’t many Beyoncés and Taylor Swifts, there aren’t that many that popular globally, it’s more pocketed. You’ve got to be strategic, everybody is an individual, there’s no cookie cutter.”
The panel also addressed costs, which have risen across the board and irrespective of territory. Two ways of dealing with that were to 1) look at the budget earlier and 2) find ways to expand the pot for the artist, whether that was a VIP ticket for the superfan or dynamic pricing.
Hallett said promoters were in a tough spot. He understood that agents had to raise prices, because everything got so expensive, but they were squeezing the promoter, just like the buildings and ticket agents. “It’s like the ticket agents are our bosses, it’s our fault, we let them have control, we wanted to have an easy ride, and now it’s coming to bite us in the bum,” he said.
Defending the agents, Tsuchii made a point of saying that there were multiple ancillaries agents didn’t get to share in, which went to the promoter. This, Hallett explained, was peculiar to the US market. After doing Ye and Drake at the Coliseum in 2022, he was shocked by the amount of ancillary income that was left to his company. “You ask Wembley Stadium in the UK for a dime, and they tell you where to go,” he said.
To round things out, all panelists dared to look inside the figurative crystal ball.
Tsuchii said, Asian music genres would only continue to grow and become “gigantic,” as evidenced by the number of K-Pop stadium acts coming to the States and headlining festivals like Coachella. It was the same for Latin. “It’s finally opened up,” she said.
Schaefer said, the term Made in America would mean all of the country going forward, including Central and South America, adding that he was currently most excited about the variety of regional Mexican music.
Hallett said Africa was going to be huge once it got its infrastructure sorted out, even calling it “a new frontier.”