‘Gross Is Not The Only Thing’: Q’s With WME UK Co-Head Josh Javor

Josh Javor
Josh Javor, co-head of WME’s London office.

Josh Javor has joined WME as co-head of the agency’s London office. He comes from X-ray Touring, another prestigious UK booking agencies, where he learned from one of the best in the game: the late Steve Strange. Javor’s roster includes, Coldplay, Eminem, Alice in Chains, Kodaline, Phoebe Bridgers, Queens of the Stone Age, Belle & Sebastian, Boygenius, Cigarettes After Sex, Eagles of Death Metal, Echo & the Bunnymen, Jimmy Eat World, Maximo Park, Snow Patrol, The Charlatans, and many, many more.

Pollstar caught up with Javor to talk about the worldwide success of stadium tours, the current economics of touring in Europe, ticket prices, up-and-coming acts, and, of course, Coldplay, who ranked seven on Pollstar’s Mid-Year Top 100 Worldwide Tours chart (and would have surpassed Taylor Swift on the top spot if ranked by average tickets sold per show). But first things first.

See: Pollstar Impact International Honoree Josh Javor

Pollstar: How are you settling in?
Josh Javor: It’s a big change, a positive one, but there are also a lot of differences, many people to meet, and there’s just a lot more stuff going on. I’ve had very positive responses from the artists I’ve represented over a long time, everyone feels very positive about the move.

I guess there’s not much time to think about it anyway, as the business obviously doesn’t stop, on the contrary.
Absolutely, I didn’t take a day off. I finished at X-ray on the Thursday, and started at WME on the Friday. If you want to take time, you might need to find another job. There just isn’t any, we got to get on with things, and now’s a very, very busy time. We’re finishing off the summer, but already planning the next summer, there’s no respite right now.

Especially working with the caliber of clients you represent.
Any calibre. I want to give the same brain power to an act that’s worth 200-capacity as I do to acts worth a 100,000-capacity. You still have to focus and you still have to pay attention. You have to give your all, because if you don’t, there’s no point in you representing [them]. You might as well just say, ‘listen, I don’t have time.’

If you do have time, and if you decide that you want to represent this act, then my philosophy is that you have to put in the work. Sometimes those smaller acts take up much more time, but that’s also an exciting part of the job: when someone goes from unknown to known. To me, it doesn’t matter how successful you become, one of the best parts of the job is taking someone from nothing to something.

Coldplay Music Of The Spheres World Tour
Coldplay in concert at the Manchester Ethiad Stadium as part of their Music Of The Spheres World Tour. Picture date: Wednesday May 31, 2023. (Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

Speaking of building an artist. Coldplay are now selling out stadiums across the world like it was nothing. Was there a particular point in their career, a particular gig, when you just stood there and knew, this band was going to be off-the-charts huge?
Well, when I came on board with Steve, they were already playing arenas, so they were already a big act. But one of the shows that did change a lot was when they headlined Glastonbury [for the third time in 2011]. They were doing something more than anyone has ever done before. Now, they’re doing it all the time, but after that headline set you suddenly knew we’re going into territory that is completely unknown. It was incredible.

Do you remember the first stadium you put on sale with them?

Do you think any artist, no matter the genre of music, can perform a stadium if they reach a certain popularity? Or would you say it’s still limited to a certain genre of music?
It’s a question of how much you can charge for your tickets. In stadiums, you have to charge more. So, you have to have an artist that people are willing to spend that level of money on, but as soon as they are, anyone can play stadiums. Some newer artists may be big, but they’re just not ready for a stadium yet because people aren’t willing to pay that level of fee for them. But they could sell 100,000 tickets at a cheaper price. It really depends, there isn’t a universal rule, but I definitely think people are generally enjoying going to see shows in stadiums more now than ever before.

It’s quite remarkable to see the amount of stadium tours being announced around the world, with multiple dates at many of these buildings.
The reason is that people want to see these artists, it’s become a thing. I also think people like the idea of going to a show and going home that night. People are more likely to see a stadium show than they are to go to a festival where they have to drive for hours, and maybe stay somewhere overnight. They’re willing to spend the money on the stadium instead, have a big day out, and sleep in their own bed. [Plus,] when you’re a certain age of audience, you don’t want to stand up in a field all day, you want to be able to sit down, and have your space as well.

