Pollstar Live! Panel Preview: The Venue’s Role in Booking, Marketing & Maximizing Concerts

Maggie Rogers With Empress Of In Concert New York, NY
RADIO, RADIO: Radio City Music Hall, pictured ahead of a Maggie Rogers gig
in 2019, is an example of a venue that is a destination in its own right.
(Photo by Noam Galai / Getty Images)

Joey Scoleri | Live Nation Canada (Moderator)
Jarred Arfa | Independent Artist Group
Michael Brill | D. LIVE
Ken Fermaglich | UTA
Brad Wavra | Live Nation
Sarah Zawalski | 313 Presents

While the kind of wheeling and dealing done between agents and promoters can get heated, everyone involved in a live performance ultimately wants to sell tickets and do what’s best for artists, fans and the overall concert ecosystem.

This panel, moderated by Live Nation Canada’s Joey Scoleri and featuring veterans at the top of the concert touring industry, will examine the role of the venue, each with its own unique amenities, expertise and location adding up to that amazing experience for artists and fans. More and more, venues are being proactive in booking and marketing shows in-house, whether independent or part of a larger ecosystem, creating opportunities for agents and promoters — and a lot of competition between markets and venues.

On the agent side of the discussion is Independent Artist Group’s Jarred Arfa, the company’s EVP and Head of Global Music. Arfa, son of legendary music agent and IAG head Dennis Arfa, oversees all aspects of the company’s global music division, which counts clients such as Billy Joel, Metallica, Def Leppard, 50 Cent, Mötley Crüe, Neil Young, Smashing Pumpkins and many others. He was heavily involved in the company’s partnerships with K2 Touring and Danny Wimmer Presents.

Also in the agents’ corner of the discussion is Ken Fermaglich, partner and music agent at UTA, known for representing Guns N’ Roses, Paramore, Muse, Creed, Mammoth WVH and many others. Most recently involved in GNR’s summer 2023 stadium and arena tour, Fermaglich surely has input on the rapid development of world-class venues across the country and abroad.

Giving insight from the venue side more specifically is Michael Brill, CEO of D. Live, which operates multiple venues in Düsseldorf, Germany, including Merkur Spiel-Arena and PSD Bank Dome.

Also on the panel is 313 Presents’ Sarah Zawalski, the Detroit-based venue operator and promoter’s senior director of entertainment booking. The company’s portfolio includes major venues of all sizes, from the Tigers’ home field at Comerica Park, the Red Wings/Pistons Little Caesars Arena, multiple amphitheaters including the historic Pine Knob and down to Fox Theatre.

Live Nation’s Brad Wavra, senior vice president at Live Nation Touring, is someone who takes big bets on not just big shows but big tours. Finding the right date and venue as well as maximizing each show all add up when producing major tours for superstar artists like P!NK and The Jonas Brothers.

With big bets come big risks, but Wavra speaks from experience on the subject.
“Not only are you guaranteeing the artist all of their guarantees, but you’re also guaranteeing all the expenses that go into the show itself so it can be tens and hundreds of millions of dollars that you’re going to wager on – and then you’re never right 100% of the time,” Wavra told Pollstar in a recent interview.

“So when you are wrong you need a team to support you … [Michael] Rapino’s always been that guy [with a philosophy] that nobody bats a thousand percent. So you hit 80 means you’re gonna miss on 20 … kind of the nature of the game and you need your team around you to be supportive so that when you miss, you’ll go up to the plate and swing again.”