Q’s With WME’s Tony Goldring: How North America Can Impact Europe

TG Headshot
Tony Goldring (Courtesy of WME)

When Tony Goldring got his first entry-level job in the music industry as a promoter in London, his plan was to stay only for a short while. His dream was to travel, his sights set on Australia and Asia.

“I ended up being the receptionist and I was answering calls,” Goldring says. “It was actually a fantastic way to get to know people and build relationships. I guess they liked me and they offered me a job to stay on. I thought OK, I’ll put the travel on hold.”

Goldring soon met Peter Grosslight, who was then head of global music at WME, and the two of them worked together on a show for Luis Miguel. “I did the best job I could do, I got the best deal, everything was perfect,” Goldring says. “And then, after weeks and weeks we finally got it confirmed. I told the venue it was confirmed, and they were relieved. And then, the next morning, I got an email that said it was canceled. So, the show never happened. But, in the process, I got to build a relationship with Peter Grosslight.”

Out of the blue, Goldring was offered a job to work with Grosslight at William Morris. He was finally presented with his opportunity to travel, moving to Los Angeles with his family and booking artists internationally. Now, he oversees WME’s international department and represents acts such as Duran Duran, Snoh Aelegra, Rihanna, Shakira, Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Janelle Monae, Usher and more. He initially thought he’d stay in the United States for just a few years, but now, more than 20 years later, he has no plans on moving back to the UK anytime soon.

Pollstar: How do you time your tours?
Tony Goldring: The timing is dictated by the global touring plans. You have to be in the U.S. at this time of year, you have to go to Latin America at that time of year. So it just fits into place. I think, with European touring generally, you have the festival season, which now starts in May and finishes in September. During that period, there are festivals running the whole time. Obviously, the busier part of festival season is in June, July and August. Sometimes, you don’t want to do a tour during that time because people are focused on festivals. When you’re doing hard-ticket touring, you want to stay out of that time-frame. Other situations you may say, let’s do a hybrid of some headline shows and also play a few festivals. So you do want to be touring during that time. And there are things you need to take into account, such as vacation periods. Certain times you don’t want to tour because people are on the beach. You have to weigh up all those things.

People feel January is not a good time to tour because it’s post-Christmas. People have spent all their money on Christmas presents, and they maybe don’t want to go to shows at that point. But, another way of looking at it is that people want to get back into normal living and start up with shows again. There are different viewpoints. I actually think that period of January into February can be a very good touring period for the right act.

Tickets also make a good Christmas present.
That’s the other thing. November into December can be the best selling time because of exactly that.

Inflation is also rampant in Europe, in fact, even more so there than here in the United States. How has that impacted the way you’ve been routing your tours and ensuring you can sell? 
You’ve got to be more sensitive to ticket pricing for sure. At the moment, I think the top-price tickets don’t seem to have much of a price resistance. Depending on who the artist is – if it’s someone at a certain level who hasn’t toured for a while – people still pay the top price tickets because it becomes an event. It’s something special. People don’t want to miss that. We still want to be careful, make sure that there’s a low ticket price so that it’s accessible to the people who can’t afford the top price.

The other way I think is trucking costs. You try to route a tour as efficiently as you can, travel-wise, which is not possible, because one of the things we’re seeing is there’s such a proliferation of touring artists. Everyone at the moment seems to want to tour. So, venue availability and the ability to route the tour effectively and efficiently is more and more challenging.

But, if you can do that, you save money. Because you’re doing long journeys, the trucking costs are more and you get into double drivers, triple drivers, and all of that becomes extremely expensive. I think some artists have decided to try to be leaner on the road, have fewer people, etc. It allows artists to be more successful financially when they tour, as well.

What do you want to tell promoters, managers and agents in Europe?
I want to say to promoters, even though I think they understand this, that they have to get used to me calling them very late at night. I always say the same thing: if you see I’m calling, you can either decide not to take the call or turn your phone off. I think with promoters, with the time difference for us operating from Los Angeles, in my case, you have to work at a certain pace. Especially in the morning. As the day goes on, we have to speak with promoters. So you do end up calling late at night, but obviously so many of them are out at shows and they’re available to speak to.

Outside of that, look. It’s such a global industry. When I go back to all those years, 20-plus years ago, when I started, it was less common to have people book internationally from the U.S. It was sort of looked at a little bit as though you had to be in London to do that. Now, that’s completely not the case. We speak to the same people and, because we have a really robust office in London, the agents there can be really helpful. For instance, if we need to know about venue availabilities, one of my colleagues first thing in the morning London time can get the information. So, when I start working, I have that information immediately. There’s ways that we collaborate very closely with our colleagues in London.

If you are based in the States, and in Los Angeles in particular, early starts are a given. It’s funny … when I first got the job, I thought I’d have early starts and, come the afternoon, I’d finish early. So I had this idea that I’m at the beach and playing tennis around 3, 4 o’clock. What they didn’t tell me was the rest of the world, Australia, Asia, all those places, you speak to in the afternoon. So it really is a 24/7 business.