Could the run on stadiums also be a pent-up craving for entertainment after the lockdowns, as well as a way for artists to make up for lost business over these couple of years?
It definitely factors into it. Do artists want to make up for lost earnings? Of course they do. And people want to go out again. Everyone’s been starved for a few years. And if you’re going to a stadium, you know what you’re going to get. That’s why you also see a lot of families at these concerts, whether it’s Taylor Swift, Coldplay, or Harry Styles. If you’re going out with the kids, you want to know what you’re going to get.

[Also,] the way kids interact with music these days is very different to ten years ago, definitely very different to 20 years ago. They know about many more artists than they would have been able to know back then, obviously, due to streaming and the ability to just listen to lots more music. And I think that has changed how many people want to go to these shows.

Coldplay’s 2024 itinerary includes stops in Romania and Hungary, suggesting the region is a safe region to tour in.
People have been touring there this summer, there’s festivals and concerts happening in Poland, Hungary, and Romania, and they’ve all had successful years. Yes, they’re very close to Ukraine, but it’s far enough to be safe.

Can you still feel post-pandemic effects touring Europe?
One hundred percent. Throughout Europe. Every single venue costs more to rent. And it costs more to rent, because their costs have gone up. They are charging us more, because they’re having to pay more for their gas, electricity, etc. Just the band’s rider has gone up, because everything in the supermarket has gone up. It’s basic economics. Costs are rising, so that gets passed on to the consumer, and on to us. So, yeah, we are absolutely seeing the effects of both the war, COVID, and, in the UK, Brexit.

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Coldplay starring on our Oct. 18, 2021, cover.

Coldplay ranked 7th In Pollstar’s mid-year top 100 worldwide tours by gross. In terms of average tickets sold per show they would even surpass Taylor Swift, which you once said is the only number you care for.
I honestly really find it funny how, in America, the most capitalist country in the world, we’re judging everything by gross. And it’s just not the only thing. I don’t want to be the most expensive show in the world, that is never the goal. We want as many people to see the show as possible, that’s the important thing. The volume of tickets Coldplay move is immense, and I think it’s the right statistic to look at.

Coldplay’s average ticket price is the lowest of all the Top 10 tours. I’m assuming it’s more challenging than ever to keep prices low in the current environment.
It’s really challenging. You have to look at each specific market as an individual place. You can’t be universal about the whole thing. You look at the economic factors in each country, what people can and can’t afford, this is very important. We make a point of making sure we can have affordable tickets in all countries we visit.

Coldplay’s Greener Pastures: With ‘Music Of The Spheres,’ One Of The Most Successful Touring Bands Ever Kicks Off A New Era Of Sustainable Touring

There are concerns that the top end of the market is doing very well, but the smaller acts is actually struggling. Does that chime with your experience, and what’s your way of making sure the next generation of headliners doesn’t get forgotten?
The smaller acts are having a struggle, but the acts that are really struggling are the acts that have been around for a while, and tour once or twice a year in 1,000 to 2,000 capacities. They’re the acts that are struggling, because a lot of their audience unfortunately just can’t afford it this year. Those acts are having to look at how they can change their whole mantra of what they do, because they just cannot tour as often as they did. That’s where I see the struggle, not as much with the up-and-coming acts.

I think kids will want to see new music, it’s bands have been around for ten or 20 years, who are having to come up with new ideas. They have to rethink, and I’m all for that. I don’t feel like we’re a one-stop shop, we have to be creative, and fans will go with it. They want to see a band in a variety of places, it’s an interesting way to keep going to gigs, rather than just seeing them in the same room, in the same city, on the same date every year, and literally watching the same show.

Looking at Coldplay’s remaining 2023, but especially the 2024 dates, is there anything you can already reveal or are particularly looking forward to?
I’m just looking forward to them getting into new markets. There’s a lot of shows on this tour, places they haven’t been, or haven’t been in a long time. They haven’t been to Asia since 2016 or 2017. They haven’t been to Perth in some 13 years. They’ve never been to Romania, they’ve never been to Finland. For someone like Coldplay to have never been somewhere before, and now we’re going for the first time, that’s exciting!

After all these stadium shows, does it ever tempt you to just go and see a show in some dingy basement every now and again?
Always! Absolutely! I love going and seeing new bands in dingy basements, when I have spare time. That’s what I’m doing, I love it. It’s not always a dingy basement, it might be a 500-capacity, a 1,000-capacity, or perhaps a 2000-capacity. I’m all for that, I love it. In general the live music industry takes Christmas and New Year’s off, everyone has a real break. I find that first show I go to either in January or whenever music starts again, is one of the best shows of the year, because I haven’t seen a live band in like three weeks. And I’m like, I know why I do this job’.

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